New book discusses works of Cevdet Erek

Aiming to broaden discussions of contemporary art produced by artists from Turkey, Art-ist Publications focuses on a different artist every year, publishing a book that delves into his or her artistic practice.

This year’s edition features Cevdet Erek, who is primarily known for his works that blend sound and rhythm, such as in his series quotRulers and rhythm studiesquot which seeks to divide time in various ways.

Author Sureyyya Evren, in his introduction to the book, writes that Erek is known as one of the main artists working with rhythm and site specificity in the Turkish contemporary art scene. “The most significant themes in his work appear as a very controlled intervention, a decisive use of emptiness and voids and a certain open-endedness. Form is extremely important for Erek. He works with minimal interventions to suggest a certain field/platform and a certain interface,” he continues.

In an interview in the book conducted by Evren, Erek explains that although he studied architecture as an undergraduate, he quickly realized he didn’t want to work in the profession. “I was searching for a form of expression, one that was spatial, ideational and aesthetic at the same time. I realized that many things I couldn’t identify existed in sound. I started studying sound at iTU [Istanbul Technical University]. Then I saw a couple of exhibitions that made quite an impression on me and I realized that the immensity of expression in art could make way for rather critical thoughts and ‘extreme’ aesthetics,” Erek says.

Responding to a question about the source of the aesthetics in his work, he replied, “I start out with experiences, my own and other people’s experiences. I try to understand the desire to like, to conceive, or to look again and again. This, of course, sometimes happens by reading. But I didn’t get an art history education that makes explanations and forces you to find your way. I come from a place where you say, ‘I listened to this song a thousand times,’ ‘It was a concert to remember,’ ‘one hell of a building,’ or ‘never seen such a movie.'”

Morgan Quaintance has written in his review of Erek’s solo show at Bristol’s Spike Island gallery that the artist, “has dispersed sound works in such a way that the pulsing, clicking rhythm they collectively produce is instantly rendered as a navigable, structural concern. Depending on the direction taken through the space, configurations of percussive, high and low frequency sequences shift in and out of aural focus as either isolated details or the constituent parts of a rhythmic whole.”

Similarly, Nat Muller, in her chapter entitled “Missing Beats: The Suggestive Politics of Rhythm,” states that if anything can be said about Erek’s practice, it is that his work is based on making suggestions and pointing the audience in multiple directions rather than imposing a singular statement, adding: “As such, there always seems to be something volatile, enigmatic or even incomplete in his projects: something that could be filled in or added at a later date. As if the rhythms are missing a beat. This makes his work intrinsically participatory, because we can fill in what is missing, and it also makes it intrinsically political.”

In addition to his sound pieces, Erek has produced several works using rulers, which have been featured in many exhibitions including the Istanbul Biennial. He explains in the book that the first time he experimented with the idea of a timetable, the idea of a ruler naturally popped up. “Familiarity with rulers definitely comes from the education I received, which made me dependent on the act of ‘drawing.’ At times, even using a computer was forbidden at my school. Eventually I had 30 or 40 rulers in my house. I kept buying rulers I liked. Because of the idea of scale, I used a regular ruler to form a timetable. Then I said to myself, let’s write down years directly on this scale. However, after discussions, conversations and responses, the chronology consisting of a linear portrayal of time became scary to me. So I made the ‘0-this moment’ ruler, and it was a starting point toward another perception of time, without measurements, without scale,” he elaborated, adding that other variations have happened spontaneously.

Featuring a rich number of photographs, the book, entitled “Less Empty Maybe,” also includes a more theoretical chapter by Barii Acar entitled, “The Withdrawal of the Object or The Return of Aesthetics.” Architect and scholar Bulent Tanju also penned an experimental text on Erek’s work involving rulers. Written in both Turkish and English, the book can be found in major bookstores.