KNOCKED FOR A LOOP
North Korea, autistic Americans, Russian literature, beekeeping and Sesame Street: Inside the inventively repetitive world of digital media shooting star Erdal Inci
by Kenton Turk | Directors Lounge Magazine
THE NIGHT ERDAL INCI touches down in Berlin, he skypes greetings and that he is going to bed. Before midnight – not the average choice of a man just marginally beyond his twenties like himself hitting this particular town for the first time. Suspicion confirmed: this is a focused, determined artisan who looks neither left nor right. That twinge of nervous anticipation returns.
Although everyone in Team DL is more than familiar with the visionary young Turk (as by now are countless thousands worldwide), none of us has actually met him face-to-face. Directors Lounge gave him the “radio push,” and [DLX]¹ premiered his mesmerizing GIFs to German audiences, where HD and large screens interwoven with performance and dance added a dimension not possible on the monitors of his global fanbase. In correspondence, he is polite and responsive (although not always immediately; he’s a busy man); in photos, he is unwaveringly earnest and maybe even a bit intimidating. As virtually the only moving human form in his half- to second-and-a-half loops, it is easy to think of him as staunchly solitary, possibly even walled in. The bare bones of what we know, stats aside: he’s bearded, his black eyes are penetrating, he makes motion pictures that are simultaneously infinitesimally short and infinitely long – in fact, endless.
WE MEET THE NEXT DAY in subset haven Kreuzberg 36, where I smuggle him off to a stowaway courtyard café, a place I can toss questions at him.
On the way over, he is despite having no knowledge of German able to understand more of the conversations of passersby than I am, giving me the odd sensation of being the one just landed. The camera indeed puts on pounds (ten, by general consensus) – his build is slighter than I expect, and he doesn’t tower over me, not at bit. Once there, he approves of the choice of location and tucks into more calories than I’ve seen in the last 24 hours, chased with a tall, blond beer from tap. A German one, he wants. I sift through the names and let him know what has deutsches Reinheitsgebot. We still haven’t talked too much.
Inci has reached a global audience thirsting for his light and movement provokations almost entirely by digital word-of-mouth. Here, galleries have taken a backseat, in reverse of the once-standard chain of events that brings an artist worldwide recognition (his inclusion in this summer’s Directors Lounge film exhibit at Gallery On in Seoul notwithstanding). Already the stuff of headlines at home and abroad, the subject of TV reports and even an article by news monster CNN, his is a name vying for household status – “That looks like an Inci” is a phrase we might hear in the not-too-distant future. His blog is edging up to 20,000 regular followers. His GIF loop “In Karakoy” drew over 30,000 likes on Tumblr in one night alone; another, “Firestaff by Huseyin,” has racked up in excess of 185,000 likes on the same platform, whose hard-to-attain Radar space, seen by all users, has featured the artist some ten-odd times. An Inci clip mélange for an Istanbul city event has garnered over 3,000,000 views. His most talked about work to date however is surely “Taksim Square,” one in which a perpetual multiplicity of identical Turkish workers (all Inci himself) walks in uniform steps chatting on a cell phone and swinging a bag of tools, only to ultimately disappear into a vortex at the base of the towering light mast at the square’s centre. As rivetting as it is, his lightplays, “Hierapolis Amphitheatre” and others, are possibly even more engrossing. It is hard to look away from these, hard not to want to explore all the corners and watch what shifting light is doing, awakening darkness into life for a moment, then reconsigning it to oblivion to brush against another surface, only to reawaken it exactly as before, in a never-ending cycle. Infinity has always been and remains mind-boggling.
THE WAIT FOR HIM to reveal things about himself is less than eternal. It later seems he retired early the night before because he had pulled an all-nighter in his chosen home Istanbul (traded against birthplace Ankara) before flying to Berlin. So the “All work and no play” adage has not made this Jack a dull boy. He is still mostly quiet, reserved, maybe a challenge to really open up. His eyes, brown, not black, are warmer than they appear in the photos I have seen, or the GIFs where they are identifable. This helps. One of these, a dark, hairline-to-nosetip self-portrait under a barrage of restless blue laser pellets, gives a more benumbed impression.
I’ve written out a lot of questions which I will largely ignore, opting for guerrilla tactics. I toss him a wild card. “Do you like animals?”
He’s surprisingly at ease with the question, as if it were the one he was expecting. Soft-spoken as well. “Yeah, I’m comfortable with all animals. I can touch insects or bugs.” I ask which insect he would choose to be. “Once when I was a child,” he continues, as though he hasn’t heard the question, “I fed a praying mantis, and I was amazed. I put him in a cage which I had built myself and I fed him with flying bugs. I put in a bee, for example, and I watched him hunt it.”
So, a praying mantis.
“No, no, I’d prefer to be a bee, because my father was a beekeeper. I grew up with bees, so I’m really familiar with bees.” He tells me about his for him atypical early GIF, “Bee Beats,” a looped shot of a bee moving its leg over its head.
I ask him how many times he’s been stung. Answer: “Too many times.” It’s an open question. He gets it, I’m sure.
But he’s opened up the GIF box, so on to them. He’s been called GIF-this and GIF-that by the press already, notably in France (“GIF artist,” “GIF star,” “king of GIF”), titles I know he doesn’t like. But why not?
“Because they are originally video works and I exhibit them in video format, not in GIF format. There’s no difference other than the size of the video. The only difference is size, but they are video works, originally.”
So what would he prefer to be called? He considers. “‘New media artist’” he says, “or ‘digital artist.’”
It seems beyond the technical inaccuracy of the terms, he does not want to be reduced to one-trick-pony status. Why should he be? After all, he studied painting, he tells me (I knew that from inventory-style French articles), and gave it up, “but I didn’t give up drawing, and I also do street art and photography, and I tried interactive arts, so I don’t want to be called just ‘GIF artist.’” He mulls over other possibilities. “I prefer ‘multidisciplinary artist,’” he decides after more thought, “or ‘new media artist.’”
“I have a fixed frame in my works, so how can I enrich that frame? I can multiply the same movement. So it’s like a photograph or a painting which is composed of moments.”
THE TERMINOLOGY ESTABLISHED and his imposing meal all but demolished, we can go on to other artists of whatever title, ones that have played a role in his development. Most often compared to Escher, whose calculated art excursions share his own predilection for figures marching into an impossible no-beginning-or-end inevitability, Inci doesn’t mention him at all when asked about influences. “In visuals, I’m inspired by painters, mostly, painters that everybody knows, like Picasso or Dubuffet, a French one, or the American expressionists, like William de Koonig or Pollack….” Pollack? I query the connection between the action painter’s dripping chaos and Inci’s calculated cyclic order. And yet…. “But he recorded the moment,” he says, as I am about to retract the question. “That’s why I like abstract expressionists, they kind of record the moments.” Does he see a connection with Warhol, whose work was obviously based to a great degree on repetitive forms? “Repetition is not a Warhol thing, I think, because in arts and crafts, they use them in patterns or in the walls or in the ornaments….” But surely 32 extremely similar paintings grouped in a gallery setting like in a supermarket would have been a new context for repetition. And intensifying an image through repetition, although not looped, could spell creative kinship. “I can only say,” he sums up, “repetition in painting, Warhol is a perfect example of it. In painting, you don’t have to, or you cannot repeat like music.”
Music. How does that play out?
“Music is a linear thing. You repeat in your timeline.” Chronologically, then, like a train passing stations. He pursues the thought. “You hear one note, then you hear the next, note by note. But in painting and visual works, the repetition must be in the same frame, so I think the visual world is an area where you can have all the composition at the same time. So the difference between music and the visual world is, music has a timeline, has a linear time, but paintings or visual works you enjoy when you see all the movement or the visual at the same time. So I realize that, if you have a frame as a photographer or a painter, you need to… you need to… zenginleştirmek… zenginleştirmek…. Just a second.”
Here his measured English fails momentarily; electronic assistance is close at hand.
“’Enrich.’ If you are a painter or a visual artist, you have to enrich your frame as far as you can. So all the painters I like, when you look at their paintings or works, you see a rich texture and a rich form and colour at the same time. So if I make a video, it must be a beautiful scene, and if I want to show a movement, that motion must be rich as far as I can do.”
Intriguing, his use of terms associated with one area in another. “Video” and “richness” have never struck me as kissing cousins, but that’s a misreading on my part. He’s got my attention.
“So you can shoot a dancer, for example. It’s beautiful, but it performs to the music or a sound, so you can see its motion with a sound like a linear motion. But I have a fixed frame in my works, so how can I enrich that frame? I can multiply the same movement, which makes the moment look like a pattern, and repetitive, in a short space of time, like one or two seconds. So it’s like a photograph or a painting which is composed of moments.”
“If you want to know about the future of visual art forms, look at what’s going on in music. There are no superstars anymore, because music is more democratic now.”
IF THERE IS ANYTHING in a name, if nominitive determinism or numerology can provide a Poloroid of your ultimate character or even destiny, Erdal may be in for a distinctive ride. Those who give heed to the latter, Kabalarians and the like, produce ready-made characteristics that this particular name will bless – or curse – the bearer with. The sketches for his given name impress as unerring: “a deliberate and methodical way of thinking and speaking,” “a practical, logical, analytical approach to life,” “a great deal of patience,” “restless, changeable, and very sexy,” but also “a tendency to be too fussy” and “overfondness for heavy foods.” Direct hits, most, maybe all of these. Adherants to the former theory credit appellations with sometimes far-reaching influence, self-fulfilling prophecies included. Rare names encourage a sense of exceptionalism; actual meanings may point you toward an area of endeavour. “Erdal” means “early twig,” he tells me, and is rare. He is perhaps as uncommon as his name, not within the top 1,000 Turkish names for boys. Pearls are also rare. And valuable. “Inci” itself means “pearl.”
His own future in specific terms may be not so easy to divine. Or that of his medium. What he foresees is a tectonic slip in moving picture arts. “If you want to know about the future of visual art forms, like video art or cinema, you can just look at what’s going on in music. In past years, there were real superstars in music, like Michael Jackson or Madonna or others. There are no superstars anymore, because music is more democratic now; you can listen to anything you want on YouTube, and for free; you don’t have to pay for the music. Everyone can have a taste of music now; it’s not like the past.” Radio was always there, he concedes, but with playlists decided from Mount Olympus. Visual works will follow suit, freeing us from the gold standard stranglehold of narrative, feature-length movies, opening the floodgates for other forms. Technology will expand its already gargantuan role. “You can put all your music archive in a small device, like your phone or iPod. I think it will be the same thing with visual works, visual consumption.”
This may seem like a certainty, but that there are very few of these (certainties, that is), that the unexpected can be counted on as an uninvited guest has been proven time and time again. No future is assured. A question out of left field: if he couldn’t be doing this, what would you be doing? If what he does were outlawed, for whatever reason.
“If I couldn’t do video? Outside of the arts?” Here, he has to consider long. “I don’t know, I just don’t want to do anything else. Maybe beekeeping….”
That’s very important these days. Bees are endangered.
“Yeah, they are like an army, they are all the same and… I don’t know. I would also enjoy that.”
Shades of his digitally multiplied self. Poised on another question, I’m distracted by a large butterfly motionless on the ground near our table. Or a moth? It’s beautiful. But dead? I interrupt myself to take out my ubiquitous travelling partner, a discreetly dark, palm-sized camera, to capture the shimmering silver and black of its wings, but an unexpected stir scares the six-legger off. Erdal remains interested. He stares at the spot where the insect just a moment ago sat, its wings spread in an unconscious display of finery. Still turned from me, he says, “It was a butterfly.”
HIS “ACTION” PIECES display a strange mix of moods, his face contrasted sharply with his physicality, like a tap-dancer on suicide watch. His body seems lithe and agile in his shots, with all the snap of grasshoppers’ legs. It’s an exercise in flesh-and-blood oxymoronica: that impassive face, those spring-loaded limbs. Pieces of his without human mobility leave the stony countenance to its own devices. I reveal that I had slight trepidation about meeting him, despite our cordial electronic interchange. He surprises me, as I seem to have surprised him by being surprised. Surely he can understand that? By way of example, I mention the GIF of him standing in a bush with Istanbul carrouselling at breakneck speed around him, “Self portrait” or “Selfie.” I tell him from that one, I thought he wasn’t someone you would want to have as your enemy, judging from the intensity of his gaze. Maybe he was just concentrating on holding the camera, I don’t know….
“I just wanted to stay with an empty face, because…”
Not empty, I tell him, intense.
“It’s a technical thing. I need to make it into a loop, so the starting point and ending point must be the same.”
Ah, the technique. The most sought-after secret, even among video artists, alongside trying to find out where, if anywhere, the endlessly marching hordes of “Taksim Spiral” eventually disappear to. Does he imagine himself to be anything like a magician?
“I don’t understand why people call me a magician, GIF magician.”
OK. I thought I was the first.
“I’ve heard that before,” he affirms. But the main thing I’ve heard before is, How can I do that? It’s really simple in the technique. In the first years, I made them manually with a masking technique. You put two frames and you cut out the second frame and add them on top of each other. It’s easy. I didn’t see any example before I did it, but I have seen early examples of it in the last two years. One is from Sesame Street; they did the same thing. I saw it this year.“
Maybe they got the idea from him?
"It’s from the 60s or 70s,” he admits. OK, it seems they didn’t. “I was surprised. They did the same thing, and it’s not really hard to think of it.” But like magicians’ tricks, that’s once you get it. Then it seems all too obvious.
“The only difference is, nobody thinks to use these techniques as I use them. I put a show or massive performance in the streets or public spaces. I think that makes me genuine.”
“My style is something about repetition. It’s just like a pendulum which makes you sleep, like the psychologist uses a watch.”
THERE SEEMS TO BE a real need to be genuine, as if that has come into question. The word comes up several times. Maybe it is the stereotypical dread of artists on the cusp, in the paradoxical valley of parallel fears, of being ignored and of being accepted. He takes obvious pride in his works being out there for all who wish (albeit in reduced-resolution form, but quite enough for home monitor consumption). This further serves to activate the machinery of feedback, the butter that should accompany the bread.
“It’s really good to have an audience without exhibiting in a gallery,” he affirms. “If you are a gallery artist or in the museum, you have a particular audience which is familiar with art. Most of them really enjoy talking about art rather than seeing it.”
It could be they are there for the free champagne, I offer.
Laughing, he continues. “I put all my works in small size GIF format for free, and it’s really nice to have feedback from them, but I don’t want to depend on that, because if I get too much feedback and I feel like I am liked by the majority, it feels uncomfortable, like I’m doing something popular or ‘cheesy.’ But those same people far from art and people really into art like my work, and they can… if you are an art critic or an art historian, you can write pages of context if you look at them because I made them in public spaces, and if that is the case, too much can be said about it. For example in ‘Taksim Spiral’ or in some other public space works, you can project your own thoughts on to them.”
How much is too much, I wonder? Works can attract a wide range of interpretations. His “Camondo Stairs,” for example, has been taken to be everything from the paragon perfection of the self-contained circle to an embodiment of female genitalia. “Stumblers” could be viewed alternately as waves of failure or success, or a thousand other things. My experience interacting with people who have seen the fruitless proletarian march in “Taksim Spiral” has been that most want to see a political subtext, a metaphor for a situation spiraling out of control and into implosion, futility of the highest order. Is there any political underpinning here? Does he consider himself political?
He shoots from the hip. “No.”
Not a shred? He remains unequivocal and even deepens his statement.
“No. I hope not.” It seems almost everyone else does, from what I’ve read and personally heard, at least with works shot at newsworthy locations.
“I don’t have a political message, but as you know, I shot my recent video in a public space, a public square, and I think if you shoot in a public space, if you put a show in a public space, you should consider the political aspects; you are responsible to show the people something serious, I think. For example, my most political work is ‘Taksim Spiral,’ because as you know, there was a demonstration for more than a month and people occupied that area, so it made me feel that I should make something serious, not a comedy or anything funny. So I decided to draw a shape which is chaotic and at the same time the opposite. Coming from a background of painting, I don’t like the spiral. I never draw a spiral because it disturbs me and it makes me feel uncomfortable, because it’s disturbing for me personally. It’s a disturbing shape.”
He may not like spirals, but he continues to make me think of the not entirely dissimilar coiled spring. Odd, I think. He like things that don’t have an end, at the same time, the spiral disturbs him because it doesn’t have an end. Here, he corrects me. “But it ends in the middle,” then furthers somewhat in contradiction, “It doesn’t end. It’s like a black hole.”
Whether unwittingly political or not, the use of public spaces remains part of his struggle to remain “genuine,” to have a language everyone can relate to. Looking for a more specific meaning may be a red herring. His is a global audience with personal needs. Inci seems convinced he has reached them on common ground. “I think that people feel similar things because my work doesn’t have a particular content relating to nationality or anything. It’s just fun to watch, I think, and if you play something really simple, like a musical piece, a lullaby, I think every child would fall asleep. Babies don’t care about what you say; they just care about the melody. So, my style is something about repetition which doesn’t have a particular meaning or story or message. It’s just like a pendulum which makes you sleep, like the psychologist uses a watch. It’s just relaxing.”
Still, followers in Istanbul might feel a tad more connected. He readily agrees, seeing this as a motivation in the way he chooses to shoot, at the same time as being a reason to alter the game plan.
“As long as I keep doing this, I will continue doing it in public spaces. For example, in Istanbul, people say, oh, I know this place, I walk every day in that place, or I use that road every day to go to work. It gives people a feeling of familiarity. So if I want to keep that style, I think I should travel around the world and shoot somewhere else.” The first works shot outside Turkey will be done during his stay in Berlin.
New works will then resonate in new ways with fresh audiences. The prime source of resonance may still be buried beneath the eye candy, in the intent behind the enticement. Or is he of the Hitchcock school of not seeing film as a slice of life, but rather a piece of cake?
“There are two main types of thing in an art work. One is form, and one is content. And there are two main questions: How you do that, and Why you do that.” Although eager to undescore genuineness in his careening loops, he tends to keep to descriptions of his methods alone in his brief interviews to date, a partial illumination reflecting from the surface back on the beholder. I sense once again he would prefer to talk about the “how,” the form. He confirms. I swing him immediately over to content, the “why,” but to be fair, I warned him in advance I would take him outside his comfort zone. Not a problem. Our butterfly is back, but this time, he takes little notice. “If you put a seed into the soil, the content is to grow something. I want to grow something, something new, but I don’t know how it will turn out. I just have the seed, but I don’t know which seed it is. It can be a tree, a plant or a weed. I just have the seed; I plant it and I wait to see how it grows, how it turns into something, some plant. I have a technical idea, which is, I think, genuine, but I don’t know how it will develop yet.” Or indeed where.
“People find my works sometimes creepy or sometimes funny, which is really good for me.”
THE SEEDS CAN BE PLANTED and sprout in the least expected places. Some of the feedback that makes him feel rooted comes from far-flung, unlikely sources. Some of the most gratifying. “An autism foundation in America had an exhibition for charity to collect donations. They wanted some works of mine. And I just wondered, what’s the feedback? I wanted to hear that, and the teacher responsible for the children told me that at the exhibition, the children were really into my works and they stayed for, I don’t know, longer than for other works. I think it’s the best feedback but… I know autistic children like repetitive things, repetitive visuals, so I don’t know if it’s good for them. But to hear that makes me really happy. That one is an exception. It’s not an artistic feedback, but it’s really….”
Like the rejection/acceptance quandary, not feeling content with either, even unpretentious appreciation can carry with it the pangs of self-doubt. While he thinks about the best way to express his qualms, I dive in to remind him that, ultimately, art is not just made for artists or ‘art-lovers,’ it is for everybody. He is, however, getting a response from those loftier circles, too, and in spades. “For artisitic feedback,” he continues, “I can say, people say they feel something. They find my works sometimes creepy or sometimes funny, which is really good for me, which gives me pleasure, because if you make people feel something with a visual creation, I think it’s the best thing because, as I’ve told you, I tried to make visual music or something audio-visual, and the reason that I wanted to make that was to make people feel similar to how they feel with music.”
The connection to music, its rhythm and effect in his silent pieces persists. Maybe it is the unqualified, non-intellectualized gratification. For some reason, I can’t get the riffs of James Brown out of my head, “Night Train,” “Sex Machine,” with The Hardest Working Man in Showbusiness going at it with body-punishing (and crowd-thrilling) fervour. It’s that insistent groove, the one that your body might not fully understand until it has been subjected to it for five or six minutes without abate. Then it gets to you, and you can’t do anything against it, especially when served up live.The grinding repetition makes it, the gruelling delight of knowing exactly what will come next, again and again and again. Festivals dedicated to repetitive music cycles, up- and downtempo, are flourishing. Many people absorb it as a kind of a mantra, feel hypnotized, and only through a certain amount of repetition does it reach a certain place. Would he say his works have a groove? Like a musical groove?
“If my work represents or creates a visualize impression of any type of music,” he asserts, “I would say minimal music. I really like minimal music, and it repeats, like hypnotization, very close pitches. When I listen to it, it creates visuals in my mind, so if I put music to my videos, I would prefer to put a minimal thing.”
He doesn’t mention it by name, confesses to being unfamiliar with the word, but I still hear the groove, see the groove, in a manner of speaking. Inci recognizes the tranquilization, but I sense the invigoration as well, a sensory crossover, enough to pull dancers at [DLX] from their gyrations to examining the simultaneous screen projection, or simply bathe in a dual pleasure of musical beat and rhythmic visuals. A Moebius strip – one endless path presenting two sides. Can you hypnotize muscles as well? Can a visual impulse get into your bones?
“I guess it’s mostly hypnotic, because it repeats, it just repeats. It has no linear composition. So when I do composition, I think I’m just beating a sound, a beautiful sound, but it’s just like a single note. But if you play a single note, repetitively, it hypnotizes.” He could create compositions with a groove, he reckons. “But I haven’t done that yet.”
“I hate theoretical lessons. I don’t like to be told by someone to learn something.”
I FEEL THE ITCH to hypothesize, have a little fun. I think he will be open to it. The question: If he had to be one of the four Beatles, which would he be?
He has no problem answering. “John.” Any reason? With due modesty, he answers, “I think he is the smartest one….” By now, I can rib him, and offer that Ringo might be more appropriate. He laughs warmly, as relaxed as I have seen him up until now. And shows the ability to rethink things. “I’d prefer Ringo, because he’s… still alive.” Laughter from both; a couple of heads turn.
Humour aside, it is clear he is a “thinking man,” but what breed of that particular creature? What was the last book he read?
“Now I am reading Notes from Underground by Dostoyevsky. I read The Gambler, again, Dostoyevsky. And I read a historical, what do you call… from İlber Ortayli, who is a professor of history, a well-known historian from Turkey. It’s the last book… Seyahatname. It’s a book about a journey.” (Full title: Eski Dünya Seyahatnamesi [Travelogue of the Old World], 2007, ed. note)
The next book?
“I don’t know; I’m not really into fiction, but I enjoy it when I read it. But I want to learn about history, so… maybe something about history. If I read something from literature, I will read another book by Dostoyevsky.”
I share that I am wild about particularly that stage of Dostoyevsky, Underground and The Double, oppressive reading for some. Not disposable literature; maybe choices of the “smart” Beatle. I am still hunting a handle for his breed. Would he call himself academic?
Again, he’s direct and concise. “No.”
Not at all?
“No. I can’t stand reading anything academic.”
But he did want to read about history. Not necessarily academic in the classic sense. I’m curious to know how he was at school.
“I was good at primary school, like a nerd. I changed schools to a special school for smart students. They taught hard science. I discovered myself at that time, that I am talented in drawing and painting, and I just gave up studying other courses. I finished that school, regular high school. Then I applied to the fine arts academy, and I got the highest score in the entry exam, an exam for drawing. I was really good at that, but I didn’t finish in first place at the end of the school year, just because… I hate theoretical lessons. I wouldn’t say that I don’t like to study… I don’t like to be told by someone to learn something.”
High grades in practice-oriented lessons, like painting and drawing, but less so in theoretical lessons, he lets me know. The anti-academic over-achiever.
FIVE WORDS to describe himself. I’ve already accused him of looking quite serious.
“You’re right, I’m kind of serious, but I hate it. It’s a self control. I think it’s a weakness.” Very candid. I could run with that, but instead remind him he has four more words. He thinks. “I’m really shy; I’m afraid of being humiliated, of being made fun of. It’s a complex.”
Nobody likes that, I assure him. Or very few. Three more words, after “serious” and “shy.” He ponders. “And emotional… I cry easily. Funny, sometimes, but not to everyone, to some close friends.” One word left over. “Childish.” There seems to be a bit of pride in that one. Serious, shy, emotional, funny, childish. What else would you expect from a digital hypnotist.
Still, the words only partly match those used by others to describe his pieces, at least the ones he mentioned to me earlier: creepy or funny. A fair question on the search for the interface between the creator and his creations. Which would he say better describes him, creepy or funny?
“I’d prefer funny,” he says, “but at the same time, it can be creepy.”
Maybe another attempt to avoid content in favour of form, this confusion of the question. I shift him back to talking about himself more personally. Not the works, I mean. Him.
This brings on a bit of personal philosophy that dodges the question but reveals his impetus. “I believe that if you don’t have fun while you are working, the viewer won’t be happy, won’t enjoy the work. If you enjoy it while you are working, the people also enjoy it.” He adds firmly, “I believe that.” And furthers, “So I have worked spontaneously, mostly. I go out alone in the middle of the night or early in the morning, and I just try to have fun, with most of my works.”
An apt description of what he enjoys, possibly loves. But he has shown himself to be of two minds on several matters. The reverse side of the coin: Is there anything he hates?
Bullseye quip. “I hate myself,” he says, with a deadpan smirk that makes it hard to know how seriously or not he means it. I threaten him with making that the headline and tell him about the film “16 Reasons Why I Hate Myself” by one Matthew Lancit that we screened at [DL9]² in 2013. Someone’s beaten him to it. Undaunted, he elaborates. “I hate procrastinating, which I do. I’m not a hard worker, but I should be. Now I have a responsibilty to do something better, so it puts me under stress a lot, but I think in a good way. I think to be under stress is good.”
There is no doubt that the demand that brings the pressure is there, from without and within. The over-achiever has not yet begun to achieve. At least not in terms of his desired scope. The man who has digitally multiplied himself and light sources into undulating crowds and staccato flashes can be expected to do more, given time. Given the desire. Where will he be in ten years?
No agenda there. He considers for long moments. “I don’t know,” he intones, slowly, quietly, “I really don’t know.” Accomodating to the end, I offer an alternative. In ten days?
Here, he is amused, but decides to go for the original volley. “In ten years? I just want to make something different, I want to change my disciplines, other disciplines. I really miss painting… I don’t know….”
Then he leans a little forward: “You know the North Korean ceremonies?
That flawless goose-step, the incomparable grid pattern formation, legs to the horizon? I’ve seen them, sure.
"I just want to make them, only with no production, just me. I just want to make something similar.” He hastens to add, “Not political, but as complex….”
Digital Stalinism as pure art. If that isn’t over-achievement, I’ll have to re-consult my dictionary for the proper definiton. Much lies ahead, then, conceivably enough someday to speak and fill volumes. Maybe he himself will be the one to shed light on the mechanism of his mind. If he were to write an autobiography someday, I ask, what would the name of the book be?
“Repetition,” he tells me, and with little deliberation. But just once.
¹[DLX], The 10th Berlin International Directors Lounge, Feb. 7 – 17, 2014
²[DL9], The 9th Berlin International Directors Lounge, Feb. 6 – 16, 2013
Erdal Inci photographed in Berlin (photo: Nick Font)
Erdal Inci: Light Dome ver2, 2014 , Istanbul
Erdal Inci: Taksim Spiral 0,8s 2013
Erdal Inci: Stumblers, Istanbul, 2014
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