SoPARTS Spotlight: Ekin Akalin

Curator Ekin Akalin collaborates with artists to tell personal stories, trigger emotions and push the physical and mental boundaries enclosing the world. From Turkey and living in Paris, Ekin's work, and eye, encompass global connections for better understanding -- learn about her practice, experiences and hopes with us!

What drives you to wake up in the morning and what keeps you up at night?
“This is just the start, we’ll keep up the fight!”

This slogan wakes me up every morning and keeps me standing during my day. That recording is from the Gezi uprising in 2013 and it reminds me I have to keep fighting during my daily life . We are living a particularly violent time of History in this Age of Populism. With Trump in USA, Erdogan in Turkey, Orban in Hungary, Merkel in Germany, Putin in Russia, Netanyahu in Israel, nobody is really is safe… People in the Western world may think that they are safe but they make fools of themselves. One the cruelest massacres of modern history happened in this very city which actually launched the modernity. The world shouted “je suis Charlie” for one month and then it is completely forgotten. Given such a dark conjecture of the world, I think we don’t have the luxury to be desperate. We have to keep fighting every single moment in our own ways to make the better world in which I believe can come true

Why art? The artists you work with often confront borders and boundaries—how can art
break down walls?

I deeply and truly believe that art and culture are two of the most powerful tools that human
beings invented. You know why? They affect the emotion! You can ignore something that you
know but you cannot do the same with something in which you believe. It will itch you all your
life. Let’s take the critic on LGBTI people. The conservative discourse expects people who love
somebody of the same sex to ignore their love. But when you love someone, you just do,
nothing on earth can change it. Addressing the emotion, the imaginary is the most important
character of Art. When you can convince or at least influence someone emotionally, it is sure
that this person will not be the same after. Napoléon knew it! He ordered his prefect
Haussmann to transform the city of Paris into a fancy world in order to justify to legitimize his
politics.
Then, I am also very interested with the opinion of the “ordinary person”. Who is the ordinary
person? It is you and me and our aunts and the baker of the corner...In fact, it is the person
whose idea makes the real social change! I think Art is the most important tool to convince or at
least to influence the ordinary person since the real boundaries are in our minds. Once we can
picture the world in which we believe, we’ll find a find to make it real, the courage to fight for it.
It helps to face our own ideas and feelings. In other words, art encourages us to be better
people, not in a hegemonic way, the way Philosophers of Enlightenment did but in the own way
in which every human being believes.

Haydrapasa Station by Julien Masson, an artist that Ekin works with. photo c/o Julien Masson

Haydrapasa Station by Julien Masson, an artist that Ekin works with. photo c/o Julien Masson

What specific issues do you try to address through art mediation?
Nature-City- Landscape, Labor, Interculturality, Memory, Heritage, Nationalism, Racism- Fascism

For every pain, there is a pill. For both personal and social “pains”, what is your medicine?
I have a very Marxist – even Soviet- opinion on that: I don’t believe in talent, I believe in hard
work! Those who are intended to change the world have to remember that they –we- deal with
a powerful enemy, the conservatism! So we need to give 200% of ourselves to change
something which has been established since centuries. Artists are not excluded from this
perspective. They have to work hard but in a rigorous way. Most of the artist doesn’t work at all
because they are desperate or when they do they exhaust themselves. But this is just not
sustainable rhythm. It’s also old fashioned. The romantic bohemian profile of artist doesn’t exist
anymore. In a way, to be an artist is no different from any other work. If a banker passes 8-10
hours a day on paperwork, an artist’s job is to concentrate on his/her work in a certain interval.
My job is to find artists who have new purposes, new stories to tell and to help them diffuse
these stories with third persons. Even if I am not paid for that job, even if it is very painful
–accompanying artists is one the most painful things in the world- or even if I cannot achieve my
projects, this is my job. I have to keep going. That’s it.
What does community mean to you? How does that community affect your creative output,
collaborations and curating?

Well thank you for that question. Community is so far the best term to replace “nation”. To me,
community is the group who share same hopes and who has the same definitions of justice. It is
also a group whom I share some historical references. Community is a group who is able to act
and question collectively without blaming each other despite particular differences.

The Baker Searching for Berkin by Iskender Giray, an artist that Ekin works with. Photo c/o Iskender Giray

The Baker Searching for Berkin by Iskender Giray, an artist that Ekin works with. Photo c/o Iskender Giray

Is there anything you would change in your life, if you had the chance? In the world?
Well, right now I am looking for a flat in Paris, I cannot imagine a bigger challenge! For the
world, if I have only one shot I would stop the climate change.

A list of Ekin's influences

A list of Ekin's influences

Can you share a story about social injustice? How do experiences like these manifest in your
work?

Hard to pick up one but I can talk about the one which had an obvious impact in this stage of my
life. In 2015, an explosion happened during a peaceful protest in Ankara against the war in East
Anatolia. 109 people died that day in a very central location of the capital city, 3 min to walk to
the Central Office of Secret Agency. It was one of these moments in which I said to myself “it
could be me”. I used to think that very often in that period. I called one my friends who was
supposed to go there. His voice sounded so calm that I thought I have made a mistake and I
apologized for waking him up. He replied, “I am in Ankara, everything is so bad here. There are
human bodies on trees; the ground was so slippery that I was not able to walk because it was full
of blood. Yet, they threw tear gas on wounded people lying on ground and sent ambulances only
after a while”. When I hang up, I understood that the calm in his voice was because of the
trauma. On that day, I promised myself to stick to life no matter what and to diffuse stories in
which those who died that day believed in, as well as other engaged human stories. That day, I
needed to believe that they didn’t die for nothing; their combat was real and it meant
something although they couldn’t go to the end of it. In a personal dimension, I have
understood that I didn’t have another minute to lose and I should do what I have always
dreamed of whether I am successful or not. In a way that perspective worked as I have never
been happier in my life. Maybe my life condition decreased relatively but I feel good –like Nina
Simone’s song. Also I have met you, at an event on “Revolutionary Art” and today, we question
together the ways in which art can contribute in to better world. So, I would say things are just
fine!

Untitled by Serkan Catar, an artist Ekin works with. photo c/o the artist.

Untitled by Serkan Catar, an artist Ekin works with. photo c/o the artist.

To learn more about Ekin's work or to get in contact with her, please visit her site