Katja Werner interview - 2007

(this interview is published on Ballet Tanz, November 2007)

What are body-process arts?

body-process arts is actually a translation of the Turkish term beden-işlemsel sanatlar which is in Turkish. Beden-işlemsel is the term we realizedzed that we have started using to define the area of interest of us as the group of people that who initiated the association. We did not want to use the existing terminology due to two reasons. First the existing terminologyit was in English. We preferred to define ourselves in our native language, instead of translating "what we are" from English. The second reason was that the existing terminology was not really meeting our intentions about the field we really feel like to be inwe belong. We are not talking about only just the digital arts, not onlyjust the media technologies, not onlyor new media or not just not only dansdance or performance. As a community geographically livinglocated in on the border of cultures and historically within sharing the heritage of various cultures on the other hand as a community which is mostly not creating but using technology and alsoas well as living being under the threat of it in several ways, we wanted wished to somehow emphasize our sensibilities. Body-process arts is where body and process stands together and for the sake of each other. With this emphasis, body-process arts points indicate to artistic forms that incorporate and exploit the interaction of human bodies body and technological processes.

How are you going to reach out to people "who are not part of the global arts circuits" or who don't have access to said technologies?

There are two aspects of this question First basically "the poor" is not the part of this art circuit, neither as creator nor the art follower or consumer. The age we are living in, is opening widening the gap between the rich and the poor with a speed which was not possible before, since modernity. And the art is becoming more and more becoming a commodity of the rich and loosing its social roots. In this respect technology is opening the doors of a new language for artists which that can communicate with a wider range of people from different communities. Because As the technology of the 21th century belongs to the street as well. It is not as "high" as it was. Most people and specifically the younger generation use technology without any resistance. Technology is already part ofin the daily life of people who are driven pushed out away fromof arts field by its arrogance. Therefore artists can reach to a wider audience through the technology much easily along their daily life routine., without being "high" at all, in their daily life routine.

Secondly the countries in and around Mmiddle- Eeast, Caucasia and Turkik Republics are not the part of global art circuit. Although it this may is also be related to how global is defined. But technology is also within their interest and since it is based on communication, it is fast and it is connecting. Due to our position in between West and East we thing believe that we can create a new network, a passageway in between. We are almost equally sharing a lot with both cultural blocks in almost equal measures.

Who is amber - who are you, in other words?

amber is an Istanbul based initiative that aims to explore artistic forms of expression at the conjunction of the body and the digital processes. It was founded in 2007 as an association by a team of researchers and artists from disciplines such as dance, performance, design, social sciences and engineering. The founders of amber came got together in order to create a local platform of discussion and production platform in a Globalized World; itself transformed by new technologies.

amber's objective is to establish a permanent center in Istanbul, which would focus on research, production and education in the field of body-process arts. Simultaneously, amber seeks to create an international network of artists, researchers and technicians with whom it would continue to work and cooperate. It thus aims to participate in universal art from through its local and regional perspective.

I realize there are several areas, where technology has made human lives easier, healthier, more comfortable - or even: possible. Where do you see the benefit of technology for body-focused art forms?
Any drawbacks? Distrust?

We are taking a critical stand towards technology; not merely glorifying mere technology nor we denying it altogether. But we are for it, we enjoy it, we use it.
I think the theme of amber'07 which is "voice and survival" also gives an answer to our position regarding technology. I am quotoingquoting from the festival document:
"Digital technologies that store process and send all types of data efficiently and quickly are becoming crucial elements of our lives. We are happy and comfortable thanks to the tools that employ such technologies and the latter are fast becoming the determinants and signs of a good life. However, we are simultaneously living through the risks that are created and mediated by digital technologies, which are used in circuits of global finance, advertising, entertainment, health and weapons systems as well as in everyday tools such as cell phones and computers. Such technologies affect each and all of us. They articulate and redefine our ways of communication, our speech, writing, visual and aural practices and even our sensory capabilities. Increasingly for individuals and groups, institutions and even states, the capability to be heard, to have a legitimate voice has come to depend on the use of digital technologies. We all feel the need to institute a technological presence. In today’s World, we are always already present as data, a sign, number, image or voice thanks to the generative capacities of digital technology. Yet, as the subject of a collectivity we all too readily assume that we are capable of producing a voice, and hence a worthwhile presence in the scenes and spheres that matter to our lives and to our future. Rather than being a given, the capability to produce a voice that will embody our plight, our stance in art, thought, love or politics has become a crucial question that faces all of us.

In light of the above, amber’07 takes up the theme of Voice and Survival in a World where digital technology has become instrumentalized to generate the mundane as well as the sublime. What happens to Voice, in its artistic, personal, social or visceral incarnations as digital technology increasingly mediates human and systems’ interrelationships? What is the voice by which we survive as individuals and societies in and through contemporary technology as the boundaries between Art and Technology transform? amber’07 aims to pose these and similar questions and seek possible answers."

Tell me something about the upcoming festival...

amber’07 will be the only large broad event in the field of Arts and Technology to be held in Turkey. It will take place in on 9-17 November, 2007 in a variety of venues in Istanbul. The festival will house a variety of performances, interactive installations, seminars and workshops by an international group of artists and thinkers. amber’07 will act as a ground of artistic exchange and cooperation as well as constitute an opportunity for Istanbul art audiences to view and experience a novel art form as executed by artists from different cultural backgrounds. In addition to the audiences who are already involved and interested in the digital art form, the festival seeks to attract a larger public that includes the general art audiences, students in diverse artistic and technological fields and children. Detailed information and the program can be found on www.a-m-b-e-r.net

And the other projects that amber is involved in...

Currently amber has two main projects one is amber festival which will be an annual event. The second one is a partnership in the frame of European Culture Program 2007. It is an artistic and technologic research project about developing a telematic dance piece, lead by CIANT from Prague. In 2008 we are planning an educational program for young people and children covering wider areas of Turkey which will is about researching the new forms of personal expression through the art and technology. Our main aim is to establish an art and technology center in Istanbul.

What's your position towards Techne?

if you mean greek word Techne which literally means craftsmanship and also the root of word "technology", then we believe in craftsmanship and technology....
İf you mean the Techne'06 which is the festival realized in istanbul in 2006 then we are continuing on the same roots. Techne'06 was an individual initiative which was organized by me and A. Kalem with the help of a group of people with whom I later formed the amber association. We wanted to continue in this field in a well organized manner and decided to be an association as amber Body-process arts association. Therefore Techne is does not exist anymore.

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Do you already have a venue, where you can establish your permanent center?

No, we do not have a venue yet. To have a venue is very important for an organization even though we are used to work in virtual environments. A venue brings people together and it is ever more important to come together in one-to-one or one-to-many relation. Although we like to be together we cannot produce together on an equal level I believe a venue will make it possible to work together to produce art. We also need a venue regarding other objectives of our organization such as educational programs for the youth and public presentations as well as artistic production. For the expences for such avenue we need to be financially supported.

I agree with your analysis regarding the exclusionary character of arts scenes, but on a very pragmatic level, how do you manage to reach, for instance, “the poor” people living on the Asian side of Istanbul?
Fisr of all, the poor do not live only in the asian part of Istanbul. Culturally and economically all parts of the city and of the larger region in which we live are progressively driven into more poverty. But I do not realy want to dwell on the distinctions and differences between the rich and the poor when it comes to access to the arts. Ours does not claim to be a manifesto but we still aim to present a more accessible and less exclusionary form of art. On a pragmatic level, we are doing everything we can to make amber’07 open to the larger public. The festival is free and open to everybody save for the workshops and the costly performances. We have made an agreement with TEV, the Turkish Educational Foundation. They do educational work in poor city neighborhoods. They will bring school children from various city schools to the exhibition area everyday. We will give them a guided tour of the exhibition and talk with them afterwards about their experience. In addition, we will organize a basic technology and performance workshop for school children, 80 of whom will be from the TEV group. Our objective here is to encourage young people to express themselves and to communicate through and tecchnology.

Can you give me an example of what it looks like, when amber “embodies the plight”?

Our ultimate objective is to become an institution based in Istanbul that facililates artistic exchange and co-production amongst eastern and western artists in a network which reaches from europe to Turkic countries, the Middle East and the Caucasian region.
We would like to be able to support the production of 10 interactive installations by young artists every year and create a stage performance with the collaboration of many artists, researchers and technicians from different disciplines.
We also plan to conduct technology and art workshops throughout the region for childeren and young people.

Can you talk a little bit about (some of) the artists in the festival?

For that, you can see the program. But I like to mention one of the main objectives of the festival which is to encourage and introduce young artist working in the field in Turkey, to make their work visible Therefore you will see many young artists from Turkey. We also want to encourage them to develop themselves by interacting with the established artists that we invited in the workshops, which are an important component of the festival.

And to you, as an engineer, where or when does technology become art? (I've seen a lot of so-called digital art that to me seemed more like a presentation of what a computer program could do; I'm sure you agree, digital art has to go beyond that?)

Technology itself is not art. The definition of art has not changed but its tools are changing and every new tool brings about its own language. Technology is the new tool to tell the same old stories as well as the stories of the new world which is transformed by technology I agree with you that what artist do with technology should go beyond what technology itself can do. The time when the magic of technology was in itself interesting is over now.

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