Five questions to… Interview with Yasemin Yilmaz

 © Yasemin Yilmaz

Yasemin Yilmaz, in April you will visit the Sultanate of Oman with your art project „One Global Artwork“. Can you briefly describe the project?

One could say that the project shows our work in a minimalist way. It is represented by 12 artists from six continents, so two artists by continent. The artists created a piece of art in a limited time of 24 hours, inspired by the daily newspaper in their respective countries and all this happened on the leap day, 29 February 2012. They worked in their home towns and thus were thousands of kilometres apart from each other. Nevertheless their projects are connected for this specific day and time.

That is why I have chosen the title „Globalization-Connection-Time“. Globalization with its advantages and disadvantages determines our world today. Individuals with common interests were always connected with each other and time is an element which influences all of us.

What inspired you to this unusual work and how did you address the participating artists?

The idea for the project was developed during an international art camp in Rumania in 2007. I was invited as one of the participating artists. We all worked together in a symbiotic way at the same place. And I was curious how the surroundings would influence the artwork itself; if it would be reflected in it.

Thus I had the idea to realize an experimental project without knowing if the artists would actually work on their artworks or not. I was not there when they worked to look over their shoulders. But they worked and they also connected through the project.

Due to blogs, Instagram and Facebook the term „being connected“ has a different meaning today than in the beginning of 2008. Facebook back then had approximately 80 million users, mainly in the United States of America. In 2013 it reached worldwide more than one billion. This development shows us that the human being has a big interest in being connected through new media. For me the internet was the only option to get in touch and be connected with the participating artists. This project would not have been possible – I think – 15 years ago. Or it would have been very difficult to realize at least.

The Omani artist Hassan Meer is one of the twelve chosen artists. Was this your first collaboration? How did you see your collaboration?

I got to know Hassan Meer and his works already in 2009 during the symposium "Dialogue of Identities". It was organized by the Fine Art Society of Oman, the artist association European Artists and the German Embassy in Oman. Five German and two Italian artists travelled to Oman to work there with Omani artists side by side and to engage in a dialogue. For me the time in Oman as well as the collaboration with Hassan Meer was very positive which is why asked him if he was interested in participating in the project.

The day of the creation – 29 February 2012 –was also the date of the closing event of the global tour of the 2008 edition of the project. It took place in the exhibition space “Kunsthalle Hannover” and we wanted to give the visitors the opportunity to witness the creative process and to get in touch with the artists. Thus we set up 12 notebooks with live connections to the 12 participating artists. Due to the time differences the live connections from New Zealand to Alaska spanned over 45 hours, but is was always 29 February on the specific locations.

But as Skype is not allowed in Oman, the screen of Hassan Meer stayed pitch black. The visitors started thinking about this. And it triggered the question how „connected“ we want to be. This question and others that are raised by the project are of great interest for me. It encourages me to re-do the project in 2012 with a new group of artists.

After showing the project in Haiti, Uruguay and De Hague it is now also shown in the Sultanate of Oman. How was the exhibition perceived at the different places? Is the reaction of the audience similar? What kind of reaction do you expect from the Omani audience?

In Haiti we had a video presentation. Unfortunately the exhibitions in Uruguay and the Netherlands were postponed due to personal reasons. The project will be shown for the first time with all aspects in Muscat. I am very much looking forward to this and I am curious to see how the visitors will react.

The exhibition of the 2008 edition of the project has been shown in Morocco, Namibia, Rumania, India, Argentina, the USA and Germany. As the project highlights various aspects, the visitors are in general interested in the different point of views that the artists take.

I am a modest person. If the visitors in Oman leave the exhibition with one or two questions and maybe also the answers to them, I would be very happy.

Yasemin Yilmaz, during your stay in Oman you will also work on an art project with students of the local PASCH school. What makes the way of working with the students different from the way of working in the framework of the project „One Global Artwork“?

The way of working with the students will be quite similar to the way of working within the project. But I will accompany and support the students in Germany and in Oman in their creative process.

On both sides the students will together on something, without know „The other ME“. This is the most obvious difference to the "One Global Artwork" project. The students are creative, but they also create a more individual-related artwork. Each student will be paired up with a direct partner from the other country. At first they get to know their partners only through a photo and a short sheet with some characteristics. Thus the students can speculate about the other. At the same time they will also fill in a sheet with their characteristics and send it to their partners. With this information in mind they are asked to create artworks related to their respective partners. All info sheets will be brought together with the artworks for an exhibition in April.

This project mainly aims to overcome prejudices towards “the foreign, the other ME” and on conveying the idea to the students that they have things in common. By dealing with the other culture intensively they hopefully understand in the end that we are all similar and different at the same time. And this does not mean that we have to build barriers between us. The project will end with a video conference between the students. They can then exchange their experiences in the projects and talk about their similarities and differences from face to face.

Interview with Yasemin Yilmaz
conducted by Maya Röder
February 2014