Burak Kabadayı: From the Beginning

A new international co-commission was created by artist Burak Kabadayı under the Education Exchange Programme between the Istanbul Biennial and Liverpool Biennial. Influenced by the conceptual frameworks of the 15th Istanbul Biennial: a good neighbour and Liverpool Biennial 2018: Beautiful world, where are you? the artwork is called From the Beginning and has been developed in collaboration with Protocinema.

Influenced by the conceptual frameworks of the 15th Istanbul Biennial and Liverpool Biennial 2018, From the Beginning has been carried out in 6 different neighbourhoods of Istanbul, with 48 children aged 4-14. Sound, video and an intricate map of networks form an entity that relates to the broader notion of the Biennial titles; a good neighbour and Beautiful world, where are you?

Children were invited to select and interpret a verse from their favourite song. Their interpretations were recorded and combined, then transformed into a single track. A video, streaming in sync with the audio, was edited to make each of the verses visible. Places, children, songs and sentences that display the process and the conceptual motivation of the project have also been mapped on Graph Commons to show their relation to one another.

The choices children make between the songs depend on many factors, such as personality traits, age, family, environmental relations, regional origin and place of residence. The children’s preferences point to relationships and ideas of social/cultural interaction, building a certain space, an environment, and a sense of belonging.

From the Beginning takes this environment and belongings in an individual and spatial sense through the concepts of proximity/distance and similarity/difference, creating a zone in which to rethink.

View the artwork

Açık Radyo, a local radio channel in Turkey interviewed Burak Kabadayı on 1 November 2017. Listen to the interview here

Artist Burak Kabadayı was born 1989 in Kırşehir. He lives and works mostly in Istanbul, where he pursues his graduate studies at Marmara University. He has participated in exhibitions at various art spaces in Istanbul including Alt Art Space, DEPO, Mixer and Pasaj-ist. Visit the artist’s website here.

Ali Uygur Erol collaborated in editing the sound and technical aspect of final artwork.

Burak Kabadayı would like to thank Pasaj in Tarlabaşı and TAK in Yeldeğirmeni for their support.

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Interviewer 1- Açık Magazine continues. We’re in the second half hour and as we said Burak Kabadayı is with us. Welcome Burak.

Burak Kabadayı- Thank you.

Interviewer 2- Hello Burak. You’ve been our guest before so you’re a little used to the Açık Radio studio.

Interviewer 1- Well welcome back. We recently hosted you here right after your works at Mixer, Bomonti Alt and at Pasaj. Now From the Beginning was announced on the 30th October 2017; it is perhaps the last work of the 15th Istanbul biennial since there’re almost 2 weeks left. 

Burak Kabadayı- Yes. We shouldn’t forget Liverpool Biennial and Protocinema too. It was a project completed with 3 of them all together.

Interviewer 1- So, the Istanbul Biennial and Liverpool Biennial had an ongoing Education Exchange programme and through their connection to Protocinema, From the Beginning project was created. What is From the Beginning? It is a work of sound and there is also a video part as well, right?

Burak KabadayıFrom the Beginning, is a 3-staged work. It’s edited via sound, video and a map. For the sound part, I was able to reach 48 children from 5 zones and recorded their interpretations. The sound was then incorporated into a video documenting the selected verses. The map part continues to grow and currently we reached 60 children and 8 regions.

Interviewer 1- What are the children talking about here?

Burak Kabadayı- The starting point of the project involved the concepts of a good neighbour and Beautiful world where are you? With that in mind, we reached children in different regions of Istanbul, where their relation, proximity, distance to each other all play an important role. Some children within a particular neighbourhood have contact with each other; for example, 10 kids in Tarlabaşı are friends and/or neighbours in that area, however, there’s no contact between Tarlabaşı and Maltepe neigbhourhoods. Through this map were were able to connect the various unrelated neighbourhoods by mapping the children’s favourite songs and expressions.

Interviewer 2- All of them are sound installations (Yes). Which neighbourhoods?

Burak Kabadayı- Which neighbourhoods, well there is Tarlabaşı, Yeldeğirmeni, Avcılar, Maltepe and Dudullu. These are the neighbourhoods we can see and hear in this sound file, but as it has become an ongoing project the scope of neighbourhoods reached will continue to grow and expand.

Interviewer 1- What can we see, what kind of connections do we see – it may be difficult to explain – on this network map?

Burak Kabadayı- I used the network of Graph Commons in the network map and each child is set up in accordance with their own territory but are then connected to other kids across the city who have selected the same song or expression. There are many of the same songs, and these unseen relations all have meaning for me. Despite the distance and lack of any contact, they pick the same or similar songs without knowing each other. We can say that this a collective visual which matches and combines these differences and similarities.

Interviewer 1- Alright, how did the first offer come to you? It came from Protocinema but how did it come?

Burak Kabadayı- Yes, Protocinema contacted me to for this kind of work of my experience with children for the 24-hours Project at Pasaj. I worked with nearly 80 children there. So, I suppose Mari thought it’s a field that I can easily work in. I also enjoyed the process very much.

Interviewer 2- I guess you had the children wear a wristwatch there or they looked at the watches?

Burak Kabadayı- Yes. We gave them a wristwatch and a mobile phone to use for a week and we wanted them to take a video for 15 seconds whenever they looked at the watch. So, they take a video whenever they look at the watch and this went for 5 months with 5 different children each week. I got 2,700 videos in the end of the Project and we put them into chronological order. We created a clock object that would be parallel to the time zone. (Yes)

Interviewer 2-  And if we turn back to the earlier question. How did this come to you? All this, (mmm) maybe I should say offer. What kind of a concept was it, I mean?

Burak Kabadayı- Well, Polly Brannan from Liverpool Biennial told me the two conceptual subjects and to start, the concept of a good neighbour immediately suggested to me ideas of proximity and distance within the city of Istanbul. When I heard Beautiful world, where are you? for the first time, it reminded me of the arabesque approach. So, we began with the children’s interest for music and reached out those aged between 4-14.

Interviewer 1- Yes. We’ll hear their voice in a while (Yes). By the way, Beautiful world where are you? is the theme of Liverpool Biennial. We need to state that as well. We mentioned a good neighbour, however we’re mentioning, Beautiful world where are you? for the first time in this session. From the Beginning, which is produced within the scope of the education and exchange programme between the Istanbul Biennial and Liverpool Biennial, is the topic of this night’s broadcast. You didn’t do it alone Burak, right? You mentioned about sound records, montage, Graph Commons.

Burak Kabadayı- Yes. There are some people to thank. We made the sound work with Ali Uygur Erol. Composition, mixes and mastering parts belong to him. I thank him from here. Pasaj provided me a shooting place at Tarlabaşı. I must thank Tak from Yeldeğirmeni, Devrim Karaçay from Avcılar, Hayri Güzel from Maltepe, Emin Eldener from Dudullu for providing me a place and giving me the opportunity to record children’s input.

Interviewer 1- Let's talk about that, actually. How you work was very interesting as well.

Burak Kabadayı- It’s difficult to work with children in a way. I have to find a child from a place that I don’t know. There are some interesting stories about those too. I went to an internet cafe at Tarlabaşı and the children were there, but I feel more comfortable at Tarlabaşı since the children know me there, especially from my previous project. I spoke to a child from the internet cafe and in my mind I thought how this could be easily misunderstood. In the following places, we tried to reach children by communicating first and foremost to the families.

Interviewer 2- And also, how do these children differ from each other in this neighbourhoods. You emphasized that the children at Tarlabaşı are mostly in the streets.

Burak Kabadayı- Yes. The children of Tarlabaşı are more comfortable and more interested in the music as far as I saw. I asked them what do they want to sing and they sang me half of the song very easily - they’re having fun, they’re in rhythm and so on. Those in Maltepe weren’t the same. They were more reserved and the connection they made with music wasn’t that natural. But we didn’t limit all the children to music. Some asked questions to us, some shared stories and one of them mentioned her bike. They’re all apart of the record,music was only the starting point of it all, a question point, but we just recorded what they wanted to say.

Interviewer 2- So, there was also a place where you let them be free.

Burak Kabadayı- Indeed, there wasn’t any limit.

Interviewer 2- Did you come upon the arabesque approach with the children that you mentioned earlier in our conversation?

Burak Kabadayı- We mostly did. I guess that when we listen to music, we will feel its resonance. The saying Beautiful world, where are you? felt like an arabesque attitude to me in this geography. We established the connection with the music and somehow the children said something close to it. I can say that half of them said something related.

Interviewer 2- The children are sad as well.

Burak Kabadayı- One of the children said – I forget the song now, but he said a sentence like ‘Life, I’m exhausted.’ We asked why he selected that and he said ‘I leave school, I’m tired. I play football and I go home, I become tired.’ He can make a connection like ‘I’m always tired. That’s why I selected this.’ In fact, their point of view isn’t all on this arabesque attitude. The choices the children made must actually be based on the influence of the family and the neighbourhood. It is also another theme of the project. We want the child to make a choice, they chose a song and we want them to sing their favourite part. This choice can be a track that is listened with their families, within their neighbourhoods and culture. I interpret it like this but the part they selected from the track mostly belongs to them, a part they took from their own interests I think.

Interviewer 2- On the other hand, we talk about the age 4-14. We live in a digital era and it’s a bit difficult to say but almost all of them have their own tablets, mobiles. Accessing the internet is easier today. Is this perhaps related with that world of coincidence? Should we say their taste of music?

Burak Kabadayı- The map is totally telling of this. That’s to say, points of variance. Some sang the exact same 4 songs and they were completely independent of each other, yet influenced by mainstream music which they also seem to enjoy.

Interviewer 1- When you say independent, is it like the region or neighbourhood?

Burak Kabadayı- Yes yes. I mean, it’s independent as the neighbourhoods don’t have any contact with each other.

Interviewer 1- Yes. This mapping that you made through Graph Commons is actually dissolving the variance of this geography and it’s up to us to take a look and comment. I guess, it’s still not open. Is it?

Burak Kabadayı- It is open. (Interviewer1 – Is it?) but it’s gradually becoming detailed. I will add the voice of each child there. There are sections about the children, about what they say. When you click on it, technical information about them comes up. It can be seen now. (Interviewer1- we can tell the site too) I guess the Istanbul Biennial has shared it as well. There is a link on it as Burak Kabadayı. It’s in my portfolio when you click on Graph Commons.

Interviewer 2- Did you say 60 children and 88 regions in the beginning?

Burak Kabadayı-  No. 8 regions and 60 children.

Interviewer 2- We understand that you are planning to enlarge and maintain this.

Burak Kabadayı- Yes. The map was enjoyable. These overlapping points, going one within the other, connect the ideas, concepts and children in some way. As the project grows, the map will create a dynamic network within itself and various observations might occur from apparent similarities and differences. Besides that, the process itself was very enjoyable as well; going to places I don’t know and meeting some people there, especially when I was invited to some homes to drink something and have a conversation with the family. These were all parts of the process and if it continues, if the network is kept updated and if the network is enlarged, it will be even more enjoyable I think.

Interviewer 2- Are there any notes that you keep from those meetings? Will you include them into the Project? I’m asking a future oriented question though?

Burak Kabadayı- Well, the Project can turn into something else in the future. I have an idea about it nowadays, but I cannot say anything definite. The choices that the children made, their relations with their neighbourhood and the part they selected from the song they selected. I think I can take something out from them, however it is not always applicable. A girl from a neighbourhood in Avcılar sang us a song in Korean, I know that Korean isn’t listened in that house and  it doesn’t really have a place in the neighbourhood, but it comes up as her personal interest. It’s not an anecdote I can say for all. Still, there’s something like this in general. There can be both children who reveal something from the family, the neighbourhood or culture and children who have their own choices as well.

Interviewer 1- So, how did you feel as a recorder in the whole process if you evaluate it in general?

Burak Kabadayı- Hmm. Sometimes it was difficult to find them and take them from their location to where we could record. I was concerned about the children from time to time.

Interviewer 2- How?

Burak Kabadayı- Well, how to say…

Interviewer 1- Is this about security?

Burak Kabadayı- Yes. There was a child downstairs and we talked about the project. He was like ‘I wanna come too, I wanna sing too’. We went but it’s also a dubious situation. Nobody knew me like the family of the child. So, it can easily be misinterpreted. We did things to prevent it later on like there would be no meetings without the family. All in all, it was still an enjoyable process.

Interviewer 1- I was actually asking about the children’s gaze at the microphone, you or the questioner.

Burak Kabadayı- No. It wasn’t difficult. We just wanted them to be comfortable and tell us the things they wanted to share or sing the part from a song they picked. Some sang songs and each of them had their own emphasis. There are many voices we’ve never heard before. There’s a lot of children songs, a lot of overlapped voices. I think they were all fun. Also, I guess I should mention about the video too. (Interviewer1- Sure), since the aim of the video is to make the words readable and visible. I think both listening and reading those makes what they say more clear.

Interviewer 1- Yes. To follow the voice, that’s to say. It seems like it’ll be easier with a graphical support but, there’s no graphic now. From the Beginning hasn’t been exhibited yet, has it?

Burak KabadayıFrom the Beginning wasn’t made to exhibit anyways. It can change direction in the end of the work but it has found its purpose now. The Istanbul biennial has shared it, Protocinema too and Liverpool Biennial will also be sharing it in a suitably designed website in the end of the year.

Interviewer 1- It will continue to grow. There will be new places to go. In fact, we’ll also listen to you tonight. From the Beginning. Burak Kabadayı was with us.

Burak Kabadayı- Maybe I should mention From the Beginning as well. (Interviewer1- Of course) I mean, about its name and where this is coming from. So, we ask children to sing songs that have rhythm and to sing them from the start. They all kept asking me if they could “start from the beginning”, so, we named it From the Beginning. This is how we made the name and connection of  the project

Interviewer 1- Okay. Let’s hear the sound now. Do you have any advice for the audience?

Interviewer 2- What they can do while hearing the sound, for example?

Burak Kabadayı- I’d appreciate if they may watch the video after hearing the sound. I think the words are precious there.

Interviewer 1- Alright. Thank you Burak.