is a collaboration between SculptureCenter
Model Project and The L Magazine
Viola Yesiltac is a German conceptual artist based in Brooklyn, but also spending time in London and Cologne.
Where does your process begin? How do you start a new series or project?
Well, for the series at SculptureCenter
, for example, that started by doing research and going around this very industrial area here in Brooklyn. I found all these marble tile factories, but also I found this one signage factory. I documented these signs, and from then on I wanted to take away the idea of a sign factory. Some of them said "Complete Signage Factory" or "Indoor/Outdoor Signage," and I literally took the same typeface. And then I took all these interior photographs which I draw on and then projected onto marble. It's this idea of starting from a drawing of an image, which then becomes a sign and so forth.
There's a lot of material transformation in your work—a photograph becomes a sculpture becomes a drawing—what guides that process?
It's not very intuitive, it's very specific. It's taking that idea from the signage factory and seeing how far it can go, how many materials that formula can be applied to.
You did a series of photographs a few years ago in which you wrote on city walls with white chalk and then photographed the text; where did that series come from?
I was studying in London at the time and there was an opportunity, as preparation for your MFA thesis show, to spend three months abroad working on a this piece that you want to finish your studies with. I'd always really wanted to come to New York. You had to be specific with your application, and I've always been very interested in hip-hop culture, so I tried to connect this approach with these formula to the city. I had studied a lot of performance before I went into the photography department, and there was always this urge in me to connect the performative and the photographic.
So I was wandering around the city, and reading a lot in English for the first time. So I had a lot of quotes that I wrote in the night on city streets, mostly in Brooklyn and a few in the city. I'd write down the address and come back the next morning to take a photograph. And the entire idea of the location disappeared because it could have been anywhere, the way I photographed them. That was also a way for me to do something live; the writing sort of replaced my physical presence.
You did a performance in 2007 at Artists Space entitled "Beech Forest"; what was the impetus behind that piece?
Well, I don't really do performance anymore, that was one of the last pieces. I used this one photograph by Albert Renger-Patzsch
called "Birch Forest," and I had someone performing instead of me. Every night I would draw from this photograph the lines of the forest, like an extension of the actual photograph over time. Once I'd filled all the wall with pencil drawings that was the end of the performance; it lasted maybe four or five days. I was working a lot like that in the past, but I took a break from performance for about two years when I was in London just because there was something else that interested me. My performances at one point were narrowed down to a very visual impact. These recent pieces are all about language; they're much shorter.
Was there a specific moment when you decided to move away from performance and towards more conceptual work?
I just really got bored of seeing this repetition. Also moving to London and starting to study there, the structure of the university was very different to the one I was in in Germany for five years. I was much more open to experimenting and trying out different things.