Elpac & Grove

Talk Small

NR presents Track Etymology, the textual corollary to nr.world’s exploration of contemporary soundscapes: A series of short interviews delving in the processes and backstories behind the releases premiered on nr.world’s dedicated platform.

Hi guys! Thank you for doing this! The EP is titled An Ode To Brentry Road. I am curious to know the title’s backstory! Was the goal for the record a canonical Bristol take on Bass music? How much of the city is ingrained in your sound?

Elpac: So I moved to Bristol just over 3 years ago with my mates that I run Amity with (Camalot & Mulholland). The first house we moved into was on Brentry Road, this place became almost venue-like where there didn’t seem to be any noise limits nor a capacity on how many people we would have over for parties hahaha, it was a special place and it was also the place in which I made all of the tracks for the EP. I’d go out on a limb and say the whole street happened to see us go.  

I think with my production I’ve always been heavy on bass-focused music. Originally I was going to just put pen to paper and write the EP with the EP always in mind but it ended up with me making a lot of tracks and then overtime thinking about which would fit best for our label. I’ve constantly been inspired by music that is very weird and wonderful and this is where Bristol has had a massive touch on my sound, I’ve heard so many mad sounds in places like Strange Brew and The Island since moving here and I think if anything, this has become the most motivating and inspiring for my production. Parties such as accidentalmeetings, Normcore, psychotherapysessions have just blown my mind over the last few years to be honest, shout out the crew !

What were you thinking while laying down the Talk Small sonic palette?

Was there a certain sound you were going for, a certain vibe? What are the influences behind it? Walk us a little bit through the process.

E: I mean when Grove reached out I was like jumping around the house, you can ask the Amity boys hahahah. I’ve always wanted to work with a vocalist/mc, with my style and approach to music, there was nobody better than Grove. I think it was the same night we got in contact: I went on my laptop and smashed out like 3 tracks in 4 hours or something stupid, Talk Small was the first idea that I had.

“I wanted to encapsulate that kind of raw aggressive dancehall sound to work alongside groves vocals.”

I’ve always been influenced by that weird kind of slow-fast sounding music, producers like TSVI, Equiknoxx, Low End Activist all really push this sound that doesn’t seem to have any boundaries and I find that really interesting and enticing.

Grove: Dark and sexy is my favorite approach to club music. Proper waist-whine sweatbox riddims. I’ve been heavily in love with the combo of bashment and darker tech-leanings since listening to that Mr Mitch Techno Dancehall mix from 2019.

I’ve loved Elpac’s tunes since hearing in a TSVI mix and we got chatting and realized we crossed over strongly with the stuff we like listening to.

Ended up linking for a session in my little ex-police cell studio (big up The Island in Bristol) and this was the tune he brought to it –massive weapon.

Session flowed like mad, and we laid down some big phat extra synth layer(s) and the vocals.

Listening to Talk Small made me wish I had better speakers at home and think of how the way club music circulates and is experienced changes accordingly to the place and support it is experienced upon. How do you approach producing tracks intended for club use knowing that they will circulate digitally before ending up where they belong: Played in a dark club, on a proper sound-system?

E: I’m always making stuff with the idea of it being what I would want to be hearing, I don’t care too much about the thought of what others would want to hear from me. I think I benefit from this as it doesn’t limit what I’m doing. Obviously at times I’m like okay I want to make something hard for the clubs but I can always find myself overdoing it and overcomplicating the track. This is where me and Grove worked really well together because we didn’t spend too much time on it and we managed to get exactly what we wanted in one session.

G: With making bass-focused music, I used to worry about half the song being “missing” but now I honestly don’t think about it too much –

“I trust it’ll connect with the people it’s meant to, when it’s meant to.”

Was this your first collaboration? Should we expect more?

E: We actually made two tracks in the session but Talk Small was the one that made the cut, you can most definitely expect more from us.

Last but not least, a touch of synesthesia: What would your sound look like? Paint us a word picture.

E: A strobe-y smoked out tunnel of bodies.

Pre-order the digital album here
Interview · Andrea Bratta
Follow Elpac on Instagram and Soundcloud
Follow Grove on Instagram and Soundcloud
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Ellen Allien

Ellen Allien, the legend of Berlin’s club history, has found that cultivating a strong community has been crucial to her creative process and success since the 90s. Her movement is grounded in friendship, emotional support and sharing ideas and resources. While others may seek rapid growth and instant recognition, Allien values patience, diligence, honesty and a touch of eccentricity.

With an unrelenting passion for new sounds, names and ideas, Allien is always on the lookout for fresh talent to add to BPitch, her multi-genre label founded in 1999, or to feature at her ‘We Are Not Alone’ techno party series and releases. As the big boss and experienced traveller, she takes full responsibility for her decisions and avoids spreading negativity to those around her. While she’s open to other perspectives and voices, ultimately, she makes the final call on what’s best for her. All hail the queen of her own life, Ellen Allien.

Ellen Allien is an iconic name in techno culture, and when I hear your name, I think of unending energy. How do you keep the energy going for so many years?

I’m very positive, and this keeps me going. I try my best not to spread negative energy or bring others down. I’m very social and outgoing, and some might see this as being positive or energetic, but it’s mostly because I know what I want and what’s good for me. I’ve made the right decisions for myself, which allows me to be confident and enthusiastic about life.

While travelling and DJing, I’ve encountered many challenging situations, such as not having a hotel, cancelled flights, missing equipment. These experiences have taught me valuable lessons, and instead of complaining about the situation, I focus on finding solutions. I also witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall in the 90s, which made me realise how quickly things can change in society. 

We live among other people, which means certain things are beyond our control. For instance, my assistant could decide not to work anymore, or I could choose to close my company. Sometimes, things happen that we have no control over, and we may not have a solution.

The first thing one notices about you is that you’re very community-oriented. You don’t always need to be surrounded by famous or successful people. You enjoy spending time with those around you and creating intimate and fun initiatives, like the lockdown streaming from your balcony to make things more fun. That mindset is unique in this industry, because people often turn into divas or burn bridges with others when they become successful — but you’ve maintained a sense of community, which is impressive.

I’ve been running my record company since 1996, and we’ve worked with many artists. I’ve seen some really unique and interesting characters, but I’ve found that the craziest people often make the best music. So, no matter how someone may seem, we’re always happy to work with them. As long as the music is great, we are willing to deal with people. One artist told me recently: ‘Oh, Ellen, I do therapy now.’ I said, ‘Yeah, the therapy is good for you and your friends. But you know what? Be careful that your music doesn’t change because you’re a genius.’

So it means you are good at handling chaos, right? 

I personally don’t have a lot of chaos in my life, but I do notice other people’s chaos. I try not to let it bother me too much; if I can maintain a normal sleep schedule and feel good, I can handle whatever is happening around me. I know that no one can destroy me except myself. If I let myself become too stressed or sick, then that’s my own doing.

Some people try therapy, and some do other treatments to feel better. Music is healing, and it’s something that I didn’t pursue because it was trendy or for money, but because it’s what I truly love. I’m obsessed with music and have been since I was a teenager. It’s my life. I love my job and I love travelling.

Producing something you love is beautiful. When the freshly pressed records arrive, you check a record sleeve for the first time. When you hold a magazine, you see the pictures and read the interview. When a painter paints an image and it turns out beautiful. You can analyse it and see how you can improve it, which brings you to another level. Being an artist is a beautiful thing because it’s created from your energy. Of course, people have to like it, but even if they don’t, you can still be happy if you love it.

It’s important to know your own tastes and trust yourself. It’s easy to fall into copying others, and it might be hard to be original because there’s so much out there. We all have influences, but if you take the time to analyse and understand how music or other art is made, you can try to create something similar in your own way. Many artists do this, and it can be a fun challenge in the studio. But, personally, I don’t approach creating in this way.

In one of your recent interviews, you mentioned that you don’t like this current trend with blends and edits from pop hits and radio music. It became especially noticeable when the internet culture hit the dance floor after we spent too much time online during the lockdowns. How do you not let the trends that don’t resonate with you affect your approach to DJing? 

Playing pop music that everyone knows makes it easier to make the crowd put their hands up for photos and videos, but that’s not what makes a great night for me. A great night is when people dance with their eyes closed or think while dancing, not just putting their hands up to popular songs by Britney Spears or Madonna. That’s the easiest way to have a big audience, but it should be more about finding a way to grab attention by doing proper research. Nowadays, people go online and take stuff they find without effort. They don’t go to record stores anymore, where the person selling records might have suggestions if you ask for something specific.

So, no, I don’t buy this. Maybe those DJs [playing radio hits] are going to grow fast. But they’re not doing anything original, outstanding or fresh. 

Time and people have evolved in today’s world, and so has the audience. As a DJ, we hold power to transform everything. We change the dance floor and the music if we take risks and blend different things together. We don’t just come to mix what’s already there. We must take chances. If you’re not willing to take risks, then you’re not a good teacher to me. Building a history or a specific journey is important, even if you don’t want to create something entirely new.

You mean building storytelling in music? 

Yeah, a story. I believe that for something to be considered art, it needs to have a story or meaning behind it. Simply playing music from other artists doesn’t qualify as art unless it’s done in a unique and handcrafted way. I love to bring people pleasure through my music. Seeing the audience react emotionally, whether it’s through smiling or crying, brings me joy. My goal is to create an atmosphere where the music takes over and the audience becomes lost in the sound and space. I want to create an experience where people can escape from their daily lives and immerse themselves in the music and atmosphere of the club.

Music is becoming increasingly global, with different scenes influencing each other. For example, many use Baile Funk or other edits of Latin American music in their sets. You’ve recently travelled to Brazil. Did you get inspired by the variety of music there and their unstoppable desire to dance? 

In Brazil, there are so many good musicians in the streets and slums, playing drums and making music everywhere. There are so many talented artists exploring new beat structures and so on. The scene in São Paulo is amazing, and it’s growing. The Carlos Capslock Festival was also fantastic, most of the festival goers are Brazilians, everybody is so kind, you can meet so many people and quickly connect with them. It’s super inspiring. I think it’s essential for Brazilian music to grow because Portuguese is more widely spoken than English. This music has to grow, and it’s great that black artists are getting more recognition now. After Black Lives Matter, everything changed, and more black artists are getting bookings now. This has to be the norm. We need Brazilian and South American music worldwide, playing on the radio in England, America and Germany.

You mentioned earlier that you worked with Badsista on a track while you were in Sao Paulo. Is it something new that you will release together? 

We went in the studio and both recorded some vocals—she in Portuguese and me in German. We have to see later if we can use it.

I feel like after the pandemic, the techno scene has become more hysterical. Everyone is trying hard and fast to make it happen. It’s just like there’s not so much community spirit from my experience. To me it seems like many people are agitated to make a lot of money in one go. But how do you feel about the techno scene after the Covid?

I don’t have those feelings, at least not with our artist here at BPitch. Maybe at the beginning, some were nervous about paying the rent because prices for everything got very high. But I don’t feel like artists are hysterical because they have shows. Some promoters have failed, but some have become big. Many shows weren’t sold out last year, but now many of my upcoming shows are already sold out. 

On the other hand, too many artists want to grow fast because they see others doing it and want the same success. For me, it took a long time to start making good money. I had three side jobs for the first ten years, but that’s not something every artist goes through nowadays. However, you can grow fast if you have the right plan and a good manager. So, if that’s what you want, go for it! I just feel like if you don’t build a community around you, you will not last. I don’t care about those who don’t support or invest time in others. For me, music is sharing and caring. It’s also an intellectual exchange. 

To build a community in music, it’s essential to connect with people. You can invite your friends to collaborate on mix tapes or DJ sessions and make music with others as we did in Brazil. Even if nothing comes out of it, it’s still worth doing. This is a movement, and you’re just a little part of it. So it’s important to go with the flow.

If you’re nervous about business or money, people can sense it. They can see it in your face and on social media. Narcissists get anxious easily. They crave attention, money, and success; if they don’t get it, they freak out. They lack empathy and don’t care about building a community. They may create music that pleases the crowd, regardless of quality, just to gain popularity quickly. These people are not part of the true music movement. They have their own agenda and are only focused on their personal gain. Unfortunately, there are more and more people like this, as many grow up without a strong family structure or support system. 

Your own parties ‘We Are Not Alone,’ held at RSO Berlin, invite various artists from big names to local emerging talents. Are you planning to get more extensive and international with it, or do you want to keep it intimate in your hometown?

Our approach with ‘We Are Not Alone’ is what I meant by ‘the community.’ We invite artists we love but also ask friends from our BPitch family to play. We try to have a colourful, queer booking. Our lineups are made with love, and we research a lot. We listen to the sets and productions and make sure that the artists we want to present fit our lifestyle. For example, when people run labels, you can see they do something for the movement. 

I like how you use the word ‘movement’ and not ‘scene.’

Movement means that there is a big river and we take each other in the right direction. I find this metaphor powerful because it reminds me to create and not get too nervous, even when our governments are stirring up fear. I see this as a radical way to survive in big cities, by not giving in to what they try to put on us and working for small companies instead. By building our own companies and supporting other talented people, we can make our movement bigger and stronger. But it’s not possible to do when you are working with Madonna edits, there are so many other talented singers to work with and reference. Just do your fucking research!

When your Rosen EP came out in early 2022, you started using the metaphor of the mask from the album’s artwork by Erased Memories. Is this about becoming more genuine when one takes off their mask?

When I released the album, I wanted to play more with this alien figure with a gold aura, based on the artwork of my album cover. I then decided to wear masks on my face as a way to emphasise that the image people have of me is not me but a projection of their beliefs and values.

Everyone sees me differently, depending on their religion, education, and other factors. That’s why I feel like I’m a fictional character that people create in their minds. But I’m okay with that, because I understand that people’s perceptions of me are influenced by the stories they hear or the media they consume.

Wearing masks helps me to emphasise this fictional aspect of my persona. It’s like a visual cue that reminds people that what they see is not necessarily the real me. This concept also applies to how I write my lyrics, as I often use metaphors and symbolism to convey my message. I like to keep things open-ended. The sentences in my music have a spiritual quality to them, allowing people to interpret them in their own way and let their imaginations run wild. That’s what makes techno so important to me – it’s electronic music that can allow people to dream and fantasise in their own way. My music is not about me or my message, but rather what people can make of it themselves. While I appreciate punk bands and raw lyrics, I also need music that lets me fly and dream and put my own ideas into it.

I feel like often, because of this escapist and hedonistic side of the club culture, people lose connection to reality and forget what techno represented originally. The idea of escapism was also there, but it was initially about exposing and resisting the world’s injustices and striving toward a more equitable and inclusive future. In today’s techno world, people often lose the connection to the times and places where music was a statement.

Music is still a statement. At least, at our parties, music is a statement. Of course, there’s also the capitalistic side of techno now because promoters want to make money with it. But there are communities in the underground who seek freedom, and by exchanging their ideas, they get stronger. That’s why a club is a place where not everybody should be able to enter.

The community must have space to communicate and create new forms of life. In underground clubs or rooms that aren’t accessible to everyone, people exchange ideas and make changes. They can say, ‘Tomorrow, let’s take to the streets and stage a demonstration, and 5,000 people will join us.’

All of this is created on platforms, whether physical or online spaces, that are not accessible to everyone. The club scene is particularly important for this. I’ve met many people I work with at clubs, bars, and restaurants. These places serve as essential meeting points. They are not just drug dens like some movies portray them. Instead, they serve as platforms for people searching for something they can change.

I hope we can create change together and find people who share our passions, whether in politics, photography, design, or any other field. On the other hand, some people are consumers [of club culture], and they need these spaces as therapy. 

We need these experiences to lose ourselves and sometimes to find ourselves again. It’s also a way to feel reborn. However, some become addicted to the lifestyle and end up in financial trouble, and you don’t see them around anymore. They may move to a different place or start doing something else. On the other hand, some creatives draw inspiration from the music and the people they meet there, and it fuels their creative blood.

I’ve met many people who used to have regular jobs but quit to work with creative communities. This transition can happen if you meet a diverse group of people, not just those from your field of study. In Berlin, many people meet at clubs. These clubs need areas where the music isn’t too loud so people can talk, sit and communicate effectively. This is crucial because it’s where many great ideas and collaborations start, eventually leading to art and other creative projects in the city.

Berlin is still attractive for newcomers, but many are complaining about gentrification and how it’s changing the city and its club culture. Local creatives are concerned with rising rent prices and living expenses.

The solution is to start rebuilding Berlin further outside the city centre, where space is still available. It’s up to us to bring our energy and make something happen rather than trying to fit into already overcrowded areas. When I started living in Kreuzberg, it was an underdeveloped area, but someone made it happen. We should remember that and try to replicate that success elsewhere.

In an earlier interview, you once said that in the 90s, when you were starting your DJ career, being a DJ also meant being a freak. To me, it means that being a DJ requires a certain level of uniqueness or quirkiness. What does this ‘freaky energy’ mean to you today? 

Like I said earlier, if you’re not different from others, you can’t create music that is truly unique. Having freaky energy is always good when creating music. You can approach music in a mathematical way, and it can still convey a lot of emotion, but it may lack some empathy. I prefer music that’s a little bit dirty and strange rather than ‘clean’ or sweet. However, it’s up to the listener to decide what they prefer, and I think every type of music has the right to exist. Having a bit of freakiness helps to create something new and different.


Talent · Ellen Allien
Photography · Nina Raasch 
Styling · Fabiana Vardaro
Hair · Berenice Ammann  
Makeup · Sabina Pinsone 
Set Design · Stefanie Grau 
Photography Assistant · Žilvinas Tokarevas
Set Design Assistant · Lars Schefftel
Styling Assistant · Eimoan
Location · Plush74, Berlin 
Interview · Mariana Berezovska
Special thanks to Milena Brandy Crow and Melissa Taylor


  2. Trenchcoat RICHERT BIEL
  3.  Bustier FENDI, trousers SIA ARNIKA and shoes VERSACE

Ayşe Erkmen

Ayse Erkmen, Luminous, 1993-2015 
Installation view, SMAK, Ghent, 2015 Photography by Dirk Pauwele

Unhooked meanings transcending the worlds of architecture and spatial design

Ayşe Erkmen (born 1949, Istanbul, Turkey) is one of Turkey’s most important visual artists.  Her practice has long examined the social and political implications of physical space including infrastructure, urban planning and architecture. Currently based between Istanbul and Berlin, Erkmen transcends the world of architecture and spatial design and pushes the boundaries when it comes to the transformation of both indoor and outdoor sites. On Water, 2017, a beautiful installation that debuted at the international open-air exhibition, Sculpture Projects, in Münster, Germany, is one example of Erkmen’s visually striking site-specific installations and demonstrates the importance of the audience in the completion of some of her artworks. 

NR joins the sculptor and artist in conversation to discuss the influences that have informed her practice, how her work pertains both in Istanbul and Berlin and how it engages with specific histories and culture. Erkmen delves into the nature of a certain leitmotiv present in some of her work and the concepts behind Plan B, 2011, Pond to Pool to Pond, 2016 and On Water, 2017.

Ayşe is a beautiful name. I have read that it means happily-living one. Would you say you are? 

I think so too, Ayse is a beautiful name and I am grateful to my parents for giving it to me. It not only means happy but also moonshine and life, a very popular name, short and modest, shared by all generations and all social groups. Yes I am a happy person in general with lots of anxieties which strangely do not prevent me from being happy.  Actually I believe that anxieties are one important  ingredient of happiness. Happiness without worries would be a kitschy one.

You are recognised as one of the foremost Turkish artists. What does this mean to you? 

I don’t think I understand myself as one of the foremost Turkish artists. Actually I would not like to be known as a Turkish artist but I guess one cannot escape its origin. I like the fact that I am from Istanbul though, for having had the chance to being very familiar with this amazing, vicious city, an opportunity like my name, something that happened to me. My fame is kind of strange. Young artists know me very well and they appreciate me as I also appreciate very much this fact of being popular among young generations. I had been teaching in Germany for quite some time and I am hoping that I have had some influence on this. As to the  fact of being collected, earning money, being the muse of art fairs, etc.. this is not me. I guess, I have a special place in todays art context: people seem to like my work but they don’t know how to place it in their lives. I am hoping that the reason is that I am giving them something new that they have not yet known, they haven’t seen or did not think about before, therefore not confirmed yet!

Let us Cultivate our Garden (Group) (curated by Fulya Erdemci and Kevser Güler). Cappadox Festival II, Cappadocia (Turkey), 19.05. – 12.06.2016. Exhibited work: Ödül / Prize, 2016. 142 Site-specific installation Photo Credit: Murat Germen

You are currently based between Istanbul where you were born and Berlin. How do these two cities inform your practice? Do you see any correlation between the two?

I have to quote musician/artist Ahnoni here who once said: “I want to go but I don’t want to leave” on a similar situation of living in multiple places. I feel exactly like that, always looking forward to the other place but sad to leave the place I am in. Istanbul being a difficult city as it is, makes me happy by just being there, the shout of its seagulls, the smell of the seawater, the honks of the boats, even the most serious conversations ending with chit-chats, its noble stray animals and endless variations of life style.

Ayşe Erkmen – Half of (Solo). Galerie Deux, Tokyo (Japan), 14.09. – 22.12.1999. Exhibited work: Half of, 1999; Photo Credit: Artist archive

Berlin a contrast but a good companion to this city; being so peaceful, easy and quiet if it were not for the official gray recycled envelopes of bureaucracy which one receives frequently. There, the small talks do not continue long and conversations turn into culture and art which is wonderful. Berlin is a city with so many venues of art, music, theatre, etc that knowing that they are always there one neglects them and gives too much a rain check. Berlin is a city that supplies too and pampers its citizens whereas Istanbul does this only by being there in that location that every time it angers or disappoints the blue sky and the seagulls appear out of nowhere.

Water appears as a recurring element in your work. Why this leitmotiv and what is your relationship to it?

“Water is something I can’t escape as an art location whether it is given to me or chosen by me, be it a river, the sea, a canal or a small pond. I always have the strong feeling that I should not lose this chance of being on water or using water as material whenever I can catch the opportunity.”

Skulpture Projekte Münster, 2017 (Group) (Catalogue) (curated by Kasper König, Britta Peters, Marianne Wagner). Stadthafen 1, North side: Hafenweg 24, South side: Am Mittelhafen 20, Münster (Germany), 10.06. – 01.10.2017
Exhibited work: On Water, 2017
Site specific installation: ocean cargo containers, steel beams, steel grates, 6400 x 640 cm walkway
Photo Credit: Roman Mensing

These fortunate offers make the recurrence in my work, unlike other repeating elements like animals, like stones and rocks, archival images, etc that are much more of a choice of mine. Water is not stabile, it moves and makes things move, It has power to create unexpected occasions and coincidences. I am looking for these instances that surprise me as moments that I do not have much control over.  In some works I made buoys in water move balls on land which directly relates to the unpredictable movements of water’s effect on land. This makes continuously changing sculptural moments. In my work this is in general what I am looking for.  Things that happen without the artist’s intention, water is chance. 

“Besides there is the beauty of water that one cannot ignore although I would not want to be in a position of getting advantage from such a glorious appearance. I try to be  as neutral as possible mixing it with contrasting technical vehicles that are invisible, unwatched companions of water.”

Could you delve into the concept for Plan B, the installation at the 2011 Venice Biennale, that transformed the Arsenale exhibition venue into a room for purification?

Plan B was prepared in a very short time, I still cannot imagine how we could achieve that project in four months only. Fulya Erdemci; the curator was selected in December before. She had to think which artist to choose for about two months. After being appointed by her I had to think what to do  for a while but it did not take long as at our first location trip I saw that the place given to us as pavillon location at that time had the only window that opened to the sea/canal unlike the other rooms in Arsenale. This window to water told me that I had to find a way to bring it into this room one way or other. The canals of Venice that surrounds the whole city gave me the form and informed me that the room should be like the city itself surrounded by water. On the other hand the water needed to have an aim to come into this space. The most common thought about water is to drink it. There came the final idea.

Plan B (Solo) (Catalogue) (curated by Fulya Erdemci). 54th Venice Biennale, The Pavilion of Turkey, Artigliere, Arsenale, Venice (Italy), 04.06. – 27.11.2011
Exhibited work: Plan B, 2011
Installation: water purification system, pipes, pumps, cleansing machines painted in specific colors according to their function
Photo Credit: Roman Mensing

Then we found a very sophisticated water distilling company in the middle of Germany. Fulya travelled from Amsterdam, me from Berlin, we visited the company and started working to make the plan B exhibition. In four months time realised the work, we made an extensive catalogue edited by Danae Mossman from New Zealand together with Fulya Erdemci and we also made a wonderful tote bag designed by Konstantin Grcic. Our idea was that if people would not want to make the effort to come to our space almost at the end of the Arsenale, would definitely come to get their beautiful Grcic bags! And it happened! We met in London at Danae Mossman’s flat to make the interview for the book. Danae was living in London at the time, Konstantin from Frankfurt, me and Fulya from Istanbul but were in Berlin and Amsterdam at that moment. We met many times, travelled to Venice and to other cities, had lots of fun, all of us from different parts of the world. 

Plan B was created from one unit of a mobile water purifying machine rented for the duration of the biennial. This device was dismantled, its pipes between units  prolonged according to the proportions of the given space, heightened to various levels depending on the advice of technicians and at the end of the installation, we even added minerals for the sea water to became tasty mineral water. The pipes came into the room from the canal and went back to the canal. My first idea to make the visitors drink the water was given up and the title therefore became Plan B. Fulya Erdemci and I had a last minute thought that making people drink water out of this work would be a too easy gesture and make the work too popular and take it out of its real content.

Your work as a sculptor and artist transcends the worlds of architecture and spatial design. Have you ever wanted to also become an architect?

I never thought of becoming an architect. Architecture and design always  has purpose and function. I was and am still interested in purposelessness. I am always trying to achieve the most unhooked sense that aims to make the work be far from serving a reason or expectation.

U2 Alexanderplatz (Group) (Catalogue) (curated by “Arbeitsgruppe U2 Alexanderplatz”, Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst e.V. [NGBK]: Christoph Bannat, Uwe Jonas, Annette Maechtel, Tine Neumann, Barbara Rüth and Birgit

Anna Schumacher). Alexanderplatz, Berlin (Germany), 27.09. – 29.10.2006. Exhibited work: U8, 2006. Intervention: existing speaker, computer, sensor, two CDs (As each train pulled into the platform of line U8, dramatic-sounding music was played for the time it took the train to come to a stop. Two pieces were played, both in the fashion of trailer melodies used for television series.) Photo Credit: Artist archive

Each of your work engages with specific sites, histories, cultures and societies. How does your work respond to the situations you face?
A very good question and a very commonly asked one. Everyone asks me how my work responds to the site, its history, etc..The situations I face in a place is a very important part of this procedure. For example one of my most site specific work “Half of” for a gallery space of one room only (Galerie deux/Tokyo) was inspired simply by just the plan that was sent to me to introduce the gallery. Plan included the walls as well that when you folded the plan it became the maquette of the space.  This was my simple inspiration for the work I made there which was consisting of five maquettes hanging from the ceiling, one by one becoming smaller, each one being half of the previous one . All was made effortlessly out of rice paper and wooden sticks by competent Japanese hand-workers. 

Every work that engages with specific sites needs its own agenda which can be totally different each time and not necessarily with the expected inspiration. Sometimes it is history but a historical place can also get an artwork that has nothing to do with that because I also can have my kind of plans at the time which I want to realise urgently. Of course I feel the most successful when the work looks as if it had always been there or when I spend very little or no effort to make a work sparkle in the space or the best for me would be if I bring nothing to the space and only use the given elements of a space like my works with elevators for instance.

Pond to Pool to Pond, 2016, Japan and your most recent exhibition in Istanbul, I Insist, 2022 are other examples of your site-specific installations.  How do you channel the premises of the spaces you use into your installation to reveal the space’s previously concealed features?

Pond to pool to pond in Nara, Japan is another version of a water cleansing work. In this exhibition each artist had been given a Temple in Nara to work with. My Saidai-ji Temple had a small pond which was dirty, almost like a swamp with lots of mosquitos. My aim was to clean  this pond and to be able to do that, I installed a pool next to it. The shape of the pool was very much following the borders of nature placed in between trees and holy rocks.  Between the pond and the pool, I installed the water cleaning and pumping system, much simpler than the Venice one because this time it just had to clean the pond. The pipes were installed to go inside the pool and the pond, the cleaning pumps were working continuously and carrying the dirty water back and front. In about a few hours both the pond and the pool were crystal clean and frogs started coming to the pond. The much needed balance of nature came back here and a bright blue colour of water with an unusual shape.

Art Projects at 8 Shrines and Temples – Travelling over 1300 Years of Time and Space (Group Exhibition) (Catalogue) (curated by Toshio Kondo, Art Front Gallery Tokyo). Culture City of East Asia 2016, Nara, Saidaiji Temple, Nara (Japan), 03.09. – 23.10.2016
Exhibited work: pond to pool to pond, 2016
Site-specific installation: already existing pond in site, connected to pool constructed out of wood, concrete, mortar, water and connecting pipes, cleansing and pumping machines
Photo Credit: Keizo Kioku

“I Insist” is an exhibition that follows another exhibition titled “Ripples” in the same gallery and uses the leftover material of the previous show. The previous show Ripples was about the unfair gentrification of an area in Istanbul and also about making a first show in a gallery that is part of this gentrification. I cut out rectangles off the new plaster walls of the  clean, white cube like gallery space and hanged these wall pieces from the ceiling. The left over wooden panels on the walls at the back of these cut out plasters had white small circular traces created by chance.  Aside from this I made a sound piece out of the reading of the names of all the shops and studios on the street leading to the gallery giving reference to the fact that these  places will soon be the victims of this gentrification and will be gone in a short time. This was the sound of their archive, music of memories.

In the five years later exhibition “I insist”, I painted these leftover panels that had been hanging before; each one a different wall colour, each one a different size, handled with their cracks and breaks together and hanged them side by side on the walls of the gallery as if this is how they should behave, as paintings like what a gallery is for.

As can be seen in these three examples I have used the nature of one location/Saidai-ji Temple /Nara whereas I have used the politics of an area/ Dolapdere/Istanbul and in the third exhibition I have used politics of art /Gallery Space.

On Water, 2017, a beautiful installation that debuted at the international open-air exhibition, Sculpture Projects, in Münster, Germany took two years to be realised. People use it daily and the vision of passersby crossing the river whilst seemingly walking on water provides a beautifully striking scene. The public becomes an actor in this surreal scene. Could you talk more about the installation and its concept revolving around urban transportation and displacement?

The idea of the “on Water” installation came from the idea to be on Water. This was my second time of being invited to Sculpture Project Münster. My first contribution was moving sculptures on air by helicopter. The title of that work was “on Air” also giving reference to broadcasting. From being on air the first time around, I thought to be on the ground the second time would be too normal a gesture. In between the two exhibitions (1997 and 2017) I had taught at Kunstakademie Münster, therefore knew the city pretty well including this dead end/one way channel where a lively atmosphere was always existent; on one side art studios, galleries, restaurants, bars etc.. on the other part more industry and offices.  

Skulpture Projekte Münster, 2017 (Group) (Catalogue) (curated by Kasper König, Britta Peters, Marianne Wagner). Stadthafen 1, North side: Hafenweg 24, South side: Am Mittelhafen 20, Münster (Germany), 10.06. – 01.10.2017
Exhibited work: On Water, 2017
Site specific installation: ocean cargo containers, steel beams, steel grates, 6400 x 640 cm walkway
Photo Credit: Roman Mensing

As it is clear from the images I made a plan to make a bridge that goes under the water and connects these two shores that people experience the magic of walking on water and to have the miraculous and mystic image of people effortlessly standing on water.

Not only people of course, dogs, bicycles, ducks were also there. Some moms and dads were teaching swimming to their kids. People had the chance to chat on water. It became too popular always full of visitors. The walk on water was slow and thoughtful which made kind of ceremonial and somber at times.

Do you like for the public/audience to interact with your artworks? It feels in some instances such as in that the audience completes the artworks.
Yes, sometimes. In the case of “on Water” without the audience the work would have been invisible. The same goes for the work Shipped Ships where once people of Frankfurt were passengers in boats coming from Turkey,Italy and Japan. These two works and some more carried the risk of being unseen if not for the visitors.

“For some works lack of participants is not a problem. Mostly I like the audience to interact with works hoping they fulfil and feel my purposelessness.”

How influential is the audience’s perception of the themes you explore, to your work?

“I must say it is not very influential. I actually believe that the perception of the audience of the themes I explore should not be strong. I would rather give the audience something that they have not experienced before therefore their judgment as well as mine should not be accurate.”

You have explored the use of acrylic in your very first works (Yellow Plexiglas Sculpture, 1969, Istanbul). Why did you choose this material in particular? Which other techniques and media have you set in place to use?
In 1969, I was a student of sculpture in the Academy of Art in Istanbul and I found these two pieces of plexiglass on the street. Plexiglass was for me a very advanced material at the time. I was fascinated. Without knowing much what I would do with them,I bent them and rolled them in a huge pot with hot water and placed one inside the other and participated in the school exhibition “New Tendencies” with this work. I placed it on the grass outside the exhibition room, maybe my first art in public space and to my surprise got the award of the exhibition with some money involved. This prize was not as important for me as these shiny plexiglass pieces. After the exhibition I recycled them to make other sculptures with the same hot water technique until the two plexi pieces broke down and disappeared. 

I have great  interest in material and have learned a lot from professionals who are experts on these materials. I like to work with professional people and I am mostly ready to change my forms according to their suggestions. Therefore I feel free to work in any media or technique as I wish or as my idea suggests.

What is your approach to form?

The same applies to form. I don’t have a strict or steady style. I have given myself the freedom to work in any material, style, or medium although I believe that I have a good feeling for form as I have had a very classical sculpture education for more than five years.

“I have learned a lot from one of my teachers Şadi Çalık who always said: ‘Forms should be outward rather than inward,  as if they are hiding something inside, as if the inside is pushing from within’”

Kıpraşım / Ripple, 2017; Untitled sculptures, 2017. Site-specific installation, deconstructed plaster walls, revealed wooden walls; 19 aluminium sculptures: variable dimensions. Photo Credit: Hadiye Cangökçe.

He always thought that although we dont see the inside, the inside of a sculpture is as important as outside which meant one should give the same importance to parts that are invisible as the parts visible. This stayed with me and applies to everything in life, in my opinion.

Your body of work shows a dedication to long-term researched based projects. What is source material for new ideas? What books do you like?

I like fiction books. I also like lifestyle magazines to be informed of what is happening. I don’t watch tv these days. I watch a lot of films almost one every night some days. I love to go to cinema salons, even queuing for the ticket or popcorn is exciting for me but I am not doing it so much anymore because of the lazy comfort we have inside our homes now. I also sit on my own outside in a cafe and have coffee and watching the daily life. When I am involved in a project like on Water for example, I make lots of unnecessary research. I am not a research artist in the sense to display the outcome of research or knowledge as an art piece.

This issue’s theme is IN OUR WORLD. In your eyes, what does our world need less and more of?

I will have to give a very classical answer, maybe too much like a slogan but as it has high priority and urgency in these times when we cannot say “Our World” anymore like in earlier years :

“More peace, equality and justice, less discrimination, racism, less starvation.”

What are you working on at the moment?

I am very happy to be working on two permanent projects one for Japan/ Shikoku Island at the tip of a jetty and one for Istanbul right on the sea close to a shipyard from 15th century. The work in Shikoku island is almost ready, for the Istanbul one we will start working in August and will be ready for the 17th Istanbul biennial in September. I am excited for both as they will again happen on water.


Artworks · Courtesy of Ayşe Erkmen

Valie Export

“The most important issue for me is: how can we live together peacefully?”

In 1968, the artist VALIE EXPORT walked into a porn film screening at a cinema in Munich, wielding a machine gun and wearing crotchless pants. Forcing the gaze of cinemagoers to meet her bare crotch, VALIE EXPORT sought to demonstrate that women, in film, were merely passive agents – look instead, she demanded, at a real woman, not a depiction of how they are shown to be seen. But only part of that story is true; it wasn’t a porn film screening, and the artist did not have a machine gun. Nonetheless, the tale of VALIE EXPORT’s action has entered the domain of art legend. Part of the myth that surrounds what really happened can be attributed to a series the artist created the following year. In Aktionshose: Genitalpanik (Action Pants: Genital Panic, 1969), VALIE EXPORT is photographed wearing those crotchless pants, her legs wide, as she holds a machine gun across her chest. But if, by entering the cinema in Munich, VALIE EXPORT forced the viewer to confront a ‘real woman’, the Aktionshose series is less clear-cut. Here, the artist adopts a macho abrasiveness – such is the power of a staged photograph to manipulate how gender and identity are represented and viewed. By contrast, the triptych Identitätstransfer (Identity Transfer, 1968) takes a nuanced approach to explore a similar theme. Across three portraits, the artist subtly adapts the way she poses, how her clothing hangs, and the expression on her face. Who’s to say which is more feminine, and which is more masculine? 

Part of the Vienna Actionists art group in the 1960s, VALIE EXPORT was an early adopter of using film to confront and subvert representations of gender and identity. As VALIE EXPORT tells NR, Aktionshose is part of her expanded cinema practice, in which the traditional boundaries of film are subverted, and the viewer (unwittingly at times) plays an active role. This is perhaps most obvious with Tapp und Tastkino (Tap and Touch Cinema, 1968) which saw VALIE EXPORT invite members of the public to put their hands in a curtained box, shaped like a television or the stage of a theatre, that the artist wore across her chest. Inside the box, VALIE EXPORT’s, mostly male, participants were able to touch her bare breasts for 33 seconds, whilst directly confronted with the artist’s face in close proximity. It’s impossible to underplay VALIE EXPORT’s contributions to feminist art practice – even down to her name itself. The artist changed her name to VALIE EXPORT in 1967, in reference to both a childhood nickname and a brand of cigarettes, thus removing the patriarchal connotations that her former name (her father’s surname, and later, her husband’s surname) had. In this way, VALIE EXPORT’s work is a negotiation, nay confrontation, of the patriarchal ways through which a woman’s experience is constructed.

Crucial to this, is the artist’s navigation of space. VALIE EXPORT’s early work came at a time when Austrian society was still deeply conservative. In the series Body Configurations from the 1970s, for example, the artist is photographed contorting and morphing her body to complement the built environment of Vienna. Yet no matter how far VALIE EXPORT adapts her body in sculptural ways, she remains unable to fully replicate the cold, patriarchal surfaces of her architectural surroundings. The series is, nonetheless, a reclamation of space – as is the fact that the screenprints of the Aktionshose series were pasted up in public spaces around the city. Whilst the artist has adapted to using new video technologies over time, and broadened the themes she explores (such as politics and violence), the impact of VALIE EXPORT’s early work, radical as it was at the time, remains important today.

NR: Aktionshose: Genitalpanik and the legendary story about the original action, remain hugely influential; did you anticipate the impact that it would have? 

VE: Of course I expected it to have some effect, but not that it would have this kind of impact. Aktionshose: Genitalpanik is an ‘Expanded Cinema’ practice, which was screened for the first time in a Munich art cinema. In this action, I walked through the rows of the theatre wearing the Action Pants. The audience left the theatre, and it emptied quickly. Afterwards, I used the same pants to create a self-staged photo series in and in front of an abandoned movie theatre and made the poster, which has become quite well known. I tried for years to exhibit the photo series and/or the poster, but unfortunately people refused to show them. I only succeeded in exhibiting the works very late in my life. 

Do you think an audience’s reaction to your work varies depending on the time period in which they engage with it? Have people’s reactions to your work changed over time? 

I have difficulty assessing whether people’s reactions to my work have changed over time.

“I think that the reactions are just as strong today as they were back in the day but might go in a different direction.”

Today, my works are also documents of a time of artistic and political awakening, and represent the breaking away from prevailing rules and opinions that are prescribed by society. With my artistic expression, I try to portray socio-political and cultural-political oppressions and norms through art-political processes and to sharpen the perceptions we have of them. 

Have your own reactions/feelings towards your work changed over time? If so, how and why? 

My own reactions and sensibilities have not changed. I always perceive my works in the context of the respective time in which they were created.

“I create my artistic expression with a view on the present period of time – and maybe also with a gaze to the future.”

You’ve spoken previously about how your art was made in reaction to the society and culture that it was contemporary to – how much of that moment in time has changed, and how much has remained the same? 

I don’t think a lot has changed fundamentally. It requires a vigorous process of awareness to perceive change and to recognise the repetitive. Often the same things are only embedded in a different context.

How has your practice changed over time and have the initial demands of your work given way to new concerns? 

The passing of time gives rise to new concerns. But these concerns also always seem to have a common thread. 

From your perspective, what conversations should artists be having now – and through which mediums should these be communicated? 

I believe conversations should be had about every possible issue and communicated through all kinds of mediums.

“The most important issue for me is: how can we live together peacefully?”

The theme of the magazine’s issue is ‘celebration’; what would you celebrate in relation to the impact that your work has had on the themes you sought to explore/counter? 

Oh, I could think of many rituals that would lead to a celebration – but they are mostly determined by rules. I wish for a free celebration. 

When you came up with the name VALIE EXPORT, which you stamped on your work and as an identity through which to communicate meaning, did you consider that you were creating yourself as a brand? 

I didn’t invent VALIE EXPORT as an alter ego but a trademark. As a trademark with which I export my thoughts, through which I export my ideas, weave them into dynamic networks. For some years now, VALIE EXPORT has become a trademark: VALIE EXPORT®. This is how it should always be spelled, but the capitalisation is mostly ignored. The trademark is an advertisement for VALIE EXPORT rather than myself. 


Images · Valie Export

Henriette Sabroe Ebbesen

“standing with one leg rooted in the world of science and the other leg rooted in the world of art”

Distorting bodies and exploring the intersection between painting and photography, Danish photographer Henriette Sabroe Ebbesen explores aspects of the surreal and works with reflections and collage to craft unique landscapes and new realities. Investigating the painterly potential of photography as a medium, Ebbesen distorts our sense of reality by manipulating the objects and space within the picture frame, and prompts us to question the truth in what we see. Ebbesen’s work also addresses concepts of identity and the subconscious, with a particular focus on the relationship of the self with the surrounding world.

Alongside her artistic pursuits, Ebbesen studies medicine, which she finds to be a great influence on her creative process – particularly the neurological processes that take place when creating a piece of art. Intrigued by the laws of and structures of the physical world, Ebbesen draws on this knowledge to build her collection of odd imagery that she creates intuitively, informed by the subconscious mind that is often in opposition to the logical thinking favoured by the field of science.

The vibrancy and fragility of the natural world imbue a sense of tranquility within Ebbesen’s work, and her detailed exploration of memories and conflicts within her personal life establishes a vulnerability and charm to her practice.

NR Magazine speaks with Ebbesen to learn more about her creative process and to discuss the relationship between art, science and identity.

Your work plays a lot with reflections and collage to create a unique sense of the surreal – how did you come to develop this style of working? 

I’ve always had an experimental approach to my work. I started to experiment with distortion because I wanted to create work that bordered painting and photography. Distortions could give me this interesting effect. I use different kinds of mirrors and reflective material to create the distortions and illusions in my work. I only use Photoshop for colour and light editing. It is both an experiment for me to see how I can create an illusion with the mirrors, but I also want the viewer to question what they see when they see the finished work. Practically speaking, I try to bend reality and capture it with my camera for the viewer to experience a different reality than the one they are used to.

Collage comes into my work in my series ‘Growing Up’ where I mix my own photography with childhood photos from our family album. This work is a bit like making a puzzle or a digital painting.

Your work also deals with concepts of identity and the subconscious. Were these concepts always something you sought out to explore?  With the theme of this issue being Identity, I’d love to discuss how you feel you explore yourself and your identity through your work.

When creating my work, I feel like I discover bits of myself piece by piece. This comes from the creating process and from analysing my own work where I feel like thoughts and memories from my subconscious mind suddenly take place in my conscious mind. By becoming aware of my subconscious thoughts, I feel like I learn things about my own identity that I think I could only learn though the art-making process.

Does living in Copenhagen influence your work at all?

Living in Denmark with its dark winters really makes you appreciate the sunlight when it appears. During the long winters I long for warm and bright summer nights and dream myself back to this time of the year.

When the first sun appears in the spring, I love to point my head towards the sun and with closed eyes sense the warmth and light reaching my forehead and eyeballs behind my eyelids. To me, this is a true feeling of happiness, and this feeling is something I try to capture with my camera when shooting in direct sunlight in most of my works.

When winter arrives, I can then look at the work I shot during the summer and dream myself back to this feeling.

Your series ‘Feminine Development’ addresses the alienation of the female body and female sexual identity. You mentioned that creating the series also confronted your own body insecurities. Have you felt this kind of confrontation or self-realisation with your other work?

Yes definitely. My work always has something to do with me and what I have on my mind. I try to create work that challenges me on a personal level. This could be in the form of trying out a new technique or digging into a theme that disturbs my mind. It really depends on the type of series, but I would get bored if my work wasn’t challenging for me to create. As soon as I feel safe in an area of my creative work, I try to move on to the next challenge and create something new.

Is there a specific series that you have the strongest connection with?

I would say my series ‘Growing Up’ as it addresses my personal life on another level compared to some of my other work. I have strong memories from my childhood and think of this period of my life as happy and care-free. I enjoyed re-discovering moments from this time of my life when I was searching for images in our family albums.

Your work also has a real sense of serenity and has a dream-like aesthetic. Do you take inspiration from nature? 

I believe inspiration comes from everything I experience and see both on a personal level and what I read and study. I probably get inspiration from all visual impressions I get throughout the day. I also get a lot of inspiration from meeting different people and hearing about their different life experiences and worldviews – it challenges me to think differently. When I have emotional experiences in my personal life is probably when I get the most inspired, but I can never pinpoint exactly where my art comes from. It’s probably a mix of all the impressions and experiences layered in my mind.

The nude body and nature are elements that we know from the real world. I think it’s interesting to place these objects and sceneries in a surreal context as it becomes a clash between something familiar and something odd.

I was always fascinated with science, and I love to play with ideas of manipulating the physical rules of this world. According to the general theory of relativity, you can bend space and time. This is what I try to illustrate in my works by literally bending light rays with mirrors. Mathematical structures, physical laws, botanical plants and so many other things from the natural world are so fascinating that they even seem surreal.

With your series ‘Growing Up’ you mention that you rediscovered pieces of your childhood personality. Could you talk a bit more about that?

I think it’s really interesting to look back at childhood images of myself and other people I know well and try to understand the look in their eyes, their smile, gestures, etc. When looking at these kinds of images I feel like it’s the same soul looking out through the eyes of the child as the adult I know them as today.

“Looking at myself as a child has also helped me understand my own identity better.”

How one’s personality has developed through life really stands out when you look at someone’s childhood image.

You’ve worked with some iconic publications like Vogue Italia and Vanity Fair, as well as other designers and artists. Do you prefer working alone or collaboratively?

I love to collaborate with other creatives because I learn so much every time. Coming from a science background, it’s really satisfying working with people who understand the creative language and process. I would say a mix of both collaborative work and working alone is the best option for me, as I enjoy the collaborative process, but I also want to stay true to my own language and mind, which I work the best with when I’m on my own.

Have you learnt anything new about yourself or your creative process over the past year? I imagine being an artist during a pandemic must have been a big struggle.

Yes and no. I think my daily routine hasn’t changed much, as I could continue my normal routine studying medicine alongside my art-making process, which usually only requires me and a model. On the other hand, I had to postpone my first solo show a few months before it could be held in May in Oslo at Vasli Souza Gallery. Also because of Coronavirus I couldn’t go myself, but generally I think I’ve been in a lucky position during the pandemic.

Your work involves a lot of distortion and manipulation of forms. How do you find the potential for these qualities when looking at your subjects and the world around you?

My work revolved around the boundaries between reality, fantasy and the surreal. Here, photography can do something that a painting, for example, cannot. We have a more realistic relationship to photography as a medium because it’s used to document reality. My technique and photographic style studies where the boundaries are between painting and photography. I started to experiment with distortion because they could give me this interesting painterly effect.

I want viewers to think about what is real in the things we see. In concrete terms, the mirrors I use also function as a symbolic boundary between two worlds, with reality on one side and imagination on the other. Since I study medicine alongside being an artist, I also feel that I’m on the border of two worlds, standing with one leg rooted in the world of science and the other leg rooted in the world of art.

I’d love to know more about how studying medicine has influenced you and your art.

I was always interested in both natural science and art and was never able to choose between them, so instead I went for both. In the future I would like to research the creative process of artists and their art-making. Aside from studying, I always need to express myself artistically. I think I became an artist because I couldn’t hold back from the creative process.

I’m really fascinated by what happens in the brain when you create art, because I don’t really understand what goes on in my own head when I create my own work. It’s a process that to me, seems very subconscious and connected to feelings rather than the logical and conscious mind.

For my bachelor’s thesis, I wrote about how we all see colours differently due to genetic variations in our cones (which are the receptors that senses the light spectrum’s wavelengths in our eyes). I had this idea because I always subconsciously end up choosing colours from the same colour spectrum for my artworks, whereas other artists seem to use a different colour spectrum that is unique to their own work. I thought we might see colours a bit different for this reason, and it turns out we actually do. For my master’s thesis I will be writing about genetic traits and links between the mind of creatives and the mind of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. It might be that cliché of genius and ‘madness’ being connected, but when I was interning at a psychiatric department, it was really interesting talking to people diagnosed with schizophrenia, as;

“I felt that the difference between an artist making up their own universe for their work is not that far removed from someone living with schizophrenia experiencing their own surreal world.”

This is not to romanticise mental disorders or describe artistic minds as something pathological, but rather a better understanding of the links and differences between the two. It could possibly help people with mental disorders get better diagnoses and treatment.

The female form and nudity seem to be important concepts that you explore with your work. What are your thoughts on the relationship between the body and identity?

My series ‘Feminine Development’ addresses the alienation of the female body and female sexual identity, which has often been distorted by society. With cosmetic surgery and genetic manipulation, almost anything becomes possible in the strive of fulfilling society’s expectations of beauty and perfection. Using mirrors to manipulate the body in this series serves to illustrate how we’re slowly moving away from reality and merging with a surreal, parallel world where it is questionable what a natural body looks like. Creating the series, I confronted my own body insecurities by creating images that would celebrate the female body for its capability of giving birth and creating a child, starting from the division of just two cells.

I think the body and identity are two things that are inseparable. When you look at yourself in the mirror you identify as yourself. I think the way we talk to ourselves and the way we view our own bodies has a huge impact on our self-image and identity.

Do you aim to draw specific qualities out of the subjects of your photographs, or is it more a case of you wanting to capture something that is already present?

It really depends on the person who is being photographed and what they give me to work with. Some people have a natural talent for performing and expressing themselves artistically as models. For others, I give them more directions, but most of my models perform like actors in my surreal universe of images. Emotions are real and pure, but good actors are also able to show this.

I’m beyond thankful to all the people who have ever posed for me and trusted my vision and weird ideas. Most of them are my friends or family, so it’s a personal experience working with and portraying these people.

Do you have any rituals or habits that help to motivate you creatively?

Most ideas come to me naturally and without even knowing where they’ve come from, but a great catalyst for bringing my ideas to life is probably going for a run. Running helps open my mind so my thoughts can wander freely to form a new creative input. When creating new work, I usually have a vague idea in mind of what I want to capture. I bring the model, the props and go to a location usually outside in a park or field. The weather is very important as well, as I almost always shoot outdoors with strong sunlight and a blue sky – that’s when the colours appear most vibrantly and beautifully to me. What happens in front of the camera is determined by my mood, the mood of the model, and sometimes just by accident. When creating the images, I lose all sense of time and basic needs. It’s magical to be in this state of mind, but I’m physically and mentally very drained when I’m done with a shoot, so I need to rest before coming back to do another one. Reading, studying and being with people I love also recharges my batteries.

Where do you see your practice heading?

Recently I’ve been interested in the moving image, and I’ve been experimenting with making art and fashion movies. I would like to continue in this direction and create works that are on the border of moving image and still photography as a kind of living photograph, as well as making short films. Moving image is a whole new world to me and I’d love to explore these possibilities further.

My new series of male nudes called ‘Modern Masculinity’ is also taking shape at the moment. I think it’s interesting to work with the male body and see what happens when I mix masculine bodies into my feminine universe. My goal is to portray the men as soft and gentle and to show another side of the masculine.



Ekow Eshun

An Infinity of Traces, a selection of work from eleven Black women and non-binary artists

Walking into the airy gallery space from a quiet London side street, one is immediately struck with a powerful sense of joy, exuberance and pride in an exhibition that discusses incredibly serious topics surrounding Black identities in the UK. An Infinity of Traces, which showcases a selection of work from eleven Black women and non-binary artists, was originally planned to open shortly after a summer of intense discourse surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement and subsequent protests but was delayed due to Covid restrictions. The delay is not a bad thing as the exhibition serves as a compelling reminder of the ongoing nature of this discourse. There is always work still to be done. 

Immediately Jade Montserrat’s series of work draws the viewer into a discussion of Eurocentric beauty standards and colourism and how Black women are forced to navigate their bodies and thoughts within these structures. 

Across from this stretching line of mixed media drawings is Liz Johnson Arthur’s work, Spring… Times, which dominates the space. Three images from Johnson’s archive are blown up in black and white on banners that hang above the viewer. Anyone who took part in the BLM protests in London last summer will be immediately drawn to the image on the left. A Black Muslim woman stands on the seat of a car, holding on to the frame for support with the door flung open behind her, her fist raised in salute. 

During the London BLM protests, there was often a buildup of traffic due to the sheer amount of protesters that filled the roads. However, this traffic became a part of the protest as motorists would blast their horns and raise their fists in support. This sense of powerful community and strength was both incredibly touching and a potent motivator, something this particular image encapsulates perfectly. 

An Infinity of Traces contains a large number of video works, a medium which is often overlooked by gallery visitors who tend to briefly pause in front of the screen before zipping off to the next artwork, seemingly unwilling to commit to placing earphones over their heads and immersing themselves in the artwork. In the case of this exhibition it would be a mistake to do so as, with the exception of the forty one minute film by Alberta Whittle, it is quite possible to watch the entirety of all the video works in under half an hour. 

Alberta Whittle’s work, Between a Whisper and a Cry, is well worth the extra time though, exploring, through the mariner’s rhyme: “June too soon, July stand by, August it must, September remember, October all over,” Britain’s historical, cultural and political relationship with the Caribbean. Whittle’s practice is rooted in the history of the transatlantic slave trade, however, one is reminded of Britain’s treatment of Caribbean immigrants, in cases such as the Windrush Scandal, which is still an ongoing issue. 

Ayo Akingbade’s Tower XYZ film is full of bright colours and youthful hopefulness, following three young women around London neighbourhoods and featuring 1970s Brutalist landmark, Trellick Tower. A young female voice raps the words “Let’s get rid of the ghetto.  I hope I don’t die for a long time. I still got things I want to do and look at and boys to talk to. I wanna see an African spirit or like sleep on top of a volcano.” The work simultaneously invites you in, as an older Black man, holding a sign saying ‘All is well’, smiles welcomingly at the camera but then pushes you away, as the camera follows three young Black women into a lift and they turn to stare, making the viewer feel like an unwelcome voyeur into their private lives and thoughts. 

The last artwork in the exhibition is a film by Rhea Storr titled Here is The Imagination of the Black Radical. Exploring the Bahamian Junkanoo and recontextualising it as contemporary art Storr’s work discusses ideas of Afrofuturism and radical imagination alongside such practicalities as what happens to carnival costumes and floats after the event. Interspersed with these discussions  is archival footage of carnival, with performers in elaborate costumes dancing to infectiously upbeat Afro-Caribbean music.

The exhibition will run from the 13th of April to the 5th of June at the Lisson Gallery on Bell Street and visits can be reserved here

Ewe Studio

“A horizontal approach of mutual learning, to promote and to translate a skill or knowledge into new meanings and possibilities”

Based in Mexico City, EWE is a design studio that celebrates the country’s rich history of artisanal practice. Tradition is interwoven with new ideas, combining innovation with heritage. The studio was started in 2017 by the Estonian curator, Age Salajõ, Mexican designer Héctor Esrawe, and Spanish industrial designer, Manu Bañó, whose varied backgrounds and expertise allow for their creative approach.

Their work falls somewhere between furniture and sculpture; beautifully-crafted objects that are also technically functional. By amplifying the skill of craftsmanship and the craftsman, their work is inherently collaborative – working with Mexican specialists to create ornate, yet organic, objects. The forms, shapes, colours and textures of their pieces recall the natural elements, something that is reflected in the studio’s approach to using four main processes – glass, stone, foundry work and wood.

EWE Studio’s limited-edition collections are part of a move in recent years to put Mexico on the world stage of design. Here, they explain how their process works and the inspirations that inform the studio’s approach to craft, heritage and their objects.

How do your different backgrounds and experiences influence the work of EWE Studio? 

What has made EWE a unique project is that combination; our origin, the skills, our individual knowledge and sensibilities. Our background and experiences are reflected in the way we approach everyday solutions, and through an open dialogue where those individual differences work towards a solution. 

How does collaboration tie into your work as a studio, and also with artisans in Mexico? 

Collaboration is an essential part of our philosophy, it is the axis of our project. A horizontal approach of mutual learning, to promote and to translate a skill or knowledge into new meanings and possibilities.

How do the four main processes you use (glass, stone, foundry, wood) individually and collectively represent the ethos of EWE Studio?

Those four have, so far, represented the expression of EWE, which by being a young company has created an aura focused on those materials. [That said] we are experimenting with many more materials.

What inspires the form and textures of your work at EWE Studio?

The forms and textures come from many angles; our heritage, the material itself, the sensibility to understand new possibilities out of a “found” moment or expression during visits to the workshops. We forge our inspiration from Mexican history and create new meanings and languages from that inspiration point. We love to mix raw and pristine textures and often keep parts of the stone surfaces as we found them. 

Since the studio began, have you adapted your processes for working together? How do you see the studio progressing and growing?

We have maintained the same creative process, with a deeper understanding of the soul of EWE. The studio has evolved, allowing us to integrate a small team in our everyday life besides design activities. We have assigned the efforts of production, administration, sales to each one of us. 

The three of us work very tightly together and with our team. We communicate throughout the day and are very much in the loop with different aspects of the studio. We regularly hold design meetings to create new work, but after that we all have different roles we play. EWE is a young studio but we have been fortunate to work with different galleries from around the world who are promoting and selling our work. 

Your pieces are a mix of sculpture and object – how do you see them being used?

They are pieces with an iconic and strong expression – pieces with character. Most of them are reinterpretations of an utilitarian background or a reminiscence of it. Many of our clients use them; some of them have them for contemplation. Even though we aim to create sculptural design, they are all functional. Even if the line between design and sculpture is blurry.

And how do you distinguish these pieces between art and design – does that matter?

From the start, EWE has been focused on promoting the skills of the artisans and create a dialogue with our heritage. Most of our inspirations comes from a utilitarian background, from elements that were used in ceremonies and/or worship.



Sharon Eyal

“it’s all art and it’s all life”

Emblazoned onto the vast white cube exterior where the Dior SS19 show was held at the Hippodrome de Longchamp last September was a quote: ‘The story comes from inside the body’. The woman responsible for this remark, Sharon Eyal, would also make her mark on the interior of temporary space that was built over the course of two weeks, especially for the show.

Eyal was approached by Dior’s creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri, to choreograph a dance that would take place as models took to the runway. For the SS19 collection, Chiuri found inspiration in the world of dance; corsets were replaced with loose, tulle skirts, leggings and, of course, ballet pumps. For the performance, Eyal’s dancers weere clad in specifically-designed bodysuits. At times, dancers and models seemed inseparable. If the show reflected the unique vision for which Chiuri has become known for as of late, it also brought Eyal’s enchanting choreography to a new audience.

Eyal founded the L-E-V dance company in 2013 with fellow dancer and collaborator, Gai Behar – whilst the musician, Ori Lichtik, is responsible for the music and sound that accompanies the company’s productions. Performances of the company’s repertoire, particularly OCD Love and its second act, Love Chapter 2, have captivated audiences across the world. In this sense, the Dior show can be seen as a continuation of the ways in which Eyal utilises the body in its totality to convey emotion and feeling. Speaking with Eyal soon after the Dior show, it is clear that this idea that the story comes from within is one that Eyal embodies whole-heartedly. 

NR: What inspired the approach you took in choreographing the Dior SS19 show?

Sharon Eyal: For me, inspiration is life – it’s everything I’m going through. I met Maria Grazia [Chiuri], who is an amazing person, and then I saw the work on the collection as it appeared. I think it’s all about chemistry. When you work with people, or another artist, they have to inspire you. In terms of the Dior collaboration, fashion and material is something that I really connect with. It feels like you can see the material sewn into the movement. I really love all the layers that you can see in the connections. 

NR: What does the partnership between fashion and dance reveal? 

SE: It’s about a collaboration of feelings. I think it’s not just dance, or fashion, I think it shows the combination of something unique that you want to share together. When you create something, it comes from a certain point in your body; I think me and Maria Grazia were creating from the same point, so it was very organic.

“For me, dancing is something basic, like you eat; you dance.”

Life is about movement, and fashion is something that is so free, as if it has no limits. With the combination of fashion and dance, it’s something that seems so distant but very close, like it was growing from the same planes. Everything came together with an organic feeling.  

NR: Is dance a medium that can express human emotion better than other art forms? 

SE: I think every art form can express these emotions. Painting, cinema, music, and, of course, fashion. But also, something like, going to the beach: it’s all art and it’s all life. For me, there isn’t a difference between life and art. 

NR: How does dance reflect art and life back to audiences? 

SE: I think dance is something very physical and emotional. Everybody feels these emotions and, and I think that connects people. Everybody feels sadness, disappointment and loneliness, for example.

“There is something about the physicality of the body connects with people: dance doesn’t need to be a story in order for it to be something you understand. It’s emotion as seen through the body.”

NR: How do you hope audiences will interact with the combination of dance with music with lighting and movement?  

SE: If the elements are separated, or don’t connect, it doesn’t work because it’s one piece. I think it’s about total feeling and total experience. This connection is important. 

NR: When you’re creating a new dance, where do you start first?

SE: I don’t start a piece, it’s always a continuation of something; it’s like the story of my life, but we have deadlines and so, I’m always cutting it, but it’s a long story that carries on. I start by improvising movements, which my dancers record, and from there I cut, edit, and change: this is the first layer. I work with lots of changing compositions.  

NR: Would you say that your dances have a futuristic element to them?

SE: I don’t know how to explain movement in words, but it’s very natural and simple, but complicated at the same time.

“It’s about trying to be what you are, in a very, very physical way.”

NR: So are you stripping back the elements of dance to the body?

SE: It’s not just the body, it’s also about the body and soul. I believe in the heart and emotion, but I think that everything comes from the physical, from inside the body.

“Muscles are emotional; you don’t need to put anything on top of the way muscles move because it’s all already there.”

NR: Do your dances take on the traditional structures of ballet, or is it a completely new style?

SE: When you see our dances, you can see the roots of that. I love ballet because I feel like I can play with it; I love the technique, and I love to break it. 

NR: In future, do you hope to add another chapter on to OCD Love and Love Chapter 2? 

SE: I like chapters a lot, so I would love to add more to that. Anyway, I think it’s always a continuation of what we’re doing, or what we’ve done, so I’m sure it will be happen. 


  1. Sharon Eyal photographed by Eyal Nevo

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