On space, time, planets and plants: A conversation with Kerem Ozan Bayraktar, Ulya Soley
“If I talk about time is that it is not yet,
If I speak of a place is that it has disappeared,
If I speak of a man, he will soon be dead,
If I talk about time is that it is no longer”
-Raymond Queneau, TheExplanation of Metaphors
Artist and researcher Kerem Ozan Bayraktar has been working and thinking on systems. Planets, as part of the planetary system, are also among his research interests. His exhibition Chance and Necessity opened last year at Sanatorium, where he showed the series of 13 planets titled Potentially Uninhabitable Planets, and other works with Sergen Şehitoğlu.The series focused on the planets, which have been presented as “the new Planet Earth” due to some speculative findings of water and atmosphere, but did not actually have any real potential for life. The exhibition was built on the idea of emergence, which simply signifies some patterns that emerge in complex/chaotic systems through interactions. Just like how the news about these planets focused on the potential outcomes of random interactions. Kerem is also interested in natural systems; he is conducting an extensive research on urban plants while questioning how natural and artificial systems can co-exist.
Phases of Nix, a video in which movements of Pluto’s satellite Nix were visualized, is currently on view at Bilsart. Taking the exhibition as a starting point, we talked about the phases of Nix as well as Kerem’s phases of thinking while he worked on this video.
First of all, could you introduce us Nix? It’s not a popular name among planets and satellites.
Nix is one of the five satellites of Pluto. Its rotation around its own axis has chaotic properties because it is situated in a dynamic center of attraction. The direction it follows and how long the days last change in very short durations. Thus, its behavior cannot be predicted. I was interested in asteroids as residues of collisions, as remainders, as objects that are tossed aside or pushed away from the system. During that time Nix interested me as an object which is quite in-between and which can rotate around a planet without falling into pieces or crashing, even though it is very chaotic.
Even though they are not accurate, scientific ways of visualization play an important role to make us believe in what we see. What motivates you to visualize some scientific facts through art, to use a medium which we don’t think of as factual but rather fictional? For example, there are two known photographs of Nix and you produced the video after those two images. Did you care if it was a realistic depiction?
The ideological side of scientific visualizations, their place in the visual history and how they build reality are all very interesting to me. The scientific images are not meant to be art but technically they are similar to art that we are familiar with. Forensic paintings or botanical paintings are two good examples to this phenomenon. What we see are not the events/facts themselves but their paintings, and these paintings are always somehow connected to art. One should not forget that cameras were once perceived as factual, scientific machines. Science and art can use common methods of image production. Technically, I frequently repeat different areas’ methods of producing reality through images. Sometimes I imitate them. I’m also keen on the idea of building a different history through fictional images which might seem like documentary images. On the other hand, I would like to emphasize that Phases of Nixis not scientific data visualization or a simulation, either in terms of its movement or in terms of how it looks. I used data in limited terms. My goal was not to indicate a specific time zone in the video as well as in the calendar-like image. Thus, the video and the image exist in their own ways, free of all other issues. In short, they are not instrumental images that were produced to express a scientific matter. However, I cannot say that the work is totally science-fiction because it develops out of incidents. It could be taken as a sort of impressionism, but an impressionism where there are many interfaces in between.
The phases of Nix depiction on the poster is like the visualization of our trust in science. The phases of Nix are reminiscent of phases of the Moon. We are using calendars that are built on the movements of the Moon and the Sun, but how regular are these movements in reality? Do you think it is problematic to look for an order in natural systems?
All the calendars we use are reflecting on our efforts to synchronize with nature, but this is not technically possible because calendars are man-made devices, made to simplify our daily life. They do not organically represent nature. That’s why there is constant drifting, which is so small that it doesn’t affect our lives. All order that we observe is transient. There is no harmonic or repetitive order in nature. On the other hand, all living beings must practice inductive reasoning in order to stay alive. If I start doubting that a piece of bread I’ve been eating everyday might poison me tomorrow, living becomes impossible. We can stay alive thanks to our belief in repetition. That’s why there is an obligatory bond between order and life. It is just important to remember that order is not intrinsic to nature, it appears in our interaction with nature.