The year 2012 in the Darkroom of the Turku Art Museum is dedicated to video and media art by artists from the Balkan region. The Turkish artist Inci Eviner (b. 1956) presents the work Harem (2009, 3 min.), which was inspired by a picture of a harem by Antoine Ignace Melling (1763–1831) from 1795. Instead of the figures in the original work, the video presents female dancers in pyjamas whose gestures undermine our notions of a harem and evoke hidden emotions.
Inci Eviner's work creates a perceptive panorama of life in a harem. The players’ aim to identify with the experiences of women who lived in a harem, coupled with the viewers' own body memories, evoke powerful emotions but also confusion. There are several concurrent scenes in the video. The viewer must give time for the movements and the rhythm of the piece to begin to tell their story. Although the players are clad in pyjamas, their repetitive and simple movements make a deep impact on the viewer's personal world of experience. Social power structures as well as birth and death are all present in the work.
The main thrust in Eviner's art is the investigation of human action in specific settings. The details of her works are carefully planned and embody countless meanings. Eviner is interested in strategies, and through the use of oppositions she is able to arouse unexpected perspectives and thought patterns, challenging the viewer to look at things in a new way.
As an artist, Eviner has been collecting material for her visual vocabulary for many years. In her works, she recycles not only the images in her own vocabulary, but also those of art history. The vocabulary does not grow rationally, but emotionally. Sometimes the artist herself is unable to explain the meaning of the images, leaving the choices instead to the subconscious.
Eviner discovered Antoine Ignace Melling's picture of a harem in Voyage pittoresque de Constantinople et des rives du Bosphore from the early 19th century, a collection of etchings based on Melling's images of Istanbul. Eviner was intrigued by the many contradictory elements in the picture. It is a work of the imagination, while it also seems realistic.
In keeping with her holistic approach, Eviner designed and made the players' costumes herself. The striped pyjamas are an allusion to prison uniforms. Eviner also worked closely with the players themselves. She wanted them to abandon their habitual gestures so that their movements would demonstrate how sexual energy develops, how it changes and finally disappears.
ARTIST’S TALK: On Thursday 2 February 2012 Inci Eviner will give a talk about his artistic practice in the Kuvateatteri of the Turku Arts Academy (Linnankatu 54-60) starting at 2pm. Admission is free and the meeting is open to the public.