We had the good fortune of connecting with Zeynep Abes and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Zeynep, let’s start by talking about what inspires you?
I’ve always been inspired to preserve things I feel are being lost in our history and cultural identity. My art explores methods to use technology and media to archive things that will no longer exist with a focus on film and photography. After extensive work with creating narratives of my memories through archived photographs, films, and sound, I started to look for ways to tell stories in a more immersive manner.
Coming from a documentary background, I started to explore storytelling methods using photogrammetry and the captured 3D environments, objects, and people. Eventually, photogrammetry became the perfect technology for me to immerse people within the 3D representations of my memories and encourage engagement on a personal and emotional level.
This approach allows for most of the scene to be modeled while leaving some parts unmapped and fragmented. I love this aesthetic to represent memory since we never remember things perfectly, our mind tends to reconstruct the past in bits and pieces. As a media artist, I believe it’s essential for us to go beyond the aesthetics and the hype of emerging technology.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’ve found memory to be central to my work since the beginning of my creative practice. Our relationship with the past is ultimately captured through the embodied, individual and collective experience of memory as we also predominantly rely on media for remembering. My work explores the role that media plays in visualizing our past and how it affects the formation of personal and cultural identity.
My desire to archive fleeting memories has always been present. Whether it be through old home videos and photos or documentaries, I’ve been photographing and making films around my family and its surrounding history since I was a little girl. This notion of wanting to preserve and archive has become even stronger as I’ve watched my country change from afar, particularly in my rapidly changing home city of Istanbul.
As political and cultural power dynamics continually shift, I believe it is incumbent on us as artists to challenge established narratives. This is one of the reasons why I focus on work that sheds light on stories that have been neglected — stories that disrupt the existing discursive landscape and confront the shortcomings of institutionalized memory.
My practice continues to explore historical information that is often lost or displaced, focusing on film and photography. Examples of this can be seen in my body of work represented through different kinds of media.
My video installation, “Miss Turkey, 1932,” uses footage from family and government archives, aiming to explore the junction between private and public memories. The films are of my great grandmother from the International Pageant of Pulchritude in 1932, where she became Turkey’s first Miss Universe. With a changing social landscape and the role of women in Turkish society, a memory that is being consciously faded from Turkey’s history. The use of my family videos, photos, relics, and keepsakes within a larger narrative become witnesses to an unspoken past. These emotions and memories are not necessarily present in the archived images or objects but found within the story the viewer provides to fill in what has been omitted. Memories that continue to be felt in the future, as the viewer is able to fill in what the visuals have left out.
My latest project, “Memory Place”, explores three moments of my “fraying certainty” about Istanbul as it becomes an idea more than a place, visualizing this process through point cloud data and photogrammetry that transform video and photographs into 3D environments that recede from the viewer. These environments are impressionistic and partial – with gaps here and there in the scenes depicted, and with portions of imagery coming into sharper focus as they move toward the vanishing point. In both works, the fragmentary nature of the imagery is made immersive by the sound design.
The three videos were created with a program that employs photogrammetry to render scanned images in three dimensions. Each video represents a different memory and explores how memory can be altered through circumstances or time.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
LA is a difficult city to introduce to an outsider since each neighborhood has such a different identity. I have mainly lived on the westside since I went to UCLA and worked around Playa vista. I would definitely start with bike rides along the beach from Venice to Malibu, and grabbing food at a family-owned Mexican restaurant called Casa Martin. Their house margaritas are solid and the molcajete is to die for!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would love to dedicate this to my family. Their unconditional support has been my driving force but in particular, they also became my collaborators in my latest artwork that was severely affected by the pandemic.
Due to Covid travel restrictions, I could not go to Istanbul to complete some photogrammetry scans for my project “Memory Place”. All point cloud models were captured remotely as a collaboration between family in Istanbul and myself in Los Angeles. Whether it be guiding my aunt over zoom or directing my father through calls, they played an integral role in photographing the environments for the project. The distanced process of capturing these moments with family and home is very much part of the piece itself.