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Interview with Deniz Sözen

Image credit: ©Deniz Sözen. Surya Namaz, HD video, 2018, video still.

As part of Research Network programme: Global Re-visions, Curatorial Trainee Chloe Austin conducted a short interview with Deniz Sözen to discuss her research ‘The Art of Un-belonging’ in advance of her talk.

CA: How does your project explore the themes of globalisation and internationalism as presented in the Global Re-Visions call out?

DS: Resonating with the themes of the Global Re-Visions call out, my practice-based research – The Art of Un-belonging – sets out to investigate and develop artistic strategies that challenge conventional notions of belonging and difference in the context of globalisation and diasporic art. Despite the advancements within the theoretical discourse since Iniva’s first symposium ‘A New Internationalism’ (1994), in practice artists still tend to be categorised according to their geographical, national and/or ethnic belonging(s) by the art world/market. Taking my own practice and position as diasporic artist as point of departure The Art of Un-belonging seeks to formulate a critical response to this tendency.

The practice element of my research consists of three discrete yet interrelated artworks that challenge an ethnocentric and anthropocentric conception of belonging. The multilingual video-performance Surya Namaz (2018) is a personal investigation of yoga and namaz, the Muslim prayer ritual, exploring the potential of transcultural performance, opacity and multilingualism to undo fixed notions of belonging. Kahvehane Kongresspark (2016), a temporary café, ceramic cups/saucers and a site-specific performance in public space and Trans Plantations (2018), an installation of cups/saucers and coffee beans cast in porcelain in combination with an audio-visual element, are concerned with colonial history and human entanglements with coffee, taking the exploration of belonging beyond the anthropocentric.

Un-doing a binary conception of belonging, The Art of Un-belonging aims to shift the Eurocentric imaginary, which has been shaped by dualisms such as self and Other, mind and body, culture and nature, etc. Taking my artistic practice as a driving force for my research, The Art of Un-belonging argues that Relation (Glissant, [1990],1997) is central to re-imagine the notion of belonging and identity. 

CA: How do you plan to use the resources of the Stuart Hall Library to shape your research?

DS: The Stuart Hall Library is a wonderful space for research. Amongst the resources of this unique collection are rare books featuring global art and exhibition catalogues of artists of colour which one cannot easily access in any other library. The books and journals in the collection have been a crucial source for my research. Further exploring strategies that could be used to challenge binary thinking and engage (more) critically with the notion of belonging and identity, I look forward to re-visiting the collection in the light of my presentation.

CA: What do you hope to gain from sharing your research with the Research Network?

DS: Presenting as part of the Research Network series ‘Global Re-visions’ will give me the unique opportunity to share the outcome of five years of practice-based doctoral research ‘The Art of Un-belonging’. Through presenting and discussing my research in this context, I aim to put my work to greater scrutiny and contribute to the advancement of the current discourse through discussion and exchange of ideas with other arts practitioners and wider audiences.

CA: Where can readers find out more about your work?

DS: My thesis ‘The Art of Un-belonging’ including links to accompanying audio-visual material, can be downloaded via the University of Westminster library or the British library’s ETHOS e-thesis online service. More information about my work can also be found on my website: www.denizsoezen.com