Deniz Sağdıç transforms all kinds of waste and used materials into works of art through back and forth recycling. The last project of the artist is to exhibit his works for 15 months in three H&M stores in Istanbul, namely Severli, İstinyepark and Akasya.
Before starting to evaluate the waste, Deniz Sağdıç used classical methods of art, such as oil paints and acrylics, to interfere with ordinary, daily use objects. It started out as a conceptual art criticism. “I also found objects left in junkyards or on the side of the trash. Over time, these objects have completely evolved into garbage itself, that is, waste materials. Then, as I experienced that all weaving products offer an artist a wide range of technical possibilities that are not equal to paint, wastes became indispensable materials of my art. Of course, in addition to all these artistic opportunities, our responsibilities to protect our planet are the most important motivation for me to make art with waste.”
You focus on recycled and upcycled materials. But why specifically denim?
Weaving, especially denim manufacturers, was one of the sectors that started to implement sustainable production methods first. Numerous collaborations with these institutions have made my denim and weaving works much more visible than others. Anatolia is a geography where weaving techniques were developed. In our tradition, weaving is more than a product, it is a cultural image with deep meanings. As an artist who produces in the homeland of weaving, I find working with weaving extremely exciting.
So, which material do you enjoy working with the most?
It is extremely enjoyable and exciting not knowing what the waste I will use in my next work will be. Actually, every new material is a challenge for me. I get dozens of notifications every day. Institutions want to share the waste left over from their production with me, and people offer to send the waste they have collected to me. Sometimes those who follow my work also participate in these challenges. He offered me various waste materials and said, ‘Let’s see if you can make a work with it.’ they get excited. I enjoy seeing that a new and troublesome process will begin when I encounter a waste that I have never encountered or had the opportunity to think about before.
How is the process of procuring the fabrics developing?
In the beginning, I was choosing fabrics from my own closet that could not be evaluated otherwise. As my studies increased, I started to obtain these materials from my relatives or neighbors. When I consumed these resources in a short time, I started to knock on the doors of weaving producer institutions and brands. At that time, sustainability was not a trend, and research on climate change was not on the agenda. With each new waste, I get to know the person a little more. What we consume represents us. Even being able to encourage people to sort and collect their waste through my works makes me happy by showing that my works achieve their purpose.
Why do you turn to portraits in particular?
The faces remind us that we humans are responsible for these wastes. If you want to tell people about a human-related problem, the most effective way is to talk to people again. On the other hand, I think we often forget how important a communication tool is the gesture of looking and our facial expressions. No matter what we hear or what we hear, the precision of communication is completed through our facial expressions. Just like Picasso said about Guernica, these works were actually made by all human beings, not just me.
How long does it take to get a job done?
The process changes according to the technical characteristics of the material and the way I arrange that material. Before I start making works with a new material, I try to get to know that material and make various experiments with it. In my last work with clothing waste buttons, I preferred to sew nearly 20 thousand buttons to the fabric one by one. This work took almost three months.
You also have a project with H&M, how did you come to be?
We have been cooperating with H&M for several years. The sustainability policies of the brand and what I try to talk about with my works are quite parallel. On the other hand, it is exciting for me to exhibit my works in areas such as shops, rather than museums and galleries, so that art can meet with the wider masses of the society. I attach great importance to the collaborations we have made with H&M both in order to bring nature-friendly living habits and to include art more in life. Can all artistic productions be sustainable? We have already passed a threshold where it is imperative that not only works of art but all production processes, including products, be sustainable. We are in danger of extinction of all natural resources, especially water. Even our waste in the sea has started to cover areas larger than the surface area of many countries. Sustainability is so inevitable and indispensable that in the last climate peak, the concept of recycling was abolished and it was decided that recyclability is not a plus feature but a production necessity. We will enter a period in which the fact that the artworks are made from recycled materials will be at least as important as the artwork. The sooner we acquire these vital habits, the better chance we will have of saving our planet.
Last time we saw your “0 Zero Point” project at Istanbul Airport, what’s next?
Due to the international position of Istanbul Airport, the “0 Zero Point” stand was a perfect place to state that sustainability is a common problem for all humanity without being limited to certain geographies. Although the countries and nations are different because the works in this booth are made from the wastes of airport visitors, they show how similar we are when it comes to consumption. I am working on a stand that will have precedent effects again in the coming days. We are working on exhibiting this project in different cities of the world, starting from Turkey.
What kind of working discipline do you have in the workshop?
I work from early in the morning until late at night. We call this action work, but for the artist, making art is not overtime. This is an existential problem for me. I need to make art so that I can recover when I’m sad and heal when I’m sick.
What inspires you these days?
My agenda is always the state of our planet and the changes we create in nature. I’m trying to make these things on everyone’s agenda. The developments affecting nature in the world affect me quite a lot. A new and popular consumer product, as well as wars or natural disasters, can cause harm to nature in the same way. As long as human life, communication and consumption are so fast, you have no trouble finding problems to inspire. However, being sensitive, researching and working hard is more important than inspiration in art.
Interview: Aykun Taşdöner
Taken from ELLE Turkey May 2022 issue.