Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Dazed Digital Interview: Hussein Chalayan at Lisson Gallery

(Originally published on Dazed Digital)

Constantly defying compartmentalisation, Hussein Chalayan is a true cross-disciplinary artist whose work is never hampered by fixed expectations of genre or discipline. Far from it, if the medium fits the philosophy then he runs with it, sparking an endlessly innovative convergence of fashion, performance, installation, technology, anthropology, and more into the trademarlk Chalayan cultural experience. From 8 September, London’s Lisson Gallery hosts one such experience with 'I Am Sad Leyla (Üzgünüm Leyla)', a multi-room installation deploying audio, video, sculpture and fashion in its deconstruction of Chalayan’s native Turkish musical tradition. Dazed Digital spoke to him about how this all came about.

Dazed Digital: What is the inspiration behind I Am Sad Leyla (Üzgünüm Leyla)?
Hussein Chalayan:
The idea was to create a new context for this genre of Turkish music which, in itself an art form, has constantly shifted musical structure due to the amorphous nature of Turkish culture and history .The idea was to further extend this shift by putting it into an alien environment in London at the Lisson Gallery, and also to reframe it to reiterate its power.

DD: What attracted you to such a strong musical element?
Hussein Chalayan:
Music and sound have always featured in my work. Visual people are ‘poorman’s musicians’, we all strive to achieve the same affect as music but are not sure that we ever get there.

DD: How did you begin?

Hussein Chalayan: We recorded the piece from scratch. Sertab Erener, a super well-known pop star in Turkey, is not known for this genre of music. Part of the thrill of approaching her, and I think for her accepting, was to create a momentary shift from her longstanding oeuvre. Her performance has the might of early chanteuses in the beginning of the 20 the century in Turkey. We are both more than delighted with it.

DD: The mediums you work in all have a strong performance aspect, is this always an early consideration when developing your concept?
Hussein Chalayan:
The performance element is a given for me - it’s a tool to tell a story.

DD: How does the durational aspect of a solo gallery show (as opposed to a catwalk show that’s over swiftly) feed into your concept?
Hussein Chalayan:
It’s about an experience you can choose the duration of, not the other way round (like fashion shows).

DD: And the space?
Hussein Chalayan:
We are using the different zones of the gallery and dissecting the piece into different segments: one room is only for Sertab’s voice, one room only with the full filmed performance, one room only with the film of the orchestra playing, and one room only the installation.

DD: What’s your approach to working across many disciplines? What’s your process? For instance, do your ideas spring from a medium or vice versa?
Hussein Chalayan:
It can happen both ways around… I am too close to my ideas to say how they are born except that I can say that they flow into one another.

DD: What challenges does your process present?
Hussein Chalayan:
The technological side and also making sure I can also do work that can sell.

DD: How has the evolution of your art practice affected your fashion design?
Hussein Chalayan:
It’s created a richer platform for its existence, and many times sales of my art works have enabled production of my collections.

DD: What are you working on next? Has this show influenced it or do you prefer to start afresh?
Hussein Chalayan:
We have another show opening at Spring Studios in London on the 17th September, then our collection presentation in Paris early October. Then a full on next year. And yes, I hope this project at the Lisson will expand.

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