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Listen to Selcuk Artut's trip from Turkey to Hong Kong
The Turkish mathematician-turned-sound-artist tell us why and how he lives life through his ears
Plane passengers, street markets, train stations, the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong -- all form part of Turkish contemporary artist Selcuk Artut's rather unusual spontaneous sound installation based on his journey from Istanbul to Hong Kong.
He started recording sounds while in Istanbul before he flew out to Hong Kong. Then he recorded his plane journey. Once he arrived, he recorded various sounds of Wan Chai, Mong Kok, Hong Kong Park, the MTR stations, his hotel room and within the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre -- where he attended and exhibited at the Hong Kong International Art Fair (ART HK).
For his installation, he set up a table and served the sounds of Hong Kong like a restaurant would serve meals, with plates on a table and a menu.
After training as a mathematician, Artut studied sound art in London and now teaches "Sound and Interaction" courses at Sabancı University in Istanbul.
You can listen to his sounds via the links in the interview below.
Also read The Sounds of Hong Kong.
CNNGo: How did the idea for the sound installation at ART HK come about?
I was thinking of creating an environment where I could interact with people. Most of my artwork is not only about aesthetic value but there is also a story and philosophy behind each piece.
CNNGo: Tell us about the process.
I brought a sound recording device to Hong Kong which allowed me to record sounds in detail. We are not aware of many of the sounds that surround us.
For example, I might be focusing on this conversation with you but I am not focusing on the sounds of people passing by. The sound recorder doesn’t behave like this. The microphone records everything.
I’ve been recording sounds wherever I go, so I thought, 'Why don’t I record the journey from Istanbul to Hong Kong?'
I said to myself, 'Let me record all these spaces because you can feel yourself in that moment.' I had no prejudices, no ideas about what was going to happen here.
I started recording on the day when I as about to leave for Hong Kong on May 21 until May 29. I said to myself, I will present these sounds as a food market because I like markets where you hear people calling out -- there is a variety of colors.
CNNGo: What did you record on the plane journey to Hong Kong?
There were a lot of people speaking Cantonese, which I don’t understand. I thought maybe I could ask people what they are saying.
Of course, that would be crossing boundaries of privacy but I believe it’s more like sound texture -- their words don’t mean anything to me semantically, they are more like colors for me.
CNNGo: What did you record when you arrived?
I like walking. I like being in the central places of a city. So Wan Chai seemed like a good location for Hong Kong. I was walking on the street and saw the market.
For the other locations, people advised me. They said go to Mong Kok and the metro station. I went to several food markets in Hong Kong and did recordings.
I’ve meet with a lot of people in these past few days so I’ve also been recording daily routine talk like, "How are you? Fine. Ciao."
I’ve been recording at the hotel too, of the sounds in the room from the TV. Sound can behave like an object. So recording sounds is like collecting objects to make art.
Listen to the sounds of Wan Chai market by Selcuk Artut.
CNNGo: What kind of sounds did you record at the art fair?
I came up with some different ideas.
There are times where the announcements at this venue are so forced, like when people are asked to leave. It’s so kind to say the venue is closing but it’s a loud as hell message. The announcement says "The fair is now closed, please leave." I decided to play the announcement on the headphones to people.
At the same time, I set up a live microphone so the person listening to the headphones also hears people around them talking. This creates a state of confusion because they think the announcement is real. But if they take the headphones off, they realize there is no announcement.
One person took it seriously and actually left. I play games as well. I enjoy that idea.
Listen to the sounds of Art HK 11 by Selcuk Artut.
CNNGo: What do people think of the Hong Kong sounds?
One man said, "I know this place, it’s Wan Chai market and I know this lady. Her store is on the corner, right?"
So he was able to recognize where that space was. He continued to say, "there was a fish market near by." I had also walked by that market and recorded it so he was suddenly transported to that venue too.
In a way, a lot of Hong Kong people arriving here find themselves in familiar places that they have been to like the metro station.
CNNGo: What was your favorite sound in Hong Kong?
Sounds I recorded at Wan Chai market and the MTR. I like the sound's textural quality while I am listening to it. When I hear foreign languages, I treat them as if they are soundscapes.
The metro is a system that is almost universal around the world. There are tiny sounds giving definitions to its character such as beeps, announcements and door openings and so on.
Also the way people talk and socialize in there is a definitive implication for understanding more about the culture.
Listen to the sound of the Hong Kong MTR by Selcuk Artut.
CNNGo: How did people respond to the sound art?
Most of the non-local people are perhaps coming here only to visit the fair and they don’t have time to see the city. So I like asking "Hey did you see the Wan Chai market? I’m going to take you there." Then they take the headphones and spend the time listening.
So our table is like a moment of isolation from the fair where you can travel to anywhere even Istanbul. The first sounds were from Istanbul. A lot people have said "Hey I’ve been to Istanbul, I miss it, can I listen?"
Listen to the sound of Istanbul by Selcuk Artut.
People like to interact, they aren’t afraid to touch and I like it. There are moments when I stand in the center of the table and ask people what they would like from the sound menu.
I wanted to put plates with this tape material which is a reference to Nam June Paik because I like him a lot. It’s like serving people. When you are serving something they will come.
There are times when people realize they can touch and they play with the tape. I’m not bothered by that. If I had the power to do it, I would prepare a menu every day and let them take the sounds.
The people take the headphones and from a distance I watch how they react. I like their smiles and confusion. So I think my intention has been absorbed by these people.