In our conversation with Ekin Bernay, we talked about the progression of a performance process and the role dance plays in her life.

Photos: Elif Kahveci (@elifkahveci)

1.Hi Ekin! First, would you like to tell us a bit about yourself? What kind of education have you received, where do you live and work? How are you currently spending most of your time?

Hello. I have received education in various fields. I completed my undergraduate degree in communication design, followed by a master’s degree in fashion, and finally, I finished my master’s in dance therapy. So, I’ve been around the worlds of art and design. However, dance and movement have been at the center of my life for about 25 years. Throughout all these years, I continued to create in this field. I lived in London for 14 years, then I was a nomad for 15 months. For the past two months, I finally have a home in Istanbul. Currently, I’m spending my time working; there is no room for anything else besides creating.

2.You sustain your life as a performance artist, dance and movement psychotherapist. How did you get into dance? And how did you realize that dance was the right path for you?

I’ve instinctively been following this path for years. When I was in Samsun, my teacher Ömür Uyanık opened a ballet school there and called my mother to enroll me. Over the years, through various styles and forms of education, observing countless performances, and working with different names, it evolved into a way of life. Then dance changed its meaning for me; words, movement, and body became the choices beyond dance. In the realm of live art, the performative process is something different from dance.

3.What is your process for creating a performance? How do you prepare yourself mentally and physically?

The process always varies, but long research and getting lost in the research are constant. I follow a feeling or sometimes an image. This whole process creates a tension and restlessness until the moment of birth. The emergence time happens as it should. As I delve deeper, what needs to happen is determined independently of me; I become a conduit. Staying alive is crucial; there’s no room for thought in that moment. If I’m thinking, I’m lifeless. If it’s a performance, what comes out is often in close communication with Simge Burhanoğlu. I don’t like involving anyone else in the process.

4.Among the performances you’ve done, is there a moment that challenged you in a different way or one that you will always remember?

On the day my latest performance film premiered, instead of flying to Paris, I was undergoing surgery. The subject I was working on in the film was hair and teeth. In this surgery, a cyst was removed from me containing hair and teeth; I think I will never forget this. When working with the body, such a clear parallel is still a situation I am trying to understand. Even if I explain all the details, I think no one would believe me.


5.You have been part of the Performistanbul family for a long time. What does being in this community add to your life?

Simge and I have been together since the first day. We have a strong connection that empowers me, a bond that I can’t describe. Everything is different before and after her. I’m grateful she exists.

6.After living a nomadic life between Istanbul and London for a while, you recently moved to Istanbul. What place does Istanbul have in your life? How is your relationship with the city?

I’m still trying to grasp it, but it has been very good for me. Being close to my family and being with the people I have missed for years. Putting down roots here will make me more fertile. I feel it.

7.For our collaboration, Bil’s x Ekin Bernay, we designed two pieces: Breath and Heart. Can you tell us a bit about their story?

We worked meticulously with this wonderful team. We aimed to feel the movement, cover the space, and explore the distinct reflection of my silhouette at the same time. I think we succeeded. I also wanted them to be considered as two layers that gain meaning together. When you put on these layers, you are faced with a question that only you can see. The first question is “Who are you?” The second is “Where are you going?” My grandmother used to tell me these questions. When I was little, I used to ask people passing by while hanging from the balcony. It still means a lot to me. “Heart” was embroidered on the inner layer’s heart, and “Breath” was on the collar of the second layer.

8.How was the experience for you, imagining and creating a shirt born from design and production?

It was more challenging than I expected. I can work a bit slowly. Finding and exploring the best takes time. Also, it was a nice greeting for my fashion master’s.

9.Do you have a message or guidance for those who will wear these designs, which are limited to only 44 editions?

The person wearing it should not just look at how it appears in their hands. If you are wearing this shirt, truly answer the questions each time. The shirt only lives in this way.

10.What topics are you currently working on? What can we expect from your future projects? Can you tell us about your upcoming projects?

There have been so many projects in a row that I got lost in my own flow. In mid-December, I have one last project, and after finishing that, I will start researching for a crowded performance piece. I also want to experiment with glass and organic materials. I will work on repetition and balance. We are also working on a book about my last performance process with a publisher in France.

11.Thank you for taking the time for this enjoyable interview. Finally, do you have a film, book, or playlist that you’ve been following lately and would like to recommend to the readers?

There’s a book that I’m really enjoying right now that I recommend to everyone: “100 Sanatçı Manifestosu” (100 Artists’ Manifesto). It’s a great compilation of manifestos in the art world from futurists to today. It’s like traveling through time.

Ekin Bernay: @ekinbernay

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