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Contemporary Art Practice (MA)

Ülkü Çağlayan :: ülcue chalayan

As a practice-led artist, Ülkü Çağlayan's work encompasses facilitation and performance, moving fluidly between the two. The concept of the thought body serves as the primary vessel for her artistic thinking. In her practice, the body becomes a site for exploring sensuality, breath, play, and transgression. Emphasizing the participatory nature of the body as a generative methodology, she incorporates various elements such as text, spoken word, sound, live installations, and moving images.

Ülkü's work resides at the intersection of social choreography and the psychosphere, delving into protomental states and embodied imagination. In her writing practice, she weaves together the threads of écriture féminine, and the realm of dreams. She is a facilitator of "Social Dreaming Matrix" a process that explores accessing shared "unthought knowledge" through the analysis of nighttime dreams and associations. 

As a London and Istanbul-based artist and facilitator, Çağlayan has been selected by Mamut Art Project, Turkey's leading platform for emerging artists. In the second half of 2023, she has been chosen to showcase her performance at Feralpy, Flux Factory in New York and will be participating in the La Selva Human Nature Connect Residency in Rome.

Artist profile photo

I am primarily working with multiple bodies which serve as qualitative ground for relational experiences. Invested in the ethics and the politics of rehearsals, exercises, playshops I  use these safe containers in an effort to  inquire about raw and authentic  human conditions. 

This in mind, I am interested in reimagining new social situations by foregrounding intimate citizenship and radical togetherness. 

In my current research, I explore the potential of pre-enactments as a shared experience to actively engage with speculative scenarios of  futuristic dystopias. Signifying the experience of transgression, I devise these processes as  mental and emotional preparations incorporating narrative construction which blends the real and fictional and viscerally embodied live performances.  

Influenced by Audre Lorde, Bataille and Byung-Chul Han’s concepts of dissolution into the Other, my works weave together desire and fantasy and seek to manifest these as filmic experiences. I am continuously experimenting with how erotic intelligence relates to imagination and creation specifically in the artistic context and am interested in the tension created by this type of intelligence. 

A hidden tension that is related to the concept of “about to”; something is about to happen but does not, will not, or cannot; it is about desiring and not having; the affect of suspended pleasure, the full attendance in the incompleteness, the impossibility of a possibility, the in-between state; state of transitioning/ becoming, that liminal space, the quality of ambiguity, disorientation, loss of time and staying with the trouble of wanting and not having is what I am interested in.

Embodying this state of about-to, not-yet aligns my practice concerning the  importance of reclaiming the erotic as a source of personal and societal power and liberation.

Warning: This section contains mature or explicit content.

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This work proposes a speculative world where the artist imagines humanity on a battlefield and sees desire as the key to cultivate resilience. Using the Erotic as Power, as a psychological and philosophical weapon, a remedy to restore our senses, it focuses on mental & emotional preparation for death and dying together. 

Emphasizing desire's role in revolt to assert human agency over bodies and desires the battlefield becomes a spatiotemporal metaphorical for radical togetherness, for political reflection.

A cyclical storyline becomes a vital means of production for this work where it speculates on new modes of survivals through the unthought realms of vagina.

photo from performance video; the scene where in the storyline we are ready to die
Art Direction: Ülkü Çağlayan ~ Sound Design: Ayşe Zeynep Hatipoğlu & Metehan Köktürk ~ Artist Costume Design: Clara Jedrecy ~ Videography & Photography: Gözde Karaoğlan ~ Performance: Elif Cemre Özkan, Gupse Esila Ay, Maya Ela Uyğun, Mirel Ergeneli, Zeynep Sinan
a shot from the performance
“So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive.” "A Litany for Survival." by Audre Lorde The title of the work quotes radical feminist, philosopher Audre Lorde’s  poem "A Litany for Survival”, 1978.

Video: "We Were Never Meant to Survive"

This work refers to a myth called "the Cut Heads" and is about the tension between resistance to dying and living a lifeless life. Humans, who are not able to carry the load of history and of what ‘the head’ insists upon, finds the solution in getting rid of its own head. 

It asks questions like:

How would it be possible to live headlessly? Living without the head, without the headache.
To sustain life without dying or just dying and not insisting on life?

As a narrative, it whispers a new social potential by restoring the sensory and emotional values that are rooted in our bodily experiences.

a shot from the performance
Art Direction: Ülkü Çağlayan ~ Sound Design: Metehan Köktürk @metehan.kokturk ~ Photography: @parkinson_sniper ~ Performance: Ali Efe Özkan, Elif Cemre Özkan, Eda Tekirli, Gupse Esila Ay, Gülce Bulduk, Gülden Ataman, Lal Yılmazoğlu, Maya Ela Uyğun, Mirel Ergeneli, Nazlı Tecimer, Öyküm Pala, Özge Kırdı, Özge Mutlu, Serap Kızıleroğlu, Zeynep Sinan
a shot from the performance "Head to Head" which was about 25 minutes
a shot from the performance "Head to Head" which was about 25 minutes
Camera: @larakalecik
photo of installation that was produced after the performance

In this performance, a plastic bag was chosen as a material that water can shape, seep through, or find creative escape routes. Çağlayan exposes the relationship between them, as well as her relationship to them, through movement and time as she walks in the most unbearable parts of Istanbul, unconventionally dripping her mark. It is to highlight my frustration with the political and social realities of Turkey and how this insecurity contributes to our way of being and becoming.

The installation is based on the contrast between the fluidity, movement and fertility of ideas and the constraints of the cognitive and deterministic structure of the mind.