Merve Ünsal

Merve Ünsal received her undergraduate degree in Art and Archaeology from Princeton University and her graduate degree in Photography and Related Media from Parsons The New School for Design. She is the founding editor of the online artist-driven publication In her artistic practice, she focuses on photography and text. She is also interested in the impact of artist initiatives, residency programmes, and artistic research programmes on artists.

April 2018, Istanbul, Turkey

Kelly Lloyd (KL): Can you tell me a little bit about why you update your will so often, in terms of your art materials, and the way that you want your art shown?

Merve Ünsal (MU): For me, it’s a way of empowering myself, because I think one of the things that happens in the art world or article system or the world, whatever you want to call it, is that people only get to make demands when they’re successful, or when they’re in positions of power, right? So, as an emerging artist, you show wherever they want you to show up, or you go wherever they want you to go, obviously, a little bit before. And so there’s a lack of choice. And then there’s the sweet moments in there at some point when like, you get to the agency. And the reason I write my will and publish it and think about it all the time. And I talk about it all the time, also, in public situations is that like, I have the ability to make those decisions all the time. And I think about these things all the time. The fact that I don’t get to maybe like exerted or like the fact that I don’t get to act it out doesn’t make it doesn’t mean that I don’t think like I don’t, I don’t have full awareness of all the things that I am.

September 2020, London, United Kingdom

KL: What will the future look like?

MU: The future will look better and more entangled!

In my practice, I feel that there is never a bad time to seek the company, care, and critique of others, as long as these dynamics are reciprocated. In other words, I find comfort in these relationships when I know that I am capable of responding, mirroring, nourishing, holding.

I contemplate two notions: The first is embeddedness. Is it possible to be embedded within the needs and desires of another while caring and critiquing? In my opinion, there is something about the practice of radical empathy to be able to be immersed, embedded within the concerns and joys of another that can help comprehend and internalize the challenges of articulations and relaying. The second notion is cooperation. I have recently arrived at this notion in trying to describe relationships of being and thinking together. There is something about cooperating, working together for the same end, that captures the essence of the care and critique that I would want to move within. While collaborative and collective modes of thinking are incredibly poignant and critical, cooperation seems to me to be more expandable and could apply to more situations.

Thinking about Donna Harraway’s entanglements, I have begun to wonder whether it is possible to be self-consciously entangled and whether this could be a mutual form of care and critique. I believe that there is an urgency to inventing syntaxes of being mutually entangled, which will begin with recognizing our already-existing entanglements and settling into new entanglements that we will cooperatively configure, shift, and adjust.

This is the future I imagine.