Afterwork, Still At Work

Making the most of monotony with the creators of virtual exhibition, “Contact.”

Turkish collective afterwork wasted no time imagining an alternative to physical art venues in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Their interactive digital exhibition, titled Contact, began just a week after the first social distancing implementations were announced in Turkey. In that brief time, Yasin Aribuğa and Sude Belkıs taught themselves programming and reached out to their artist friends, Piknik Works, Selin Çınar, Yağmur Güçlü, Asena Doğan, and Glennis who pitched in with their works. We discussed – from the safety of our own homes – the ways creativity can be sparked by boredom, learning skills in an open-source age, and their plans for the foreseeably isolated future.

You may visit Contact on a laptop or desktop following this link.

It was a pleasure to visit your online exhibition Contact. How did the afterwork platform come into being?

Sude Belkıs: Yasin and I had already collaborated many times on photography projects and the like. Then we wanted to try our hand at video animation. We began working together under another name but it didn’t feel quite right. Later, while trying to come up with a new name, I noticed one of Yasin’s t-shirts said “after work” on it. I said why not “afterwork”? Both of us work full-time at an advertising agency, and we create these projects outside of working hours, in our free time, on weekends, so it was a perfect description.

Yasin Arıbuğa: We worked on Contact through the night as well.

SB: Yes, I would occasionally post an Instagram story saying “We’re Open at Nights”.

Before getting into Contact, could you tell us about your first exhibit, Recently Deleted?

YA: We made that during a period when we had a lot of free time to go to shows. Whenever we went to an exhibit, I would arrogantly proclaim: “My recently deleted folder is better than this”.

SB: That’s really how it came about, like a joke.

YA: Sude said “then why don’t you go exhibit your recently deleted folder at the market?”. The more we joked about it, the more we realized it wasn’t a bad idea. We went to the Feriköy Antique Market and did Recently Deleted.

SB: While preparing the exhibit we secretly hoped no one would come and we’d be remembered as fools. But people showed up, all the way from Izmir and Edirne. We sold the photographs for 20 liras each, like market vendors, and had a lot of fun. So we decided to do another within the year. We actually provide an experiential space for the visitor, beyond just the works themselves. People are drawn to the experience. Yasin and I wanted to do something so ridiculous that it would be good. That’s how we came up with the idea of the coffee house.

YA: This is the spirit of Recently Deleted, and it will continue to be: something that comes up in conversation from time to time and materializes into a show.

So Contact is a nice continuation of your interest in space. You found a new way to create a location.

SB: Yes, I think it’s also an experiential atmosphere, that’s a common thread through our works and exhibits. We’ve never had shows at a traditional exhibition space. It’s a bit tooth and nail – the coffee house definitely was.

YA: The coffee house was like foraying into the world of politics.

SB: The marketplace was also crazy. We went there at midnight to try and get a booth – if it hadn’t worked, there wouldn’t be an exhibit to speak of.

In this way the space also becomes part of the exhibit. Was Contact your first virtual show?

YA: Yes. If we weren’t going through our current situation, Contact probably wouldn’t exist. We’d be going about our normal schedule. Now that we’re stuck at home, all of our plans changed, and the show was born from a crisis of needing to create something.

SB: Yasin is also very devoted to these matters. We probably have more than 10 projects that we’ve never gotten around to because of time and other restraints. Contact came up out of nowhere in the wake of COVID-19, and we put it together all in a week. Yasin and I started talking about it a day after we began practicing social distancing, trying to decide what to do with this time. It was done in a week. Yasin didn’t sleep for a week.

YA: I spoke to Piknik on Sunday, I told them to send me their works by Friday and we’d open the exhibit on Saturday.

You addressed a hunger that everyone, including your friends, is feeling during this time, a desire to create.

YA: One of the things that pushed me to do this was seeing lists on Twitter, “100 Books You Should Read” or “100 Boring Movies You Should Watch”, and feeling bad because I wasn’t doing anything. I got stressed and had the urge to make something on the fifth day. So we attacked.

SB: Even though we do a lot of work during the day, when we’re finished with our day jobs we still feel uneasy if we’re not busy with something. So we create these problems for ourselves.

YA: I can’t watch movies. Especially if they’re long, it feels like a waste of time. Yesterday, for example, I tried to watch a movie, it was so boring, I only wanted to know what happened, so I sped it up to the end and shut it off.

How did you brief the participating artists on the project? Are all the works digital, or were some material pieces that were rendered for the exhibit?

SB-YA: Piknik Works, Glennis, Asena Doğan, Yağmur Güçlü and Selin Çınar were already artists we admired, as well as our friends. When we decided to make Contact we immediately thought of them. We told them about the project and the theme, and asked them to make works that fit the concept without limiting their creativity. They made incredible pieces in a short time. We asked Yağmur to design a bottle of cologne for the entrance in addition to the work she submitted. Every piece was created digitally and exclusively for Contact.

Did you have experience with renders before Contact?

SB: Not at all, we took it day by day. Can it be done? It can be done. Then let’s do it!

YA: After the “maybe we can do it” comes the “I think it’s working”!

Do you have more time to focus on afterwork at the moment? What does your new routine look like?

YA: Our work schedule keeps going at the same pace from home. We’ve started working on something new for afterwork, like we did during Contact. We’re working on a music video.

SB: Animation clips. One of our friends is about to release a song, so we work on that at nights. It’s the night shift. We’re trying to transform the crisis into an opportunity. Our friends don’t invite us out, we’re home and at our computers. Since we’re here anyway, we might as well make something beautiful out of it.

Are you planning on another virtual show?

YA: We thought about it at first, but then changed our minds.

SB: We didn’t want to do the same thing again. We tried it, it works, it can be done, but we want to experiment more.

YA: Now that people see that it’s possible, we might see more online shows popping up.

SB: Yes, it’s possible. It’s an open practice, there’s nothing secret about it. People have reached out to us after the show to say that it inspired them to do this and that. It makes us happy. Anyone can do it. There’s only labor involved. We didn’t have a budget, or spend any money. Yasin, did the server cost money?

YA: I spent two dollars, to be honest.

SB: Other than that there’s no material burden, it’s just based on work, and zero budget.

YA: Two dollars.

Yasin, some may know you from your witty Instagram filters on your account @twenycrows. How did you start making them?

YA: Actually they were also born out of a period of boredom. I went on vacation with my family, and I had my laptop. I had no knowledge of AR at the time, so I would use my network provider’s internet to read up on it and start applying the ideas I had.

What’s the biggest difference in your lives been since the beginning of the crisis? It seems to have sparked your creativity.

YA: When I speak to people on the phone, I act like the situation really bothers me. But actually I can’t complain. I don’t have any internal problem. I think it’s because beforehand, due to my job, I used to spend a lot of time outdoors. Outside of sleep, I barely spent 10 hours of the week at home. Now, when I’m done with my day job, I don’t have to get on the ferry, I’m right where I need to be.

SB: I’m not very troubled by being at home. People who have to keep going to work suffer the most from this situation. We can be more comfortable because we’re working from home. So even if we don’t know what the future holds, if I’m here, I can keep making work. That makes me feel good.

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