The Hollows - Interview with Piril Gündüz by Luciana Pinchiero

NY, November 2016

Piril is originally from Izmir, “the westernmost point of Turkey, where the radio switches between Greek and Turkish,” and one of the most liberal towns in the country. She came to NYC for the first time in 2000, on a vacation with family and friends. Piril has always been wholly attracted to the city - its European style and its all-around liveliness, day and night. Starting her education in dance, she later attended undergraduate school in Economics while taking classes in Queer and Film Studies, and Fine Arts. After coming to the U.S., she attended The New School and completed a masters in Media Studies.

PG: Piril Gündüz / LP: Luciana Pinchiero

LP: What is The Hollows' mission?  How was The Hollows conceived? 

PG: The Hollows mission is simple, to create an easily accessible urban venue for risky ideas that we really care for. Risky in the sense that they’re not part of an artist’s ongoing series or style, with a long history (therefore not eligible for grants.) We’re proud of presenting these projects as we devote our time and resources to perfect the pieces as well as affording to be in the heart of Williamsburg. Risky pieces in the sense that they do not sound smart in the artist statements, but they sound brilliant! It has been great feedback so far. It was conceived with impatience, to create a venue for our artists, and for those who will gladly join along the way, without feeling the pressure to be found by a museum curator or a gallerist, and having to present ideas that truly matter to us, thought without the urgency to compete with other contemporary ideas or following certain tendencies.

LP: It is amazing and inspiring that you developed such a great project in NYC from scratch. Tell us about this process. How did you take it from idea to reality? What was the step by step? How were you able to make it financially viable?

PG: It has not been a very straightforward process. I was actively searching for a space since 2012. It took 2 years and 250 spaces to find our first townhouse. They even showed me the space at 285 Kent!  I also think of myself as a good chess player, with few but impactful steps. I do not work a lot but I do think a lot. One other thing -half joke, is that sometimes I stay and live at The Hollows, so there is no distinction between work and living, and no commute, maybe that saves sometime?

LP: How did The Hollows change since its inception in Bushwick to the new location in the heart of Williamsburg?

PG: First year, we opened with exhibitions; second year we introduced programming, this year we open with new events that are also production and participatory projects. The range of artists and visitors changed drastically. For” Electrique,” we had visitors who would knock on our door at midnight to stare at the works in the dark. It was magical to wander around the exhibition each time with the sparkled in the eyes of each new visitor.

LP: How many people work at the Hollows?

PG: At the moment we’re 4. Rita, Liza, Jon, and myself,  plus some great assistants . Rita is Residency & Exhibitions coordinator, Liza is taking over our development projects, Jon and I are also resident artists, and taking care of the Curatorial Department. 

LP: How many residents do you have per month / year?

PG: A lot! We can host 15 artists at a time.

LP: What is the selection process? Is there preference for any particular medium? 

PG: Our calls are ready a year ahead with specific themes, but we prefer people with projects for the nighttime, because we are not a gallery with business hours.

LP: We know you have a new studio structure now, and starting in November you will designate a medium to each floor. Can you tell us more about this decision/concept?

PG: In Bushwick we had only two floors. The layout of the space really dictates the nature of the pieces. In our new townhouse house we have five floors, and now we are dedicating more room to studio spaces, which means we are decreasing the number of bedrooms. I realized that this is very necessary because I noticed, for example Kathy who had her studio space in the basement, she would just enter The Hollows and go to her studio space, whereas for example I during the day would go through all of the rooms on the five floors, I realized my experience is different and so much colorful and inspiring compared to Kathy’s. So, yes, this project is allowed by the five floors building, but for us to use the space in more circulation. Basement for sound, ground floor for fashion, first floor for performance, second floor for plastic arts, third floor textual arts. These spaces won’t be bedrooms and will be public all week, and when there is an event, let’s say about text, then all artist can visit that studio. So the space will be in a way, less private, with more semi-public spaces for high circulation. This will reduce the bedroom amount to half. The exhibitions will then take place on front and back façades, the stairways, and studio spaces of volunteering participating artists.

LP: We have attended many shows at the Hollows, and we think that the idea of these events taking over the entire house is quite amazing. How often do you do them and what is the curatorial direction of the space?

PG: As I just mentioned, we are changing the structure, so the entire house won’t be necessarily available for each exhibition. However, the idea of using a house for exhibitions is very exciting, I’ve noticed some artists were mesmerized by their how pieces, because they couldn’t recognize them, because it’s amazing how light and space added to each piece formally, and also semantically. So, the idea of the house with already built-in fixtures really inspired to the curatorial team to decide that from now own we will only use stair and façades for exhibitions, but that doesn’t mean we won’t undertake the entire house for a project that inspires us. For example, in the past we had one-night event where there were multiple musicians and projections, and the curatorial proposal really changed the art piece. The piece was from Clara Claus, the title was Amble Timbre, for which the choreography was designed using light and sound, and visitors really didn’t know what to expect. At one point the music and light fully shut down, and the visitor heard a sound from second floor, where the light was switched up, so they walked and wander, following the light and the sound. Then for the third act, me and my co-curator and friend Marion, we were waiting behind the glass doors on the third’s act room, and slowly opened the door once the second act was done, so the visitors would flow into the next act, and it was great to hear people saying –Woooow! because they didn’t expect that. So, if there is a performance or an exhibition idea that requires special choreography we would be definitely glad to open the rooms.

I really don’t believe in the distinction of mediums and disciplines, but I do have artists that I try to work with. I am really interested and inspired by the concept of Rosalind Krauss “post-medium condition” which means that each piece integrates the intrinsic qualities of their medium and represents a unique breakthrough and an innovation in the medium. I also really like pieces that think about the visitor’s involvement, that are open and integrate the participation of the visitors.

I really like collaborations, and verbalizing things. The most nutritious thing about The Hollows is the team and the process of making the work in a team is inspiring to me. I would say something and another idea would pop up, it would take us to places that none of us had thought of. In the past I was with co-curator Marion Guirard, and it was truly great to work with her. Now, I am partnering with Jon Eckhaus who is also a resident artist in the basement, he used to be our neighbor in Bushwick, and he is a great musician.

The Hollows is different in the sense that is a living/work space. There aren’t many places, maybe just one more, that offer artists accommodation. Art spaces usually offer only studio space. We offer living and studio space, plus exhibitions. It’s the coolest place, it is so DIY but so serious at the same time! Amateur perfectionism. (Piril laughs)

LP: Does The Hollows have any public programming?

PG: Yes, now we are working on an interface or channel, so we can produce and publish our content not to physical visitors only.

LP: Through the Internet? Will it be live?

PG: Yes, though the Internet. It can be live, or archival. 

LP: We know that in the summer you have also had music and movie screening programs. Can you tell more about that? 

PG: “Eastyard” because our yard is in the back, and it faces the East, and we have great sun coming from that direction in the morning. The west, which is the front of the building, faces the street and is very hectic and crowded, specially on the weekends, but once you are in the back (east) is very Zen, sometimes it is unbelievable. The music sessions were really great, and the space felt like an institute. I really like the concept of the institute rather than University, let’s say, because it engages in more liberal thinking and less pedagogy. More than the summer events, it was the space that felt like an institute. During the events, I saw people reading their books, writing on their notebooks, and that was the truly highlight of the summer sessions. You can really come here, and you can find a corner where you are not only drinking wine of socializing, but you find a space to think and reflect, and hide if you need. There is always a place where you can be alone. Other people’s work really stimulates the mind. I realized I am mostly inspired when I am at a movie that is not so great. There is a current of material in front of my eyes, yet my mind is loosely attached to it, then I form a lot of ideas! It is almost like inverse of a dreamy state, writers attempted to reach in the past, like keeping a notebook by their nightstand

 LP: Do you collaborate with other institutions? If so, which and for what purpose? What are the institutions you admire, or you aspire to be like?

PG: I really enjoy the concept of institute. Like my high School American Collegiate Institute, or Pratt Institute - though I have only visited the campus. I really enjoyed being at the New School, with a small group of people. I also love organizations for well-being like spa or detox centers. It is in my mind to have as residents healing artists next year, and share their practice with the other residents and the visitors. Since we have the living aspect it makes sense that we’re not always showing fine or conceptual or critical arts but also arts of living. Philosophy of art here! Yes it would be a change of direction, but for one cycle, we want to try!

 You can meet Piril, the artists, and all the magical things they do at 151 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY. Or visit www.hollows.info

 

Piril's tips and favorites in the HOOD 
Williamsburg:
Bar: Soft Spot’s, they have a nice backyard, it’s great during the week, with 2 for 1 all week before 8pm. / Hotel Delmano for deep conversations
Restaurant:  Cafe Collette for the salmon bowl or Bozu for Sushi
Music:  Brooklyn Electonic Music Festival or Output. Also, I hope they opened Home Sweet Home in WIlliasmburg. Williamsburg totally needs it
Bushwick:
Bar: Happy Fun Hideaway or The Narrows
Restaurant:  Fitzcarraldo, is fancy.
Music:  Bossa Nova