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The Tempo of Time: a Review of Cevdet Erek at Spike Island

Alt Üst is Turkish artist Cevdet Erek’s first solo exhibition in the UK. Using the exhibition space as his departure point, he combines measurements of space, time and tempo to explore how we perceive the world around us. Alt Üst is Turkish for below/above.

On entering the exhibition space you are immediately confronted with a slow, thumping bass sound, layered with another insistent rhythm, this one quicker than the last. Already the intensity feels almost ominous. The first works Ruler and Rhythm Studies (2007-2011) act as physical representations of time – marking dates in the place of centimetres. The chronological movement of time is what is particularly highlighted, with some of the ruler timelines projecting forward beyond 2014 (a particularly alarming example being Ruler Now – End (2011), which plays on fears that our time is running out). However, not all the representations are linear and Circular Week Ruler (2011) brings us back to the repetitive loop that is the passing of time, echoed by the repetitive, trance-like music.

In Alt, absorbing the bass.

Studio (2007), a short, looped video of Erek attempting to tap out a rhythm with his fingers, is projected at the end of a corridor, which hosts a series of directional speakers. These emit different rhythms at varying tempos and this, along with the incessant tapping on its short loop, sets you on edge. At this point, you can break off from the corridor into a dark, low-ceiling room, Alt, where the bass feels emphasised – a 4/4 beat reminiscent of a Berlin club night. Day (2012), a series of blue LED lights, flashes across the ceiling. Each bulb represents one minute – another constant reminder of the passing of time. The downstairs space reaches its climax with Week (2012), a stack of speakers emitting the slow, regulated drone ‘Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, day, day, day, day…’ This makes clear the arbitrary nature of the way in which we label time and its inescapable monotony – bringing you to the brink of an existential crisis.

A ramp wraps itself around the central section of the exhibition. You ascend it, all the while battered by the bass, the rhythms, the ‘day, day, day’, but, on reaching the top of the ramp, the onslaught is suddenly lifted and you find yourself in a sort of bliss: Üst, a large, un-adorned, white space flooded with natural light from the windowed ceiling. The bass and rhythms are still very much palpable and reverberate beneath you, like a heart beat. There is an awareness that time is inevitably continuing, always moving, but you are now outside it, in control of it, and time no longer feels oppressive in the light, calming space.

You can visit Alt Üst at Spike Island until 20th April 2014.

Free exhibition tour: Saturday 12th April, 2pm.


Originally from Bedford, now in Bristol studying French and Italian (with a bit of Czech on the side). Galleries and light exercise by day, Agora by night.
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