A ROOM WITHOUT A VIEW

A room without a view 2

A room wıthout a vıew 2

“For we are where we are not.” [1]

 

The Familiar Scenes of Melancholy

A ROOM WITHOUT A VIEW

Nostalgic elements figure heavily in Kezban Arca Batıbeki’s praxis, and cinematographic scenes, photonovels, records, magazines, statuettes, shiny objects, and glittering dresses all permeate the fabric of artistic production in terms of concepts such as subculture, cliché, kitsch, and pop. In her overall praxis from canvas paintings to photo-collages and from installations to short films, all ordinary-looking images turn into icons. Even though the artist uses images of consumer society and pop, she reshapes these images according to her own approach to painting and plasticity, lending a wide-ranging social context to her works. In this sense, the way she treats the ordinary is closer to sociology, history, and collective memory, rather than an aesthetic investigation. Batıbeki constructs her artistic discourse and the spiritual/philosophical background of her works by using the objects she collects/gathers. Every object found in the artist’s works are transformed as the shared equipment of socio-cultural memory and individual experience, and this process of transformation gives a transcendental aura to the ordinary. [2] In the final analysis, the work is not a rearrangement of coincidental elements, but the expression of formative ties between objects and experiences. For these objects offer the viewer a scene of symbols and allegories while creating a big mis-en-scène that keeps the artist’s memory in good shape.

In many of the works by Kezban Arca Batıbeki, the viewer seems to either secretly look inside through an opening or walk around in a film preview that is accompanied by familiar feelings.

Based on the artist’s personal memory, recollections, the cinema, in short, life itself, surrounded by loneliness, longings, dreams, and the melancholy of sorrow, and dealing with the internal and external siege against not only “woman” but this time the “individual”, A Room without a View is one of Batıbeki’s works that are loaded with sentimental relics. This installation, which is one of the most recent works of Batıbeki, can be viewed as an integrated work consisting of object-paintings in five panels, the re-production of these panels by photo-engraving, and a short film.

On the iconic level, the meaning inherent in the work carries the cultural memory of a certain period. The relics of the period known as “the Yeşilçam Cinema” can be seen in the details of the scenes that appear unquestionably in all these works. Clues of a content, dispersed in a multiplicity of layers, such as the upper and middle class urban life in the 1960s, the migration cities where urban and rural cultures clashed and deepened the divide between social classes, traditional society, family, the transformation of individual identity, and the change of women’s social role all encourage the viewer to take interest in the details. There are continuities of organization among the scenes in these five rooms. How time flows, how space is perceived, and how the relationship between objects within that space is positioned are determined through a sequential story. The details are not organized hierarchically, each piece that makes up the sum is treated equally, and no object is superior to any image.  Nonetheless, the vividly expressed atmosphere has a poetical language that contains metaphors, hidden references, and messages. The fact that the windows in Panel I and II are devoid of any function becomes immediately apparent. They are either closed or covered with curtains. The cassettes, statuettes, black-and-white photographs carrying traces of the past, color postcards reminding a distant memory, clocks that point to a suspended time, pictures of actors, seashells, and pearls – pieces of reality that are lined on the shelves of an old bedside cabinet seem to be frozen within a time capsule, with a worn-out wall paper as their backdrop. In Panel III and V, we see windowless rooms with no connection to the outside world. On the table one sees a book left there a minute ago, half a cup of coffee, and a cigarette butt, its smoke just dispersed. The bare floor, dark mirrors, and the feeling of brute emptiness that the frames standing against the wall give all create an eerie atmosphere. Panel IV is different from the others in that there is a room only recently and suddenly abandoned. There are traces of a circular rite in the room, with playing cards used for telling fortunes are scattered on the table. The symbols of loneliness are still legible in the coffee grounds left in the cup, in which hopes, expectations, and longings had been sought.

Each one of the “rooms without a view” is seen as replacements for lost love, heavy disillusionments or longing and hope. The predominant image that demands attention in these scenes is a “woman” who seems to belong to a world of fantasy/melancholy. Her existence is highly dubious, for she appears like a fleeting shadow in the room. The bodily gestures of the female image, reflected in the movements of the shadow, help to increase this psychic tension. The shadow-woman is like the enigmatic remnant of a faded past and/or a fantasy, and it is not clear whether she heals or destroys. For the most part, the shadow is defined as the expression of unreality[3], but it cannot be denied that it also offers proof of actually being there. Naturally, the shadow of an objective thing has to wait for light to emerge. Just as the shadow is proof of objective reality and existence, so too the woman in the Room without a View insists on making her existence known. The shadow woman takes refuge in an involvement that both discloses her and creates the essence of her secret. Our gaze wanders on the uncertainty of the woman’s existence. We do not see her; rather, we with her or from her point of view. The transient consistency of the shadow simultaneously desires both disclosure and secrecy. What the shadow seen in Batıbeki’s compositions registers are traces, remnants, and the echoes of the past.

It is said that space more than time is effective in rekindling memory. A significant part of memory and recollections take refuge in space. One of the psychological diagrams guiding writers and poets, the house/room is like a shell offering protection against heavenly and spiritual storms. Time comes into existence in a compressed way in the house/room[4]. Batıbeki does some of the footwork for the viewer in bringing these rooms to life, and even our most personal memories can settle down here. Everything seems to be frozen in these rooms, where silence reigns, having inhaled time. The time we see in these rooms folds unto itself, for “the past is and old future and a present that has just occurred.” [5] The panels are dominated by a circular time and a spiral movement. Even though each scene creates the impression of viewing a different place, they create a totality where each of them is equivalent. In this type of paratactical order, each piece and element is situated on its own, and is equivalent to all else. The fact that the narrative that emerges in these panels can expand to include the engravings and the short film reinforces the unity of the work. Batıbeki’s short film Ah Belinda also becomes part of this unified work with its masterful narration and different cinematographic experimentation, building links with the eponymous film made in 1986 by Atıf Yılmaz Batıbeki, one of the leading directors of Turkish cinema. In this film, Atıf Yılmaz, who depicts stories about women in his unique style, tells the story of a woman’s life that is suddenly upset. A liberated woman finds herself strangely transformed into the ordinary housewife she plays in a commercial. Kezban Arca Batıbeki uses the narrative structure and the scenes of Ah Belinda to a great extent, but places a gay character at the center of the story instead of the woman. The artist discusses gender and the issue of sex in terms of a marginal identity perception, using concepts such as the fragility of traditional roles, reality and fiction, drama and irony, alienation and delusion. For a character that finds himself transformed into a traditional father figure, this incredible delusion may be even more painful, traumatic, and jarring.

Night Drive 2

Night Drive 2

Badiou sees art as a formal structure that creates reality. [6] Hence, a work of art can state a personal or social reality or point to an event, an object or a living creature and discuss the reality pertaining to them. In this sense, Batıbeki’s work is first and foremost the expression of a person’s reflexive self-perception, but it also emphasizes the traces of a plural memory. These scenes, arranged by the artist who juxtaposes images and objects, are the product of a thinking/imagining process and they seem to be eager to leave meaning open to interpretation, without setting fixed boundaries. The meaning that emerges from these scenes can be summarized by P. Crowther’s statement about how art leads to a broad cognitive richness: “Starting with the frame and moving within the visual space that has been created as an illusion is very important for mental actions and for a better understanding of the world.” [7] In Batıbeki’s “rooms without a view,” one’s attention moves from form to the inexpressible dimensions of experience and memory. The viewer comes away from these rooms with a tidal sedimentation or even a side effect. This effect is sometimes peace and nostalgia, and sometimes uneasiness and a heavy melancholy. The view missing from these rooms are within us. This view emerges in the echo created in our body by the depth before our eyes.

Derya Yücel

Istanbul, March 2014

[1] Pierre-Jean Jouve, Lyrique, p.59, in Gaston Bachelard, Mekanın Poetikası, trans. Aykut Derman. Istanbul: Kesit, 1996, p. 225.

[2] Arthur C. Danto, “Sanatın Sonundan Sonra”, Istanbul: Ayrıntı, 2010, p.164-165.

[3] Önay Sözer, “Işığın Metafiziğinden Gölgenin Estetiğine”, Sanat Dünyamız, Istanbul: YKY, 2000, no. 77, p.171.

[4] Gaston Bachelard, Mekanın Poetikası, trans. Aykut Derman. Istanbul: Kesit. 1996, p. 34-37.

[5] M. Merleau-Ponty (1945:48) in Jale Nejdet Erzen, Çoğul Estetik, Istanbul: Metis, 2012, p.58.

[6] Alain Badiou, Başka Bir Estetik: Sanatçılar için küçük bir kılavuz, trans. Aziz Ufuk Kılıç. Istanbul: Metis, 2010.

[7] Paul Crowther, Phenomenology of the Visual Arts, Stanford: 2009.

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