That coverage will be readable more clearly by the deep interconnection between the works of six artists; Ardan Özmenoğlu, Ayline Olukman, Bahar Oganer, Halil Vurucuoğlu, İrfan Önürmen and Murat Pulat. ALAN İstanbul, in its Main Exhibition Venue, will give a chance the audience to percept the works of these six artists who create the most efficient visual language of last years.
6 Turkish artists who come to the forefront in contemporary arts with their highly esthetically visual works with the curatory of Efe Korkut Kurt. The exhibition takes its shape within the context of “imagery” that one of the most important topics of contemporary arts, effects and strength of imagery on our daily life, its production by contemporary arts’ instruments and its reproduction. While the daily life is being seized by consuming-based economics, popular culture’s fast consumed codes are being got into circulation by arts. And the visuality which seems being free of this ideology, establishes a coverage in which that ideology being reproduced.
“’Ideology’ can designate anything from a contemplative attitude that misrecognizes its dependence on social reality to an action-orientated set of beliefs, from the indispensable medium in which individuals live out their relations to a social structure to false ideas which legitimate a dominant political power. It seems to pop up precisely when we attempt to avoid it, while it fails to appear where one would clearly expect it to dwell.”
Slavoj Žižek – The Spectre of Ideology
The previous century witnessed the nourishment and reinforcement of the dominant system by the counter-cultural production. The process through which this oppositional relationship collapsed was defined as a post-ideological world. This was accompanied with somewhat ironic theses of the end-of-history. Was capitalism a roly-poly toy that absorbs all political and cultural institutions in the superstructure with a tendency to resist capitalism? While posters of Che and flags of the Soviet Union became t-shirt designs, was artistic production being reduced to a visual entertainment financed by capital?
In a world where art biennials are sponsored by big capital, the power and dominance of commercial art fairs is increasing and auction houses play a determining role, the criticism that art has been losing its ongoing social role since the Renaissance has been in discussion for a long time. The comments that art has been transformed into a trading-investment instrument or wall ornaments for the bourgeoisie are being articulated feverishly during the late-capitalist era. New avant-garde movements from 1960s to 2010s, accompanying these pessimistic questions, which reduced art to an ethical platform, were joined by the trend of adopting a disdainful approach towards aesthetics and the diachronic establishment of this attitude as a new aesthetic regime. In other words, contemporary art has become what it was intended to be the opposite of.
On the other hand, during the same process, art has rediscovered its real power at the very place where it had lost it: in the image. Even the hopeful role of art, envisioned by the pessimist thinker Adorno, starts right here. This exhibition aims to emphasize the ideology of images today as images of ideology have become void. The exhibition also implies the necessity to face the ineffable power and reality of the image again; a power and reality that does not accommodate negation and cynicism and avoids rigid rational formulas. In this context, it features a selection of works by contemporary artists renowned for their powerful and influential imagery. Works by contributing artists present a totality, not on the level of discourse, but within the context of contemporary aesthetics. This is the exact moment ideology reveals itself.
Merve Ünsal: Your production cannot be differentiated from the act of collecting in many respects in your works where you assemble photographs, and in a broader sense images, from different sources. Can you talk about how you transform the act of collecting as an artist?
Metehan Özcan: I am interested in the visualization of technical know-how or a fictional story and the transformation of this into a method of learning. Publications which served as sources of information for our generation (textbooks, encyclopedias, dictionaries, periodicals such as newspapers-magazines and even calendars), clarifying or obfuscating many things we were curious about, with definitions and illustrations, have become nearly dysfunctional today. Objects, identities and different states of existence. For example, Elele magazine had published birth photographs in its first issue, featuring uncensored and explicit images depicting the moment of birth (the magazine, which was published under the management of Çetin Emeç, positioned itself as “the magazine of young parents from the wedding table to pregnancy, and children from the cradle to puberty.”) Other examples that spring to mind at once: “What-How-Why Series”, providing answers to existentialist questions, reminiscent of elementary school social studies lessons; Home/Decoration magazines, exposing other homes and other lives to us; “The Encyclopedia of My Wife & Me”, in which we examined body diagrams; porn magazines which we found while secretly rummaging through drawers at our house, displaying the same bodies in a much different sense; and Chef Necip’s cookbook, flaunting photographs of dead animals prepared for eating. These photographs and images, printed before the wide scale rise of digital media and the consequent proliferation of images, served as “references” that were viewed time and again, due to their relative scarcity and durability. Looking at an atlas before learning how to read and write was different from looking at the same atlas at elementary school or junior high school. As time passes, not only does one change, but also borders and our relationship with objects and places do not remain the same.
In 2010, at the Vacuum exhibition, I displayed abandoned indoor spaces and objects in conjunction with each other. The first works from the Illustrated Information series that I shared at the Editions exhibition held at the Elipsis Gallery last year were comprised of spatial triptychs. Suffice to say, my first attempts for this exhibition started with the question of “what would happen if I were to communicate with the photographs I collected in time instead of simply saving them?”
I was printing images I took or found, at the same dimensions, and establishing different juxtapositions, and I was creating stories without an author by dissolving myself in them. However, I then noticed that I was behaving very restrictive in terms of form. So, I started to look for ways of combining and mixing images on pages that already had photographs printed on them. I set aside this project after a few unsuccessful attempts, but it was reignited as a result of our dialog with Orhan Cem Çetin and his series, Openers, displayed as part of his Reality Terror exhibition. (Çetin printed photographs of houses with shuttered windows he took in the South East on pages containing militarist texts.).
The pages I have printed photographs on and displayed at this exhibition are from reference books published between 1930-1960, the heyday of the Modernist design approach. At times they include projects with a specific designer, and at others different anonymous indoor projects (Architect’s House, Photographer’s Studio or Guest Room, etc). When I transfer daily objects, randomly collected portraits and photographs of spaces I took onto these idealized statements and representations, purity is shattered and the resulting confusion brings about new subjectivities.
M.Ü: In all your works at the exhibition, even though the drive to collect and the drive to compile merge with each other, it is possible to classify the works into groups. Both in terms of source materials and the state they come into existence. Can you expand on the methods and differences in your works after the Illustrated Encyclopedia?
M.Ö: The starting point of the exhibition is the Illustrated Information series displayed in Editions in 2012, after which the exhibition was named after. I had produced works that were comprised of objects and spaces with reference to the way a child who does not know the alphabet makes sense of the unfamiliar series of letters in an encyclopedia, a method that is contrast to the method of alphabetic juxtaposition. This was followed by the A series for which I printed photographs I collected or took, on book pages containing spatial representations and architectural projects. The resulting confusion, that is not knowing which images were already printed on the page beforehand and which images were added afterwards, is a deliberate decision. The B series, which I have produced by juxtaposing experiences about the contradiction of indoors-outdoors with representations and personal photographs, was composed of multi-fragments overlapping on each other. Finally the C series, comprised of 78 equidistantly placed photographs, were representations of space I took as if I was returning to my initial starting point. This series included frames of public spaces ingrained in the collective memory, such as schools, hospitals, banks, mass housing, etc. Although there is a tight layout here, there is fragmentation instead of adjacency. Many frames depicting the same space are scattered around. Various derivatives of the houses built by the Cooperative of Central Bank Houses in Ankara, the abandoned state of the Noyan Apartment in Erenköy and the empty space formed in its place after its demolition; filled and empty states of the Youth Park whose memory was refreshed with the water; the expunged murals of the Greek Elementary School which were painted over for the Design Biennial with white paint; the mansion of Edouard Huguenin who started working as the Assistant Director of Baghdad Railroads in 1908 and the Haydarpaşa Terminal which was his workplace that he commuted to every morning. Their annihilation impacts not only personal memories but also collective norms and meanings. Such a large-scale demolition makes me feel like it is a shame to pronounce the names of these buildings and to mythologize them in this interview. For example, the silos next to the Haydarpaşa Terminal are as important for me as the terminal itself. And what is this nostalgia for that is experienced before the actual demolition?
I have not torn any of my photographs until now. I have refused to print photographs that I did not like or was ashamed of; if they were printed, I hid them in places nobody could find. Who knows, maybe this stems from my naive belief in the sanctity of printed photographs. This might explain my horror when I first saw Lara’s work, ‘A Series of Reactions.’
‘A Series of Reactions’ is based on eight seemingly unrelated found photographs that Lara came upon on the same day. Almost all the photographs have attempted to document different people; some at dinner receptions, some walking in nature. The photograph that ‘disrupts’ the series focuses on a huge building; the structure is reflected on the lake by its side. The common element that makes a series out of the images has to do with form: it is based not on dates or themes, but on the fact that a part of each photograph has been carefully torn or cut out.
As someone who does not modify printed photographs in the least, I can only hypothesize about people who tear photographs. I think that someone with scissors probably may have wanted to remove a piece of information visible on the photograph. Maybe the aim was to erase an unwanted person from memory. Or it was to relieve the photograph of ‘unnecessary’ details, to – supposedly – perfect it. All the possibilities that come to my mind point to a break, a discontinuity in memory. Lara places the found images on white paper in a naked manner and attaches a drawing she has created especially for each photograph. It would be incorrect to say that this abstract commentary attempts to overcome the loss of memory achieved by a simple tear. These drawings do not strive to decipher and to fill a deficiency. On the contrary, they strive to improve or possibly personalize the ‘impaired’ images.
Lara’s flirtation with found photographs is not peculiar to ‘A Series of Reactions.’ The artist finds newspapers, magazines, photographs from second-hand stores and modifies them in many ways: She collages photographs by placing them on top of each other, ‘completes’ images with her own drawings or with photographs or places text in cut-out parts. These images, with which I came into contact while living among the notebooks and folders in Lara’s studio, have not been put into frames to make them ‘unique.’ The works pinned on black panes give the feel that they can be removed and changed at any moment; when series of photographs are laid out side by side, they create stories that are as vulnerable to modification as they are fragile.
It could be argued that the format of exhibiting on black panes alludes to the uncompleted ‘Mnemosyne Atlas’ project of visual historian Aby Warburg. Five years before his death in 1929, Warburg began copying images from books, newspapers and daily life and grouping them by familial kinships and fresh familiarities according to his personal interpretation. This work stood out with the way he exhibited these thematic clusters. Lara does not aim to jolt the linearity of art history or break its own logic in a Warburgesque manner; her relationship with the images is much more personal. But she has a fixation similar to that of the German researcher: Avoiding to create ‘new’ images, she constantly collects and matches found images and her interest in creating new stories by juxtaposing them is exactly how they are related.
At first glance, the works in ‘1+1=3’ which emerge from found photographs or texts might point to a detached search. At the end of the day, lack of a caption or an owner makes it easier to look at the private moments in the photographs, from a safe distance. However, in this day and age when photographs are not printed as souvenirs or collected as objects, in order to involve these abandoned and unwanted photographs in new stories, it is necessary both to personalize them and to associate them with other images. By trying to appropriate these images with no ownership, Lara continues to elaborate on this need and to scrutinize her own practice.
Sevil Tunaboylu’s “I Watched It As It Disappeared on the Horizon” – Zeyno Pekünlü’s “Osman Killed Me” titled individual exhibitions are simultaneously at Sanatorium:
Sevil Tunaboylu and Zeyno Pekünlü’s new individual exhibitions; “I Watched It As It Disappeared on the Horizon” and “Osman Killed Me” will be mounted simultaneously and welcome artlovers at Sanatorium. The exhibitions that will be open for visits between 11th of December and 12th of January, addresses the common identities and discourses in Turkish society. The exhibition opens the reflections of womanhood, manhood, citizenship and nationality to question and analyzes these notions from different perspectives using various media tools.
In her exhibition, “I Watched It As It Disappeared on the Horizon”, Sevil Tunaboylu shares the process of reaching definitions of masculinty and femininity within the domestic settings and society at large, beginning from her personal life. From the way the artist approaches the subject, its possible to recognise the encounters between her memories of daily, family life that have been burried in her memory and her current identity. During this encounter, memory serves the purpose of contrasting the mature individual’s present attitudes, while, at the same time, retaining the qualities of recollection.
Zeyno Pekünlü’s personal exhibition, named after Osman F. Seden’s 1963 dated movie; “Osman Killed Me”, mostly consists of video works that reorganize familiar images, symbols, sounds and texts that we grew accostumed to come accross, see and hear; from national anthem to Yeşilçam melodramas. By reversing the social function of these materials, the works leave the viewer in a state of temporary confusion and alienation. Thus, by connecting the processes of domination mechanisms that appear independent from each other such as; nationality, militarism and patriarchy, her work seeks to open a critical space.