A.CemŞahin, ‘ımproper garden meetIng 3’, lINOL PRINT COLLAGE, 190×150 CM, 2017

Here are a lot of incidents to you and a question*

You are entering from a door and there are stained and fragmented papers in front of you. Doesn’t is sound like a dream? The venue organised at ALAN İstanbul for A.Cem Şahin produces this feeling. Like the personal experience of dreaming, the exhibition must be visited alone and the papers must be observed quietly in solitude.

No crowd needed, we already encounter with enough bodies and their stories. No need for a sound or a word, both the works and their names are shouting at the top of their voices anyway.

One unavoidably wonders about not the absolute wholeness of the presented works but their sketchy conditions. All the traces, the signs are in front of us. We can visualize the fume of the cigarette he smoked, the smell of it, the sound of his footsteps while strolling around along with the moment the work is done.

It is understood from the expressions right next to the works attached to the wall with the nails push us aside that we are in the era of Foucault, who declared the reign of the language, as though the mimetic activity of the linoleum prints do not speak enough with us. That is, you passed through the threshold, while your eyes locked were locked on to the scraps, someone whispers: “ uncertainties of a denied love…” Which one is more attractive? The word or the work? Obviously you are not ready… It is just that you have come to an exhibition. To the exhibition of A. Cem Şahin’s latest works ‘Pressure’ at ALAN İstanbul.

While visiting the venue, the words such as dissident, denial, external, dispersal and blind falling on the floor from those talkative titles. It seems that the personal history of a man who did these works are unveiled against the odds like a ripeness, an absence. What did Benjamin say in his ‘Thesis on the Philosophy of History’?  Whether it is personal or public, historicist always write about the made, successes, the ones who claim their wholeness and absoluteness. However, history should include other things as well. It should include the untold, the unmade, the shortcomings, the wrongs that make the real life for the likes of us. Our goal must be not to curse and mourn when looking at history but instead to see the potentials of not-happened, feed the present with such potentials by impeding that history’s end while calling it to the present and to expand the apprehension of future. Though personal, the lint of the past must be combed backwards; the unnamed, the missing, the absent must be remembered. Here, we witness a messianic remembrance thanks to an artistic act.


Şahin seems like that he had kept a diary by his works. When strolling around the works we see the personal ruzname* notes of a man who is under the pressure of the century and the geography in which we live. These notes appear sometimes as a pair of eyes, sometimes as a fence and sometimes as an image of a fardel. Each unit of teared and re-attached image portrays the one element of the confusion of a man walking everyday on the pavements without separating the one from the other.

Even though I keep dreaming about how Şahin creates the works, I also had a chance to talk to him about his works. I understand that how hopeful he is among these mixed-heads, black

and white images, scraps and prints. The notes in his ruzname are not singular and lonesome, they are also transcendent with the alternate states of the dialectic existence of life. During the conversation, he bursted out “… yes, maybe you cannot see the reflection you want to see but see something else” about a blind mirror that is among the aforementioned images. The simple and the full hope brought about the possibility of diversity. The potential enthusiasms of an imagination that is hidden in the past tense of a diary. Who knows what the voices of the nonexistent, which appeals to us or just to Şahin, will carry to future? What do yesterday’s contradictions, denials, wrongs and extraneous ones accomplish today? When Bloch says “It is me. But still I don’t own myself. We still don’t know how we will be and there is still a lot missing”, he completely defined hope with deficiency. The experiences flowing during the realities of everyday life, the losses, the setbacks and the pure hope generated by resistance that will affiliate us with the realm.


Then, he talked about his desire, his desire to express himself, erotic desire and his desire to catch the other, how he managed to create his works as quick as a flash. He said that initially, the figure appears as the representation of the other and the rest comes by itself. And he added; however I am still the master not that figure. This dichotomy between the I and the other and dilemma between the I as a subject and oneself unavoidably echo Ricoeur. While he contemplates on the ways in which we are affected by narration in our personal histories, Ricoeur emphasises how the expression of oneself as a subject, that is to say self-narration, transforms one into a subject as him/herself.  Similarly, while the ‘I’ encounters with a narration/ a work, the personal history of that ‘I’ becomes self narration fed by the time as a result of reflections. These dual stances and changes emerge both by Şahin’s transforming himself as a free agent when he finishes a work and  my transformation as a result of seeing the narrations/works at Alan İstanbul. Whether it is a self narration or a narration of an other, the mediatory structure of the narration/works follows a magical  route moving from person to narration, from narration to person and from person to person. Though it is not anybody’s imagination, the long survival of these works, which are done as quickly as a flash, in the course of their journey and their effective circulation in the world of expression are  the expected and observable motions.

Zeitgeist hides both the existent and nonexistent. The things nonexistent in the narration and the things missing also stay in front of us just like we perceive existence. This is seen with all its duality when we read the old pages of a diary. The things existent-nonexistent, complete-incomplete, insiders-outsiders, rights-wrongs…. With his loud voice of narration, Şahin both emphasises the images of existent with dark ink strokes and puts them into words by underlining with the melancholic spirit of the nonexistent. This exhibition experience as a representation of a dream world in the white cube may be the mediator between person and his/her visual and verbal expressions. Right around the corner, at Asmalı Mescit Caddesi, number Five. This experience is an experience that everybody can make his/her own distinctive entry into his/her ruzname, which may possibly be seen this way or the other way.


Brecht- The Threepenny Opera

* calendar (Persian)

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