I KNOW WHAT YOU DID BEFORE
I would like to express my observations about the exhibition titled “What Do You Know About Me?”, a sub-segment of “Portable Art” – one of the projects of Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture. Opened right before our art world took its summer break, the exhibition is held in Ümraniye, the fifth stop on its route. Giving her opening speech for the exhibition Ms. Beral Madra underlined the two basic points the exhibition focuses on: a) designing the Works displayed in new expression forms such as video, video-installation and b) aiming to bring art to public, rather than taking public to art. As for the first purpose, all of the works are displayed with different techniques: interactive installation, installation, photo-installation,video-installation, video, interactive works, painting and photography works. The second point needs a more detailed assessment, since it is profound enough to be reviewed in a whole new article.
First of all, Ümraniye Atakent Cultural Center is not a suitable place for an exhibition, especially for such an exposition requiring different compartments and artwork-dependent display sections. It is impossible to overlook this palpable fact, despite all the goodwill one may have. Moreover, due to the lack of/insufficient
time allocated for sound scheme Gülçin Aksoy’s work titled “Marriage Zone”, its sound was overriding the other works – an evident fact noticed with the very first step into the hall. This matter was in fact less likely to create a problem among artists, since it is not the first time these artists are exhibiting their works together. However, I believe that it was a matter of concern since there was a risk of –potentially – “leading the exhibition visitor to that work”. Right at the entrance of the hall, we find İnsel İnal, with his interactive installation work titled “Create Your Own City” dated 2008. In this work constructed with ceramic pieces of toy blocks, attention is drawn to “creative destruction” – trivializing or demolishing the “past/former entities”, which are symbolized with a metropolis built with fragile materials – with the aim of paving the way for reconstruction. The attendant interacting with the study starts to build his/ her own construction the moment he/she starts playing with the toy blocks. It is seen that İnsel İnal prefers developing a production strategy based on interacting attendants, visitors or receivers who would build a relation/interact with the work, rather than addressing to passive readers or audiences focused on by the “intermedia” art movements (fluxus, happenings, performance art etc.) of the ‘60s. (In 1998 Nicolas Bourriaud developed these productions with “relational aesthetics” concept as a reading for the artistic productions of ‘90s, yet this comprehensive work falls short in making a much deeper analysis of the importance of Fluxus). In her work titled “Mend Peace” displayed in “Open City” exhibition in 2007 at Sabancı Kasa Gallery, Yoko Ono proposed having the viewers recollect these trivialized entities. She asked the audience to adhere the broken ceramics pieces –an idea exactly echoing İnal’s point.
Gülçin Aksoy’s work titled “Marriage Zone” touches a repeatedly interpreted matter –that marriage is nothing more than a commercial contract. With respect to method – This videoinstallation is in line with Ergin Çavusoğlu’s recent work “Quintet without Borders” exhibited in November 2007 in Sofia. Like Çavusoğlu’s work, if Aksoy’s work could have been displayed in a dark room, it could have had a higher impact. Yet, even this would not affect its over-expressionistic character. The artist’s other work titled “Minibus Route” is comprised of photos taken from a moving vehicle (or creating this impression) and a small model minibus. In terms of methodology, the two works of the artist standing side by side are creating a contradiction. Being so plain yet having maximal dose of irony, “Minibus Route” sends reference İnsel İnal’s work, more than it associates the artist’s second work. Deniz Aygün’s “Super Mother” video, is a videobiography reflecting a routine experience of a new mother, Yeşim (Özsoy Gülan), a theatre director. In “Night Drawings”, the young mother draws a line on a piece of paper every time she wakes up when her baby cries. Here, a personal experience is presented in an artistic format. However, I sincerely believe that the record “it is understood that this was not much different than the abstract paintings by painters”, which we find in the brochure for the third leg of the exhibition, sounds overstated – in terms of history and tools. The study titled “When My Baby Cries” can be categorized as an interactive work, for its invitation for learning what mothers do. The Tuzla panorama is one of the attention-drawing works of the exhibition. Again it touches a matter frequently dealt with: “you can draw what you feel”.
In her work titled “Arife”, Evrim Kavcar presents an animation and some supporting designs. of an old lady crushing thyme. The work, which questions “manufacturing and feeling the act of manufacturing” during production process, makes reference to production and alienation to production. In her work titled “My hand, whose hand is over my hand?” the “hierarchic order” of the society is reflected. There are “hand” formed cloths in different sizes. Each hand is placed over another. The attendant/receiver is free to place whichever hand on top/beneath the other. This way, any attendant can start a “syntagmatic” or “paradigmatic” change, to the extent allowed by Kavcar. Moreover, having full power, you can take one of the hands out of the pile – leave it of the game (thus, out of the system). Çiğdem Kaya’s work, where she encourages the viewer to “draw a straight line and put a mark on this line” can be seen as a clue to collect
different experiences. In the end, this work will serve as a data base collected through portable art (or various other exhibitions) – just like Yoko Ono’s work titled “Wish Tree” displayed in 2007 exhibition. I don’t want to comment on “Çiğdem Through the Eyes of Evrim” – Çiğdem Kaya’s photo taken by her friend Evrim Kavcar while they were preparing their works for an exhibition. This work deserves to be evaluated by a photography critique. Nevertheless, I cannot help asking “Who couldn’t have taken this photo?” as a respond to the statement “Only Evrim could have taken this photo” we find in the brochure of the 2008 leg of the exhibition.
Along with Evrim Kavcar’s photo, Raziye Kubat’s works are some of the rare works of the exhibition made of traditional materials. Her series “A Room of One’s Own” dated 2005 presents a meaning attribution to the person in the place he/she resides in under different circumstances. This work is very important as it underlines the importance of contextuality, while it points to various experiences felt both personally and as a society. Furthermore, I believe that, in the context of this exhibition, this work trivializes – in a positive way – the everlasting shallow discussion topic: “installation /video maker vs. painter”. You should use the tool, which enables you Express your feelings most accurately. In other words, being able to create a “paradigmatic” change is much more important that using technology or other novel methods. At this point, we can argue that the importance of novelty does not lie in backing the novelties, which are about to get “institutionalized”. We can also conclude that novelty is the “meta-morphosis” itself –regardless of the material used. In conclusion – frankly speaking, I could not discuss some of the works –, as a project, the exhibition reached to the targeted audience. We should monitor the visitor population and the reactions given/to be given to the exhibition until its completion. It is evident that the works of the artists, whom I discussed here – trying to give references to each – and gave tiny clues about, deserve a deeper analysis and assessment with a wider perspective.
Gençsanat Dergisi July-August 2009, p. 32-37. (Same article published in the catalogue of Portable Art: 2009, a Project held by Visual Arts Directorate – Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture Agency, pp. 76 – 78).