This edition brings together the probing work of six Istanbul-based artists, showing how they negotiate and interact with the space which they inhabit – the rapidly expanding Turkish metropolis, conflicted and divided through the current complex urban and societal context and the significant recent changes that the city has been undergoing at one of the crossroads of global conflicts and migration. A storage system based on geolocation as a tribute to family memory; empty houses and the traces of human presence left behind; views of contemporary « flâneurs » in urban space, figuring the crisis; Signs of involvement of an artist fighting for individuality in the local and global art market or reactivating the picture archive of an environmental NGO. Various voices, multiple intensities. The range of practices of the six artists is diverse, yet united by a sense of cause, of individual commitment that permeates the works on show. Their artistic stances seem to be rooted and somehow guided by a physical reality and its components; the territory as the site of investigation, production and action (1). The six artists react and comment in and on their environment, sometimes with critical attitude, always with dedication to individuality, to the point that they dream and shape their own form of territory, getting closer to the broadest sense of existential geography. They are involved in defending their position as free thinkers, in a “poetic constantly renewed by the physical and imaginary territories of intimacy" (2).
Ali Taptik’s series The Drift features urban scapes, images captured in the constantly changing city. Infused with a deep sense of instability, Taptik’s works use architecture as well as the territory of the body to give abstract form to the notion of crisis, what the artist calls “the communicable disease of our times”. Responding in particular to the migrant crisis, Taptik proposes strategies of resistance in an urban context through his images of crumbling dilapidated buildings and partially obscured figures, creating his very own brand of street photography. Known for his reflective monochrome works, Yusuf Sevinçli shares a conceptual link with Taptik, capturing the city in moody black and white images. Sevincli responds to the environment that surrounds him, giving expression to intimate thoughts and feelings, walking in slow motion through the metropolis, as if to counteract the frenetic pace of the cities. He taps into urban space, catching the movement of birds in flight or capturing a soap bubble zooming on the buildings, formulating his own relationship to the territory he inhabits. The empty houses of photographer and post-internet artist Zeynep Beler speak volumes about her stance toward real estate politics in Turkey, the buildings, left unachieved, looking both mournful and striking in the bright daylight. Entitled The Estate, the series negotiates the vacant space of these structures, picking out details of ripped out pipes and the marks of torn out kitchen appliances. Life has left this territory even before it could arrive; yet all the traces of projected life are still there. New patterns appear on the wall, dust settles on the floor. Beler does not give an outright critique in these images, she merely shows the territory she finds through her lens. Bugra Erol’s lightbox takes on a larger territory, using slides from his time as a Greenpeace activist to create his work. Here we see social commitment turning into artistic conviction, one cause serving another. Bugra Erol shows territory upon territory, site upon site in his installations, shaping landscapes and urban scenes to form words, using his personal engagement in the ecological cause to serve his new purpose – a commitment to artistic forms of expression. Moving from a larger territory to a more intimate one, Seza Bali’s One Man Show is a series of letters containing business cards collected by her father who was a traveling salesman in Turkey. Spanning different cities and countries, the letters show the marks of wear and tear, the envelopes are partially ripped or moulded to the shape of the stack of cards arranged by country. Bali draws attention to her father’s unique archiving system, using a family anecdote to make a broader statement about how we classify geographical space – everyone has his own particular method of filing away information, often leading to political conflict on a more global level. A personal approach to art is also what characterises Joana Kohen’s practice, whose works show her fighting for her position as a female artist in Turkey and strongly engaging in the gender discourse – a conceptual territory as well as a political one. In her pieces Kohen specifically negotiates the socio-political environment she inhabits through time-based media.
(Text: Katja Taylor)
(1) Hou Hanrou, Istanbul, Passion, Joy, Fury, 2016; “...die experimentellen Aktivitäten der Kunst-Community Istanbuls nehmen Bezug auf das tägliche urbane Leben – Wohnungen, Häuser, Straßen etc. waren schon immer deren Orte der Produktion und Aktion.“
(2) Thierry Paquot, Qu’appelle-t-on un territoire?, in “Le territoire des philosophes”, 2009, Vom französischen übersetzt.
Artists: Ali Taptik , Bugra Erol, Joana Kohen, Seza Bali, Yusuf Sevincli, Zeynep Beler