Zilberman Gallery, Istanbul: Say What?

Say What?
14/01/2015 – 07/03/2015

Curator: Gülsen Bal and Walter Seidl

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The exhibition Say what? gathers a variety of artistic stances around the question of how to relate to the terms of community and belonging in light of the fact that the debates on the conditions of global capitalism affect different countries in different ways.

 

Even in its most basic form, the question raised by the exhibition title revolves around countless issues of subjecthood and subject positions raised by ideas such as exceptionalism, inclusion, exclusion, participation, and agency of various types.

 

The failure of history, coupled with a fading consciousness of personal interests, leads to representation under the umbrella of internationalism, reinforcing the familiar process that unfolds as a result of flogging the multiculturalist image of belonging to the “people of the world.” When it comes to artistic practices and their ability to lend voice to such concerns, the notion of belonging appears in myriad respects that go beyond the plurality of cultural territories, manifesting itself in specific and sometimes individual case studies. The exhibition Say What? presents a variety of artistic stances before the backdrop of significant historical and community-related contexts.

 

The works shown bear witness to how present day individuals have to claim a status of exceptionality in a seemingly globalised world, which unifies and separates subject positions and their possibilities with and from the issue of belonging at the same time.

 

In the manner of protest art, Santiago Sierra’s series of off-site 1000 Black Posters, a blackout of all placed advertising, extends through Istanbul’s streets from Beyoğlu to Galata, and from Cihangir to Tarlabaşı, referring to traces of past activism and showing the extent to which the public realm is ours to critically examine by using the most minimal of gestures.

 

The video work The Rights by Nada Prlja contains footage of children who read the “European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedom” as if there were in fact no protection of human rights and freedom, an act of taking a position as a reminder of cultural presumptions that set the limits of public rules of engagement. On the other hand, VALIE EXPORT’s work Body Politics relates to an anonymous and dull public atmosphere featuring only routine behavior and attempts to break up such typical everyday patterns with an ironic twist that positions counter-agents amidst the agents of an overarching social field.

 

Project Speak2Tweet by Heba Y. Amin examines the inner voice of revolution with which this project brings forth unique narratives and, in turn, connects them back to the physical realm. Project Speak2Tweet is both a research project and a growing archive of experimental films that utilizes Speak2Tweet messages prior to the fall of the Mubarak regime on February 11, 2011, juxtaposing them with abandoned structures that represent the long-lasting effects of a corrupt dictatorship.

 

In a different line of thinking, Uriel Orlow’s multimedia installation The Short and the Long of It focuses on an extraordinary episode that has all but disappeared from official histories: namely, the failed passage of fourteen international cargo ships through the Suez Canal on 5 June 1967. Caught in the outbreak of the war between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, the European ships were only able to leave the canal in June 1975, when it finally re-opened. While stranded in the Great Bitter Lake in the middle of the Suez Canal for eight years, the cold-war political allegiances of the crews from both sides of the iron curtain were dissolved and gave way to various forms of communal survival and the establishment of a social system.

 

*Image: Uriel Orlow, SWH_14, “The Short and the Long of It / Anatopism”

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