Gökcan Demirkazık

  • picks October 19, 2018

    Heavenly Beings: Neither Human nor Animal

    “An underground kingdom that was considered hell is even a special department within the museum,” wrote the Russian Cosmist Nikolai Fedorov in 1906. One interpretation of this department is currently on display in this exhibition, fully equipped with well-known footage of a chained performance artist incarnating a feral dog (Oleg Kulik, Dog House, 1996) and a video of an audience voting on the death of a chicken (Janez Janša, Pupilija, Papa Pupilo and the Pupilceks—Reconstruction, spectator's vote, 2006). The works are united in their collective assault against “nature”—which the Slovenian poet

  • picks March 12, 2018

    Francis Alÿs

    A cryptic question appears in one of Francis Alÿs’s many studies for Tornado, 2000–10: “What relationship can one build with a tornado?” The words “pure present,” hastily scribbled underneath, are far from a full-fledged response but offer an important clue for understanding the microcosm that is the artist’s first solo exhibition in Lebanon. Above all, the phrase suggests an unadulterated sense of being in the moment, the pursuit of a self momentarily yet perfectly suspended, or, in the words of art historian Michael Fried, the “primacy of absorption.”

    To what end does (self-)absorption function

  • picks February 20, 2018

    Khalil Rabah

    Despite swelling regional unrest and economic stagnation, the museum boom of the former capital of Arab letters lingers on with Khalil Rabah’s Broodthaersian fictional enterprise, “The Palestinian Museum of Natural History and Humankind,” 1995–. For its most comprehensive presentation in Beirut, the museum debuts a new installation within the Anthropology Department, in addition to bringing together new and old works in all four wings.

    Rabah’s project has long moved on from being a tongue-in-cheek museological intervention aimed at introducing a voice and narrative for compatriots who lacked such

  • picks October 30, 2017

    Jasmina Cibic

    Jasmina Cibic’s work resembles a private eye’s attempt to re-create a crime scene in order to arrive at its punctum—a tell-all feature that pricks in the Barthesian fashion. To this end, she does not actually blend fact and fiction but instead transposes historically and formally related realities.

    In the video The Pavilion, 2015, performers restage Dragiša Brašovan’s razzle-dazzle Yugoslavian pavilion from the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition with scaled modular blocks, taking cues from the site plan and the few extant archival photographs of the grand undertaking. For the interior,

  • picks September 25, 2017

    “Singular/Plural: Collaborations in the Post-Pop-Polit-Arena”

    Sigmar Polke was once a beautiful mermaid with a tail made of snakeskin-patterned fabric. In a photograph by Bernd Jansen from 1973, this iconic figure of postwar German art is seen sprawled across a floral carpet in a gentle curve that complements his reverie. Staged at Willich, near Düsseldorf, where Polke lived and produced work collectively with artists including Mariette Althaus and Achim Duchow (sometimes under the name “Polke, Duchow & Co.”), this mise-en-scène captures the gender-defying, psychedelically inclined, and communally driven young art scene of Düsseldorf’s punk 1970s—the

  • picks July 26, 2017

    Raymond Pettibon

    Raymond Pettibon has a habit of painting large murals for his solo shows, and this one is no exception. Organized by the same curators who put together the artist’s retrospective at the New Museum earlier this year, this exhibition opens with an untitled expanse featuring Pettibon’s emblematic surfers—stormy metaphors contending with waves of ontological hurdles—hovering between water and clouds. Rendered with the same color palette and scratch-like brushstrokes, both natural forms blend together, pointing to the malleability and openness of meaning in the artist’s pictorial language. Such

  • picks April 20, 2017

    Hera Büyüktaşçıyan

    Writing on marble is not easy, but the title of Hera Büyüktaşçıyan’s latest solo exhibition, “Write Injuries on Sand and Kindness in Marble”—a proverb found in many cultures, including Gulf countries and France—seemingly ignores this fact. In fact, marble emerges as a deceptively attractive menace, an elusive signifier of slippery semiotic value, in such works as Chanting if I live, forgetting it I die, 2016, a kinetic sculpture that features a row of moving piano-key-like off-white marble slabs on a simple plank of wood. Compared to an earlier, larger wooden version twice exhibited in Istanbul,

  • Sarkis

    Sarkis deals with signs of living and living signs. It is not unusual to hear that his light boxes are kept lit beyond an exhibition’s opening hours, or that he agonized over a brief planned power cut for the maintenance of Respiro, his installation for the Turkish pavilion at the 2015 Venice Biennale. Not simply the caprice of an established artist, these particularities stem from his decades-long engagement with memory theory, which took center stage at this show, “Ayna” (Mirror), cocurated by the artist and Ceren Erdem.

    For the occasion, The Treasure Chests of Mnemosyne, the 1995 anthology on

  • slant December 02, 2016

    On the Ground: Istanbul

    NOT LONG AFTER FIGHTER JETS BEGAN DROPPING SONIC BOMBS, I decided to go to bed. It wasn’t my apartment.

    On July 15, 2016 the night of Turkey’s attempted coup d’état, I was at a friend’s house party in Galata. From the building’s terrace, which commands otherwise delightful views of the historic peninsula, everyone was trying to glean a hint of what was happening. When that did not work out, Twitter feeds and live TV had face-offs on multiple cell phones, only to be interrupted by worried relatives’ calls and streams of tears. On one screen, I saw President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on FaceTime with

  • picks October 24, 2016

    Yasemin Özcan

    “Dead-End of Bliss,” Yasemin Özcan’s first solo presentation at this gallery, is an object-theater of sorts that funnels mostly domestic objects into a Duchampian freeze, transforming their homely associations into uncanny proposals for survival in modern Turkey.

    A quote from Brian Friel’s 1980 play “Translations” is incorporated into the title of Özcan’s To Remember Everything Is a Form of Madness 2/40 (all works cited, 2016): These words appear in Turkish on three ceramic tiles among a horde of others that are predominantly pink, cream, or floral patterned. Each tile serves as a metonymic device

  • picks June 21, 2016

    Eva Nielsen

    In his book Berlin Childhood Around 1900 (1950), Walter Benjamin recounts loggias from his childhood as places where “space and time come into their own and find each other.” The liminal space that these loggias occupy in Benjamin’s mind seem to provide both the maneuvering area and the impetus for the coagulation of space and time. Through cross-media experimentation with oil, acrylic, printing, and india ink, Eva Nielsen’s depictions of landscapes, ruins, and Parisian suburbia make time materialize, only to stop it in its tracks with her show of “New Paintings.”

    For instance, in Lucite, 2015,

  • picks May 11, 2016

    “Produce 3: The Game Settled into a Cagey Midfield Match”

    Taking its original name in Turkish—“Domates Biber Patlıcan,” meaning “Tomato Pepper Eggplant”—from an iconic reggae-inspired song popular in Turkey in the 1980s, this biennial’s third iteration, curated by Zeynep Öz, seems more ambitious than ever, with a core section showcasing locally grown new commissions.

    Ünal Bostancı’s garishly glitzy exhibition “Timeless Palace Museum” is based on the artist’s experience as a guide at the Dolmabahçe Palace. Almost all of the works in his show articulate an idiosyncratic poetics of late Ottoman bureaucracy and ritual, inventing fictional yet plausible

  • picks April 11, 2016

    “Till It’s Gone”

    An apple, then two, three, five—the fruit on Mario Merz’s Spiral Table, 1989, is piled up in neat groups as a reference to the Fibonacci spiral, an additive sequence thought to be present in many natural life forms. Indeed, while the catalogue heralds “Till It’s Gone” as focusing on sustainability in a post-COP21 world, the more salient topic appears to be the impact of alterations to the relationship between humans, nature, and artistic production. Works explicitly following this thematic thread exude an air of critical negativity that embody a rich taxonomy of patterns borne from the Anthropocene’s

  • picks March 14, 2016

    Paweł Kowalewski

    In Paweł Kowalewski’s exhibition “These Things Now,” Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels Are Opening the Entartete Kunst Exhibition in Munich, 1986, immediately stands out from the four other tempera works on paper. Based on an instantly recognizable black-and-white photograph of the two top Nazi officials from 1937, the painting boasts a peculiar kind of postwar de-skilling, with raw, bright colors. Goebbels’s blocky lemon-tart-colored overcoat takes center stage and reduces Hitler to a mangled-face sideshow. The lack of definition in perspective creates confusion as to whether the officer between

  • picks March 02, 2016

    Pilvi Takala

    When the sun sets in Istanbul, the architectural hodgepodge of Beyoğlu—the main cultural and (especially) nightlife artery of the city—comes alive with palpably garish, universally dramatic lighting on its fin-de-siѐcle and post-’80s facades alike. The source of this visual din, an uninterrupted series of light-accessory shops, proceeds uphill, culminating in a gigantic LED panel atop the Marmara Pera hotel that serves as a screen for the nonprofit art space YAMA. Established by Sylvia Kouvali (the founder of Rodeo Gallery) with support from Kağan Gürsel (the hotel’s owner), YAMA—which means “

  • picks January 28, 2016

    “Apricots from Damascus”

    Damascus has long been famous for its apricots. However, as war rages not only on and beyond the southern border of Turkey but also in its eastern provinces, in the form of state violence against the Kurds, Damascus is now no longer quite as readily associated with the fruit. This exhibition’s title derives from a Turkish proverb—a token of wishful thinking that roughly translates to “Only apricots from Damascus can be better than this!” Beyond its ludic faux optimism, the name also manages to capture such issues at the heart of the exhibition as dislocation, multilingualism, and the spoils of