Gökcan Demirkazik

  • 16th Istanbul Biennial

    THE EIGHTH ISTANBUL BIENNIAL was titled “Poetic Justice.” Sixteen years on, the latest edition might as well have returned to that title. Roughly a month before the opening, a press release from the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) appeared in my inbox, somberly announcing the loss of the biennial’s main venue, the Haliç Shipyards, “due to the delay of the construction process . . . and the need to complete the disposal of asbestos materials determined to be present.” After lending its prestige to a real-estate project that threatens to destroy invaluable living and material

  • Steffani Jemison and Samson Young

    Organized by Amsterdam’s De Appel contemporary arts center, Steffani Jemison and Samson Young’s double bill “Decoders-Recorders” took as its starting point the violence inherent to and resulting from the systematization and standardization of communication. Mobilizing artistic strategies—such as intuitive mark-making, erasure, nonsyntactic repetition, and layering—as tools of negation and transgression, the show expanded its critical gaze onto the tyranny of all bounded and binding systems.

    The exhibition opened with the series “To Fanon,” 2016–, Young’s rejoinder to the optimization of information

  • The Otolith Group

    The watchful eyes of the science-fiction writer Octavia Butler and the composer Julius Eastman looked over the entrance area for the Otolith Group’s exhibition at the Van Abbemuseum. With the larger-than-life images of the show’s two patron saints nearly covering entire walls, it would have been easy to miss the flat glass vitrine on a pedestal containing ten otoliths (tiny calcareous bones found in the inner ear) that had each been taken from a whiting (a cod-like fish). Although the members of the group, Kodwo Eshun and Anjalika Sagar, expressly shied away from billing their exhibition as a

  • diary May 23, 2019

    Mechelen Stars

    IT’S GOT TO BE THE FULL MOON clouding my judgment. Otherwise, I would not have had a mini heart attack each time the French information screens on the Brussels-Antwerp intercity line read: “This train is headed to Anvers.” As far as I knew, I boarded from the correct platform in the direction of Antwerp just in time to catch the press tour of the Contour Biennale 9’s “Full Moon Phase,” and I would have been pissed if I ended up in Anvers (a sad little corner of Wallonia bordering France?) or Malines, which certainly could not be the Latinized name—look at it!—of the Flemish town of Mechelen. In

  • diary March 13, 2019

    Daze or Malaise?

    ARRIVING IN THE FORMER (INTERMITTENT) IMPERIAL CAPITAL OF MARRAKECH after a few days in Casablanca—Morocco’s economic powerhouse during the French Mandate—was a shock. Although only two and a half hours apart by car, the two cities could not feel more different: Casablanca’s wide, tram-lined boulevards and somewhat laid-back architectural modernism in glistening Mediterranean white contrasts with the earthy reds of Marrakech’s buildings, old and new, its continental climate with swooping temperatures, and, above all, its overwhelming hypersaturation of tourists. After arriving at Jemaa al-Fna


    THRESHOLDS ARE VISIBLE but not often seen. A threshold is hardly ever singular: It can be a passageway, an obstacle, a boundary, or a sight line. A gate ajar may evidence trespass, a lintel suggests new terrains, and an open door stands for opportunity. Though often considered an inconsequential void “just before” or “right after,” a threshold is also a quiet witness that absorbs echoes of the events beyond.

    Threshold, 2018, by Beirut-based artist Rania Stephan, draws our attention from those events to their scaffolding. The raw material of her ten-minute video is The Master of Time, a 1987 sci-fi

  • Ana Mazzei

    Younger artists working with the vocabulary of Minimalism have joyously embraced its purported theatricality and have cultivated a post–Felix Gonzalez-Torres fascination with affect and the mechanics of its production. This often takes the form of a narrativized sentimentality, coupled with corporeal, alchemical, or mythological overtones. The critical literature on Ana Mazzei’s work has foregrounded the totemic quality of her quasi-Minimalist objects and the possibility that their “activation” may serve yet-unknown ends. Yet the Brazilian artist’s work, often featuring recognizable archetypes,

  • slant January 28, 2019

    On the Ground: Beirut

    IMPERMANENCE IS A PERMANENT CONDITION IN BEIRUT—a horizon of transience continues to shape its residents’ daily lives. While survival mode may appear inevitable here, a good number of Beirutis in the arts have ceaselessly cultivated self-criticism as a structuring ethos of their professional practices over the past two decades, braving Syrian oppression, Israeli assaults, a far-from-resolved garbage crisis, and, still ongoing, the protracted lack of an elected government, not to mention increased state surveillance. Although post-civil-war amnesia among the Lebanese and the constructedness

  • diary November 25, 2018

    Happy Birthday, Zayed!

    THE SAME DAY Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan aggressively implicated the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, his royal highness was busy headlining the second annual Future Investment Initiative—dubbed “Davos in the Desert,” for its congregation of mega-executives and heads of state—at the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton. Despite cautious last-minute cancellations from many, the prince appeared ebullient and pithily announced the success of the conference: “More people, more money.”

    The inverse—“more money, more people”—is

  • Rayyane Tabet

    Opening a thick, bright-yellow-bound, German-language book about the ancient city of Tell Halaf in his grandparents’ library, Rayyane Tabet found a New Year’s card addressed in a casually elegant cursive hand to his great-grandfather. Both the card, sent from Weimar-era Berlin, and the book itself were written and signed by Baron Max von Oppenheim—the scion of a powerful German Jewish banking dynasty and attaché to the Khediviate of Egypt who went on to discover a neolithic archeological site in northeastern Syria in 1899. Stalled by the Ottoman bureaucracy and World War I, Oppenheim was

  • diary April 02, 2018

    Talk Therapy

    I’VE DECIDED THAT MY FAVORITE FORM OF TIME TRAVEL is going to the Emirates. From remote-controlled taxi trunks to my astonishingly steep learning curve around identifying objects in the hotel room, the sun-kissed futurity of the Emirates feels like an overexposed Instagram filter with washed-out colors—save for the deep and vibrant blue of the sky. Indeed, visions of luxe, calme, et volupté are to be had on the highway rather than under the scorching sun. You move through Happiness Street in Dubai in order to reach the Abu Dhabi Highway, where you can tune into thirty-second blurbs about world

  • Halil Altındere

    There could hardly have been a more fitting location for “Welcome to Homeland,” Halil Altındere’s new solo show, than the Sadık Pasha Mansion. Located in a quiet part of the affluent neighborhood of Cihangir, this wooden neoclassical palazzo was built in the nineteenth century by a Polish émigré, Michał Czajkowski, who was sent to Istanbul to establish a colony for his asylum-seeking compatriots. A century and a half later, migration remains a hot-button issue, and it was central to Altındere’s exhibition.

    The lower floor offered a comprehensive showcase of Altındere’s most recent body of work,

  • picks November 10, 2017

    Lamia Joreige

    “And yet the moment finally came when the city no longer resembled itself”: With these words, Franco-Lebanese historian Samir Kassir described his civil-war-struck hometown of the 1980s in Beirut (2005), a book widely accepted as the definitive monograph on Lebanon’s capital. Lamia Joreige’s ongoing three-part project Under-Writing Beirut, 2013–, perhaps can be best explained as a painstaking attempt to recover traces of how the city was, and still is, in the process of undoing itself.

    This exhibition brings together works from its second and third chapters, focusing on the transformation of the

  • “Si Sedes Non Is”

    Classicist James I. Porter writes: “The sublime cannot be seen. It is that into which one must plunge.” Pitted against the Athens segment of the often heavily didactic Documenta 14, the Breeder’s summer show “Si Sedes Non Is,” curated by Milovan Farronato of the Fiorucci Art Trust,plunged the viewer into a constellation of esoteric artistic positions and arcana, and located sublimity within a ritualistic dematerialization of labor and capital inextricably linked to the potency of any representation today.

    The exhibition took its title from the Latin inscription on Lucy McKenzie’s painting Alchemical

  • diary September 28, 2017

    Your Friends and Neighbors

    EVEN BEFORE TURKEY’S failed foreign policy of “precious isolation” materialized, we weren’t big on neighbors.

    Despite Turkish-language proverbs such as “Neighbors [even] need the ashes of each other,” my generation was taught to fear the neighbor (who coveted “our” land and resources) during “National Security” classes at school, and we returned to homes where thick curtains would—almost magically, of their own accord—shut tight moments after sunset. In a 2001 video simply titled Neighbor, Bülent Şangar captures this tension: Like in a first-person shooter game, the artist follows his neighbors’

  • diary August 23, 2017

    Missing Pieces

    LAWRENCE ABU HAMDAN’S BIRDWATCHING was supposed to kick off the opening days of the Sharjah Biennial 13 Off-Site Project in Ramallah.

    It was not possible.

    I had seen him deliver a version of this lecture-performance in March in Sharjah. Abu Hamdan wove a beautifully multilayered yet distressing narrative around the political implications of hearing and suggested that sonic forensics could help reconstruct otherwise incommunicable episodes of horror—from the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, to the Syrian military–administered Saydnaya Prison near Damascus—in the service of justice.

  • picks August 18, 2017

    Wu Tsang

    “How to create a situation in which study can feel like something—the tactile sense of something going on”: Wu Tsang and Fred Moten pose this question in Who Touched Me?, (2016) a publication that developed out of their residency at If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want To Be Part of Your Revolution, Amsterdam. No matter how obscure the phrasing might be, this query forms the basis of their ongoing artistic collaboration, including their joint works Gravitational Feel, 2016, and We hold where study, 2017, which both cast tactility as a mode of intellectual, artistic, and even poetic production.


  • picks May 26, 2017

    Lu Yang

    What is it that sets Lu Yang apart from all the other millennial artists dabbling in CGI-powered fantasies of techno-dystopias? As an answer, her new show gestures beyond post-Internet excess and rigorous 3-D modeling toward her capacity for transforming even the most tedious recitation of facts into a mesmerizing visual narrative. In such videos as LuYang Delusional Mandala, 2015, or LuYang Delusional Crime and Punishment, 2016, a text-to-speech voice describes features of the central nervous system or physiological stages of death, painstakingly setting forth information as sonic ready-mades,

  • interviews May 17, 2017

    Aslıhan Demirtaş

    Aslıhan Demirtaş is an Istanbul- and New York–based architect and designer whose practice often takes on unexpected, research-based projects. In Taksim Square, she is currently showing Kaide (Plinth), 2016: one and a half tons of earth rammed into a sixty-by-forty-inch rectangular prism, the dimensions of which are based on endangered, traditional urban gardening modules in the Yedikule neighborhood of Istanbul. A farmer, a composer, artists, and collectors have all been invited to contribute to Kaide for one week a piece in order to reflect on soil, memory, and displacement, as well as on the

  • diary March 18, 2017

    March in Time

    THE DIRECT FLIGHT from Istanbul released predominantly Euro-American passengers at the Dubai airport, where they were gently ushered to interterminal shuttle trains by Southeast Asian DXB employees—all amid glossy ads for residential developments featuring traditionally dressed nuclear Emirati families. This image stayed with me not least because the developer and self-described “provider of premium lifestyles” in question, Emaar, was the Platinum Sponsor of the Sharjah Biennial 13, but also because the scene made the correlation between ethnicity and socioeconomic status, and their connection