Critics’ Picks

Ali Mahmut Demirel, The Pit, 2017, 4K video, color, sound, 6 minutes 45 seconds.

Istanbul

Ali Mahmut Demirel

Arter - Space For Art
Istiklal Caddesi 211, Beyoglu
March 16 - July 15

Specters of bygone times haunt Ali Mahmut Demirel’s work, which explores themes of decay and desolation. The individual parts of his video series “Post-Apocalyptic Utopias,” 2015–18, make up the majority of the pieces in this exhibition. In The Pier, 2015, the camera lingers on remnants of Scheveningen Pier, a leisure facility near The Hague built in 1959, after Nazis demolished the original pier for fear of an Allied invasion. A casino and restaurant were its main attractions, but the pier went bankrupt in 2013. Demirel filmed its state of decline two years later: dead bugs on gray surfaces, spiders watching Turner-esque waves of the North Sea, a muted pause in the middle of nowhere.

The aloof mysticism of Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 film Stalker is an obvious influence on the dreamlike The Plant, 2018, where the artist observes the ruins of Detroit’s Packard Automotive Plant, the largest abandoned car factory on earth. Damp patches, mold, and a lonely tire can be spotted among the debris. A soundtrack by the German electronic musician TV Victor accompanies shots of graffiti-covered walls and monuments from the heyday of American manufacturing. The meditative tone is somewhat marred by awkward point of view shots, though they strengthen The Pit, 2017, by comparison. Recorded at a cistern not far from Demirel’s childhood home in a Turkish town called Turgutreis, the video shows a moss-covered pit, adjacent to which are two scavenging hide beetles feeding on a bird carcass, like an omen of some impending catastrophe.