Critics’ Picks

Istanbul

Aydan Murtezaoğlu and Bülent Şangar

SALT | Beyoğlu
Istiklal Caddesi 136 Beyoğlu
April 17 - July 22

A drawing of an extended queue welcomes visitors to an alluring survey of Aydan Murtezaoğlu and Bülent Şangar, two pioneering figures of Turkish contemporary art who came to the fore in the 1990s. On the tail end of the succession in Unemployed Employees-I found you a new job!, 2006–18, men do push-ups, carry heavy materials, balance on ladders: tests for employment in the state or the private sector. The collaborative work also includes a performance in which recent university graduates fold T-shirts on an assembly line while chatting about their precarity. The three floors that host these artists’ works resemble a laboratory of Turkish contemporary art; Lab Created, 2006–18, even offers a sink, Erlenmeyer flasks filled up with tap-water samples, and test results from two Istanbul galleries.

Şangar is the subject of most of his photographic works. In Untitled (Accident), 1997–2000, he is run over by a car. In Untitled, 1994, he buries himself. Untitled (Death Notice), 1994, comprises fictional notices of his death by fellow artists, critics, and even by “images and figures,” one of whom thanks the artist for “bringing us into existence.”

Murtezaoğlu’s work engages more directly with politics. In Number 23, 2001, she intercuts footage of what might be a militarist celebration with images of ducks in a pool. 6th Fleet in Istanbul, 1969–2006, depicts her eight-year-old self next to the US Navy fleet anchored in Istanbul. In Blackboard (and hidden agenda), 1992–2018, the hand of the Republic of Turkey’s founder, Atatürk, points to the Latin alphabet on a blackboard. W, one of the three letters long banned because of their association with the Kurdish language, makes an uncanny appearance. Despite its title, “Continuity Error” impeccably captures what is shared by these two artists’ practices.