Critics’ Picks

  • Bülent Şangar, Untitled (Accident), 1997–2000, digital photograph, 118 x 78".

    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.

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

    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.