Critics’ Picks

Ünal Bostancı, Revolution-Seat, 2016, mixed media, dimensions variable.


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

Spot Production Fund
Elhamra Han
April 21 - May 28

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 afterlives for them. Among the more sober pieces is Yesterday Is Yesterday, Today Is Today (all works cited, 2016)—a simple optical illusion that shows viewers different images of the same space according to their positions. In the blink of an eye, the bedroom of Sultan Murad V—dethroned due to his deteriorating mental health after the shortest rule in Ottoman history—becomes a plain-looking administrative office of a local high school. In an adjacent room, the reconstruction of a nineteenth-century round lamé divan, Revolution-Seat, sits on top of a barely visible revolving base. The original settee was recorded in a state inventory as a “revolution” in 1952, when the word’s newly minted Turkish counterpart tended to indicate circularity moreso than it does now.

Emphasis on timekeeping as an artistic strategy also prevails in Eda Gecikmez’s show “Periodical, Non-periodical,” albeit without Bostancı’s aphoristic tone. Gecikmez fills sheets of white paper with hasty drawings copied daily from the issues of the same newspaper across three months, recording multiple images on a sheet of paper without overlaps. These cover the walls of an entire room and reveal a major obstacle before art’s mnemonic drive—our memory palaces do not have many rooms left to rent out.