September 7 - November 10
Since late May, Istanbul has been a frequent topic of conversation in the news. The waves of protest that began with demonstrations against a proposed development on the site of Taksim Gezi Park produced demonstrators committed to opposing the policies of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which is perceived to be authoritarian and is headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In a city where one used to marvel at the richness of a culture, today the brutal suppression of peaceful protests is what comes to mind first and foremost. It is not surprising, then, that the protests and the issues connected to them make appearances in the works of this group show, “Signs Taken in Wonder,” which brings together art made in, around, and about Istanbul.
As if he had had a presentiment, Halil Altindere takes up issues of resistance, violence, and gentrification in his video Tahribad-ı İsyan:Wonderland, 2013, made shortly before the protests began. Altindere went to Sulukule, a neighborhood in Istanbul that has been the center of the city’s Romani community for over six centuries but which is now being systematically demolished. In the video, the Kurdish artist films young local rappers who talk about their fury and their lack of power. It ends with a fantasy sequence in which the boys attack a policeman and set him on fire. Wonderland calls attention to Istanbul’s current building policy, which keeps trying to satisfy the needs of well-off consumers by building more shopping malls. Meanwhile, Cevdet Erek’s SSS/Shore Scene Soundtrack, 2007, focuses directly on the observer’s senses. Consisting of a large carpet installed on the wall and an artist’s book that includes instructions on how to simulate the sound of the sea with two hands and a carpet, the work invites the viewer to stroke the carpet in wavelike movements. It is almost as if the Bosporus lay hidden in the fibers.
The programming of the twenty-three artists in the exhibition is political and poetic at the same time. Fragments of the real here often blend with wishful thinking or repressed fears. Murat Gök’s photograph Border (Hammock), 2010, unites all of these thoughts. The image shows a figure on a hammock that has been hung exactly over the border fence that divides Syria and Turkey. It is comportment of inner peace, and an unthinkable image in today’s context.
Translated from German by Diana Reese.