Odwalla88 performing in Jessi Reaves's exhibition at Bridget Donahue Gallery, New York, June 5, 2016. Photo: Bridget Donahue.


THERE WERE SIGNS.

History doesn’t graciously step aside for the new to waltz into the future. Remember how the 2016 calendar year began prematurely? Well, the untimely is the very rhythm of suicide—Chantal Akerman departed the October before last, and more heroes dropped off the further we hurtled along the narrowing line. The slow-burn view of her films, how the world looked when veiled in her stark patience, the picture never ending even after the movie was through, like a dire infection. Isn’t that how despair moves, spreading and multiplying across bodies, through the blood of trauma’s descendants?

The interminable preparations and cleanup of her Jeanne Dielman, 28 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels (1975), quietly tracing the path of James Byrd Jr.’s lynching in South (1999), or that shot of a ferry leaving Manhattan, and the film itself, in News from Home (1976), which refused to sing goodbye, or indicate what might come next—views of stillness and departure hovering in the present tense, just looking.

Everything feels barely possible right now. How do we steady our gaze? Just stay in it, like Akerman, champion of the hold? Maybe it’s like this: When the ground drops out from beneath you, think “I guess you have no choice but to revolutionize the world” on your way down. There’s a balance required between looking and doing—how much of the former to feel alive, and how much of the latter to keep devastation, or just unemployment, at bay. Every day you “yes,” until “no” comes to get you—or, being unable to stand the anticipation, you might simply, outrageously, rise to meet it.

This year there were moments of looking, riding shotgun with action—strolling into it even—which took root and congealed into a solid place to stand. The last day of the Wynne Greenwood show at the New Museum, I heard in a video:

“I’m tired of waiting for something beautiful to happen.”

“What, are you in college? Why don’t you make something happen?”

I recall something I read in high school. Christian Boltanski saying something along the lines of, “We should build the Holocaust memorial every day.” Tragedy cannot be allowed to become a still life—we must continue living with it. If we had to build our apologies every day, if reparations and justice were a mode of being in the world, what would that look like? How do we envision, and how much can we tolerate, the shared burden of a task that could never be finished?

Installation view of “Marcel Broodthaers: A Retrospective,” 2016. The Museum of Modern Art, New York.


I remember how I finally met Marcel Broodthaers, at his retrospective at MoMA last winter. How delightful, that faux-officiousness lightly taped over an aggressive independence; how pleasant to know him as unsolvable, as someone who, when confronted by the endless rings of history, took his stick and drew in the sand anyway. “This vague outpouring wanders on,” sighs one of his poems, titled “The Jellyfish,” while “The Little Finger” proclaims, “ ‘I’d like to invent astonishment,’ he says, and vanishes with his idea.” This patron saint of misfits and absurd, labyrinthine exercises did astonish, then vanish. I wandered out of his show as a vague outpouring myself, and have been falling ever since. So far, down there, I’ve been working on installing a network of illumination to find all the words I can’t say, especially not to you.

In celibacy, a body ideally becomes a conduit for heavenly conversations. The back-and-forth between the two members of Odwalla88 feels like a dialogue among angels who got bored with pursuing perfection. Their songs are pouches for catching chatty snippets; as lyrics, their repetition weighs heavy. Flannery Silva and Chloé Maratta came in the spring, for a performance at Bridget Donahue to close Jessi Reaves’s show of perversely graceful furniture. Wearing costumes designed by Susan Cianciolo that looked like the runway ten years ahead of its time, they did this thing where they’d repeat in unison “Crush you with this wall of sound” over skittish, blocky beats, delivering scattered voicemail missives and whatever parts of the manifesto that haven’t yet turned to total ash.

Should you need an introduction to the take-this-record-deal-and-shove-it group Death Grips, you can start with the 2011 mixtape “Ex Military” and work on from there. They played at Terminal 5 on September 16. I don’t remember any “hellos” or “thank yous” from them, just relentlessness. Their targets are brutally unfixed—everyone and everything within close range, at the very least, gets bruised. Any museum curator who’s interested in ending their career early, with a bang, should book them immediately. In a full-house audience, the boys, mostly white, rushed the stage first—and tired first. The rest of us get to the front anyway, and stay there. Just keep in mind, as from the track “Beware,” “I am the beast I worship.” Which reminds me, David Bowie is dead, but your love for him is still alive—can’t you embody that love yourself? If he’s no longer here, you be the Starman now, the Queen Bitch, or even a Hero.

I saw these things and had these moments alone, which may foil any of my calls for solidarity in this grim reality. It’s the trolls’ world now, and I was always a lurker. But I always had you in mind; there was my hope coiled up in the underbrush, there was my little fantasy powering the truth that dogs me. To be a thread or a cuff on a McDermott & McGough sweater, sprawled across the floor as in their show at James Fuentes in October, or offered as a Celastic rose in a Ree Morton installation. When you saw me around New York this year, when you will see me out there, remember that video Ed Atkins showed at the Kitchen last spring, and know that I am “precisely NOT here.”

Death Grips. Performance view, Terminal 5, 2016. MC Ride. Photo: Dana Distortion.


Some Americans would like to slip into a similar gap, something a little more comfortable, somewhere in space and time where they can stoke denial and sashay into a future they were promised by people who had no right to make guarantees, who built their own dreams on a foundation of genocide, slavery, and the domination of men over women. They have slammed the self-destruct button on the liberal project of incremental, diversifying progress. Where should we look now—behind, straight ahead, or with quick paranoid glances left and right for the rest of our days? The project of progress feels useless to those who have to live until the time such advancement arrives. Until, as Quentin Crisp memorably noted, people are bored enough by our difference that we cease to be threatening.

But a technique is needed: a concrete way to continue saying “yes.” The GALA Committee has some advice. They made props for two seasons of a fabulously profitable ’90s soap opera, Melrose Place, and received, by choice, no financial compensation for it. On November 12, at New York’s Red Bull Studios, where an exhibition of the group’s work was installed through the end of that month, GALA’s modest ringleader Mel Chin discussed how they operated under “insurgent mechanics of infection,” and spoke to the freedom afforded to art when it functions as a prop: “What happens if it isn’t selling anything but an option?”

Following what he dubbed the “Abbey Road effect,” they buried things on the sets of the TV show for people to find. If viewers didn’t get it the first time around, as one Barbara Kruger–style poster in the exhibition gloated, think of the reruns. Coming a few days after the election, Chin reminded us that night how “justice is something you do every day. We don’t correct them, we change ourselves.”

Didn’t we once dream of killing our parents? Or was that just an offhand command from some ’90s band? Time now to turn out the cops, robbers, and dads lurking in your own soul. GALA came together as a “conflagration of yeses”. Consider being expansive to whom, what, when, and where you can say “yes,” and know the “why” of it.

I’ve been writing this as a letter, and we know by now (qua Chris Kraus) that every letter is a love letter. I’ve embroidered drown on my back. I can’t be discreet, and we can’t wait around for the eulogy addressing what we sought and loved. There will always be returns, and reruns, but no one dominates transmission now. So please, don’t disappear without a trace.

Paige K. Bradley is associate editor of artforum.com.

Read the December issue of Artforum: David Adjaye, John Waters, Christine Macel, Hal Foster, Grace Wales Bonner, Cindy Sherman, Helen Molesworth, Christine Tohme, Tariq Ali, Johanna Fateman, Claire Bishop, Katharina Fritsch, Wendy Brown, Carol Bove, Thomas Schütte, Slavs and Tatars, and many more on the year that was.

The stunning rise of nationalism, populism, and fundamentalism—and the Trump presidency—has roiled the world. How did we get here? What can art do? In concert with the December issue’s feature on THE YEAR IN SHOCK—which features pieces by Helen Molesworth, Tariq Ali, and Wendy Brown on the upheaval of political and perceptual experience as we know it—artforum.com presents short reflections on post-election America and the aftershocks to come.

Martha Rosler, POINT & SHOOT, a mourning thought (though I am more enraged than in mourning), 2016.


Martha Rosler is an artist who lives and works in Brooklyn.

A spread from Leo Lionni's Frederick (1967).


IN MID-NOVEMBER I am asked to skype with a writing class in New York. How nice to see again, after some months of Midwest fashion drab, the eager young of NYU in their particularized plumages. Arrayed against windowless cinderblock walls, they are diffident at first, then warm up. They have read my book on 1990s punk feminism and want to talk about its relevance for today. Does it suggest any actions for the present.

Friends have been texting me from New York. The city is in shock, they say, or mourning. We are all stunned and teary; the public is teary. It’s like after 9/11, one says, and I remember the raw, loving communion of the F train. Not long after, when Bush sent shock and awe to the Iraqi people, I downed well whiskey at an ugly gay bar and saw all our crass or utopian flirtations tinged with mass death. All my writing those days was in wes, transcribing the comfort of collective feeling.

Here in Indiana there’s no subway and I never take the bus, and I fall asleep too early for the town’s gay bar. Above the downtown’s empty sidewalks, SUVs and pickup trucks with In God We Trust license plates rev in wide loops around tall parking garages. There is conviviality within cordons of membership, gym, food co-op, church or shul, but outside these oases, nothing. Public life is so thinned here, compared with everywhere I’ve ever known, and I almost understand how people might vote as if nobody else’s life was really real.

For a week after the election I leave the house only for a daily plunge in a small, shallow lap pool that I share with elderly aqua-joggers and two snorkeled men. We’re on the edge of our time zone, there’s no sun on my 8 AM swim, and I think, This is like Alaska! I live in Alaska, or Iceland, how romantic. But in the north, people band together to survive the winter. We need winter-night stew parties and municipal hot-tub hobnobs here. And we need marches and Sunday activism salons. My town’s group of white folks for racial justice, who hold their potlucks at the Unitarian church, decided to leaflet at the mall and ask Christmas shoppers to sign a pledge of resistance. The mall pledged to arrest them, and the event was canceled.

Lately I’ve been thinking less about ’90s punk and more about American Communists during the Popular Front in the late 1930s: What happens to a radical politics and cultural program when the revolutionary horizon vanishes and pragmatic and deeply flawed alliances take its place. It’s a very Obama-era part of a larger project, a luxurious dilemma to think about, before the purges, blacklists, deportations, and killings all came to happen here. But that moment has things to teach the present too.

I’ve been listening, closely, to the guttural sounds of physical labor Leadbelly grafts into his performances of work songs after the figure of “the worker” and a commitment to justice for Black people both disappear from his activist audiences’ politics, vanished with that revolutionary horizon. Take this hammer—HAAH! he sings. And carry it to the captain—HAAH! Tell him I’m gone—HAAH! Tell him I’m gone.

And to the “screaming” a young girl in a Tillie Olsen story from 1956 associates with gospel music, which she hears in her friend’s church and, later, on the radio in pop form, where it cleaves her open to the cruelties of racism (“Why did they sing and scream like that?” the girl asks her mother, weeping. “I hear it all the time.”) but she can’t get beyond her ineffectual tears.

And also, I think now: The electric hum at the beginning of Bikini Kill’s “Double Dare Ya,” the tearing jabs of feedback, Corin Tucker’s unholy yells on old Heavens to Betsy 7”s that have helped make ’90s punk feminism an influence on contemporary feminist thought—I’m talking especially of vernacular feminist thought, the kind that lives on the internet unobstructed by paywalls. Riot grrrl, I tell the students, was born at the end of twelve years of right-wing rule in this country. It was gathering momentum while Anita Hill was being grilled. The main attacks on women were hitting young women particularly hard, and the established feminist movement provided nearly no language or arena for addressing this. And riot grrrl’s effects on feminist thought are still unfolding after two and a half decades. When you respond to your moment, your response’s usefulness might live on and morph and thrive.

When things can’t be articulated directly, when they have no arena or lexicon in a political field, they find hybrid forms that traverse eras and worlds, carrying the historically inutterable like oak branches bearing messy tentacular moss. The song carries the feedback, the hum, the haah, the scream. And these things make the song live on differently.

But this is not the most important thing right now, I tell the NYU students on my laptop screen as Indiana dusk descends. The most important thing is to protect who we can, know that we will not defeat this soon enough to make irrelevant the question of how many lives we might save. Some of these may be ours, but assuredly many will not be.

We have to defend who we can and resist however we can. Yet we will all need sustenance, like the field mice in the picture book Frederick, the one I give to all my friends who have babies, so many babies in these deadening days and I have no problem cathecting to reproductive futurism—a queer maternal, let’s call it—in the face of the alternatives. Who has a better idea? These mice, the mice in Frederick, have gathered enough food to get them through the winter, but they also need songs and poems and memories of color if they’re to survive the gray. There will be singing about the dark times, as Brecht said, but not only about the dark times.

So we will ask the past for help—Hannah Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism is already surfacing with complicated, provocative questions to ask. We can listen, too, to ways the less utterable—the vision made almost impossible by a current set of conditions—has always had its say. And perhaps it will help us survive and protect ourselves and others, this understanding that what we say and shriek and grunt and encode in feedback in these terrifying times will sustain not only us but also those who will populate whatever this poor world of ours has left to call a future.

Sara Marcus, the author of Girls to the Front (2010), has written for The New Republic, Bookforum, and Texte zur Kunst, among other places. She is currently a doctoral fellow in English and Interdisciplinary Humanities at Princeton.

For more, read the December issue of Artforum: “The Year in Shock”—critics reflect on the upheaval of political and perceptual experience as we know it.

  • Dear Ivanka postcard template, 2016.

  • Postcard to Ivanka Trump made during a protest outside the Puck Building, New York, on Monday, November 28, 2016.

  • Postcard to Ivanka Trump made during a protest outside the Puck Building, New York, on Monday, November 28, 2016.

  • Postcard to Ivanka Trump made during a protest outside the Puck Building, New York, on Monday, November 28, 2016.

  • Postcard to Ivanka Trump made during a protest outside the Puck Building, New York, on Monday, November 28, 2016.

  • Postcard to Ivanka Trump made during a protest outside the Puck Building, New York, on Monday, November 28, 2016.

  • Postcard to Ivanka Trump made during a protest outside the Puck Building, New York, on Monday, November 28, 2016.

  • Postcard to Ivanka Trump made during a protest outside the Puck Building, New York, on Monday, November 28, 2016.

  • Postcard to Ivanka Trump made during a protest outside the Puck Building, New York, on Monday, November 28, 2016.

  • Postcard to Ivanka Trump made during a protest outside the Puck Building, New York, on Monday, November 28, 2016.

  • Postcard to Ivanka Trump made during a protest outside the Puck Building, New York, on Monday, November 28, 2016.

  • Postcard to Ivanka Trump made during a protest outside the Puck Building, New York, on Monday, November 28, 2016.

  • Postcard to Ivanka Trump made during a protest outside the Puck Building, New York, on Monday, November 28, 2016.

  • Postcard to Ivanka Trump made during a protest outside the Puck Building, New York, on Monday, November 28, 2016.

  • Postcard to Ivanka Trump made during a protest outside the Puck Building, New York, on Monday, November 28, 2016.

  • Postcard to Ivanka Trump made during a protest outside the Puck Building, New York, on Monday, November 28, 2016.

  • Postcard to Ivanka Trump made during a protest outside the Puck Building, New York, on Monday, November 28, 2016.

  • Postcard to Ivanka Trump made during a protest outside the Puck Building, New York, on Monday, November 28, 2016.

  • Postcard to Ivanka Trump made during a protest outside the Puck Building, New York, on Monday, November 28, 2016.

DEAR IVANKA, 

Much like you, we are professional women and mothers. We are, in the parlance of your lifestyle-branding Gesamtkunstwerk, #womenwhowork. We also share a set of regional values—remember the ones that Lyin’ Ted unsuccessfully mocked? The vilified bubble of New York privilege and cultural elitism that the rust-belt electoral college so passionately rebuked? Is it too pithy to say that we might have enough in common that the four of us could maybe be friends? That there might be just enough conversational fodder to at least get us through one of those tedious dinner parties?

Maybe… if it weren’t for your Dad. 

We need to talk about your Dad, Ivanka. 

It seems that some of us Americans wanted a big, white powerful Daddy. Your Daddy, Ivanka! Your Daddy, and your entire family. The Trumps: Towers. Casinos. Hotels. Golf courses. Handbags. Steaks. Marrrr-a-lagggoo.

It just rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?

Growing up in this Trumpy splendor probably gave you some great expectations—and who could blame you? Don’t we always return to things we know? Whether squalid or golden? Holy or venal? We understand all of this, Ivanka, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that you married a billionaire. Nor is it shocking that the soles of your shoes are always strangely pristine or that your cashmere is always clean or that a nice lady comes to your house every morning so you don’t have any unseemly dirty dishes mucking up your sink.

With privilege comes great responsibility—moral responsibility, hygienic responsibility, social responsibility, and, of course, cultural responsibility. Galas and benefits and art patronage. Did we mention that we’re friends with some of the artists whose works you hang in your apartment and proudly use as backdrops for your endless stream of selfies-cum-advertorials? Small world, we know.

Your social-media accounts and Town & Country interviews promote a vernacular of your one-thousand-thread-count life, but it doesn’t matter how adorable your children are or how proudly your Jared smiles or how often you show us your fitness and beauty routines, your plush upholstery, because there’s a problem.

The family is sick. It’s not just your family, Ivanka. It’s the family! We live in an age where we know deep down that the mythos of the family is over. It just doesn’t work. But despite this painful truth—our divorce rates, the spike in single parenting, the ossification of the concept that marriage is a viable mechanism for policing reproductive and social morality—some of America still wants a Daddy. And you and your Dad are the last dying breath of our collective phantasy.

Perhaps, more to the point, the two of you epitomize the Family’s death: the final nail in the coffin. Daddy is three wives in. Ivanka, your mother, is hidden away like a withered, Prada-clad Miss Havisham while you and Melania—would-be sisters in a bad porn—are trotted out for the cameras like fancy prize-winning cats.

Do you feel sorry for your mother, whose name sits inside yours? Back in the day, you grew inside of her! She was young then.

Beauty and success usurp all moral imperatives. How much does it cost to have skin that perfect? How many lives is the Trump dynasty built upon? We can’t think about this for too long because it concerns us, Ivanka. It furrows our brows and dilates our pores, and doesn’t everyone know that worry deranges beauty? That it makes us old? We know that Daddy doesn’t like that—he’s said it on television countless times, with endless flourishes. Old is ugly and useless and flaccid; it damages the brand, Ivanka.

But let’s not dwell on ugly things. 
 
Ivanka, with your beauty and, now, official power, this is your moment—you are the pinnacle of this family upbringing! You even gave us an autobiographical self-help book, The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life!

But what does it mean to you when your father talks about your body? The frank implications of incest between you is terrifying. The way he touches you. It might be the quintessential sign of our civilization’s disintegration. Please at least tell us you don’t like it! Please say that even if you profit from it, deep down it fills you with anxiety? Maybe shame?

What about your brothers? What’s it like with them? Are they like your father? Do they look at your stepmother’s breasts? Does Daddy need his sons to know he gets all the pussy? Just curious…
 
Now that you’re our First Family, we’re not exactly prying when we ask to know what kind of family we are going to be living with for the next four years. Our big white Daddy in that big White House—and you’ll be there helping him, the perfect hostess. You’re the head whitewasher in this new big happy family arrangement.

Help us Ivanka. Because if 46 percent of the country wanted a Daddy, then it is from you that we need to hear what we are in for—the First Daughter, his true and only beloved. 
 
We will grow louder. More vigilant, more hysterical. We can’t stop pleading with you, like a Rosary with the beads repeating, no, Daddy, no, Daddy, no, Daddy, stop, Daddy, please, Daddy, no. 
 
Yours, 

Alissa Bennett
Alison Gingeras
Jamieson Webster

Dear Ivanka protest outside the Puck Building, 295 Lafayette Street, New York, on Monday, November 28, 2016. Photo: Piotr Uklański.


For more, read the December issue of Artforum: “The Year in Shock”—critics reflect on the upheaval of political and perceptual experience as we know it.

Oliver Ressler, There Are No Syrian Refugees in Turkey, 2016, film, color, sound, 30 minutes.


NOT LONG AFTER FIGHTER JETS BEGAN DROPPING SONIC BOMBS, I decided to go to bed. It wasn’t my apartment.

On July 15, 2016 the night of Turkey’s attempted coup d’état, I was at a friend’s house party in Galata. From the building’s terrace, which commands otherwise delightful views of the historic peninsula, everyone was trying to glean a hint of what was happening. When that did not work out, Twitter feeds and live TV had face-offs on multiple cell phones, only to be interrupted by worried relatives’ calls and streams of tears. On one screen, I saw President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on FaceTime with a TV news anchor, calling people out onto the streets that shook with explosions and gunshots. The level of absurdity, of unexplained violence and aggression, was beyond my tolerance threshold; my system shut down.

“The coup did not succeed, and we are going out for breakfast,” whispered my graceful host in the morning. Relieved to hear of the triumph of democracy, I ventured out to the much-beckoned “New Turkey.” In the next few days, I saw Turkish LED traffic signs catching up with the legacy of Jenny Holzer by flashing phrases such as “NO ONE CAN OVERTHROW PEOPLE’S WILL” and “DEMOCRACY WON.” The cherry on top was the gigantic red banner that covered the entire rectangular frontal façade of the late-International style Atatürk Cultural Center (AKM) with the words: “Sovereignty belongs to the People.” It was an apt metaphor for the involvement of Turkish government in the arts: the mid-century icon of Turkey’s architectural modernity laid in disrepair, unused and slowly disintegrating behind the red flag.

That October, the arts entered a state of emergency as well—a forbidding OHAL (Olağanüstü Hâl or state of exception)—when we found out that Turkey had unilaterally withdrawn from the Creative Europe scheme: 1.46 billion Euros reserved for culture and arts in Turkey disappeared overnight. The alarming scarcity of governmental support for the arts aside, Vasıf Kortun, director of research and programs at SALT, suggested “[the withdrawal] was yet another sign of continental drift away from Europe,” in an article published in the November issue of Istanbul Art News.

Işıl Eğrikavuk, Time to Sing a New Song, 2016.


Omens of a cultural OHAL had cropped up as early as late April, when Işıl Eğrikavuk’s work Time to Sing a New Song, 2016, on the YAMA screen—a public art project atop the strategically located seventeen-story-high Marmara Pera Hotel—was shut down by the municipality for constituting “visual pollution.” (A curious position, given the ubiquitous yet hardly charming carnival flair of the city!) In September, MPs from the president’s party, AKP, publicly accused Beral Madra, the artistic director of the Çanakkale Biennial, of being pro-coup (among other things) for drawing a comparison between the post-coup “democracy rallies” and Adolf Hitler’s 1937 Nüremberg Rally. Following Madra’s resignation, the fifth edition of the Çanakkale Biennial, “Homeland,” was canceled by its organizers.

In her report titled “Artist, Curator, and Institution Relations in the Context of Artistic Freedom of Expression in Turkey” for Siyah Bant, an organization that surveys censorship in the arts, curator Özge Ersoy argues that “sensitivity” (hassasiyet in Turkish) is one of the two words that shift meaning with surprising ease, confounding discussions on institutional censorship. While her point of departure for the report is an instance of internal censoring—Akbank Sanat’s cancellation of Katia Krupennikova’s “Post-Peace” exhibition, the winning proposal of its Annual International Curator Competition, five days before the opening—this nebulous term can be extended to state-enforced or audience-enforced censorship.

Meanwhile, some artists have absorbed the precariousness behind the word sensitivity in order to articulate an aesthetic of suspension between sensitivity and sensibility. Among the artists producing work with built-in sensibility, for not only censorship but also for tenuousness of Turkish democracy, is İnci Furni with her Lath, 2016, which was first shown in September at Öktem & Aykut as part of her solo exhibition “Where is Eros? Vol. 3.” From afar, Lath looks like the brittle skeleton of a folding screen—something extracted from a Russian Constructivist’s daydreaming. However, as in the watercolor Taksim Scroll, 2016, shown alongside Lath, Furni seeks a delicate balance between the dispersion of linear directions and composition of an intelligible unity here. (In addition to being the name of the city’s main square, “taksim,” meaning “division” also refers to a method of Islamic patternmaking.) During my visit to the show, Furni explained how she explicitly shied away from making Lath into a “space-divider,” and, with a wide grin, added that the frail sculpture survived all of the accidental bumps during the crowded opening: “This little piece holds everything together . . . it’s a simple law of physics!”

View of “İnci Furni: Where is Eros? Vol. 3,” 2016. Center: Lath, 2016


Furni’s noninvasive geometric abstractions, sensitively treading a thin line between reclaiming territory and accepting its prospective loss, are emblematic of a post-“hüzün” Istanbul—the much belabored-over word that Turkey’s first Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk used to describe the dark, melancholy mood of this magnificent city long fallen from grace as he was growing up. With resolution and matter-of-factness, another artist, Yasemin Özcan, seems to invite everyone to simply walk over—not ignore or unlearn—recent personal or collective histories in a similarly “sensible” work, To Remember Everything Is a Form of Madness (2/40), 2016, which was shown at artSümer this fall. Around thirty different bathroom or kitchen tiles lay on the floor without any adhesives; three of them spell the title of the work. For denizens of the Istanbul art scene, the work’s message may translate to dwelling less on the meteoric rise and fall of our habitat as a hip art capital, as well as insisting on calling it our home in the future.

This resolve seems to have taken unexpected forms to bring a divided art community together: from the more informal (yet prevalent) measure of religiously attending openings to the establishment of Istanbul Gallery Weekend in the absence of Art International this year, provisions abound. Even the Turkish market-oriented other fair of the city, Contemporary Istanbul, enjoyed a newfound popularity with over 90,000 visitors, despite being largely downsized and missing a few important local players in its 2016 edition. A promising newcomer to the city’s gallery scene, The Pill’s Suela J. Cennet confided over email that, even though her gallery “didn’t quite fit (Contemporary Istanbul’s) ‘artistic direction’ . . . this was an opportunity to assess . . . the impact of the coup attempt and authoritarian shift in Turkey.” About her gallery’s participation in the fair, she added that she “needed to take the pulse of the situation to be able to adjust [her] strategy for the upcoming months.”

While Cennet calls “acting in an unpredictable future . . . the tragedy of our generation,” Mark Wigley, one of the two curators of the Third Istanbul Design Biennial, reminds us in an Exhibist magazine interview “Turkey doesn’t have a monopoly on disaster.” If not in the streets, this useful reminder also materializes in SALT’s new commission by Oliver Ressler, a film titled There Are No Syrian Refugees in Turkey, 2016, which is currently on view at Ressler’s solo show at SALT Galata. A number of recorded conversations with Syrians living in Istanbul not only reveal the atrocities they fled from in their homeland, but also (and more so) the hardships of surviving here. Having explicitly decided not to leave for Europe, the voices mention their increased frailty as the “weakest links of the society” in the aftermath of July 15. In the wake of ultra-nationalist and religious authoritarian regimes, the urgency of keeping our hearts and ears open—of responding sensitively yet sensibly to changing conditions on the ground with what we do best—looms larger than ever. As one artist friend, Ali Emir Tapan, half-jokingly asked me to name this piece: “We just work harder.”

Gökcan Demirkazık is an Istanbul-based curator and writer.

Read the December issue of Artforum: David Adjaye, John Waters, Christine Macel, Hal Foster, Grace Wales Bonner, Cindy Sherman, Helen Molesworth, Christine Tohme, Tariq Ali, Johanna Fateman, Claire Bishop, Katharina Fritsch, Wendy Brown, Carol Bove, Thomas Schütte, Slavs and Tatars, and many more on the year that was.

Marlene McCarty and Donald Moffett, Untitled, 1993, photograph, 8 x 10". From “The Pilgrims,” 1993.


ON THE EDGE of a new world, pilgrims engage in outrage porn.

Marlene McCarty and Donald Moffett are artists who live and work in New York.

For more, read the December issue of Artforum: “The Year in Shock”—critics reflect on the upheaval of political and perceptual experience as we know it.