The joining of opposites not only characterizes the title of the exhibition “S/he Is the One,” but it also speaks to the reality-forging dimension of performative art in feminist and queer contexts presented at the center of this show. Historical as well as contemporary positions on the subject confront each other in the well-designed curatorial layout by Ursula Maria Probst, who plays with the physicality of the space by alternating dense and open installations of the included works.
Within these dual tensions, “Untitled (Glass on Body Imprints),” 1972, by the Cuban performance artist Ana Mendieta, is most evocative. In this photographic series, Mendieta investigated her body by pressing herself against a sheet of transparent Plexiglas, thereby transposing herself into variegated, corporeal states of being. Anja Manfredi’s photograph Selbstportrait mit graukarte (Self-Portrait with Gray Card), 2013, by contrast, depicts the Austrian artist in a single state: In the black-and-white image, she holds one of her tools in her hand, the gray card used in analog photography. Rather than deploying it to calibrate the photograph’s exposure before the image is taken, the gray card’s inclusion within the picture introduces a neutralizing element to the single-perspective portrait.
The exhibition also brings together installations under the conceptual moniker “performative sculpture.” Interperformativität (Interperformativity), 2013—also by Manfredi—includes a movable mirror that is positioned in the visitors’ space so that their likenesses are reflected from almost every possible angle. Mathilde ter Heijne and Amy Patton similarly foster viewer participation in their ad hoc photo studio, where, during the opening of the exhibition, a man’s testicles were photographed. Though depictions of erect phalluses are qualified as symbols of power and potency, the images that are developed here, such as Gentle Men, 2012, perceive masculinity through its sensitivity to exposure. Thus, the oppositions that would normally characterize the male/female dialectic are throughout “S/he Is the One” skillfully inverted and transformed into unified complements.
Translated from German by Diana Reese.
Amar Kanwar’s ongoing project The Sovereign Forest captures the changes and destruction caused over the past decade by the severe industrial interference caused by mining in the traditionally agrarian state of Odisha, India, and it also tracks resistance among the state’s communities. Since its inception, the piece has grown into a multimedia research platform in which Kanwar displays found and collected images and legal records. He does this not in an evidentiary way, but by creating fictitious archival constructions that are rooted in poetry, consequently forming an artificial memory. Rejecting individual authority, Kanwar turns his voice into many, allowing the audience to participate and contribute to his political and perceptive output.
Occupying all of TBA21’s exhibition spaces, this multisensory exhibition (which shares the title of the project) features two films, an installation of rice seed samples, three videos projected on large handmade books, and a documentary archive of previously suppressed evidence and factual and fictional records of the conflict—contributed and supplemented by visitors. The archive is presented in an “evidence room,” within which visitors are allowed to bring, research, and discuss materials about violent interventions in their daily lives and environment. All of the works come together to create multiple ways of understanding and illuminating the depths of this modern war without using the formal information provided through journalism and forensic research. Rather than taking a documentary, informative, and testimonial look at the crime as it is actually happening, Kanwar orchestrates traces by interweaving his own texts and poetry through the work, instilling a sense of collective belonging to this particular history. The show queries conventional distinctions between fact and fiction by asking how a story—in particular one characterized as traumatic—gains potency through the efficacy of poetry.
The life cycle of images—here, the enmeshment between their corrosion and the environment—and the sensuality of the archive are made explicit in Valerie Snobeck’s latest exhibition, “Use Period.” These images, which were culled from photographs of the Documerica project, commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency to document the state of the environment and everyday life in the 1970s, are treated like layers of skin to be peeled apart.
Nonlocal (Subjects), 2013, comprises three prints that originated from a photograph of contaminated water. To create the work, Snobeck laminated an ink-jet print along with a piece of linen onto the wall; it was then peeled off to leave an imprint of the image and any stray fibers; these were affixed once again in another layer on which Snobeck scrawled with black marker the original photographer’s name and the text—ACCESS RESTRICTIONS: UNRESTRICTED / USE RESTRICTIONS: UNRESTRICTED—alluding to its archive status.
Go Down (Reproductions), 2013, another peeled print, this time with burlap, depicts a snorkeling scientist employed by the Shell Oil Company to study coral reef formations; its composition recalls a sexy pinup dripping with heroic glint. Bill’s Flowers, 2013, a peeled-print diptych, is placed behind mirrors and further veiled behind a wooden frame made of netting that the artist collects from construction sites, a recurring material in her oeuvre. Inducing in the viewer a sensation of being behind an image, Snobeck gleans these wayward shots of flowers along the Alaskan oil pipelines and polluted rivers as moments of grace and subterfuge. By peeling back the physical as well as the ontological layers of images, Snobeck takes the viewer as that snorkeler in the mess of an image stream. Like the remnant sheets of peeled plastic draped over a wall by the entrance, we teeter between witness and accomplice, dead skins and all.
Boredom and unnecessary repetition are looming threats for any contemporary artist or astute curator. Croatian artist David Maljković’s current solo exhibition, in a location that purports to be the largest exhibition space in the Baltic region (nearly 26,000 square feet), attracts attention due to the artist’s decision to reassess his previous projects with an emphasis on altering perception. The same exhibition space hosts an extensive Fluxus archive highlighting the creative efforts of Lithuanian-born American artist George Maciunas. The newly revisited work by Maljković appears linked to and influenced by Lithuania’s international avant-garde 1960s Fluxus movement, whose name originates from the Latin variant meaning “flow, flux, flowing, fluid.” The six new readings, which are displayed as slide projections, animations, complementary sculptures, and seemingly arbitrary objects, are not static; their colorful reflections and ripples are exhibited with grace, beckoning curiosity.
New Reproductions, 2013, displays overlapping images from previous works in a series of five collaged posters. Afterform, 2013, provides cartoon animations appropriated from a 1960s Croatian architectural magazine alongside Maljković’s earlier works that are projected onto a white screen. Both works, in addition to After the Fair, 2009 (tarpaulin and reflector incorporated in a tinkering, sculptural fashion), question ways in which artists relate to bricolage as well as relevant methods utilized in conventional, retrospective exhibitions. To a degree, the artist adopts the role of curator in his decision to consciously redesign previous works as new versions; content itself is recycled and realigned, yet harbors similar components. In this instance, the standardized positions of artist (David Maljković) and curator (Jurga Daubaraitė) bleed into each other, possibly in tribute to Fluxus. Depending on how one interacts with the works, any chosen quizzical narrative takes precedence over another—sometimes fragmented and interrupted and other times linear and consequential. An observer’s comfortable tendency to see in only one way limits the viewer and the viewed; in a fashion akin to how one reconsiders memories, over time the reality of any incident may become warped. “New Reproductions” is an invitation to avoid pretense and self-confidence. The world contradicts itself—especially, when one trusts perception alone.
Korean artist Lee Bul’s first major European museum exhibition begins in the air. Cast in white polyurethane and suspended across Mudam’s I. M. Pei–designed glass and concrete atrium, two squads of sci-fi species appear frozen in the midst of a celestial ballet or battle. Perhaps a little worse for the wear (variably missing arms, legs, and heads), the hard-bodied, humanoid “Cyborgs,” 1997–2011, face off against the amorphous tentacled “Anagrams,” 1999–2006. Alternately evoking classical Greek marbles and “Star Wars” creatures, these ghostly human-scale beings appear to have arisen from Lee’s alien universes and landscapes exhibited on the museum’s lower level.
Playing with scale and legibility, Lee’s topographies are ambiguously utopian or dystopian. A Perfect Suffering, 2011, is part of a sculptural series featuring helical metal armatures adorned with shiny chains, crystals, and glass beads. Hung from the ceiling, these steely, glittering chandeliers are also microcosmic landscapes—floating mountains colonized with winding roadways and Frank Gehry-style buildings. Installed atop a table like an architectural model, Mon grand récit: Weep into stones… (My grand narrative: Weep into stones), 2005, recasts real-world attractions—an upside-down Hagia Sophia, a roller coaster-like ring road, a flashing billboard—as a miniature amusement park ride that is at once anachronistically futuristic and ancient. Having observed Lee’s sci-fi terrains and creatures from afar, the viewer also has a chance to experience these elaborate fantasy worlds from within. Past a black curtain and through a low-ceilinged tunnel (Souterrain, 2012) is a large-scale installation whose mirrored floor is populated by two structures whose curious forms tempt the viewer to venture inside. The more disorienting is Via Negativa, 2012, a snail-shaped labyrinth made of wood, mirrors, and LED lights. Excerpts from psychologist Julian Jaynes’s text on the bicameral mind (in English and Korean) plastered to the structure’s exterior walls appear a vain attempt to verbalize the overwhelmingly discombobulating experience of Lee’s hall of mirrors.
Perhaps Kara Hamilton, in once characterizing her work as “critical decoration,” was also describing the works by fellow artists Christine Roland, Angie Keefer, and Steffie Christiaens that are included in this exhibition. Cooperation and interaction between the works of these participating artists within a crossover between art and craft are essential elements in the show, which is not so much about fashion but involves historic notions of female-gender-related dressing, and the tools and materials by which the clothing was made.
Every material seems to have a specific meaning, such as in Horsehair Pins (all works 2013), made of silver and threads of white horsehair by Hamilton and Roland. The silver reflects the value of the time-consuming labor involved in sewing, while the horsehair relates to the padding of tight-fitting corsets. Christiaens’s handmade shoes, worn at the opening by the gallery’s director Maxine Kopsa, consist of an interwoven pattern, which the artist applied according to the specific natural characteristics of the different materials used. Works like these are as discrete and precise as the unassuming female toil depicted in, say, a Vermeer painting.
The text-based work Where Were We, 2013, by Keefer is another case of an interactive work: The text, now part of Keefer’s ongoing project www.servinglibrary.com, was appropriated by Hamilton into a metal street sign displayed on the Kunstverein’s facade. Hamilton’s Weights, 2013, small silver paperweights that resemble chess pieces at first glance, are actually casts of tiny peculiar bits of garbage. Their fragility, their white-silver gleam, and their unfinished trumpet-like base convey a sense of doubt and a playful acceptance of a “lack of a solution.” It’s an open ending you wish to see more often in works of art.
Rob Voerman has taken to task a direct social and political engagement in the presentation of his latest exhibition, “The Fifth Season.” This is also the title of the large installation, which seems arranged like a workshop, that one reaches first when entering the gallery: It functions as a place for discussion and other programming open to artists, political lobbyists, art institutions, and neighborhood community groups. The hanging lamp above the work’s invitingly large table is made up of slides of images culled from news coverage of war, slain animals, and crashed financial charts, among other topics, casting a brooding yet communal atmospheric light from the middle of the room.
Except for a single door opening, the installation is closed off to the rest of the gallery space. Voerman’s tinted windows and stained-glass patterns made of cardboard and colored plastic adorn any other light source. But through the glass, the rest of the exposition is still visible: a collection of watercolor drawings and sculptural works in the artist’s signature crude style, made with materials such as unfinished wood, house paint, epoxy, and bronze. Unité d’Habitation (all works cited, 2014) consists of a tall standing sculpture made of a wooden stilt-like construction and colored with references to Mondrian’s palette. Sitting on top is a warped cardboard model of Le Corbusier’s famous building in a seemingly derelict state. The drawing installed across from it, Inverse Modernity, is an equally forsaken vision, yet in this depiction traces of humanity are slightly discernible. Voerman seems to want to confront us with what it means to turn our backs on the greater modernist narrative and start over again. Only, this time, we’ve been equipped with the tools and materials more immediately attainable after a would-be apocalypse.
Navid Nuur’s “Lube Love” presents an artist who unperturbedly incorporates the basic foundations of Conceptual art in his work, while at the same time modifying these into a completely new language. Nuur’s exhibition showcases a very personal etymology that allows room for humor, failure, beauty, sensuality, and even a hint of anthroposophism.
The first room viewers encounter is dedicated to Nuur’s personal regard for the color black. On the wall is an large-scale text piece that details a candid fictitious interview between him and black, in which he professes his faith in its formal as well as magical properties. In the back of this space, a new work—‘Untitled’ The Inker’s Inn, 2013—allows visitors to the show to get a tattoo of Nuur’s design (free of charge), with black ink as the only available option. A similar work of devotion is on view in a following room—‘Untitled’ Let us meet inside you, 2005–13—wherein water from Nuur’s studio becomes the object of adoration. Hundreds of bottles in blue crates are filled with water from a tap that Nuur brought from his studio and had connected to the museum’s water supply. On the inside of a label affixed to each bottle is the title of the work, legible only through water and glass.
Such works reveal not only the artist’s curiosity about his chosen materials and their properties but also how he incorporates that constellation of materials into a whole. Further on in the show, the walls are painted with different pastel-hued paints, each containing its own vitamin complex. Nuur seems to believe that it’s his responsibility as an artist to provide an alternate way of reading and seeing. (For example, in his textual works, which act as poetic footnotes throughout the show, he treats his dyslexia as a tool, by playing with the manner in which words are spelled and combined to create what almost becomes a new language.) But, more than that, he seems to also consider himself responsible for engendering the collective conditions that best foster these alternatives. Or, to cite a work constituting nothing more than the badge visitors receive upon entering: “We Share Air.”
While “The Temptation of AA Bronson” is the largest European exhibition of work by the artist (who was a member of the collective General Idea, as well as founder and director of the Institute for Art, Religion, and Social Justice), it’s not simply a retrospective or solo show. AA Bronson is here both artist and curator, subject and object. His curatorial vision has been grounded not in an objective third-party approach so much as a highly personal and generous one. As a result, the exhibition is intensely emotional, its upper floor even bordering on the thaumaturgical.
The show’s title derives from Gustave Flaubert’s seminal 1874 book The Temptation of Saint Anthony, which detailed a religious life lived in continuous dialogue with temptation. And indeed, religion is one of the themes—along with sex, community, death, ritual, magic, and the body and spirit—uniting works on view by more than thirty artists (both dead and alive), most of whom have collaborated with AA Bronson, as well as a collection of over one hundred queer zines spanning decades from the punk era to today, and his personal archive of books, editions, and ephemera. The first floor of the exhibition is more or less traditional in terms of spatial organization, lighting, installation of the works; here visitors find, for example, crystal healing beds by Marina Abramović, and rose petals laid out in concentric circles—the vestiges of a baptismal performance by Chrysanne Stathacos—and even a new commission by AA Bronson and Michael Bühler-Rose, The City of Nine Gates, 2013, consisting of two large cubes with peepholes containing the remains of a performance. One floor up, the white-cube conventions of the first floor give way to an immersive, phantasmagorical environment where individual works merge into a continuous flow of images, sounds, and the strong smell of white sage covering the floor. The show is broadened and deepened by a program of rituals, blessings, performances, and screenings, as well as by exquisite text panels that accompany each work—deriving from a novella that artist Gareth Long created from fragments of Flaubert’s hagiography.
Curated by Joanna Kordjak-Piotrowska, “Map” comprises numerous photographs, sketchbooks, documentary films, and paintings that take up the political atmosphere of Poland between 1947 and the end of the 1950s. The works address the nation’s creative dialogue with Western Europe, particularly France, as well as with the Middle East and Asia, shedding light on Cold War alliances between Communist countries and their sympathizers. What’s more, the presentation of these works reconstructs often nonobvious and changeable paths of intellectual exchange after World War II.
On view are Polish artist Aleksander Kobzdej’s politically charged sketches created in 1954 in Vietnam at the end of the First Indochina War. These significantly depart from the socialist realism and art informel styles that the painter is most associated with. Here, Kobzdej acts less as an artist and more as a reporter, depicting the signposts of an ongoing war. Kordjak-Piotrowska has juxtaposed these works with photoreportages and films by other artists. One notable example is Roman Artymowski’s slightly overexposed footage of 1960s Bagdad. Artymowski spent time in the city as lecturer at the University of Baghdad’s College of Fine Arts between 1959 and 1967, during which he made this particular work that, like Kobzdej’s, illustrate the relationship between travel and image production. Accompanied by a selection of Parisian sketchbooks from the late 1940s, which show the migration of ideas in and out of the Iron Curtain, the exhibition acts as a rhizome of references that substantially nuances conceptions of an artmaking system that might otherwise be perceived as myopic.
“The image is strong but next to it is the void,” reads a phrase in a recent work by João Louro. The statement may well be an axiom for the artist’s overall practice, which regards the image as an entity in itself and probes the space that surrounds it. Central to this process is the presence and absence of images and the role the spectator has in activating or reinventing them. In Lisbon, Louro presents two simultaneous exhibitions—one at the eighteenth-century chapel of Projecto Travessa da Ermida and another at Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art—that postulate separate takes on our relation to the construction and observation of imagery.
In “5 Minutes After Violent Death,” a speculation on the last images one will see just before death is presented. A group of twenty small black-and-white photographs and three large color light boxes—each with the same title of the show and dated 2014—from Louro’s personal archive suggest a hypothetical, filmic flashback of the entirety of someone’s life: sweet childhood moments, beloved movies, personal encounters, and memorable holidays. Though they are dispositive for the viewer’s own personal recollection, there are moments when the artist barely hints at a certain narrative, forcing the spectator to complete the picture.
In the gallery space, “The Cold Man” includes twelve canvases from the series “Covers” and the installation The Atomic Nature of Matter, both 2014. Comprised of a written introduction by a mysterious author and a series of documents, such as a personal journal, police facial composites, photographs, and newspaper clippings, the installation presents the story of a fiction writer who becomes a serial killer and murders to feed his stories. The paintings, however, are reproductions of recognizable book covers: In Ulysses, for example, Louro reproduces the cover of the book’s first edition but violently erases part of the blue background that makes up the Aegean Sea as if to unveil only the title and the author’s name. By denying access to the contents of the book, the paintings serve as triggers for the spectator to either imagine a new narrative or retell the classic stories by memory—much like seeing your life flash before your eyes.
“I is another" wrote Arthur Rimbaud words that apply well to the work of Portuguese artist Jorge Molder. For the past three-plus decades, the Lisbon-born artist has called upon his own image as a model for his photos. Two separate museum exhibitions documenting his practice have opened in his hometown, one at the Museu do Chiado and the other at the Museu da Electricidad. On view at the former is “Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, Thief,” an expansive exhibition of works spanning 1989 to 2012 that showcases the variety of ways Molder fictionalized his own image. Throughout, the artist seems to have drawn inspiration from both people and situations that linger between reality and fiction—for example Pinocchio, 2009, in which the artist casted parts of his body in plaster. Similarly in the series of photographs, “The Origin of Species,” 2012, Molder appears in different postures in front of a black square; traces of his movement blur over some of the images, causing him to appear animalistic.
Molder’s latest series, “The Scale of Mohs,” 2012–13, (on view at the Museu da Electricidad) features the artist as a gesticulating clown who is concerned with his appearance. The title refers to a scale designed by German mineralogist Friedrich Moh that indicates the hardness of minerals, ranging from soft talc to hard diamond. Given the attention to the surface of the face in these photos, the title could refer to the way human skin is inevitably scratched by time. The clown seems to sense his mortality, even though he is entertaining with full dedication. Part of the images looks like drawing or painting, even though that is a illusion, carried out in a digital printing technique. The clown, working on his make up in red and white, adds another layer to the confusion about the reality of the image.
Two years ago, after the opening of his first solo exhibition at this gallery, artist Antonio Rovaldi bought a small ten-inch plaster statue of an armless man in Madrid’s popular flea market, El Rastro. Back in Milan, where he currently lives and works, Rovaldi found a ramshackle foundry where he melted the statue in order to make a new one with arms. A compelling video in the back room of the gallery depicts this process. As the process of casting the sculpture develops on screen, Rovaldi is seen fixing the bicycle that would take him to Madrid after riding some five hundred miles from Genoa for his second solo show here, all the while carrying the small statue in the compact trunk of his bicycle.
But Rovaldi did not show up to the opening in Madrid; rather just the miniature plaster man, titled Domani pensami in battaglia (Tomorrow in the Battle, Think of Me), 2013, made it, as did the bicycle that got him there. Standing on a small plinth, the sculpture stretches his arms out to us in a gesture of offering. Empty handed, he offers not a physical object but instead a signifier of commemoration. Returning the statue, newly whole, to the city where he first encountered it, Rovaldi truly squares off the relational circle that is present between art and life in an arresting and deeply moving show, sentiments perhaps not as easily communicable by the artist in any other way. Brightening a red painted corner, the neon work I’ll Tell You Why, 2013, presumably about the artist’s motivation for making it, never really does.
A sober and discreet Conceptualist, Isidoro Valcárcel Medina has had a five-decade career, and his influence on younger generations of Spanish artists is far from receding. Curated by Juan de Nieves, this museum-quality exhibition of new pieces is devoted to the artist’s profoundly personal insights into architecture. It comprises blueprints and plans regarding two projects related to a nearby private dwelling (El hilván [Basting], 2012, and A dos caras, a dos aguas [Two-sided and Gabled], 2013), and one site-specific intervention for the basement of the gallery (Escala 1:1 [Scale 1:1], 2013).
For El hilván, Valcárcel Medina intends to sew together the walls and windows of a house, piercing them and running a thick rope through. This piece is meticulously described in a typically deadpan set of floor and elevation plans as well as a video animation. But look closer: The documents convey ideas ranging from the malleability of apparently rigid architectonic structures to the vanishing boundaries between public and private domains. In another set of elevation plans, for A dos caras, a dos aguas, the artist suggests subtle transformations in the perimeter of the house, whose ductile walls would allow the emergence of bulges in both its interior and its exterior. In short, architecture here acts as a living organism, defining itself in dynamic and unexpected forms. In the basement, Valcárcel Medina’s intervention Escala 1:1—for which he has rendered measurements of the space on the white floor—represents an irrefutably tautological exercise that has formal similarities with Mel Bochner’s spatial measurements. Still, the Spaniard’s take on space is obsessive in its unambiguous quest for self-reflexivity.
Directed by Maria Lind, this dynamic project encompasses exhibitions, excursions, and lectures about the people and city of Tensta, a suburb northwest of central Stockholm. The immense program explores history and collective memory while pivoting around a seven-month exhibition cycle with a rigorous schedule of almost daily events. The current session (January 18 to May 18, 2014) sees the participation of over thirty artists—including Minouk Lim, Mila Ivanow, and Tarek Atoui—as well as architects, local collectives and associations, sociologists, cultural geographers, and academics who will discuss issues related to Tensta. Originally a farming area, today Tensta is home to nineteen thousand people, and many live in modernist apartments that were built in the late 1960s as part of a government initiative to solve the housing crisis. With this rapid growth, the identity of the suburb transformed dramatically; the project addresses the problems of a shifting collective memory and the role of cultural heritage.
The museum is a hub for fruitful dialogue. A highlight is Petra Bauer’s collaboration with the local Women’s Center of Tensta-Hjulsta (KITH), political scientist Sofia Wiberg, and architect Filippa Stålhane. Together they present eight “acts” or workshops focusing on listening as a political act and pedagogical tool. The acts thematically focus on housing, home, and living conditions. These ideas continue in the museum with the Grand Domestic Revolution’s open-source library, workshops from artist Ahmet Ögüt and the Silent University, and a lecture by Marion von Osten on her project-exhibition “In the Desert of Modernity—Colonial Planning and After.”
For the duration of the exhibition, the Konsthall has also adapted the institutional title of “Tensta Museum,” an act that critiques institutional authority while simultaneously claiming that authority for as its own. This assumed title manipulates the hierarchy of institutional rhetoric (and associated funding) and reflects a desire for Tensta and its konsthall to be valued by the state. In all, the project weaves together a compelling cartography of a new Sweden: a country beyond stereotypes, which engages with a complex political and social landscape. It manages to orchestrate audiences into meaningful encounters with the city and boldly celebrates and gives voice to the multifaceted lives of the people and communities that form this place.
While the significance of Duchamp’s readymade is frequently taken for granted today, in this group exhibition of artists from different generations and with various sensibilities, the hundredth anniversary of the first readymades (Bicycle Wheel, 1913, and Bottle Rack, 1914) is celebrated with an anachronistic urgency. For instance, in Şakir Gökçebağ’s Sun, 2010, numerous black umbrella handles surrounding another black umbrella serve to focus the viewer’s attention on the object at the center. The piece’s circular shape echoes the clock installed on the back wall of the exhibition: In this work by Gülçin Aksoy, Untitled (Intervention on Ready Made), 2002, each hour is marked by the words I’M LATE. The wall clock is familiar, while the visually crowded dial becomes a ground on which the personal is expressed. It is perhaps a literal translation of the title of the exhibition, a readymade that is being crushed under a sentiment, losing its thingness to become an expression of a feeling.
Hera Büyüktaşçıyan’s sculpture Panarchia, 2012, is populated by gilded egg dishes, half-open to reveal stones. The corporeal phenomenon of swallowing, an orchestration that one never really consciously thinks about (except perhaps when swallowing is painful), is also an apt metaphor for our dealing with the world, separating everything into two: things we can swallow and things we cannot. The domestic setup of this object within the context of the exhibition thus serves as a nod to the wordplay and the transliteration of the debut readymade of 1913.
The highlight of the show is Vahit Tuna’s Armut, 1997, which is as elegant as it is funny. Mimicking an Edward Weston work, this black-and-white photograph features a pear that stands proudly. The Turkish word for “pear,” armut, when said aloud sounds like Duchamp’s famous signature R. Mutt, which is also inscribed on the side of the pear. The work is direct, literal, and a crucial addition to the century of readymades. Here it bridges the original context of the readymade, the locality of this exhibition, and the artist.
Curated by Elif Gül Tirben, this group exhibition is the first show at Tankut Aykut Gallery—a young, timely contribution to the rapidly growing gallery scene in Istanbul. The show brings together the gritty aesthetic of the neighborhood—where numerous small businesses can still be found, despite the rapid urban renewal that is transforming the area—with an unassuming visual language that runs throughout the exhibition. For instance, Fatma Belkıs and Onur Gökmen’s installation Company as Nose as Company, 2014, consists of a small folding wooden table, the type that is often seen bearing trivial commodities such as cigarettes or knickknacks on local streets. Here, however, over twenty noses walk around the tabletop thanks to small battery-powered motors: a Gogol story sprung eerily and excessively to life. Witty, understated, exchangeable, and reproducible, the noses evoke objects that would cheaply fill shoppers’ bags of goods, embodying both commodity fetishism and the functionality of objects.
Meanwhile, Komet’s States of Becoming a Bird, 2013, is a beautiful and diminutive sculpture encased in glass. This playful, handmade work contains perhaps the most direct reference to the title of the exhibition, as it hints at a state of becoming and the in-betweenness of character, both artistic and personal, as its abstract form (reminiscent of a horse’s head), emerging from the neck of a vase like something hatching from a shell or a chrysalis, hints at a state of becoming, an unfinished quality of character. Born in 1941, Komet is the oldest artist here by a few decades, and his work anchors the conceptual framework of the exhibition. Merve Ertufan’s Sketch, 2014, is another highlight. In this video, the artist sits and speaks with an illustrator who makes a sketch of her. One notices the board game Guess Who? on the table that separates them, and the air of self-consciousness that grows throughout the interaction. In the end, Sketch is a poetic stand-in for “the” artist in her studio.