Art as entertainment: Arter exhibits ‘ThisPlay’

The cold, postcolonial shell of museum whiteness can cloud public morale in the face of global calamities and local displacement, firm up the hard, infertile soil on which rests, so to speak, the cause of culture in the eternal slumber of the institutionalization, like a body sent into deep space in a cryogenic cell, light years away. The response of prominent traditional establishments like the Louvre, the Tate and the Met has been surrender in response to international calls for the Eurocentric old guard to lay down their shields and return the treasures stolen by their colonialist ancestors.

And as the masterpieces of art of the world’s indigenous people leave their showcases and collections where they enriched the wealthy leisure classes who savored the fruit of their imperial acquisitions, a rage of artists has come to affirm that empty space motivates to create new works and relationships in a spirit of independence and occupation, to redirect the mad train of civilization from collision to flight, inside and outside the signs exteriors of the story. This is, indeed, where art comes in, as a discipline that, while not immune to the traumas of the past, serves as a bold and refreshing empowerment of the present moment.

Pravdoliub Ivanov, “Fairy Tale Device Crashed”, 2013, cut carpet, wall-mounted aluminum construction. (Photo by Matt Hanson)

An object, like a word, when completely isolated, is irrational in its perfect holism. It is only in terms of connection, of context, that meaning evolves. Later, the semantic and semiotic value changes over time based on its use, as is socially predicted. Everything, a word, an object, is unreliable, indefinable, unless you act on it. This inaction, however, and this impracticality, became a benchmark for the definition of art, as exhibited in its various dominant institutions. Museums, for example, are places of distance from the objects and images or concepts they represent, from the media they abstract.

In some cases, performance bridges the gap between seeing and what is seen. The idea of ​​a performer or an actor, however, is subject to interpretation, since the act of seeing is conditioned by the conservation of the works. Direct interaction is therefore perhaps the last and most intimate stage of the art exhibition, before returning to the collaboration and creative work of the artists themselves. This is a question that collectives have asked themselves, especially in the wave of social art that emerged from societies on the margins of Europe such as Yugoslavia with the Škart group, and, of course, elsewhere.

Allude to laughter

Unexpectedly to some, while obvious to others, Arter’s seemingly rigid landmarks harbor a diversity of experimental visions regarding art’s relationship to society at large, as it inspires its workers to engage with the general population, children and workers. class, so they can let go of their worldly presumptions, like their hair, and lighten up for a late-night game in the light of day. A piece by Swedish artist Jacob Dahlgren begins the show, “ThisPlay,” top to bottom, curated with a taste for disparate resonance by Emre Baykal, as his ready-made dartboards, combined together, form the likeness of a pop-art painting.

Dahlgren began his artistic work in abstract painting, incorporating geometric shapes and everyday colors. A player can walk towards his work, “Me, the world, things, life” (2007), pick up five darts and allow his mind to be subsumed by the visual field of concentric yellow and black circles. In an adjacent room, a ping-pong table reworked by key Fluxus character George Maciunas is nearly unplayable, its paddles stapled with bottle caps or topped with cleaning brushes. The subversion of logic for joy, the competitive wheels of capitalism for the square tires of parody, is arguably the main raison d’être of the contemporary artist.


Sai (Chen Sai Hua Kuan),
Sai (Chen Sai Hua Kuan), “No Turn”, 2012, mixed media. (Photo by Matt Hanson)

The curations of Arter and Baykal, in particular, are replete with references to Fluxus history, incorporating works by pioneers like Joseph Beuys and Nam June Paik into what seems to be the visible majority of its group exhibitions. “ThisPlay” is no different and encompasses a massive representation of artists well outside of the daily local Turkish art scene, with welcome participation from less-traveled European countries like Finland, Iceland, Bulgaria and Serbia. That said, the show features characters that often reappear at the center of the art map in Istanbul, such as Cevdet Erek, Deniz Gül, Leyla Gediz, Füsun Onur, Nilbar Güreş and others.

The surface of Onur’s work demands a particular highlight as it will represent Turkey at the 2022 Venice Biennale, in an event that will be historically charged with post-pandemic fervor. The collection-bound upward mobility and sleek fixations of the global art crowd can expect to marvel at Onur’s mid-century feminism, whose installations evoke the conceptualist fantasy of spatial reinvention, guiding the perspective of individuality to mutuality with a liquid, sonic aesthetic. If his last solo exhibition, “Opus II – Fantasia”, at Arter, was intellectually opaque in its emptiness, his work at “ThisPlay” is more accessible.


Şakir Gokcebag,
Şakir Gökçebağ, “Prefix & Suffix 1”, 2010, installation with umbrellas. (Photo by Matt Hanson)

From work to play

Slyly commenting on the art of duration, and even performative action, Onur’s eight-hour video, “Pink Boat” (1993 [2014]) begins when Arter opens and ends when Dolapdere’s elaborate building closes. It’s a subtle piece, requiring the kind of patience that’s as rare in such a place for capricious human attention as seeing a wild jungle cat. But, one can imagine that when the video came out in 1993, after Onur had already made a name for himself, it’s not entirely impossible that there were people sitting around throughout of the video, watching the strong currents and winds on the Bosphorus. pass over a pink boat in its waters.

As a site-specific artist, Onur’s video reflects the sense of time that museums condense as a voiceover plays over loudspeakers announcing intervals before it closes. His other works are equally odd, such as “Water by the Sidewalk” (1981), a Plexiglas collage of man-made spills against the side of a wall, reminiscent of the tone of the work of Ayşe Erkmen, his counterpart, whose piece, “Colors of Letters” (2006) is a childlike evocation of his career-long penchant for using plexiglass as well, albeit stained and often distorted. There are a number of scales in “ThisPlay”, with multicolored or missing steps, mirrored. Where they lead does not matter.

Julia P. Cluff