Friday, December 08, 2006

Sour Times [ENG]

Başak Şenova'nın küratörlüğünü üstlendiği Rejection Episodes başlıklı sergi kataloğunda yer alan bir yazı. Daha önce Varlık dergisindeki söyleşimin özeti niteliğinde. İngilizce hataları bana ait.

Written for the exhibition: http://www.nomad-tv.net/rejection_episodes



It is needless here to revisit the accounts of the advance of reactionary global politics in the aftermath of September 11, or to reiterate the details of ways in which the administrative configuration called nation-state -whose stability was being undone by the intensifying forces of globalisation- found the opportunity to reinstate and enhance its authority in various ways. Different forms of nationalist ideology have been implanted for that purpose. Similar to countries whose administrative machinery envision the prospect of advancing towards higher ranks in global hierarchy, constitutive actors of the Turkish Republic have indulged in a schismatic state of mind which easily shifts from an eagerness for recognition from the prioritised Other to an acrimonious isolationism, from flirtatious uses of narcissism to organised resentment. Nationalism remains here as the leading medium but it operates mainly through two different -and to a certain extent conflicting- modalities.

The first of these modalities, fed by mutually stinging clashes experienced in the process of EU membership negotiations, remains strictly tied to adjacent segments of conservative politics, the authoritarian tradition, and bureaucratic machinery of imposed modernism. Suggesting the suspension -and in some cases the abandonment- of integration into the stage of ‘contemporary civilisations’, this isolationist world view maintains an aggressive alertness on any possible subversion targeting national unity. A contemporary art scene strongly defined by a critical engagement with political matters and social issues has no place within the scope of this perspective. The ultra-nationalist (just to avoid the f-word) raid of an art space where an exhibition of photography on the pogrom targeting the religious minorities in Istanbul in 1955 took place, or legal persecutions against exhibition catalogues with anti-militarist content are among the symptoms of this increasing intolerance.

The second modality of nationalism is based on the sense of fair competition between nations within the rules of the capitalism game. Obsessed with national interests, economic rationalism, and organisational efficiency, this sort of thinking imports patterns of cultural codifications from model cultures in the geography. Actors of this view have shown sudden, and to a certain extent surprising, interest in contemporary art, who conceive art as the most recent ornament on the costume of contemporaneity. New art institutions have emerged through the support of prominent bourgeois families who crave for a false image of being long-established in the city of Istanbul, and corporations desiring a sophisticated entry in their portfolios to advertise to their European counterparts. The aesthetics that is propagated by this new establishment is tied to visual pleasure, the myth of the artist as genius, and the conception of art as the compensator of daily trivia.

The practice of contemporary art in Istanbul has so far been staunchly anti-nationalist. It has pursued various ways inhabiting critically specific positions without being trapped by the already specified. In other words, the constellation of artists who have brought up a coherent discursive field in the last decade, have maintained their engagement with the surrounding social context, but diligently avoided any association with essentialist identities. The tie with the urban experience has been an alternative route of relating to one’s location. Foregrounding the belongingness to a city or a neighbourhood, affiliating with subcultural formations, reflecting upon the urban problems, tracing urban myths, making transversal connections between distant cities sharing similar frequencies have been strategies employed in that field. The remaining task is to differentiate this mode of acting and producing from the emerging ideology of Istanbulism, which reduces the urban experience into a brand name to be marketed. This entails a resistance to the PR-led institutional objective of constraining the art practice within the privileged core of the city as yet another subcultural chic; a quest for forcing the physical and mental limits of artistic activities towards the margins of the city, courage to have encounters with the dynamic social formations that are not allowed into public visibility and to conceive aesthetics as a ‘common feeling of experiencing‚ and experiment on it in order to produce blueprints for alternative ways of being common. I am quite aware that I am asking too much.

1 Comments:

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