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New show at ARTER offers alchemy of optimism.

ySTANBUL (CyHAN)- "What does this remind you of?" asked Emre Baykal, curator of the latest exhibit at ystanbul's ARTER Space for Art. I looked at the two narrow stainless steel tubes stretching vertically from the floor in a gentle spiral to the ceiling. "DNA strands?" I guessed. He replied, "It's like a friend and enemy coexisting, both canceling and affirming, simultaneously."

Baykal's "Haset, Husumet, Rezalet" (Envy, Enmity, Embarrassment), which opened on Thursday, features E[currency]ener Euzmen's "Pole Escaping the Flag" (2012), the sculpture in question. "But they go through the ceiling," said Baykal. "It's a Gordian Knot dichotomy that continues." In many ways, this piece by Euzmen is the symbol that ties together all the elements of this exhibit, which runs through April 7.

And what is a Gordian Knot? It's a metaphor for any intractable or unsolvable issue. In the legend of Alexander the Great, he solved his problem of undoing two knotted pieces of rope by slicing it half with his sword.

For this new exhibit occupying four floors of ARTER's building on ystiklal Caddesi, the emotions of envy, enmity and embarrassment are juxtaposed with friendship, peace and solidarity as two intertwined strands -- like Euzmen's.

The 19 works by the eight artists shown here function, in many instances, like Alexander's sword. Asly EcavuE-oy-lu's work on the first floor, "Gordian Knot," takes it literally: Her replica of the well-known bust of Alexander the Great has been sliced in half and put back together again, but the matchup is askew by several centimeters.

The participating artists are Selim Birsel, Hera BE-yE-ktaE-cyyan, CANAN, EcavuE-oy-lu, Merve Ertufan & Johanna AdebEnck, Nilbar GE-reE-, Berat IE-yk, Euzmen, Yusuf Sevincli, Erdem TaE-delen, Hale Tenger and Mahir Yavuz. Two live in New York, one in Vancouver, one in Sweden; the others reside in Turkey. This exhibit is the second in a series of new productions for which Baykal has chosen specific artists from whom he requested proposals of strategies and processes for a concept-oriented show. "I'm happy with the results," he says. "In going deeper into the ideas, I quote Derrida and Nietzsche. In his 'Politics of Friendship,' Derrida states, 'O my friends, there is no friend.' Nietzsche expands that to '"Friends, there are no friends!" the dying wise man shouted. "Enemies, there is no enemy!" shout I, the living fool'."

Ertufan and AdebEnck toy with the inherent opposition in those sentiments in "me | you," a dual-screen film in which they compliment each other for an hour while they both face the camera. It's an ostensibly friendly challenge that turns competitive, silly, serious and a little envious. It's difficult to ascertain their sincerity -- or even whether they're friends or enemies -- as we watch their facial reactions, or lack thereof.

But Tenger deals with these issues directly in her photographic essay "I Know People Like This III." Mounted as the first thing that a visitor will see as one enters the building, Tenger has built a walk-through labyrinth of black and white images taken from 60 years of Turkish press archives. Her only method of obfuscation is using X-ray film hung on negatoscope surfaces so that it dulls the impact of the pictured political violence and death, as if these real events have become medical images for doctors' diagnoses. The sheer number of images mounted in such a glaring, clinical style becomes a jolting reminder of the active enmity done in the name of the state that cannot be corrected by a surgeon's knife.

Related to Tenger's photographic screed is CANAN's "Transparent Police Station" where the artist created a see-through Plexiglas module filled with reduced full-body photos of herself, both clothed and naked, to fulfill the mandate for "transparency" within the police force. She takes the body politic one step further into a separate room for the floor-to-ceiling "I beg you please do not speak to me of love." Here, colorful cinema posters from the 1970s are like a memorial to that decade's porno film output. But the words embroidered on the back of actress Seher's bathrobe, inside a Plexiglas showcase in the center of the room, reveal the other side of the industry. "Cover me with this and bury me. I will die happy that I'm leaving this disgusting world," are the words from her suicide note.

Other ways of escaping are more fancifully shown by BE-yE-ktaE-cyyan's "The Missing Cuckoo," where she tied together a series of her grandmother's handkerchiefs to form a rope attached to the cuckoo in a cuckoo clock. In her "Somewhere in the Middle," she cast her own hands in gold, which are holding two table legs as imaginary oars of an imaginary "boat" (two stacked and slightly tilted tables) departing the scene. The rootedness of the heavy tables suggests the inability to move while the desire to do so is highlighted by her gold hands.

Birsel's installation "Grown in the Backyard" takes several of his pieces and injects some sting into the three titular concepts. He has stamped tiny silhouettes of army tanks along the edges of the stairwell and they lead to the final destination on the top floor: an outline of a tank on the floor constructed with kebab skewers held together by spinal discs from a bull. His "Steel Flowers" are constructed with circular saws placed on sharply conical pedestals made of steel. His cutting edge allusions provide ontological teeth to populist poesy related to some of the more horrific events in recent history, particularly by his pile of ashes in a rotating cauldron in a Zen garden of military cots and pots.

Baykal's eternal optimism, despite the internal tensions of each of the carefully selected and carefully placed pieces, shines through the trenchant reminders of society's historic penchant for committing sins against itself. "Taboo issues which we couldn't discuss openly before are now [out]," he says. "I'm really amazed when I watch TV -- what was outrageous two years ago is now there in living color. We're facing ourselves and our history. I hope it's a stage which is not fake. We're searching for friendship; embarrassment is always there, but we hope to get rid of it. The exhibit's title includes negative concepts and feelings, but it's the coexistence with their opposites that will save us." Euzmen's spiraling poles is a good start.

(Cihan/Today's Zaman) CyHAN

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Publication:Cihan News Agency (CNA)
Date:Jan 25, 2013
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