The concept of audience is implicit in the framing of exhibition. How do exhibition makers envision the audience and what is the role of text in contemporary art? What formats does the writer juggle with when formulating a funding application, a catalogue essay, or a press release? How do these formats reveal the curatorial concerns and how do they help the exhibition maker consider the notion of an audience? Below, we’re publishing a revised version of Lara Fresko’s text on “An Attempt at Exhausting a Place,” a group exhibition that took place at Matzo Factory in Istanbul, 29 March–20 April 2012. By using a variety of writing styles, Fresko poses the question of how to frame an ad-hoc exhibition without having to contextualize it in an institutional setting and program. How does the text link the works on display and attempt to create an audience, and how does it achieve that goal or fail to do so?—Özge Ersoy
An Attempt at Exhausting a Place brings together the works of Sibel Horada, Eytan İpeker, Reysi Kamhi, and Neşe Nogay on the top floor of the old Matzo Factory. Taking their cue from the eponymous Georges Perec book, the artists engage with spaces, objects, as well as the memories that they carry and the language they speak on various levels. The objects that inform these works are necessarily out of the public eye, such as the interior of a home, a memory box, a factory machine. The artists, all of whom make use of a different media, capture scenes and situations that otherwise go unseen rather than events that attract instant attention. In doing so, the show which consists of a collaborative effort, that produced such distinct works, has at its core the idea of looking at something again and under a different light.
In the large space, divided by walls into three sections, the first closed space Homery [Evhane] harbors Reysi Kamhi’s paintings as well as Neşe Nogay’s memory drawer. Sibel Horada’s Untitled Machine [İsimsiz Makine] occupies the middle section with fourteen tv screens set on crates, reanimating the disgarded matzo machine downstairs. Finally behind the skeleton-like wall is Eytan İpeker’s experimental video work Peeling [Soyulma].
Reysi Kamhi’s paintings inside a home-like structure with closed off little rooms make use of the limited visuality of real estate website images that usually give a distorted image of and hence the wrong impressions about the space they are representing. Transferring images of an intimate space or experience is an important part of Kamhi’s practice, having previously used photographs from facebook and pornography sites as basis for her paintings. In making her series based on images from pornography websites Kamhi began a solo show with nothing on the walls except for bare brown paper. For the duration of the show, in which she set up her studio within the nine to five environment of the gallery, the artist worked on these; never quite finishing them and always leaving areas yet to be painted that raised a few eyebrows.
In this current series Kamhi does what she has previously done with photographs from facebook and porn sites, but this new series turns to spaces and objects rather than figures; placing a new emphasis on habitat. The choices made in this transfer from photographic image to paint on canvas: the emphasis on certain objects—those that appear and disappear—and most importantly, the labor that goes into the process render visible the industrious process of signification these images embody. Kamhi’s practice of using photographs as basis for her paintings almost always highlight a form of labor we put into exhibiting ourselves for public valuation and consumption on a daily basis.
In this installation Kamhi creates a sense of nostalgia for memories that are yet to be left behind with the warm colors and the emphasis on familiar objects in her paintings. Her own dog appears in the midst of a canvas as if he’s about to jump onto the carpet in front of the painting. This single embodiment of life within these paintings remind us that these spaces have yet to be left behind, as we shift our attention to other unliving traces of life: a pair of slippers, prayer beads, a lit lamp… Among all the carefully installed paintings, an unfinished canvas laid bare against the wall stands as an anomaly to these warm colors and precise hanging—acting as an excess as well as absent object to both a state of being settled and uprootedness. Images of these homes that are for rent or sale reveal their owners’ private lives: striped bedsheets, a colorful tray, the corner of the house where they watch TV at night. In the closed space created by the artist, it is not the people who speak, but rather the objects that are dispersed into the environment as if to speak in their stead. As for the people; they are stuck on the outer wall, in a reproduction of a black and white family portrait, smiling.
In the mid section of Kamhi’s installation we find Neşe Nogay’s memories of her grandmother in the form of polaroids placed under a glass on top of a nightstand and found items such as candy and dry leaves accompanying a book in the drawer. This work, selected by Kamhi to become part of the installation is Nogay’s first work to be exhibited in the context of contemporary art. The artist, who works predominantly as a book designer used the medium of the book as well as photography and found objects in creating this piece. The One [Babanem] begins with the artists journey to remember the most important figure in her life. Instead of taking shelter in old discolored photographs, the artist depends on her own faded memories; recreating and photographing instances such as nailpolish in the fridge, or tan colored stockings. She displays these on top of a night stand, underneath a thin glass: just like her grandmother stored her own memories. Within Kamhi’s installation that depends on revealing and exposing private spaces, Nogay’s drawer tries to hold on to the memories by way of isolation.
Outside this home-like structure and its yellow light Sibel Horada’s Untitled Machine [İsimsiz Makine] occupies the middle section of the space with 14 screens. The installation carries the 21 meter long assembly line matzo machine—that, though still gives the space its name, is no longer in use— into the exhibition space, right above its original place. Hung across from these old television screens that bear the fragmented images and sounds of this machine, are pieces of matzo shaped paper which have been run through the machine as it was brought to life one last time, marking the paper with its texture. The machine which used to make the communitys matzo is no longer in use because it’s simply much cheaper to import it. An act that is supposed to be representative and commemorative of an instance in which making bread is the simplest form of survival and resistance is thus further complicated and detached from its consuming community. Horada takes on this detachment in layers, investigating a communitys relationship with the matzo bread through its production processes.
Though this work is formally indicative of a digital turn in Horada’s work who predominantly works in sculpture, it is reminiscent of an earlier piece entitled As if it never existed in that both installations carry an object, which embodies loss for a community, into the exhibition space in fragmented form. In As if… pieces of the trunk of a Paulownia tree—recently uprooted from its home in the garden of Yıldız Technical University—lay scattered on the floor, representing the loss of another community the artist feels affinity to. In these works, Horada records these instances not solely as memories (such as the oral histories she conducts for her research) or material but as if they were forensic evidence for social issues to be judged by history.
Vasıf Kortun ended his text for As if… as such: “The artist placed the Paulownia right back in the core of the psyche of those who forgot to remember, but also for those who never had a memory of it. Here it does not let die but allows to live.” This time Horada’s form of resistance depends on an innate human ability rather than the inherent ecologically healing quality of the Paulownia tree. In a participatory performance entitled Make Your Matzo and Run that was held on April 1st, Horada assisted participants as they made their own matzos, to experience the potential of resistance in making bread in its simplest form
Leaving behind the cacophonous humming of Horada’s work Eytan İpeker’s experimental short is presented behind a skeleton-like wall in a pitch dark and relatively quiet environment. This work is part of İpeker’s experimental shorts, who works professionally as a film producer. A distinct example of his experimental works, the piece takes its basic premise from the idea that one can create an infinite number of compositions from the finite keys of a piano. İpeker takes on this idea and applies it to a five minute footage of a piano that he recorded years ago, and creates abstract compositions. Part of this infinite project, Peeling [Soyulma] bears patches of color on pitch black, like brush strokes that never quite add up. Composed after and with the influence of Lucian Freud—who is known for his layers and textures – İpeker creates a piece where the layers are fleeting and the texture transparent. The object behind this abstraction, a piano, is missing both visually and aurally. İpeker’s dark and silent room gives a sense of meditative calmness among the other works that depend predominantly on material culture and objects.
The way in which these works are placed into their own strictly separated territories is broken by the sound of the central work of Sibel Horada which overpowers and yet also feeds the other works. It reaches into the realm of İpeker’s video work, somewhat dimmed by the walls, making it a calmer more meditative sound. Though only Horada’s work seems directly related to the space of the old Matzo factory, it also acts as a center of gravity, and a web between the works of Reysi Kamhi, Neşe Nogay and Eytan İpeker. Its binding sound aside, Horada’s preoccupation with a space that is no longer of its intended or customary use is also a concern of Kamhi’s real estate paintings. Kamhi’s obsession with memories encapsulates Nogay’s installation, giving it a home; while her obsession with objects make ground for its antithesis in İpeker’s abstracted piano: which sublimated as it is, comes to life with the melodic hum of Horada’s Untitled Machine.
“An attempt at exhausting a place” took place at the old Matzo factory in Galata between March 28th and April 20th. This has been a collaboration between the four artists Sibel Horada, Eytan İpeker, Reysi Kamhi, Neşe Nogay; and Lara Fresko and Jasmine Taranto.
Lara Fresko is an independent writer based in İstanbul. She studied Cultural Studies at Sabancı University and completed her MA in Comparative Literature.