A couple of months ago, m-est team was invited to collaborate with Torun, an art initiative based in Küçükesat, Ankara. Instead of isolating this collaboration to the already existing members of the two initiatives, we invited Bora Başkan—an artist we’ve all been interested in expanding our conversation with. Following Bora’s one-person exhibition opening at Torun last week, we continue to explore how initiative-led communities overlap, isolate, or extend themselves in various directions—be it through creating online archives and toying with the writing format, or through performances that could potentially travel between two cities.
The main reason why we invited Bora to work with us is to contemplate upon how m-est, conceived as an online publication, could develop its dialogue with living artists and use a conventional exhibition format to test what is commonly expected from art initiatives. A similar concern is central to Torun’s practice that has developed through a group of artists. Below we’re publishing a text that consists of fragments of conversations among Torun members, questioning their practice and pondering upon the notions of gesture, novelty, and contemporaneity.
Both Torun and m-est seek to question the urgency to redefine their positions vis-à-vis living artists and the larger art community, and to find a “position without a methodology.” It goes without saying that art initiatives like Torun are committed to produce, present, and contextualize new work, rather than commodifying or institutionalizing it. They graciously allow slips, mistakes, detours, and yet risk going unnoticed or unaccounted for. As m-est, we would like to ask how we could possibly document the time, space, and energy of such activity to discuss its relevance. Or, simply, is this even possible?—Özge Ersoy
Art space’s position value, as spatial nomenclature, is merely categoric. While the preceding word, art, denotes a spatial difference, its expression value is as much as that of law office’s sign upstairs. “When you turn right on that street, you’re going to see a pharmacy, there is an art space next door with a big sign, my apartment is above that.” That’s it. An art space that has been specially named as such by specific people, is going to be a station on the address directions as long as it does not re-express itself in this categoric difference. This piece, written from the discussion records at Torun, is founded on the necessity and the property of the desired position based on this fundamental argument.
When we start asking ourselves what we want from Torun—as the specific people who named this space an “art space” located in the specific architecture—we decided to begin by answering a question: what does it mean to take a position? We are here now, in this space that we have named, we are situated on our chairs. One of us is leaning back on the chair, one of us is stretching their legs and the chair has moved; with this coincidence—in short, with our coming here—we are in a space charged with the simple appearances of temporality. When the objects come and go here, everything can stay for the duration of the coincidences of the appearances; let’s name this: to leave appearances to chance under the borrowed categoric hat is neither a position nor of weight. To take a position is to start a decision-making process, to save the space of its coincidences and this necessitates a method. It follows that a position, without a methodology, returns to the void of the categoric difference. This explanation displays the necessity of a gesture. The art space needs to overwhelm its categoric spatiality, to be realized separately from the architecture, and to be governed by the methodology and gestures of the position that has been derived from the flow of objects that could easily fall into coincidence. Because spatiality is not a thing by itself; in our words, it is neither full nor has weight.
These simple answer—as with many other examples—have carried us to this agreement: find your gesture! This agreement cannot be easily undertaken, because without a method, an agreement can easily remain as the functionless “Be!” provision. It follows that the issue is how an agreement can be filled. The necessities of the position and the gesture’s fullness are possible through a methodology to be discussed and applied. The agreement of “find your gesture” expresses the process, the decision, as well as the escape, taking a chance on moves that can sometimes be interpreted as an escape. The process is mandatory. In this process, the mistake is not impossible; the potholes that one can fall into, the possibility of an initiative to fall while developing the ability to take steps make us think on the ability to fulfill a gesture. There will be delusions in the process. It is necessary to comprehend a mistake, as separate from an ethical mistake, as an ethical mistake is more related to a decision-making consciousness, rather than a slip during the process.
The heftiness of loyalty that would be presented by a manifesto-like declaration provides the responsibility not to make a mistake—although a mistake is still not impossible. It is thus that we need to first say that the loyalty to the agreement is the fundamental thing that has produced a genuine trust; this is the most impactful reality of the assertion: by being able to follow the traces of the mistake, restarting the decision-making and loyalty process in the name of re-charging and for the fullness of the gesture at moments when decisions die or lose their vivacity. What does this mean?
One of the decisions that Torun has made is to not de-personalize the space; not de-personalizing the space means this for us: to not leave the space to coincidence, to not take a position that is under a category, to be able to invent a position that is able to point to the position that we have taken over, to be able to not close the parentheses of the existing judgments, to not forget and to not let others forget even for a second that the objects that fill the space are things that are brought to and from the space via people.
Not de-personalizing means that the people who make/choose/organize the objects that are invited to the art space are not abandoned; they are not invisible. The responsibility of the production/selection/organization is taken over by them and exposed as such. A space’s true fullness cannot be considered separately from the discussions, words, and doings of the people inside; this is primarily why a space is not as much as what it is—an art space is the visibility and expression of the decisions that make up the space.
Daniel Buren says, “To know a space without seeing is means to accept—a priori—to work with a (seemingly) neutral position, a cube with vertical walls, a ceiling, a floor, horizontal and white, sterile.” A space can easily be written under this definition and the relationship defined by this sanctioning agreement is absolutely not a relationship, but a repetition of a borrowed order. A relationship cannot be defined by the singularity of neither the art work nor the art space; to expose a relationship is to not close off the togetherness of the two.
In order for the art space not to become an aquarium of portable objects, it is necessary to see every relationship’s ability to produce their own positions and to describe the positions not in their uniqueness but in terms of their relationships. The managers of the art space, as well as the artist should not fall into the trap of this acceptance, and avoid conventions that would give rise to a mediocre climate of customization and negotiation.
Pre-admissions are not only about the neutral spatiality of the art space. Another disturbing admission is the neutralization of the listed contemporary arguments for the art space. Various criticisms, including Buren’s justified words, have been conjoined with the art space over time and the art space has begun to contain within itself its own guilt; each enterprise feels the need to be acquitted spatially. When the art space’s voice is not allowed to be heard, each production and presentation can be subject to undeserved criticism and arguments that could be used for special cases can be expanded, obliterating differences. One leg of the judgment that tells the art space to be embarrassed is in the historical landscape that legitimizes the shame while the other leg is paranoid reflex that matches it with a commercial character using a flawed reductionist approach. This reflex, can force creativity and criticism into a dead-end, calls the voice into the police laboratory on standby and the forensics analysis begins. The aim is to add the voice as “art crime” of the century and to send it to the degeneration cell.
In order for a recently opened art space’s energy to not be crushed by the mostly hardened judgment, it should be acknowledged that criticism also has pre-admissions and these should be exposed. Thus, one of the decisions we’ve made is that the echo of the judgment of “art’s guil,” which could be as dangerous as “art crime,” should be talked about. A body that is trying to develop cannot grow if the individuals involved do not try to pierce through the echo.
Another acknowledgment that was focused on during the discussions is the need for novelty. In a place where novelty almost corresponds to contemporary, what the new means should first be explained to itself as the idea of a demanding art is one of the most powerful traps. New is not an ideal anchored to the future, it makes a problematic art idea absolute when it is an adjective; as a condition, it’s being dependent on experience depreciates the existing potential in that experience. The ideal of novelty works based on a clear humiliation and disregard. When novelty is a space’s ideal, experience is forever posted to the future as an energyless horizon; a space that humiliates the power of what it encounters will lose the horizon it would move towards. For it to hump now, it needs to learn to speak with the power of what it encounters; the question of novelty is a flawed question from the beginning that produces an illusion of depth. When an art space is filled with the wrong questions, the answers will never have the mobility of the genuine. Then, in the name of finding the gesture, the decisions will aim to take into consideration the worthlessness of novelty as an argument, attempting to ask the questions from the beginning, to ingenuity itself.
Another problem is the dimensions of globalness and universality. We believe in Badiou’s proposition in Fifteen These on Contemporary Art. “Or, is the function of art to propose another kind of universality?” asks Badiou; “The more important issue today is the main contradiction between capitalistic universality on one hand, universality of the market if you want, of money and power and so on, and singularities, particularities, the self of the community. It’s the principal contradiction between two kinds of universalities. On one side the abstract universality of money and power, and on the other the concrete universality of truth and creation. My position is that artistic creation today should suggest a new universality, not to express only the self or the community, but that it’s a necessity for the artistic creation to propose to us, to humanity in general, a new sort of universality, and my name for that is truth.”
To undertake the task of the artificial monolithic perception produced by globality, shaped by the power, requires an attention to the reality of the pieces and pay particular attention to each new relationship; none of the situations has quite the defining value, knowledge of each situation can only be assessed with the situation and universality cannot bring us to this state, the state opens to universality.
Through this first and primary movement, the uniqueness of the gesture should be discovered; these have been jotted down in order to show the stones that form the ground. If we were to open up a more personal wing, for us, a space is an opportunity to meet; a dynamism that multiplies meetings by turning around itself and at the same time, trying to open up its sides. We only find this as the idea of a new art space: While escaping the demanded, flawed questions, watch for experiences that will produce decision-making powers. Yes, a future horizon is to be able to make decisions at the same time. To fuel the space’s energy, specificying a decision and to see the horizon not as a single goal, but rather a destination that is shaped by the steps individuals take, are meaningful for us. Thus, being a new space does not mean to feel the pulse of our times, but rather to express the experiences that have a pulse or that have the potential to have a pulse.
The decision to be named Torun—when said by itself, sometimes a Nordic God, sometimes a deep snarl—because it had the potential ostracize its known meaning and its sweet presence in life could be estranged. The judgments that could limit us before ourselves, that could squeeze and maybe suffocate before being realized, the memorized forms and beings are concealed in it. With a consciousness of an ancestor and a dependency, but with the enthusiasm of a child who wants to first stand on their toes to look and comprehend.
We wish for the missing—of course—pieces of the landscape that are listed in this piece of writing to serve as warnings for us and also to correct the energy in this name based on these decisions. Torun tells itself: Don’t trust the verdicts of the mainland, try to embody the power of being an island—islands that are able to develop the skills to send signals to the mainland are able to change the fake powers that claim unity. Watch for the opportunity.
All images are from exhibitions at Torun. For more information on Torun, click here.
Translated from Turkish by Merve Ünsal