Public Art? #2

Hüseyin Bahri Alptekin, Mattresses to Imaginary Destinations (2003/2013).

For Part 1 and our introduction to the mini survey below, click here.

Hüseyin Bahri Alptekin, Mattresses to Imaginary Destinations (2003/2013).
Hüseyin Bahri Alptekin, Mattresses to Imaginary Destinations, 2003/2013. (Image from the 2003 installation)

Samed Akman, artist
There is a lot that can be said on this topic. I want to talk about Serkan’s [Taycan] work, which I was really impressed by. I think this work is not only an art work, but also a survey. What he did was to spend 4-5 days on Kanal Istanbul’s projected route and to turn this into a map. I don’t see this as a pure form of public art; what is important is the physical record and the elaboration of the unused territory which looks like as if the city planners never thought about it before—it is great that the biennial includes this project. I do think that the biennial withdrawing from the public space is a shame. After what happened with Gezi in June, most of the biennial’s handling of public space does not evoke any excitement in me.

Sinem Dişli, artist
When we talk about the public in the specific context of the fair, I start wondering about why independent initiatives such as m-est participate at the fair. The goal of the fair is obvious—to sell. Of course it is important for initiatives to partake in such a structure for the sake of visibility and to reach a certain audience. But is it possible to participate at the fair and remain independent? I think about what initiatives like yourselves lose of their independence, of their criticality by participating in the fair.

Özgül Kılınçarslan, researcher and writer
I consider the Dispossession Networks project, included in the Istanbul Biennial, straight-forward and timely. The project carries the Gezi process and the street platforms into the art realm in a unique manner. I was really excited by people from different disciplines coming together—who are not artists—to produce a collective work. I also participated in the meetings. The project is supported by architects, engineers, journalists, sociologists, and a lot of other people. I became hopeful seeing that everybody made an effort to contribute to this work, on a volunteer basis, on top of their regular workload and this made stronger my faith in the artists’ ability to exist on various platforms, in different forms.

Civan Özkanoğlu, artist
When I hear the word “public”, I immediately think about what is outside, while attempting to hold on to the idea that what is in our living room is also quite public; this is my personal dilemma in regards to this term. In the two examples I’m going to give, what I’m conflicted about is the functionality of the work in public space.

When I was walking by Hüseyin Bahri Alptekin’s installation of mattresses wrapped in blankets, it started to rain and I wondered about what was going to happen when the work was subjected to rain. I suppose HBA did not produce the works just to be lied on in good weather. But our cultural and traditional codes cannot keep us from us/them from intervening.

When it started to rain, my one-second reflex of “what’s going to happen” question was accentuated as I realized that they were put away because of the rain and I was disappointed to have encountered the same reflex even at this art fair.

At the end of the day, if this is a public work, it does not make sense to resist nature.

In the second example, my concern is not as complicated.

To watch video works—selected by Başak Şenova—on a movie screen one after the other, rather than watching them in a gallery with headphones or in a room by ourselves, was not unprecedented, but something that I experienced for the first time. This environment highlighted the experience of being along with a work. And the curatorial selection of these works was very important. While the auditorium and the screen became larger, the public space could diminish the comfort. Because the public space should make publicly visible while giving the comfort of being alone in the public space. In terms of the functionality, the auditorium was empty every day that I visited the fair. If somebody wanted to watch a specific video, they did not stay for 40 minutes or to watch the other 9 videos until their desired video was up.

Selim Süme, Reccollective
When I think about art works recently produced in the public realm, the most striking example for me is my  friend Serkan Taycan’s project of the Kanal Istanbul route. It is an effort to produce awareness. Serkan mapped for this work and he did this in the public realm, exhibiting the result of his efforts in the closed space of the biennial. The work was produced outside. Something that should have been viewed and followed outside was imprisoned inside as the biennial decided not to go out. I think about this most frequently. I think the work should have consisted of people experiencing the route together, to walk together. The photographs and the map took away from the work’s impact. But still, I think Serkan’s doing this project outside of the exhibition space, to conduct this walk outside, as an act with a group and to insist to be outside, are very important.