Sunday, November 02, 2008

Neighbours in Dialogue: Istanbul Collection for Ars Aevi

Exhibition /// PRESS RELEASE
Neighbours in Dialogue
Istanbul Collection for Ars Aevi

ARTISTIC DIRECTOR: Beral Madra (Istanbul)

ARTISTS: Steve Sabella (Jerusalem); Wafaa Yasin (Galilee); Sanan Aleskerov (Baku); Lamia Joreige (Beirut); Vahram Aghasyan (Erevan); Khaled Hafez (Cairo); Shalva Khakhnasvili (Tbilisi – Paris); Farhad Moshiri (Teheran); Dilek Winchester (İstanbul);  xurban collective (Istanbul – Izmir - New York) and Andrej _erkovi_ (Sarajevo).

Sarajevo, October 2008
The Ars Aevi Project is unique in the world of contemporary art. It aims to create a regional South East European centre for world contemporary art in Sarajevo, the city known to the for its multicultural history and recent wounds, but also for being a true meeting point of artists of the world. In fact, Ars Aevi is a wide network of artists, curators, institutions of contemporary art, architects, government and non-governmental organisations, administrations and other individuals working together to form an exceptional collection of contemporary art, named the Ars Aevi Collection, that will be housed in a museum designed by the prestigious architect Renzo Piano.

Nuclei of the Ars Aevi Collection are formed by museums, centres, galleries, foundations and other institutions of contemporary art with which the Ars Aevi General Directorate makes an agreement for cooperation. To date, Ars Aevi Collection nuclei have been formed by museums or centres of contemporary art gravitating towards the Western Europe – in Milan, Prato, Venice, and Bolognano in Italy, Ljubljana in Slovenia, Vienna in Austria, and in its home town, in Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The second phase of enrichment of the collection is gravitating towards the East and Ars Aevi has proudly received a new addition to the Collection, formed by the prestigious Turkish curator Beral Madra in Istanbul in March 2007. Formation of new nuclei is either ongoing or planned in Zagreb in Croatia, Cetinje in Montenegro, Athens in Greece and Belgrade in Serbia in the course of the following years.

In March 2007, through collaboration with the City of Istanbul and the Beral Madra Centre for Contemporary Art, and with the support of the European Cultural Foundation and Prince Claus Fund, and under the auspice of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and Kültür A.Ş., the Ars Aevi Collection was enriched with a new nucleus - the Istanbul Collection. The Istanbul Collection comprises works by artists from the South Caucuses, Middle East and Mediterranean who all belong to a younger generation, but have already received wide international acclaim: Steve Sabella (Jerusalem); Wafaa Yasin (Galilee); Sanan Aleskerov (Baku); Lamia Joreige (Beirut); Vahram Aghasyan (Erevan); Khaled Hafez (Cairo); Shalva Khakhnasvili (Tbilisi – Paris); Farhad Moshiri (Teheran); Dilek Winchester (İstanbul); xurban collective (Istanbul – Izmir - New York) and Andrej _erkovi_ (Sarajevo). The founding exhibition presenting the new works of the Ars Aevi Collection was entitled “Neighbours in Dialogue – Istanbul Collection for the Ars Aevi Museum of Contemporary Art Sarajevo” was created and coordinated by Ms. Beral Madra.

In May 2007, the works in the Istanbul Collection arrived in Sarajevo with the intent of them to be presented to the public as a group exhibition in October 2008. The exhibition organisers hope to facilitate the encounter of younger artists form the East, the West and from Bosnia and Herzegovina and by holding the encounter in Sarajevo, in context of the Ars Aevi Project, to promote Sarajevo as a cultural meeting point. At the same time, the exhibition showcases art from the South Caucuses, the Middle East and the East Mediterranean that usually receives unfairly less prominent coverage in the Western media.

The connection between the works of these artists is their occupation with the conditions in which art is created, the occupation of the state of the soul and their social environment. The Ars Aevi Istanbul Collection nucleus will, therefore, physically and strongly connect the countries from the East, creating a balance with the great number of existing Western artists in the Ars Aevi Collection.

The concept behind the Ars Aevi Project was formulated during the first months of the siege of Sarajevo, conceived as a utopian vision in the darkest days of the siege of Sarajevo. Sixteen years on, Ars Aevi is developing in cooperation with the world’s most eminent artists, artistic directors, museums, centres and foundations of contemporary art, together showing that today it is possible to discover and apply new ways of museum management. The “Istanbul Collection for Ars Aevi Collection” serves as further proof that through cooperation artists can be the builders of a new Europe.

General Directorate, Sarajevo, Centar Skenderija, Terezija bb Bosnia and Herzegovina
Tel: 387 33 216 919
Fax: 387 33 216 927


It is always difficult to sum up the developments in art scenes and come up with a precise panorama.  The most precise observation is that the content and the form of art and art making has changed since the beginning of the 1990s. The change is very much related to the socio-political and ideological alterations (alterations and not transformations because of the recurring instances of the one-time political ideologies). While the gradual evaporation of the most solid factor, namely the nation-state ideology is being replaced by a pious national ideology, in tune with the neo-liberal freedom and permissiveness, the micro-level socio-political issues float up.  Thus the alteration reflected itself as completely free and unrestricted declarations of macro or micro-level individual statements through art-works. As the art-works of today are far from being hermetic and metaphorical, one can say that art making is serving as a tool of a neo-anarchist attitude and proclamation. The dissident individual utilizes art making in order to have a visible presence within the socio-political panorama of his/her territory.  However, this panorama, with on the one side nearly fully occupied by the politicians and bureaucrats and on the other side by the business people, who in general are not so interested in contemporary art production, opens for the artist a new arena of struggle. In the underdeveloped local art markets of the region, the artists are exposed to make extra efforts for their economic welfare. In most of the countries around Turkey, the economies are in difficulty and the infrastructures of culture industries are absent or inadequate.

Even if the blockbuster exhibitions are full of photography and video works, painting is still the most demanded form of art-work in the local art market and artists are keen to show their painting skills, because painting—or the handmade art work—is still a signal for the public to discern whether the artist is professional or not.   Today’s young generation is reflecting its ideas, concepts, interpretations, criticism mainly through painting, photography and video, but also through artistic and cultural events which they organize particularly without a curating hand in it.

Throughout the 1990s, the urgency of the artist was “identity” in political, ethnic, gender-oriented locations with references to their origins or traditions. Since 2000, while a group of artists of Turkey are running after more global pursuits, producing works for international curators and audiences by following the concept and strategy trends, another group is still dealing with the local issues and problems. Sometimes, the artworks look like newspaper headlines with pictures or propaganda posters dealing with daily local politics.

Photography with all its possibilities of true or false representations, with its illusive appearances or with its possibilities of monumentality is being utilized by almost all artists. Documentary photography is the basis of socio-political artworks as well. Yet, the ambiguous issue in photographic works is the relation of the image to the conceptual framework of the artist’s manifestation, or the already worldwide consumed criteria that are repetitively being employed for the impact of the photographic image. Convincing and persuasive photographic work comes with its theoretical and philosophical background which can only be mapped out in the expanded oeuvre of the artist.

Regional exhibitions, or exhibitions that unite artists from neighboring countries that have past and present political and cultural relations are no doubt a fertile soil for new productions and events. When I was curating together with Magda Guruli the first comprehensive show of Georgian artist in Istanbul during the 10th Istanbul Biennale, I indicated that we have to admit the weakness and the absence of communication and knowledge in the relationship between the culture and art worlds of Turkey and those of the Soviet world during the Cold War period and that presently we (mostly curators and museum directors) are making a special effort to fill the vacuum created by the apathy between 1950-1990 via cultural and artistic activities.

In the 1990s, when the discovery of the other was the fundamental quest, West European curators and museum directors have united the artists of East Europe, Balkans, Greece and Turkey in eclectic group shows. Looking back to those exhibitions, there is no doubt that they have motivated the artists to democratic openness and the local art scenes to acknowledge international criteria. The encounter of the artists of the onetime polarized cultures created a new synergy in transforming the theoretical, philosophical and conceptual fundaments of contemporary art. The macro-events have prepared the field for in depth encounters or i.e. the empty parts of the macro-picture can only be embroidered meticulously through a more profound collaboration, which I believe Bahcesaray exhibition will be an interesting model.

Beral Madra, March 2008




Bakhchisaray State Historical and Cultural Preserve 
28.09 2008 - 28.10. 2008.
Opening - September 27, 2008 at 16.00.

Organizers: Bakhchisaray State Historical and Cultural Reserve / Moscow Museum of Modern Art / The State Museum of Contemporary Art Thessaloniki / Contemporary Art Center BM (Istanbul), Gallery "Collection" (Kiev)

Curators: Maria Tsantsanoglou (Greece), Beral Madra (Turkey), Olga Lopuhova (Russia), Oleg Bayshev (Ukraine)

With the support of PROEKT FABRIKA Centre of creative industries, ISTANBUL METROPOLITAN MUNICIPALITY KULTUR A.Ş., fund for Art Projects

The Crimea has long been a crossroads of diverse cultures, a place where many nations and peoples have come together. It has provided inspiration for artists, writers, poets and musicians since antiquity. Drawing attention to the unique historical heritage of Bakhchisaray and the cultural diversity of the region, and its interaction with neighbouring countries, the organizers of the present project see art as a universal language capable of bridging gaps both between people and between peoples. Despite the ambiguity of the current political situation in the Crimea and deep historical differences, it is hoped that this exhibition will find common ground between the national and cultural entities involved and point towards the possibility of harmonious coexistence. Bahchisaray State Museum, the adjacent park, the Turkish cemetery, Sokolinaya Tower and other historical and cultural surroundings will offer spaces for the site-sensitive projects of the participants. The project will bring together leading artists from Greece, Russia, Ukraine and Turkey, countries which have been closely linked to the Crimea for centuries.


Nikos Alexiou is presenting a work based on patterns and motifs from the floor of San Marco Cathedral in Venice. It is a project that puts the artist in the position of an archeologist who draws what he has found rather than simply making a photograph, in order to understand it better. The artist has worked hard with a similar project in the Iveron Monastery in Mt. Athos where he lived for four months. To some extent Nikos Alexiou is influenced by the work of the Ukrainian monk of the 18th century, Vassily Grigorovich Barsky, who travelled to
 Mt. Athos and copied patterns he found in the monasteries. Bringing images from San Marco to Bakhchisaray is a gesture of offer and recognition to a highly artistic environment of great historical importance.

Elli Chrysidou, impressed by the Falcon Tower of the Palace, creates a mystical kingdom of birds that leave their traces without showing themselves. The invisible side of birds is the first strong impression that people get when visiting this very unusual tower which housed the Palace falcons. These traces are reinforced with drawings not exactly of the birds themselves but of an indeterminate memory of them through space.

Babis Venetopoulos is a video artist working with the technology of digital images and thus with its obvious possibilities to deconstruct the image through the flexibility of the digits causing stunning transformations. In his work for the Bakhchisaray exhibition, the artist presents his aesthetic view of incarceration and distortion
 with the image of young turning old and getting transformed into a bird. This is shown in two cages in which a young man and an old man have the movements and the eyes of birds. Above all, he examines the effect of time on human existence.

Richard Whitlock will show STANDING WAVE, a sculpted relief of shiny metal, representing the liquid surface of a pool, which he has made specially for the ‘Divan Hall’ of the Palace.He will also show two pictures of indoor spaces of the Bakhchisaray Museum, composite photographs from which, in the Byzantine tradition, linear perspective has been eliminated.


Murat Morova will exhibit a wall drawing with the Turkish title “HUSTLE AND BUSTLE”.  The figure masterfully created with the technique of calligraphy by the artist displays the indecisive movement between being crashed by the weight of the world or giving up to carry it.

Melih Görgün will exhibit his video and sound installation “DEATH IS ON THE OTHER SHORE” that tackles the question “How can an individual submitting or resisting to the confusing ambiguities of the globalisation capture the changes and transform it to a positive energy or to a self-determined position?” This work discreetly creates the ambiguous environment to react to this question.

Nazlı Eda Noyan will exhibit five digital prints with the title “FINELY EMBROIDERED” with a video supplement displaying her grandmother’s embroidery pieces with Intricate, flowery, abstract and beautiful motives that were left unfinished. Her prints show how she completes these pieces with her hand work: detailed, social, abstract and sad.

Sıtkı Kösemen will exhibit portrait photographs of a family. Kösemen’s photographs can be called as hybrid documents, a description that emphasizes the combination of research, journalism, documentation and artistic intervention. His photography series on individuals may depict a cross section of a complex society, but the intentional simplicity of rendering allows them to remain open to multiple interpretations.


The Ukrainian Crimea, once the zone of influence of the Greeks, Ottomans and Russians, is now at a dangerous intersection of the new imperial interests and possible new clashes.

Aleksandr Gnilitsky in his work GREAT WASHING creates a symbolic metaphor of a harmonious unity of countries participating in the project, putting in a common space of symbolic attributes of Ukraine, Greece, Turkey and Russia.

The work of Maksim Mamsikov MARINE BATTLE creates the image of a paradise resort in Crimea, but this "paradise" is illusive and any sharp movement can interrupt its existence.

Aleksandr Roitburd dedicated his work to the tragic fate of the artist in the twentieth century, creating two portraits of K. Korovin and F. Shalyapin in explanation of the sculptural group at the entrance of country house of K. Korovin in Gurzuf. Russian painter K. Korovin lived and worked for many years in Gurzuf (1910-1917). In 1910-1912 he built his studio-cottage "Salambo" to his own design. In Soviet times it was used as a rest-home, and since 1947 is has been the Creativity house of the State Art Fund.

Oleg Tistol in his picturesque installation THIRD ROME depicts with irony
the imperial ambitions of current residents of the Crimea, who gave this name to the pathetic Gurzuf casino.


The installation of Nikita Alekseev "A LIVING STONES" deals with the Krymoross monument, the only monument to have come down to us, and in almost perfect condition, which relates to the worship of a mysterious people living on the Crimean peninsula between about 1700 - 1850 AD (XX - XXI centuries of the old era). The inscriptions on the monument have been reconstructed with the Atman-subkvark method of Hukuty - Fandakbashi but although the language and writing of Krymoross have been successfully investigated and decrypted by C. Lu, these inscriptions almost defy interpretation. Among the 101 stones, can be found such inscriptions as: "Living stone, allocating oil and gas", "Living stone connected to the Internet", "Living stone, listening to the rose", etc.

Vadim Zakharov, together with the long-time hero of his works Pastor Zond, will show photographs taken in the Crimea done in a late ‘90s style translating their neutral "private" detention into a profound philosophical reflection on life and our place in it today.

Konstantin Zvezdochetov has long worked with the relocation of historical subjects and the subjects of art history in the aesthetics of cartoons of the Soviet journal "Crocodile". Created in this style and filled with a mass of new connotations, phantasmagoric paintings with bright ornaments and heroes unimaginable in reality appear in Bahchisaray museum to re-create its fantastic atmosphere – something between the "Thousand and One Nights" and Russian fairy tales by Afanasyev.

Andrey Filippov, in his REFLECTIONS ON TIME "revitalizes" the old fountain of Bahchisaray museum, located near Sokolinaya tower. We will wonder whether the sounds of the water in this audio installation are lamenting the bygone glory of Bahchisaray, or hard times to come.

Special guest of the festival from Germany Haralampy Oroshakov will attempt to appropriate the historical Bahchisaray palace complex by impressing the seal of his family earldom on various elements of its decor.