Friday, April 11, 2014


Ferhat Özgür
'We Are The Builders! / Biz Ameleyiz!', 2009-2013, video, 11.45 min. colour, sound, turkish - english subtitle, edition 1/6+1, courtesy of the artist.

Contemporary Art Exhibition on the occasion of 600th Anniversary of Relations between Poland and Turkey

May-June 2014
Kuad Gallery, Istanbul

Gülçin Aksoy, Anna Baumgart, Kuba Bąkowski, Piotr Bosacki,
Karolina Breguła, Monika Drożyńska, Nezaket Ekici, Karolina Freino,
Patrycja German, Koray Kantarcıoğlu, Grzegorz Klaman, Piotr Kmita,
Katarzyna Krakowiak, Sıtkı Kösemen, Tomasz Kulka,Marcin Maciejowski,
Robert Maciejuk, Ardan Özmenoğlu, Ferhat Özgür, Tomasz Partyka,
Agnieszka Polska, Çağrı Saray, Wilhelm Sasnal, Sümer Sayın, 
Janek Simon,Piotr Skiba, Konrad Smolenski, Tunca Subaşı,
Antek Wajda, Julita Wójcik, Uygur Yılmaz

OKIS and Kuad Gallery are proud to participate at the celebrations of 600th year of Poland-Turkey Relations and to realize two group exhibitions (May and June 2014) with 32 artists from Poland and Turkey.
Diplomatic relations were established between of Poland and Turkey 600 years ago in 1414, when – as Jan Długosz mentions in his chronicles – Sultan Mehmet I Çelebi hosted the first Polish diplomatic mission at his court in Bursa (Empire’s capital of that time).
These 600 years have seen Poland and Turkey’s political, trade and cultural links develop and flourish.  As well as sharing a border in the 15th century, the countries also connected through their multiculturalism and having a specific place at the geopolitical world’s map.
After 600 years profound historical background, 20th century relations between Poland and Turkey need to be questioned for the absence of human relations and communication. With the end of WW II, during the Cold War period of conflicting ideological hegemonies Turkey and Poland relations became totally damaged and stagnant until the Fall of Berlin Wall. Even after 1989, the relations have not been recharged as much as it should be, due to the hesitant transformations in official diplomatic relations as well as in economic collaborations and cultural communications.
This crucial official initiative to celebrate the historical relation will convey an opportunity to multi-disciplinary cultural and artistic communication and exchange, in which this exhibition will have its function as a basis for future collaborations and partnerships between artists and art experts.
Organised by Art and Culture Centre in Wroclaw (Ośrodek Kultury i Sztuki we Wrocławiu-OKIS) and Kuad Gallery Ruptures and Convergences exhibition and its accompanying events programme are aimed at connecting artists from Poland and Turkey, whilst creating a new and sustainable relation.

Here the title Ruptures and Convergences not only refer to the historical fact that the relations between Turkey and Poland have endured complex conflicting stages, but also to the character of today’s art works, which are based on retroactive expostulations and prospective proposals. While retroactive expostulations reflect a dissident position - i.e - a rupture from the status quo, the prospective proposals promise a convergence of ideas, implementations and achievements.
The exhibition presents works by artists who debuted in 90’s and later and who relate to the mythologies and archetypes deeply rooted in both cultures, presented however, in a contemporary context of current geopolitics. The idea of Ruptures and Convergences is to shed current visual interpretations to our cultural heritages and status, with a particular emphasis on past and recent political and economic transformations, social polarisations and today’s globalisation process. It may be that, through juxtaposing recent art scene in Poland and Turkey, we will be able to discover some shared experiences and to create a consistent narrative for creative communication and collaboration.

Curatorial text of Beral Madra

In 2014, 100th year of the beginning of global wars is a very crucial date in human history and will be remembered with commemorating events in the countries involved. The same date is the 600th year of diplomatic relations between Poland and Turkey, which will be celebrated through cultural and artistic events in both countries.
Within this 600 years profound historical background, 20th century relations between Poland and Turkey need to be questioned, because of the absence of human relations and communication. With the end of WW II, in the Cold War period of ideological hegemonies Turkey and Poland relations became totally damaged and stagnant until the Fall of Berlin Wall, despite the fact that there was a village in the heart of Istanbul (Adampol-Polonezköy) with inhabitants from Poland! Even after 1989, the relations have not been recharged as much as it should be, due to the hesitant transformations in official diplomatic relations as well as in economic collaborations and cultural communications.
However, here we should mention two contradictory events in contemporary art:
In 1990, a group of Polish artists participated in the 3rd Europe-Asia Biennale in Ankara, organized by Ministry of Culture. Kenan Evren, the president of the military government at that time, has censored one of the paintings (pretentious of being a painter himself). The Polish embassy had to remove the painting; the art people have protested as much as they could under a military dictatorship!
Fortunately, the second event has opened a door to mutual communication of artists. The first significant encounter of contemporary artists from Turkey with the artists of the former Soviet world which happened 1991 in Cracow, under the title “Europe Unknown”, is one of the first “multi-cultural” exhibitions in 20th century. The title was revealing the frightening absence of cultural and artistic knowledge in the age of global communication and challenged the art scenes of the so called “unknown” to generate a new vision for mutual understanding and collaboration in cultural and artistic productions. This early exhibition, the initiative of inviting the absent countries into the feats of contemporary art in Europe was curated by Anda Rottenberg accommodating 45 artists from the post-Soviet world and Western Europe in 1991. This exhibition heralded the disappearance of the gap between “the centre” and “the periphery” and the exhaustion of the modernistic models that have sublimated the art to the Western institutions. The new approach defended the presence of the so called “local cultures”, the micro environment of globalization.
2014 cultural and artistic events will be the first major encounter of visual artists from Turkey and Poland. Here, I would like to analyse the process of growing relations between the art scenes in and outside of EU.
Since 1990, the exhibitions and related events organized by art individuals or official institutions such as symposium and workshops in East-Europe, South-east Europe, Middle- East and South Caucasus in particular with the EU funds significantly reflect the necessity of new ways of communication and reciprocal appreciation of cultural differences. Within the conditions of globalization artists and artworks are now in constant move and the mediation possibilities of the virtual space – the internet – contribute to this exchange of visual and creative thinking and production.
The so called multi-cultural international exhibitions have immensely contributed to the networking and exchange between very differently structured Modernist art scenes in the so called Non-Western territories. Without a doubt, starting from zero communication in the 80’s, this process ended up in international curating and a generation of visionary curators and art experts have emerged.
The intense art exchange within the region of Turkey where Istanbul became the centre of early accomplishments in culture industry system consists of multilateral exhibitions, roundtable or symposium meetings and artist residencies. Evidently, nowadays it is very fashionable for an artist to exhibit in one of the shows in Istanbul! This communication and collaboration have been initiated quite early by forward-thinking local and curious international curators with the support of the institutions of EU. These interactions between the official or semi-official EU institutions and individuals and private or civil initiatives of the aforesaid regions have been productive, but, the state cultural policies in EU and Non-EU are still under the spell of modernist institutional ideologies.
The international exhibitions of the last three decades that has been organized by EU and USA curators have definitely served the absent countries to be part of the game, however at the same time these exhibitions were labelled as “multi-culti communication” or “ethnic marketing”. Yet, this multi-culti contemporary art exchange – even if this is not so frequent - between the countries that had no artistic and cultural communication during the cold war, had a more reciprocal character and served to close the communication gap of 20th century. This sarcastic term (multi-culti communication) is not being used anymore, as the international exhibitions have become extremely crowded with artists from five continents. Now, the artists of the Non-EU have more priority in the exhibitions!
Since three decades the majority of exhibitions, particularly the biennials and cultural events are structured in complex conditions: Manifesting multiculturalism and cultural equality, in combination of religious, ethnic or traditional diversities and particularities; criticism of global neo-capitalism and consumption culture; defending human rights, freedom of expression and gender.
In this regards, when the standardising entertainment and show culture which has an immense economic value within the global capitalism, interferes and manipulates the art and culture of revolt, the paradox is that the public will not experience pleasure, aesthetic perception and visual contentment. Visual art aims to bestow the public with this pleasure fertilizing revolt, but most of the time visual art manifestations are appreciated when they should serve some other sake, such as economic advance, social education or mental therapy for the individual. Similarly, works of art are valued for their investment value rather than for their inner merit.
Curatorial task cannot escape these realities and discovered and practiced many ways of reaching the different levels of the public. Examples show that an intense dialogue is practiced on different levels of communication methods and strategies, with the involvement of different official or private or corporate groups of societies. Apart from the usual conceptual and formal objectives of art making today the significant aspects of this dialogue are: Balancing the differences of cultural industry levels between countries and regions; Elaboration of the cultural policies to influence political relations through art and culture; Building strategies of visibility, resistance and narcissism of the contemporary art producers; Contribution to the different levels of democratisation processes or to the correction of democratic processes...
We, in Istanbul art scene are more or less practicing these strategies and methods. Istanbul is being promoted by the state, governments and local governments for tourism and international business as well as by the private sector in organizing biennale, festivals, congresses, fairs and other large scale exhibitions and popular culture. The sponsor visibility is striking; financial benefits of culture industry (event culture economy) are captivating. In reality however, a co-existence and conflict of history, tradition, modernism, post-modernism is visible in the daily life and in urban developments, in the statements of the artists and intellectuals and their art works (local critical theory); in the assets and deficits of culture industry and the public education through arts.
As seen from the eyes of the global traveller the current cultural status of Istanbul as a megapolis of the region between the Balkans, South Caucasus and the Middle-east is enchanting. It is being characterized as a city that can compete with New York in the energy, dynamism and colour of its entertainment or popular culture. Yet, culture in the sense of critical, theoretical, spiritual and aesthetic creation has a modest space within this amalgam of popular heterogeneity. The existing infrastructures of art and culture, such as the art and design education, the biennale, the corporate and private galleries, local art market, publications etc. are more or less local and need support of public money as they lack in funding and expertise. These infrastructures need public money support in their attempts to enter the international competition.
Although glamorous, Istanbul is not a city where international intellectual celebrities live and work; they only travel to Istanbul to be inspired. Although a city of historical architectural wonders, Istanbul is full of scary contemporary architecture and severe urban problems, such as gentrification of traditional districts and construction of satellite cities. Although a city of pleasant surprises and contradictions, the quality of daily life and utilities are dropping behind the EU cities; the challenges of traditional, modern and post-modern urban structures; the gap between the rich and poor districts; the welfare ghettos; the difference between the social classes; the antagonism between the rural and urban communities; the discrepancy between the macro culture and micro-cultures make this city the object/subject of neo-capitalism and consumption culture.
Since the beginning of the 90’s up to today, in tune with the global transformations in economies and politics, contemporary art scenes in Istanbul have gained a new content and expansion, as a result of the interests of liberal capitalism, private enterprise, and communication with the EU art centres. In this process Istanbul is one of the first capitals in the Non-EU geography that claimed priority in building its infrastructures for an interdisciplinary art and culture exchange which found its most rewarding effects in Istanbul Biennale since 1987. Throughout these years not only in Turkey but all over the region artmaking has profited from the cross-border activities and even through legal or illegal emigration and evidently from the curiosity of a vast number of artists, curators and institutions from EU countries. Artists from Istanbul with their mostly dissident art making forms and aesthetics were invited to the prestigious institutions and galleries in EU countries and even contributed to the alteration of the “gaze to the other”.
We have to consider that contemporary art scenes are mostly identified with their cities rather than their countries. Even if the global economy and politics are omnipresent everywhere, the cities with their heterogeneous populations create the so called hot spots for contemporary art. Istanbul is no doubt one of the most significant cities within this context. The artists find the inspirations and themes to scrutinize in the daily life, in the continuous transformations, in the ever present aggressions of this complex city and believe that they are contributing to the awareness of the people or to the democratic processes. The aesthetics of the art works conceal a certain resistance to the existing micro and macro political and economic orders. When we consider art making and culture industry manifestations within the context of European integration process at the local and regional level, we can still see that there are borderline conflicts in history, tradition, memory blocks, in ethno-cultural frontiers and in art and culture system discrepancy.

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