Istanbul is one of the world’s amazing cities. A simmering mix of cultures, history, topography and food, it has its own buzz based on a curious balance of tradition and reformation.
The city’s footprint is huge and the density of living is high. Notions of ‘public’ and ‘private’ are complex in a city of this scale. Space is precious and the city’s squares are heavily utilised by locals as sites of recreation, commerce and conversation. Behind the scenes the relationship between government and business is often less transparent. Without public consultation, deals are done that have massive ramifications on the city and its people.
Istanbul feels like a city under developer attack: public space is being earmarked for commercial development, private waterways are being introduced through farming land, substantial infrastructure projects are being realised only to be quickly abandoned. It’s a familiar story – a modern day David and Goliath – and it’s one at the centre of this year’s Istanbul Biennale, curated by Fulya Erdemci.
Erdemci’s handling of a contemporary art event set amongst Istanbul current state of turmoil is thoughtful. Turkish born, she takes neither side, instead presenting a number of threads that unpack the structures of resistance, the implications of scale, and the rhythms of a city.
The work of Australian artist Angelica Mesiti (Citizens Band, 2012), Lebanese artist Maxime Hourani (A Book of Songs and Places, 2013) and French artist Bertille Bak (Safeguard Emergency Light System, 2010) were stand outs amongst a compelling list that addressed the power of music in relation to protest and displacement.
Violent Green (2013), a curious film portrait of the iconic Turkish poet Lâle Müldür (whose book Mom, Am I Barbarian? inspired the Biennial’s title) was also strong. Made by two local experimental filmmakers, Kaan Karacehennem and Franz Von Bodelschwingh, the work was humorous and affectionate, and celebrated the need for iconic figures in changing times.
Santiago Sierra collaborated with fellow Spaniard Jorge Galindo to make an excellent black & white film (Los Ancargados, 2012) that filtered the movement of a government motorcade through the aesthetics of fascist propaganda material.
Early conceptual works by Jiri Kovanda and Mierle Laderman Ukeles also provided modest yet potent comments on the impact of the individual gesture within public space, as did Yto Barrada’s Beau Geste (2009) which documented the futile efforts of locals to save a palm tree occupying a soon to be developed block of land in Tangiers. Cinthia Marcelle’s Confront, 2009 was an equally charming work. In this 9-minute video a number of participants occupy the crossing at a busy intersection, entering and exiting the frame as the lights change. Swinging flaming batons through the night air in rehearsed movements, the group grows in size until it creates a human barrier across the street. Tensions rise as the performance continues and the cars start getting impatient, honking and nudging forward. It’s not Tiananmen Square but the work does quietly evoke the tension of confrontation.
Erdemci does not skirt around the issues currently consuming Istanbul, in fact a number of works directly address the displacement of the Roma population from Sulukule (Halil Altinder’s Wonderland, 2013) and others chart the obfuscated flow of money between corporate, governmental and ‘non-profit’ bodies (the group Mülksüzleştirme Ağları/Networks of Dispossession).
But what Erdemci has done, and what sets her biennale as a strong counterpoint to Artur Żmijewski’s Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Politics, is that here the art is first and foremost understood as art. Works have been chosen with a confidence in their ability to distil something of conceptual and aesthetic resonance without being demonstrative or didactic. Agency is apparent without being activist. In this way Erdemci relies on art’s ability to say something in its own way. It’s a refreshing and affirming position.
We’re enjoying the music spilling out of Nick Chilvers’ Soul Box on the final week of the ACCA Pop-Up Program. Singing over musical samples, loops and backing tracks Nick has given classic songs a new and even more soulful twist. Appropriated lyrics blend into his own personal material, injecting them full of personality and humour.
The shipping container has become a social space, a comfy place to sit and listen to this unique mix of personal narrative and popular music. The human voice is intimate and emotional. The pop song serves to narrate the rudimentary subjects of desire and anguish, common to us all.
If you happen to be walking past ACCA’s North Forecourt it’s hard to ignore.The record turntable, the boom box and the domestic sound system are rhythmic devices that bring moving bodies together.
Should you jiggle your hips in time with the beat, you may notice others doing the same. That’s just the nature of things in The Soul Box.
Open 11.30am – 2.30pm, Tuesday 17 September – Saturday 21 September.
At first the gallery space seems nondescript in Cassandra Littlehand’s, Struptures, showing this week at the ACCA Pop-Up. The concrete floor is made up of a grid formation of tiles (10 by 4) which initially resembled the minimalist sculpture of Carl Andre.
But as the first visitors arrive and enter the shipping container the cracks begin to form. The weight and movements of visitors cause the concrete tiles to crack underfoot. Some tiles are left whole others are quickly giving in to the pressure and breaking apart.
Walking across the artwork it’s hard not to be aware of its very short term life span – likely to be in complete ruins by the end of the week. Come down while you can still experience this creme brulee moment for yourself.
Meg Stoios’ artworks have been kept in storage at her parents’ suburban home in Bentleigh, but neither packed away or on display. The front room of the house has been doubling as a liquor cabinet and also as an art storage facility despite its intended use as “the good room”. Think sculptures and boxes of beer half heatedly hidden behind the piano and alongside a piano-shaped music box and miniature Phar Lap ornament.
Some of Meg’s sculptures, a box of XXXX Gold and a decorative cushion have made their way to the shipping container for week three of ACCA’s Pop-Up Program. You’ll also find large scale photographs of the semi-concealed sculptures within Meg’s parents sitting room.
Come down a take a look. It’s nice and sunny out there. Open 11.30am – 2.30pm Tuesday 3 September – Saturday 7 September.
Hanna Chetwin and the Artist Film Workshop (AFW) have taken over the shipping container gallery space for week two of the ACCA Pop-Up, bringing 16mm film techniques to the masses on our North Forecourt.
Loop Library explores the possibilities of experimental film. For the duration of the exhibition a selection of 16mm film loops will be continuously played and interchanged by Hanna Chetwin and other filmmakers involved with AFW, a group run from Goodtime studios in Carlton.
The loops are made by a number of different people and not individually credited to a specific filmmaker. Instead they exist as part of a larger project and are credited to the group of contributors as collective authors.
The loops aren’t labeled either, so all decisions about what to play are effectively made at random. We’re seeing lots of interesting combinations and juxtapositions of images emerging across the different screens!
Come down for some midday viewing like nothing you’ll see on Channel 7.
Open 11.30am – 2.30pm Tuesday through Saturday.
And the weather is fine!
It’s a little bit cold and windy out there on the north side of the ACCA building but that hasn’t stopped us – the latest instalment of the Pop-Up is now open! We’ve converted a shipping container into a gallery space that will become home to a sequence of new works by young local artists, with exhibitions changing on a weekly basis.
The program opens with Ander Rennick’s Poor Form (Per Form [Perform]).
Starting with a single black and white photograph of American Sculptor Abbott Pattison in 1954 and moving between drawing and sculpture, Ander Rennick’s work engages with art history and the politics of representation.
Come down, say hi and check out Ander’s work! Poor Form (Per Form [Perform]) exhibition open 11.30am – 2.30pm Tuesday – Saturday. This week only to see Ander.
Or join us for a drink at the program launch on Friday from 5pm.
Full five week program available on the ACCA website.