Contemporary visual culture from Turkey and beyond – in pictures

Istanbul Modern celebrates its 10th anniversary with an exhibition highlighting contemporary art from Turkey and its neighbours.

“Neighbours: Contemporary Narratives from Turkey and Beyond” features 35 artists from 17 countries and runs from 9 January to 8 May 2014. The exhibition is organised as a part of Istanbul Modern’s tenth anniversary.

"Neighbours - Contemporary Narratives from Turkey and Beyond" gallery view at Istanbul Modern. Photo by Sinan Koçaslan. Image courtesy Istanbul Modern.

“Neighbours – Contemporary Narratives from Turkey and Beyond” gallery view at Istanbul Modern. Photo by Sinan Koçaslan. Image courtesy Istanbul Modern.

Neighbours – Contemporary Narratives from Turkey and Beyond” is curated by Istanbul Modern’s Çelenk Bafra and Paolo Colombo, assisted by regional art experts Negar Azimi, Zdenka Badovinac and Magda Guruli. Featured artists include CANAN, Slavs and Tatars, Mounira Al Solh and Cevdet Erek.

Rena Effendi, 'Xinaliq Village', 2009, Archival pigment print. Image courtesy the artist and Istanbul Modern.

Rena Effendi, ‘Xinaliq Village’, 2009, archival pigment print. Image courtesy the artist and Istanbul Modern.

Mounira Al Solh, 'Dilsiz Dil / The Mute Tongue', 2010. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut/Hamburg.

Mounira Al Solh, ‘Dilsiz Dil / The Mute Tongue’, 2010. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut/Hamburg.

The local and vernacular

“Neighbours” focuses on local culture, practice and experience through the work of the 35 selected artists, rather than classifying them based on national identities. The regions that the artists hail from include the Balkans, Caucasus and the Middle East, which share geographic, historical, political and cultural ties with Turkey.

Fahrettin Örenli, 'Building New Empire Statement', 2009. Image courtesy the artist and Istanbul Modern.

Fahrettin Örenli, ‘Building New Empire Statement’, 2009.
Image courtesy the artist and Istanbul Modern.

Special emphasis is placed on the vernacular of contemporary art practice and forms of social interaction, such as oral traditions and popular theatre, and how these seep into visual art. Themes of storytelling and travel, including migration, language, translation and cultural exchange, are addressed in many of the works.

Hayv Kahraman, 'Göçmen / Migrant 4', 2010, oil on panel, 177.8 x 114.3 cm. Özel Koleksiyon Private Collection. Image courtesy Istanbul Modern.

Hayv Kahraman, ‘Göçmen / Migrant 4’, 2010, oil on panel, 177.8 x 114.3 cm.
Özel Koleksiyon Private Collection. Image courtesy Istanbul Modern.

Florie Bavard writes in TimeOut Istanbul about the concept of “Neighbours”:

The selected works invite us to read this term [“neighbours”] in all of its literal and metaphorical senses: geographic proximity, linguistic fraternity, cultural similarity, and religious diversity, while celebrating the specificities of “each/other”. The artists’ nationalities are neither hidden nor explicitly mentioned, as it is the very aim of the project to shed light on movement, rather than segmenting by national origins.

Furat al Jamil, 'Baghdad Night', 2013, HD video, 3’11’. Image courtesy the artist and Istanbul Modern.

Furat al Jamil, ‘Baghdad Night’, 2013, HD video, duration: 3 min 11 sec. Image courtesy the artist and Istanbul Modern.

Commissioned works

A number of new works are on display at “Neighbours”, especially commissioned for the exhibition. Among these is an installation by Slavs and Tatars named Nose Twister, which explores the Eastern origins of the Turkish language, particularly from the autonomous Xinjiang region in China.

CANAN’s video, Delusion, is influenced by Turkey’s oral tradition, recounting the inner journey of a young woman in her own voice. The press release describes it as “a love story that ends in madness.”

Eteri Chkadua, 'Karalar İçinde / In Black', 2013, oil on canvas, 162.5 x 198 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Istanbul Modern.

Eteri Chkadua, ‘Karalar İçinde / In Black’, 2013, oil on canvas, 162.5 x 198 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Istanbul Modern.

Eteri Chkadua’s painting In Black debuted at “Neighbours” and depicts a large dinner table, traditionally set forty days after a burial in the Caucasus. The painting is a reflection on the relationship between the traditional and contemporary.

Maja Bajevic, 'To Be Continued/Steam Machines', 2011, installation with steam machine and slide projector, 113 × 126.5 × 179 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Peter Kilchmann, Zurich.

Maja Bajevic, ‘To Be Continued/Steam Machines’, 2011, installation with steam machine and slide projector, 113 × 126.5 × 179 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Peter Kilchmann, Zurich.

"Neighbours - Contemporary Narratives from Turkey and Beyond" gallery view at Istanbul Modern. Photo by Sinan Koçaslan. Image courtesy Istanbul Modern.

“Neighbours – Contemporary Narratives from Turkey and Beyond” gallery view at Istanbul Modern. Photo by Sinan Koçaslan. Image courtesy Istanbul Modern.

10 years of Istanbul Modern

Istanbul Modern is the first private museum of modern art in Turkey to host modern and contemporary art exhibitions. It is devoted to showcasing the unique history of Turkey and the surrounding region. Oya Eczacıbaşı of the Eczacıbaşı Group, which has sponsored the exhibition, is quoted in the press release as saying:

In the past ten years, Istanbul Modern has proved to be one of the foremost museums of modern art in the region, and with this first comprehensive regional exhibition it brings together the contemporary art of the surrounding countries to reveal their shared memory and sensitivity as well as their deep-rooted ties.

One Square Meter, 'Kalıp / Mold', 2012, 14 minutes. Image courtesy Istanbul Modern.

One Square Meter, ‘Kalıp / Mold’, 2012, duration: 14 min. Image courtesy Istanbul Modern.

Alongside the “Neighbours” exhibition, other cultural and artistic events including performances, panels and screenings are also part of the programme. These include a festival concept called One Square Meter, created by the Armenian Centre for Contemporary Experimental Art (ACCEA), which consists of performances and theatre that are presented on a stage measuring one metre square, with a time limit of 45 minutes.

“Come Again?”, a series of video art by thirteen artists curated by Birnur Temel, film screenings from Turkey and its neighbours in April, and special educational programmes on visual stories for children and families are some of the other events taking place.

Kriti Bajaj

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Related Topics: museums, Turkish artists, West Asian art and artists, picture feasts, events in Istanbul

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