Gigantic mussel trays depict economy and changes in city

Gigantic mussel trays depict economy and changes in city

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
Gigantic mussel trays depict economy and changes in city

Contemporary artist Viron Erol Vert says he wanted to choose something from the street that every person visiting Istanbul would know and that’s why he has chosen mussel trays as a metaphor.

Viron Erol Vert, a contemporary artist who lives and works in Istanbul and Berlin, is returning to Istanbul with an installation to complement the 13th Istanbul Biennial. 

For his latest work, Vert is focusing on the economy, urban transformation, Ottoman culture and the ways in which the city alters people’s lives. 

Vert is displaying a sculpture of oversized replicas of typical Istanbul street sellers’ paraphenalia, such as mussel trays, in the garden of the Zoğrafyon Greek High School in Beyoğlu. 

The sense of the project for Vert is important. “I wanted to do something that is related to the city. I started thinking about the biennial. I also wanted to work on capitalism, urban transformation and city culture,” he said.

According to Vert, these are questions and topics in society today that are not only pertinent for Turkey but for the whole world. As such, the artist chose to create a piece that would bring people together. 

Instead of criticizing the city, Vert wanted to contribute to city culture by bringing them together in one installation art project. Vert presents circular trays measuring 5.7 meters by 2.25 meters that are generally used by men who sell stuffed mussels on the streets as a metaphor. 

The huge and gigantic trays stand in the middle of the Greek high school. Vert said he wanted to choose something from the street that every person visiting Istanbul would know. At the same time, not knowing what is on the trays is another metaphor that Vert uses for the economy and capitalism; in that, the concept is intimately connected to the name of the show: “As long as the stocks last.” The stocks, however, never actually finish, as there is always more to buy.

The piece is a very democratic piece, according to Vert. “People see these tray sellers when they come out of bars or clubs in Istanbul. While eating these mussels, they gather around the trays and sometimes they chat with each other and with other customers.” This connects people, according to Vert. 

Vert also said his piece revealed a very simple economic situation since people are simply giving their money and taking their food. “This means a very honest economic situation. You know what you get for how much. However, if we look at today’s economic situation, it is almost impossible to know what is happening and there are many hidden pieces and doors.”

Proportions of the installation

The installation is gigantic, and in keeping in line with Vert’s metaphor of the difficulties of grappling with the economy, it is impossible to see what is on the trays as the objects on them are huge and long. 

“I wanted to maximize the size because I would like to focus on the equation of the human and the economy,” he said. “Normally, on the streets you can see the trays and what is on them. However, this time it is different; you do not know which product is on them.” 

As such, the exhibition shows the difference in size between the economy and capitalism on one hand and humans on the other, who are too small to comprehend the size of the former. 

“I change the dimensions. Humans are less valuable than the economic market. That’s what I would like to show,” he said.

It is inevitable that one will feel small next to the gigantic trays. Vert is successful at making the problematic parts of urban transformation apparent and observable. His way of depicting a social story also lies in his multicultural life, as Vert likes to discover cultures and societies without any prejudice present.

Just like he did in his first exhibition that took place in Istanbul last September, Vert once again discovers Istanbul with the careful scrutiny of an observant artist.

The exhibition, which opens Sept. 14, will continue until October.