Salt venues open new season with three shows
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
The program of SALT’s new season is in keeping with the gallery’s previous investigations of urban transformation issues that have been included in a number of its exhibitions, talks on the city and its architecture
The two branches of one of Istanbul’s most prominent galleries will kick off their new season tomorrow with exhibitions that run the spectrum from experimental music to interrogations of urban transformation.
SALT Galata and Beyoğlu will welcome Hassan Khan, a famous Egyptian artist who is seen as a pioneering influence on many contemporary Turkish artists, particularly in the fields of experimental music and video. At the same time, an exhibition titled “The Performance of Modernity: Atatürk Kültür Merkezi, 1946-1977” will focus on issues related to urban transformation, while Istanbul Eindhoven will bring famous artists’ works to Istanbul.
The program of SALT’s new season is in keeping with the gallery’s previous investigations of urban transformation issues that have been included in a number of its exhibitions, talks on the city and its architecture. All of the exhibitions revolve around the issue of creating a “collective memory of the city.”
“I would think that it was somewhat coincidental that we dealt mainly with Istanbul in 2011,” SALT programs director Vasıf Kortun recently told the Hürriyet Daily News. “Our projects in 2012, however, like GRAFT and SALON, focused upon Ankara and Turkey in general. We are interested in questions of how we use, inscribe and make space from very specific minute environments, like a living room in Ankara or a gargantuan symbolic space like the AKM [Atatürk Cultural Center] in Istanbul. It is both the thing itself and layers of stories around it that interests us. For us, documents, objects, and environments are conduits for discussions that we try to engage with.”
SALT will continue to pursue a whole range of subjects from issues of museum and archival practices in a common world to divergent artistic practice.
“This year’s programs included shifts in geography and scales,” said Kortun, adding that the overarching constant was the curiosity for less-acknowledged modern structures, be they the context creating demand for modernist design in SALON, the power to manage nature in GRAFT, or the operation to adorn the city with an opera house, as in the case of the AKM.
Hassan Khan’s solo exhibition
The most comprehensive exhibition to date of works by artist, musician and writer Hassan Khan will open today at SALT Beyoğlu. Khan, born in 1975, lives and works in Cairo. Before beginning to regularly exhibit his work in art spaces in the late 1990s, he was involved in a self-organized, underground art and music scene that was highly innovative, yet rarely public.
Khan’s interdisciplinary methods of artistic production rely on observations, interactions, engagements, as well as a more personal internalized source of communication. He channels these experiences via a multifaceted layering of video, digital animation, performance documentation, sculpture, text and language, photography, sound and installation to produce a very personal, yet formal language. While this artistic language does not seek to explain itself or reveal its more intimate sources, it offers an encounter for the viewer to respond to.
“Hassan Khan is a contemporary of the artists who began to exhibit and share his work internationally in the last decade and a half,” said Kortun.
Khan’s work is known and followed by the burgeoning art scene in Turkey, just as many established artists in Turkey were being closely followed by their contemporaries within the region.
While Khan is very clear about his position as an international artist who happens to live and work in Cairo, there are aspects of his work that will appear very familiar to visitors – such as the reworking of Shaabi Street music to become an amalgam of improvisation, structured recording and mixing in Dom Tak Tak Dom Tak (2005). The photographs in “LUST” (2008) and video “Blind Ambition” (2012) were shot on cell phones, evoking immediacy that feels appropriate in relationship to one’s experience of the urban context of Istanbul.
Importance of the AKM exhibition
According to Kortun, there is a much more intricate story about AKM than what has been discussed since its closure four years ago. The exhibition focuses on the period between 1946 and 1977 – the period over which the state organized and funded the building of an opera for Istanbul.
AKM is part of a well-devised and not fully implemented master plan by the French architect and urban designer Henri Prost. Accordingly, the early idea of an Istanbul opera house dates back to the late 1930s and introduces the first design by the well-known modernist architect Auguste Perret. After Prost left, Perret’s work was no longer considered appropriate and architects Rükneddin Güney and Feridun Kip were commissioned instead in 1946. However, the city failed to begin construction, and the project was handed over to the Finance Ministry in 1953 after Istanbul Technical University Professor Paul Bonatz was asked to restudy the project.
The present AKM began to emerge only after 1956, when Hayati Tabanlıoğlu emerged as the architect and the head supervisor of the building. The construction took until 1969 with a significant break of three years immediately after the coup in 1960. A fire in 1970, however, added seven more years of work to the construction of the building.
The AKM has been a structure providing function, scale and boundary to Taksim Square, representing one conventional way of acknowledging its significance. Nonetheless, the unexplored story behind it contains an account of the architectural practice in modernizing Turkey, as well as placing it in the global context of the post-war period. The exhibition reveals the story mainly through the actors involved and artifacts produced.
“No doubt Taksim Square gets a lot of attention today, and it should. But we know of a number of similar plans in effect. Concerns about their physical and social outcomes – and basically about urban decision-making processes in Turkey in general – are being addressed in various programs at SALT. The ‘Performance of Modernity: Atatürk Kültür Merkezi, 1946-1977,’ on the other hand, is the outcome of archival research on a much smaller scale, including a historic study of Taksim Square. Although the exhibition is not rooted in the current debate, it could very well refresh it,” said Kortun.