Gallery’s new season to focus on ecology

Gallery’s new season to focus on ecology

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Gallery’s new season to focus on ecology

Açıkekran New Media Art Gallery is currently exhibiting Eelco Brand’s ‘Plastic of Nature,’ which examines the problematization of the binary opposition between nature and culture.

Ecology, or environmental politics, offers new artistic and political opportunities with its all-inclusive nature, the artistic director of Şekerbank’s Açıkekran New Media Art Gallery’s has said in announcing the space’s new season program.

The season will feature works focused on environmental issues, according to Professor Ali Akay.

 Açıkekran New Media Gallery came to life last year as a non-profit art space and a cooperation between Akay, who is also the head of the Sociology Department at Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts, Kumru Eren, who serves as the gallery’s manager, and Şekerbank Art Consultant Emin Mahir Balcıoğlu. When first consulted about the project, Akay said he offered to focus on new media.

“We wanted to make video more visible in Turkey. The medium has rapidly risen throughout the world in the last 30 years, but it hasn’t had enough visibility in Turkey,” he said. The gallery space was designed accordingly and video art was endorsed as a more accessible means than conventional media, which was a primordial concern in forming the project as the whole project is designed to reach the bank’s users throughout Turkey.

Videos in seven branches

“A video out of all selections exhibited in the gallery is also displayed in seven branches of the bank,” Akay said. These branches are in the northern province of Ordu, the southeastern province of Mardin, İzmir, Ankara, and Istanbul’s Feneryolu branch on the Asian side.

Videos are displayed on two-sided screens so that both bank customers and pedestrians can see the works, which play in a loop 24 hours a day. The project, which the bank describes as a social-responsibility effort, previously hosted a series of exhibitions under the title of “Archives.” The series featured around 20 artists including Ayşe Erkmen, Seza Paker, Ahmet Öğüt, Claude Closky, Jalal Toufik, Bouchra Khalili and Wang Du.

It is not restrictive to impose thematic limits on a project already limited to a considerable extent due to its focus on a single medium, Akay said. No stranger to the theme of ecology, Akay considers the environmentalist movement to be the sole political movement he can personally attest to. “In 1998 I curated a show in Florence entitled ‘Ecology and Periphery.’ The exhibition I co-curated at Akbank Sanat in 2005, entitled ‘Contaging with Nature,’ also shared the same context. My publisher, Bağlam Publishing House, is readying for the third print of my translation of Felix Guattari’s ‘The Three Ecologies.’”

The notion of ecology brings to life a series of concepts, one of which is leisure and mental ecology, Akay said. “I am curating a show on this theme. The artist has no leisure time. An artist’s free time is part of its working time because she is always in a state of thinking about her production. On the contrary, in the world of full-employment, leisure time is when the employee gets back home in the evening, or when they are out to have some fun or when they are being lazy before the TV. Exploitation of labor brought about by the post-industrial working conditions allows me to draw an analogy between ecology and leisure because industrialism and all its devastating consequences come simultaneously for human beings and nature.”

Fives shows in coming season

In the coming season, Akay plans to launch five shows, including mixed medium exhibitions. Currently, Açıkekran New Media Art Gallery is exhibiting Eelco Brand’s “Plastic of Nature,” which examines the problematization of the binary opposition between nature and culture.“Brand’s animations take two aspects of plastic. On the one hand it refers to pollution, as the plastic waste disposed in nature changes to a form of prosthesis within it, on the other it plays off of plastic’s definition as to give or take shape, as is the case with plastic arts,” he said.

Just how deeply Akay is determined to dig through the duality between nature and culture will be best hinted at in the second exhibition set to open June 27 at Açıkekran New Media Art Gallery. Akay prefers to keep the details of that exhibition a secret, saying only that it will be a mixed exhibition.

Painting is a cornered medium in world: Ali Akay


As new media acquires a more central position within the world’s total artistic production, painting has become restricted in terms of the narrative tools it offers, Açıkekran New Media Art Gallery Ali Akay said.

“However, in Turkey painting is still the favorite of collectors, mostly because of their decorative concerns,” he said.

“After the 1990s, the contemporary art scene in Turkey established a discontinuity from its own art history and that very art scene is on the rise in our country now. The reason for this rising trend is partly due to an intellectual and artistic history, partly to an increasing volume of money which directly affects a more refined and sophisticated life culture and consumption trends. The global amount of volume of money in circulation in the art market has reached a comparable level to that in the film market,” he said.
However, this trend hardly shows its effects on collections and artistic production in Turkey. “We have 20 or 25 high-quality artists that show a strong presence in international markets. Some of them are hardly known or just known in Turkey. Many artists and social scientists had to study abroad after the military coup in 1980, which allowed them greater freedom and the chance to interact with the art world in Europe. One good thing that came out of the 1980 coup, which proved detrimental for our country in almost all aspects, was that it drove intellectuals out of the country, so that today we have intellectuals and artists who have an international grasp of things. In Turkey higher education in the arts and humanities is largely ongoing with 19th century standards and the Bologna Process we are entering soon will bring no good at all.”

According to Akay, another barrier to be crossed for higher quality artistic production in Turkey is the barrier of ignorance. “Apart from a few select examples, Turkish art gallery owners and collectors have no clue about the good art being produced. And in the recent Sotheby’s auction in London on modern and contemporary Turkish art, we have seen a proof to my claim,” he said.

Akay said Turkish collectors were now trying to get rid of the wrong purchases they made in the 1970s and 1980s. “However, today’s purchases are destined to the same [fate]. If they go on doing as they do today, they will try to get rid of their present purchases in 20 years’ time,” he said.