Historical hammam hosts contemporary artworks
HATİCE UTKAN ÖZDEN
Muse Contemporary, an art foundation hosting exhibitions in different venues around Turkey, is showcasing South African artist Michael Singer’s sculpture and installation Bennu Statis at the Küçük Mustafa Paşa Hammam/Turkish Bath. The exhibition is organized with the Culture and Tourism Ministry, South Africa’s Ankara Embassy and the Fatih Municipality.
Bennu Stasis, which is a site-specific installation, consists of 13 large bird sculptures made from stainless steel.
The name of the exhibition, “Bennu Stasis: We Shall Meet Again in the Light,” comes from the epic of creation. The legend says it is a must to divide into pieces, then come together, to suffer, to exist in the chaos and overcome all of these again, reborn and redo everything that we do in a wiser way. The works at the Turkish bath stand as a metaphor for all of these concepts as they create a wholeness for the spiritual existence of humanity.
Muse Contemporary founder and Project manager Ayşe Pınar Akalın said they have planned the exhibition for almost two years now. “We have overcome many obstacles during the planning as there was a long period of pandemic. We have always tried to do our best and what we believed the best,” she said.
“The venue is important for us. Küçük Mustafa Paşa Hammam is a very suitable place when [we] consider its harmony with the main concept of the exhibition. Küçük Mustafa Paşa Hammam is 544 years old and it is one of the largest double hammams of Istanbul,” said artist and architect Sinan Polvan, the curator of the exhibition.
Jake Michael Singer experiments with a broad range of disciplines from photography to works on paper and commands an exquisite mastery of sculpture. He uses stainless steel when creating his sculptures.
“In this exhibition the steels that I have used are making it possible to create thin long forms. This creates a paradox within the artwork and the installation I made,” said Singer, noting that because the meaning or the concept of the sculptures are based on freedom and movement.
“It also reflects an archetype which is divine. Contrary to the steel bars I used for the sculptures meant to be kept in bars, limiting others, dividing and so on. So there lies a paradox,” according to the artist.
The installation, on the other hand, is a metaphor between order and chaos, freedom and captivity, according to the curator. Thirteen large-scale bird sculptures can move around themselves, as paintings depicting nature surround them all over the bath.
The movement of the sculpture means the movement of birds, freely and without borders and limits. Performance sculptures, on the other hand, mean standing still and creates a conflict between the main installation and the works that surround it.
Singer has been shown in major art fairs globally, has held solo shows in Europe, America and Africa, and has been part of over 60 group shows since graduating in 2013, and is represented in collections both locally and abroad.
Historical venue, contemporary artworks
The venue is also an important part of the metaphor and the paradox that lies within the artworks. The artworks of Singer show us how the humanity has been divided and also stayed as a collective for ages. These two concepts create chaos and order at the same time, which also refers to the ancient era philosophy of Gaia and chaos. The meaning of the installation is also important for the present times as it symbolizes immigration, division, and the order in the movement.
Küçük Mustafa Paşa Hammam has hosted artworks before during the 2013 Istanbul Biennial. The exhibition will continue until Nov. 30.