Written by Ömer Erdem

Open until 21 February as part of Borusan Contemporary, the exhibition ‘What Lies Beneath’ efforts to proclaim the state of being stranded, people’s right to land, home and life which are taken away, in its own way and without crossing over to audience’s area of freedom.

Since fall is still flirting, one must seize the opportunity. Winter is at our door, and before northeast and southwest winds perplex the city, one must take a walk along the Bosphorus. Constantly offering pleasures and surprises authentic to each season, Bosphorus remains indifferent to the the zeal of the fishing boats, passenger ferries, fishing enthusiasts casting their lines into the sea on both shores, and feigns reluctance in its own phosphorescence. As you approach Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge from Anatolian side, you both witness these games and get the chance to visit a striking exhibition. ‘Bosphorus Civilization’ of the past may have already become nostalgic. It may emotionally be holding on to its own seaweeds. There is nothing you can say about that. However each nostalgia is updated with a new leap in life, and blossoms in today’s soil. It is this endless urge to live that keeps Istanbul alive.

If you have little time, best is to walk from Bebek to Rumeli Fortress. There is no feeling like walking and feeling the city and time on your face. And that was what I did. I got off from the bus from Beşiktaş to all the way to Sarıyer at Bebek. Free and by myself, I became a subject to associations of the past and influence of the moment. I know that one of the most beautiful cemeteries in Istanbul is ahead. There, Yahya Kemal and Tanpınar rest side by side. There is even a statue of the strange Orhan Veli. Tell me about it! And I will not disregard the poet of ‘Mist’ ,Tevfik Fikret and his “Aşiyan”. But my heart is set on something else. Step by step, I am leaving the fortress behind me to reach Perili Köşk (Haunted Mansion) surrounded by all sorts of made-up legends.

The exhibition ‘What Lies Beneath’ curated by Christiane Paul is held there. And I take special interest in subjects regarding migration which has been a current international issue for some time. People drifted due to wars, poverty, injustice and despair go to other countries with great expectations. Those who got lost in the sea just yesterday, those starving and freezing on borders of Europe, desperate eyes, revolting looks where hope is entangled with despair call to our human side. ‘Works’ by Michal Rovner, Krzysztof Wodiczko and Zimoun break off this dilemma from what is maybe the most archaic, and make it a current issue.

I know that time never flows clearly, nowhere. World is no heaven. Art, modern art is occupied with warning the man through transforming its own sensitivities into striking language and forms. In this context, this is a warning exhibition. To achieve the goal of “bringing audience together with complexity of systems and the human condition that remain beneath the surface”, it aims to give the ultimate message with plenty of associations through as few pieces as possible. Main themes sense of belonging and migration flow in the background. Board, boxes and video are main gathering points to achieve this goal. Subject-object, tries to dress theme’s spirit in image’s dynamism. Success of an exhibition lies in it establishing its own space when you enter the exhibition space. The Bosphorus you were walking along just now, this legendary mansion you are in, are now asleep at a corner of your memory. Upon exiting the exhibition, you will once more feel taken with all you witnessed in there, and the provocative energy of art will create an influence as a whole with the rhythm of life.

The rock, round rock by M. Rovner takes wing to the eye and the heart and from here to imagination, just like a rock. What is most ancient is updated with the division, evokes somethings still with traces in your bıears and eyes. Is it a millstone? Does it symbolize world grinding men like a mill, like a millstone? The cyclical, surging in circles from focus to the outermost edge is strong, impressive and meaningful. Man comes from itself, moves towards men, then goes beyond the universe! No, no, this is merely a desire. Modern world, its laws and rules grind man. Being the other, being an immigrant is the ultimate point.

Round rock cracked in the middle, the fractures on its edges, hint at the marks of the past as well as the cruel continuity of now. This odd uncertainty, even desensitization peaks at the video work. Main white background evokes a snowy field, harsh winter declares itself as much as it can. This way the story of the silent waiting for mercy of the civilized in the cold of Central Europe, easily rises and fills you up. This space has no face or back. Future appears as missing just like the past. It is as if these human traces, these silhouettes exhaled and their breaths became blood and evaporated. Are we witnessing the return of tens of thousands or the migration of tribes? Or is it the judgment day that surrounds us? Work by K. Wodicko is more abstract and naive in revealing the dilemma behind a membrane curtain. Desirous blue exploding on black background, evokes charm on one hand and death on the other. Fragmented flow of fiction, agonic oval windows are lined up from higher to smaller. The woman touching the glass, the membrane, the curtain in the first frame disappears in the last one. Or on the contrary, becomes evident from the void calling out for mercy, breaking down piece by piece. The work “Untitled” is filled with eight rectangles’ desire for unity, broken off from a single square frame. However this desire is destined to freeze, recede and dwindle. Does this background have a background or not? Is human on the verge of existence or extinction? Even fingerprints can be seen if we get a little closer. Is that a crime? Is it a smudge of existence? The gray one flutters with its eave lines.

Zimon’s cardboard boxes reminded me of the movie ‘Beautiful’, the eyes of J. Bardem, the tiresome and dead eyes of immigrants. This is action, movement fluttering in the object. These are like packages launched from a Chinese ship far far away. It takes courage to unpack. Any man left? What if everything was transformed into another monster? Uncertain. The desperate call of uncertain. Silent music of confrontation. Art is a form as well as the issue of keeping idea of freedom alive till eternity. Exhibition ‘What Lies Beneath’, efforts to proclaim the state of being stranded, man’s right to land, home and life which are taken away, in its own way and without crossing over to audience’s area of freedom. The transition in the video in the exhibition becomes something else with its success in touching to human’s essence precisely while passing through the aesthetic space of the abstract. Here comes the real issue. How will the audience step out, with which enthusiasm and with which expression? Which deep emotion will be felt first upon exiting the exhibition?

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Ömer Erdem

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