Archive for art

Old days revisited…

Posted in art with tags , , , , , , , on October 3, 2010 by artodisiac

Here is another article I had written in 1999 on 6th International Istanbul Biennial for a contemporary art class I took from Gulsun Karamustafa when I was a senior in Bosphorus University. We were supposed to visit the Biennial and choose 5 artists and write about their works. When I read it now, it seems quite a pathetic article with a poor command of English but considering that it was a ‘first’ for an economics student that time, and it was highly graded, I guess it was ok.

It seems that this article was aimed to be an early introduction for our curatorial choices as well. To choose five artists among 56, one needs to find a link, a binding concept between them. I remember putting ‘content’ above the ‘technique’ while choosing the artists and getting an A for the consistent selection of the works. My choices were Elina Bruderus who showed photographs of herself shortly after a divorce; Pedro Alvarez, a Cuban artist who dealt with discrimination between rich white and poor black citizens; Oliver Musovik, a Macedonian artist, who exhibited a project concerned with the continual and persistent interest in the ordinary personal lives and destinies of people in his neighborhood; and Kara Walker who used black and white wall sillouettes to explore some historical implications of slavery.

I also recall our everlasting discussions with Ms Karamustafa on high and low art in our lectures. In that sense, nothing much seems to be changed within a decade, since we still make the same discussions in lectures these days. What seems to be changed is the technology used to create the artworks that still have relatively similar contents (since every question has been asked and every subject has been visited). Hence the variety of techniques used to stimulate emotions have passed far beyond the imaginable.  Therefore, after a decade, if we are given a similar task, will I be choosing the same type of works where ‘content makes more sense than shape’ is a question mark. I still value content much more than the shape, however in a world of derivative works of art (contentwise), creative use of technology gains more importance and keeps the art scene alive..



by Ebru Surek, 1999

The Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts has been organizing art events since 1973. The last ‘Istanbul Biennial’ of the milllenium gathered 56 artists from 32 different countries. The selection was made by the curator Paolo Colombo because of the artists’ common features. After visiting the biennial, one can easily understand the curator’s view. All the artists in the biennial were reflecting the plurality of art and producing abovenations, emotional and independent masterpieces. Because in the world of 90’s globalization gains importance day by day. In this world, as Colombo suggests, a motive is extending in which the views and thoughts of people are becoming personal and more subjective. In the tangency point of the history and the geography, the curator wanted to catch this motive.
The name of the biennial is chosen as ‘The Passion and the Wave’, referring to Antonis Diamantidhis, one of the great voices of Istanbul and Athens. He sang under the stage name ‘Dalgas’ which means ‘wave’ in Turkish and ‘passion’ in Greek. The title of the biennial is an homage to this city, through the name of one of its greatest voices. Diamantidhis symbolizes an approach to the nonelitist,ordinary people of that time. What impresses the curator was his personal and poetic expression rather than the great, theoretic masterpieces. The artists that the curator invited also reflected that point of view. He invited all types of artwork: from painting to collage, photography to video works… The important thing was to express a feeling with the help of the surrounding. Content made more sense than shape.

The exhibition places were Dolmabahçe Cultural Center, Hagia Eireni Museum and Yerebatan Cistern. He chose these places because they born from underground of the city and reach to the sea. The artists(from the most subjective to the most expressionist), told us personal stories, they examined modernism and created an ‘Istanbul’ that we did not see before.

In this paper we are going to examine the works of five artists; Michael Raedecker, Elina Brotherus, Pedro Alvarez, Kara Walker and Oliver Musovik; and try to relate them to the curator’s purpose.



‘Lots of details can be given but it is still possible to make the painting ‘empty’ says M. Raedecker, a famous Dutch artist. All he wants is to create anonymous images that everyone can add his own story. He used different art cathegories in his works. He combined craft and painting. In ‘Hallow Hill’ he gives an impression that you are in a well and seeing the world upside down. In ‘The Outskirts’ this time you got the impression of looking down the world from the sky. There are clouds and trees that were cut. In ‘Cue’ you are looking to the nature behind a theater curtain. The tree is made of wool. When looking to his works, you get a feeling that everything may be different than it looks. You go through different emotions. M. Raedecker paints approximate scenes which might have been seen, though never visited, from TV or a magazine. Both impersonal and familiar. He also crossed the borderline between ‘high’ and ‘low’ art. The scenes are individual and subjects are trivial but on the other hand it is high art since the materials are valuable and an emphasis on effort is given. The works also can not be copied.



She uses photograps as a medium to communicate. She takes her own photos and tries to tell us her own story. She has just broken up with her husband and her sad look touches people in ‘This is the first day of the rest of my life’. She is not an outsider, sometimes she is inside the frame herself, sometimes she frames something else for us. A red umbrella at the fireworks. Some concrete buildings, lights. People turn their backs to the camera. In ‘Landscapes and Escapes 1’ she is away from people and near to the nature. Life is her film. She uses long exposures, living through the moments when patterns of life and light coincide. The pictures are the underlying reason for what they depict. They hold a mirror to the present. She uses images that we can easily read like a visual text.



‘The Story of Cuban Art Has Been Told’ is an ironic name to criticize the modish attention paid to Cuban art all over the world. For Alvarez, there are two distinct channels of appropriation: art history and popular culture. First he has torn out images from the pages of expensive cathologues to provide the collage background for the work, then he has superimposed images taken from 19th Century cigar boxes. He suggests that ‘I am playing a game between ‘High’ and ‘Low’ art. By using Picasso, Bleckner, Monet as a background of the paintings he not only ridicules them as masters of ‘high’ art but also underlines the way their presence legitimizes the Cuban artists’ entry into the contemporary art world. He chose a critical, important subject (discrimination between rich white and poor black) but the title refers only to Cuban art so in a way it is a trivial subject. Copies of boxes can be made but he painted them and made it harder to copy. He uses cathegories of high and low art. He also criticizes the consumerism of art culture by using collage.



‘Silhoutte’ is a sharp way of summarizing my various interests’ says K.Walker. Silhouette was historically existed as an art related to common and everyday life. Her works tell us about black slaves. She uses cut out of black paper on a white wall. They are criticizing slavery and racism, especially Klu Klax Klan. White people have big sharp teeth. There is a big eagle and it is beating another one, representing USA trying to colonize another country. A black man who escaped from a gallows is walking with his son. Behind them there is a lovely girl looking at them with a mask of Klu Klux Klan in her hand. A white man is running to dig a grave with a shovel in his hand.

She used a universal subject with a lot of work, her works can be cathegorized as high art. On the otherhand valuable materials are not used and her works can be reproduced, which reminds us low art. She expresses her personal views. Being an african american,  she could probably have witnessed some negative events in her life. She used some images to tell us her point like eagle as the US. She is being criticised by most of the Americans, but it can not be denied that her works hold up a mirror to the present.



His projects appear so specific within the context of the Macedonian art scene because he has a continual and persistent interest in the ordinary personal lives and destinies of the people in his neighbourhood. Most of the artists from his generation are still occupied with the formal problems related to matter, shape and color but he has already translated his investigations into ‘real life’. He usually uses ordinary people in his work like the unemployed, students, pensioners etc., who are taking the leading roles for the first time in their lives.
In one of his works named ‘Neighbours’, he took photos of 20 flats of the apartment he is living. These photos are reflecting the lives of people living inside with all of the details. There are also personal stories written under each of them. They are so realistic that in the biennial, some people thought that they were the photos of earthquake and they said they were very pleased to see that a foreign photographer paid attention to that subject.

His works also crossed the borderline between high and low art. The scenes are very individual and the works can be reproducable but the effort is worth mentioning. His purpose is to stimulate emotion. He combined photographs and some writings in his works.



Almost every art work in the biennial crossed a borderline between high and low art. The purpose was not just art, but to stimulate emotion. What the Biennial wanted to achieve was to feed the belief on intimacy and reality. What we live is not important, it can be earthquake, depression, love, racism or trouble. Whatever it is, the important thing is can it be expressed by any means, by pictures, paintings, crafts or all together.





  1. 6. ULUSLARARASI İSTANBUL BİENALİ, BİENAL, İstanbul Kültür ve Sanat Vakfı, 1999

  2. GÖSTERİ, Sanat Edebiyat Dergisi, Eylül-Ekim 1999, Sayı 213

  3. 6.Uluslararası İstanbul Bienali, Sönmez Ayşegül, Milliyet Sanat Dergisi, Sayı 464, sayfa 4-11

  4. 6. Uluslararası İstanbul Bienali, Sanat mı değil mi, Korap Elif, Milliyet Sanat Dergisi, Sayı 465, sayfa 26-28

  5. 6. Uluslararası İstanbul Bienali’nin Düşündürdükleri, Sönmez Ayşegül, Milliyet Sanat Dergisi, Sayı 466, sayfa 32-34

  6. Resmi Görüş, Güncel Sanat Seçkisi 1,


Good old days…

Posted in art, iconography, semiology with tags , , , , , on September 28, 2010 by artodisiac

While I was looking for a document in my old CDs, I have come across with some papers I had written in December’98, for a fine arts course (FA311) I was taking from Nancy Atakan in Bosphorus University. It has been ages that I had even forgotten their existence. As a term paper to Ms Atakan, I recall using an essay; “Mechanisms of Meaning: Iconography and Semiology” from Donald Preziosi’s The Art of Art History, A Critical Anthology; as a framework to analyze and compare paintings by Velasquez and Goya. Now I remember this paper was the reason of my  interest and admire especially for Goya. I would like to share some of these papers I had written in 90s (first of which will be the term paper for Ms Atakan’s lecture) in order not to loose them once again, and to see if I had some progress in the past 12 years, hope I did:)

Mechanisims of Meaning: Iconography and Semiology in Interpreting Works of Velazquez and Goya

by Ebru Surek

An image is not intended solely for perception and contemplation. It requires and demands a real effort of reading, even interpretation. Iconography attempts essentially to state what the images represent and assumes every image has a hidden and symbolic meaning. In Panofsky’s view, iconography deals solely with images that were meant to signify something different from what they offered to view, without distinguishing between the different types of images. Semiotics on the contrary has an intention on bringing to light the mainsprings of the signifying process, of which the work of art is, at the same time, the locus and the possible outcome. It focuses on the production of meaning.
Examining the social factors that frame the signs is crucial to analyze simultaneously the past and our own interaction with them, an interaction otherwise in danger of passing unnoticed. In this paper, we are going to analyze the works of Velazquez and Goya to understand their intentions in paintings ‘Las Meninas’ and ‘El Sueno de la Razon Produce Monstruos.’

Looking at ‘Las Meninas (The Maids in-waiting), we recognize Velazquez as a master of a brilliant optical realism that seldom has been approached by others. As first painter to the king and as a chief steward of the palace, Velazquez was conscious not only of the importance of his court office but of the honor of dignity belonging to his profession as painter. In this painting he appears to bring the roles together, asserting their equivalent value. A number of pictures from 17th century show painters with their royal patrons. In the painting he wears the red cross of the order on the couple, painted there, legend tells us, by the king himself. The truth is that the artist painted it. In his mind, Las Meninas might have embodied the idea of the great king visiting his artist’s studio. The figures in the painting all acknowledge the royal presence.
The painter represents himself in his studio before a large canvas on which he may be painting this very picture or perhaps the portraits of the king and the queen, whose reflections appear in the mirror on the far wall. The little girl, Margarita, appears in the foreground with her two maids in waiting, her favorite dwarfs and a big dog. In the middle ground there are a nanny and a male escort; in the background a gentleman is framed in a brightly lit open doorway. The painting is constructed to make us look at that person. On the wall above the doorway and mirror, two faintly recognizable pictures represent the immortal gods as the source of art. Our first impression of Las Meninas is of an informal family group casually arranged and miraculously lifelike. One could think of it as a genre painting rather than as a group portrait.
Placed among the royal family in equal dignity, Velazquez is face to face with his sovereign. The art of painting, in the person of the painter, is elevated to the highest status. He sought ennoblement not for himself but for his art. Although he intends an optical report of the event, he also seems to intend a pictorial summary of various kinds of images and degrees of ‘reality’. This work, with its contrasts of mirrored spaces, pictures spaces and pictures within pictures. The painting itself appears to have been using traces from a large mirror reflecting the whole scene, which would mean the artist has not pointed the princess and her suit, but himself in the process of painting them. He achieved this illusion by the help of intermediate values of gray to come between two extremes. He thinks of light and tone as the whole substance of painting.
Francisco de Goya also became a portrait painter to the Spanish aristocracy. After a serious illness in 1792 left him permanently deaf and isolated from others, he increasingly occupied with the fantasies and inventions of his imagination and with critical and satirical observations of mankind.
‘El Sueno de la Razon Produce Monstruos’ is one of them. A Spanish writer called F. de Quevedo y Villegas inspired him. The main notion of the painting was that the difference between man and monster is a very thin line and too close to each other that they can be mixed sometimes very easily. In the first sketch of the painting, the artist is sleeping in his drawing table surrounded by a face of donkey as a symbol of illiteracy and ignorance, a dog’s face with its tongue out of its mouth as a symbol of greediness and some bats as symbols of hypocrisy and ignorance. Bats in that time of Spanish literature were symbols of dark people escaping from the light of justice. Near the feet of the sleeping artist lies a lynx with a power of vision in dark very strong eyes symbolizing the smart people in Spain in 18th century with a deep understanding power who can foresee future easily. The lynx will help Goya in the exploration of the dark.
In the original picture, there are the sleeping artist, the lynx, the owls and the bats, one of which is bigger than the others and flying above the artist. The others are flying in the background. In the Middle Ages and the Christian iconography, the bat represents a form of devil and the owl represents a creature of darkness that cannot endure light. In this respect, the owl was symbolizing the people who did not follow the Jesus Christ. In 18th Century they mostly symbolized illiteracy, irrationality, the dark face of the reason, etc.
In the picture the owl is giving a pencil with no ends to the artist. The light is disappearing and giving a way to the dark. The lynx ‘s face is towards the artist but a cat, known as the Prince of Darkness, is looking around from the back of the artist. There are four owls surrounding the cat and three of them are looking directly at the eyes of the people looking at them. The fourth one is insisting on giving a piece of chalk to the artist with the aim of being pictured. But Goya will not take it. These owls are not the sacred birds of Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, but the creatures belonging to the bad fortunetellers, trying to see the future with the help of these birds.
Goya named the painting ‘El Sueno de la Razon Produce Monstruos’ and wrote it in the left corner saying, without rationality, imagination produces monsters, if it is completed with rationality, then it is the source of art and its miracles.


Tuning the untouchable

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on February 24, 2010 by artodisiac

It is a shame that I have never ever heard about this magical so to speak instrument in my life. And I consider myself as a curious soundhunter! Anyway, better later than never. For the last couple of days, I am searching the net for a teeny weeny information about theremin. Now I have enough theoretical information waiting to be practiced in my next sound project. I am also thinking about using it as an interactive project for an exhibition on unconscious I am currently working on. I think it is quite an unearthly experience. What fascinated me was its resemblance to unconscious. As dreams reveal whatever lies under your conscious, theremin uncovers this dreamy sound that seems to come out of nowhere. You can not hear, see, or sense anything without it but theremin makes you tune the air and enables you to make the music of your body out of nothing, or at least something invisible. Therefore this makes it very suitable for my project but first, I have to build it through some DIY instructions. Hopefully I will also learn about its fundementals in the sound class.

What is Theremin

Theremin is the only musical instrument you play without touching. It was one of the very first electronic instruments that was invented by a young Russian physicist named Lev Sergeivich Termen (known in the West as Leon Theremin) in October 1920 after the outbreak of the Russian Civil War.

After positive reviews at Moscow electronics conferences, Theremin demonstrated the device to Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin. Lenin was so impressed with the device that he began taking lessons for playing it, commissioned six hundred of the instruments for distribution throughout the Soviet Union, and sent Theremin on a trip around the world to demonstrate the latest Soviet technology and the invention of electronic music. After a lengthy tour of Europe, during which time he demonstrated his invention to packed houses, Theremin found his way to the United States, where he patented his invention in 1928.

The theremin is unique among musical instruments in that it is played without physical contact. The musician stands in front of the instrument and moves his or her hands in the proximity of two metal antennas. The distance from one antenna determines frequency (pitch), and the distance from the other controls amplitude (volume). Moving the hand closer to the pitch antenna causes the pitch to raise, and moving the hand closer to the volume loop decreases the volume and eventually silences the instrument. The theremin is tuned by distance not by pitch. Any motion of the body or any solid object in the playing fields will affect the note.

Easy to learn but notoriously difficult to master, theremin performance presents two challenges: reliable control of the instrument’s pitch with no guidance (no keys, valves, frets, or finger-board positions), and minimizing undesired portamento that is inherent in the instrument’s microtonal design.

The theremin was originally used to play classical music, transcriptions and original compositions. Lev Termen and his students performed classics both as solos and ensemble pieces.

In the mid-20s Clara Rockmore, then a young violinist, met him and soon became the greatest player of the theremin. She devised a new technique for the theremin that made possible virtuosic performances and her work and concretizing established the theremin as a serious instrument at the time.

In the popular music realm, Samuel Hoffman mastered the instrument and featured it in specialty big band numbers. Later the theremin was discovered by film composers and was used an integral part of such scores as Spellbound and The Day the Earth Stood Still. But it became type cast as a spooky sound effect and eventually was used non musically in hundreds of B movies.Over the past ten years the theremin has enjoyed a tremendous resurgance and has been popping up in countless rock bands, home made videos, performance pieces and on the sympnonic concert stage. Having the most simple and elegent playing interface of any instrument of the electric age, Leon Theremin’s invention continues to delight and inspire people around the world.

No photography allowed!!!

Posted in art with tags , , on January 23, 2010 by artodisiac

I had an embarrassing moment when I visited musee d’orsay for the first time when I was in my early teens. I was stuck in front of the Starry Night Over the Rhone by Vincent Van Gogh. I remember having a lesson on him prior that year so my amazement was only natural. I was trying to take a picture with my funny compact analog camera, without the flash of course, to show in my art class in the following semester when I was caught by the guard. It was really embarrasing being shouted at in the middle of the hall and not having a clue what he was saying. I happen to learn in that very moment that taking photographs were forbidden and I was also clueless about the reason of  it. I am talking about early 90s, when digital technologies were not widespread at all. Since I could not get the rationale behind it that time, I totally ignored it and tried to fool the guards and took the pictures secretly as a perfectly normal turkish visitor:) sorry for that, but I was only 13. And in my ideal museum, taking photographs of masterpieces to share with my friends were quiet normal. Now I am aware of copywright issues. In fact taking a photo in a museum doesn’t violate copyright of an object, but it violates the owner’s right to restrict access if he or she has legally demanded that right. Of course the museums have to protect that right but is it the only reason of the restriction? And if the owner of an art work (whether in museum or not) has no such restriction, can it still be used as a derivative work?  The same question revolving in my head had also been asked in the final jury of my photography class this morning: as photographers, can we use photographs taken by other people in our own creative works? Well, why not? As one of the leading German photographers, Thomas Ruff, did for example by using the pornographic photographs sent to his spam mail without his consent. Though he was criticized for that by some, I think he has quite a reasonable point.

One question triggering another.. This is my regular mood these days since my mind is occupied with my thesis question of how an ideal photography museum should be. Therefore before further departing from my main point, I want to write about an interesting blog dealing with what I have been giving some thought on these days.

No photography allowed

Nina Simon, the blogger behind Museum 2.0 took a thorough look at why at the moment a large number of art and history museums continue to maintain highly restrictive photo policies, and how this does not really make sense..

She asks why museums 1.0 tend to stick to the ‘no photography’ policy, finding 5 main arguments – Intellectual Property, Conservation, Revenue Streams, Aesthetics of Experience and Security – for this approach to (no) photography by visitors:

  1. Intellectual Property: Museums must respect diverse intellectual property agreements with donors and lenders, and in institutions where some objects are photographable and others not, it’s often easier to use the most restrictive agreements as the basis for institutional policies.
  2. Conservation: Objects may be damaged by flash photography. Some conservators argue that if non-flash photography is permitted, light levels in the galleries may be increased to accommodate visitors’ cameras, which indirectly damage artifacts.
  3. Revenue Streams: Museums want to maintain control of sales of “officially sanctioned” images of objects via catalogues and postcards. If people can take their own photos, they won’t buy them in the gift shop.
  4. Aesthetics of Experience: Photo-taking is distracting for other visitors. Looking at artwork through a lens means you are having a less rich experience. Visitors may make inappropriate gestures in photos with museum content, thus distorting institutional values and intent.
  5. Security: Photographers might take photos with intent to do harm; for example, with plans to rob the museum or stalk another visitor.

Nina Simon does not quite agree with these arguments: “I respect the first and second arguments. I understand the third, though I think it is misguided. And I think the fourth and fifth are bizarre and ungenerous to visitors.” Ungenerous to visitors? Yes, as frequently those visitors pay a quite substantial fee to access the museum and see part of their, we assume hard-earned, tax money flow to the museum’s operating costs. Simon continues: “To me, an open photo policy is a cornerstone of any institution that sees itself as a visitor-centered platform for participatory engagement.” :

She in her turn lists five good reasons why museums should have totally open photo policies:

1. As long as it does not promote unsafe conditions for artifacts or people or illegal behavior, museums should prioritize providing opportunities for visitors to engage in ways that are familiar and comfortable to them.

If your argument is based on visitor comfort and distraction, it should be backed up by visitor research, not personal impressions. Moreover, would staff members be comparably disturbed by visitors sketching in the galleries?

2. Restrictive policies erode staff/visitor relations and overall museum mission statements around inclusion.

The majority of cellphones now have cameras embedded in them, which means that many visitors are walking through your doors with camera in hand. Visitors get upset when they are told to put their cameras away, and it is becoming increasingly hard for guards to control the taking of photographs and their spread on the Web. Telling visitors that they can’t take photos in museums reinforces the sense that the museum is an external authority that owns and controls its objects rather than a shared public resource. How can visitors be “co-owners” of museums if they can’t own an image from their experience?

3. Photo-taking allows visitors to memorialize and make meaning from museum experiences.

There have been several studies that show that creating a personal record of an experience and reviewing it later increases learning and retention of content. When visitors flip through photos from their trip, they are more likely to recall their interest in a given artifact or exhibit than without visual aids. And it’s not just about recall. There are thriving groups of Flickr users who share photos of themselves imitating art.

4. Visitors use personal photos differently from store-bought ones.

The majority of visitors use their cameras to casually record their personal and social experiences, not to take authoritative images of artifacts. And even if visitors do take authoritative (noncommercial) shots, they are unlikely to reduce sales. A great shot of your institution, shared on Flickr, serves as a free piece of marketing that may generate ticket sales. How do you measure the potential lost income from a photographer not buying a postcard against the online impressions his photo makes on others? In the related world of online image licensing, some museums have done studies of the affect of open digital photo distribution on their revenue from image licensing and have seen flat or positive effects from the actions, not negative ones.

5. When people share their photos of your museum, they promote and spread your content to new audiences in authentic ways.

In 2008, a team led by MIT media researcher Henry Jenkins published a white paper entitled, “If it Doesn’t Spread, It’s Dead,” which argues that media artifacts have greatest impact when consumers are able to pass on, reuse, adapt, and remix them. There are two parts to this. First, every time a photo is shared, it extends the reach of your objects and exhibit stories. But perhaps more importantly, Jenkins argues that the creative adaptation of cultural objects through photos and other spreading tools supports communities’ “processes of meaning making, as people use tools at their disposal to explain the world around them.”

Nina Simon does point out that the intellectual property arguments in particular are very complex and should be taken seriously, and goes as far as to suggest the value of allowing visitors to take photograph is that high, that museums should think twice about taking on temporary exhibitions or loans that would endanger the ability to allow visitors to take photos across the institution. Her blogpost has sparked quite a bit of discussion, with one comment from Shelly – tech whiz at ‘revolutionary’ Brooklyn Museum of course – that’s definitely worth quoting here: Changing our policy three years ago to allow for non-commercial visitor photography was one of the best things we’ve done at Brooklyn. We do continue to have some restrictions in temporary installations depending on the lender agreements or artist wishes, but on the whole photography is allowed here and it is central to a visitor-freindly philosophy.

It wasn’t easy – we’ve had to actively think about it and work language into lender and artist agreements. Sometimes there are no objections to these clauses and we can allow it or other times we have to restrict, but ‘trying’ to allow it is one of the many processes we now go through any time we are bringing work into the building or working with artists. The theory is there’s no harm in asking the question…if lenders/artists say no we respect that and communicate the restriction to visitors in those instances. On the whole, we find visitors have been fairly respectful of the policies even when we can allow it in one part of the building, but perhaps not another.

It’s funny, of all the “technology” that I see going wrong in galleries these days, I most often see visitors really engaging with work more with their cameras than anything else. It’s one of the only things I see working.

With museums such as the Brooklyn Museum embracing ‘web 2.0’, more and more institutions joining the Flickr commons (and being nothing but positive about that), the Smithsonian Institution drafting up a complete ‘Smithsonian Web and New Media Strategy’ (and making that public on the web), what’s still holding back the museum 1.0’s from allowing visitors to – at least – take a photograph of their experience? As Nina Simon has put it so well: “How can visitors be ‘co-owners’ of museums if they can’t own an image from their experience?”

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

Posted in art, Uncategorized, visual communication with tags , , , , , on January 1, 2010 by artodisiac

The foundational purpose for art and artists is

to enhance, extend or refine human sense perception.


The closing lecture of the year 2009 on visual communication was a worth-mentioning one. It was on one of my favourite subjects, modernism, on which I had in-dept studied from an STS (science,technology and society) perspective in my previous ma study. This time I had the chance to interpret it from artists’/designers’/photographers’ points of view. Referring to the notes of Ms Ayiter that were presented in the lecture, modernism describes a series of progressive cultural movements in art and architecture, music, literature and the applied arts which emerged in the decades before 1914. Embracing change and the present, modernism encompasses the works of artists, thinkers, writers and designers who rebelled against late 19th century academic and historicist traditions, and confronted the new economic, social and political aspects of the emerging modern world.


On a Finnish Trawler by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

On a Finnish Trawler by Moholy-Nagy


While we were reviewing the pioneering followers of modernist movement, we came across a so called ‘polyartist’, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy who was among the greatest modern artists, not only for the value of his individual works but for the incomparable quality of his esthetic adventure, with exploratory consistency, through several media. He was considered as a modern example of a ‘polyartist’  because he mastered at several nonadjacent arts, among them painting, kinetic sculpture, photography, film, book design and writing. He was one of the leading figures in the Bauhaus and was highly instrumental in bringing its ideas to the United States. Moholy-Nagy’s interests in a new relationship between the artist and his art, his investigations into the use of light, and his use of new materials made him a very suitable member of the Bauhaus.

In his teaching, speaking and above all in his published statements, Moholy repeatedly insisted on a foundational purpose for art and artists: to enhance, extend or refine human sense perception. He went on to structure his thoughts about modernist culture in general around the idea of a “New Vision,” a “modern way of seeing” in which photography played a pivotal role. His reasons for privileging vision in this way, for defining vision as inherently more “modern” than, say, taste or hearing, are not easily summarized.

One might even propose that the primacy of vision forms an unexamined assumption at the heart of Moholy’s conceptual project, and a point around which its meaning might be deconstructed. In any case, Moholy was perhaps the most energetic among many contemporaries who found in the phrase “New Vision” a suitable label for broad cultural shifts in the 1920s.

“New Vision” was a name for various loosely-related constructions of modernism, of which Moholy’s New Vision was one. He wrote often, in highly enthusiastic and authoritative-sounding prose poem. He seemed to articulate the feelings of many besides himself;  artists, photographers, designers, journalists; and speak for a generation, perhaps even several generations of individuals who sensed a thoroughgoing historical shift in the wind, a change that would change all the way down to one’s individual sense perception.


Vision in Motion


One of his most influential books, Vision in Motion, was first of all one of the major critical essays about artistic modernism, documenting as it proposed new developments not only in painting and sculpture, but in photography and even literature. What Moholy established in Vision in Motion was a model of writing about all the arts as a single entity, to be called art, whose branches (literature, painting, etc.) were merely false conveniences conducive to specialization and isolation.

Here are some passages from Vision in Motion:

‘Art may press for the sociobiological solution of problems just as energetically as the social revolutionaries do through political action.


Mother Europe Cares for Her Colonies by Moholy-Nagy


The so-called “unpolitical” approach of art is a fallacy. Politics, freed from graft, party connotations, or more transitory tactics, is mankind’s method of realizing ideas for the welfare of the community.’

‘The illiteracy of the future will be ignorance not of reading or writing, but of photography.’

‘The photogram exploits the unique characteristic of the photographic process—the ability to record with delicate fidelity a great range of tonal values. The almost endless range of gradations, subtlest differences in the gray values, belongs to the fundamental properties of photographic expression. The organized use of that gradation creates photographic quality.’


Moholy’s analysis of Finnegans Wake, a comic fiction by James Joyce


For all of its intelligence about modern art in general, Vision in Motion is also an “artist’s book,” or book-art of the highest order, about Moholy’s rich esthetic experience, and needless to say perhaps it is a book that only he had enough experience to write and design as well. If we accept the revelations of Conceptual Art that a prose description of artistic experience could constitute an esthetic object, then Vision in Motion has yet other resonances that not even Moholy could have foreseen.


Modernism on

Afterimage articles:  In Focus: Laszlo Moholy-Nagy by Nancy Roth on;col1

Moholy-Nagy: To End in a book by Richard Kostelanetz on

Walter Benjamin on A Small History of Photography

I’ve lost touch with my soul

Posted in art, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on December 16, 2009 by artodisiac



‘As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of

human existence is to kindle a light in the

darkness of mere being’

Carl Gustav Jung

I had the weirdest dream ever last night. The last couple of weeks I was rushing from one place to the other, trying to do lots at the same time yet not being satisfied from anything I do with my split mind. For example I was desperately trying to find a project to work on for one of my grad classes and I was really stuck. Suddenly I realized quiet painfully that I had lost the contact with my soul somewhere in the cacaphony. Thanks god, the catalyst I needed came quick, with this dream.  After a stressfull and tiring day, I experienced a weird moment in the lucid period  just before falling asleep. It is hard to explain and I really don’t want to mention it here, since it was a bit disturbing for me. It was quiet real and the reality of it made me remember every detail when I woke up. The day after, I found myself reading and refering to one of my favourite psychologists of all times, Carl Gustav Jung. And an idea just flashed in my head when I read about the ‘Red Book’ that was released very recently this year, 48 years after he died. Why do I not try doing my own version of  ‘Red Book’, I asked to myself…


Carl Gustav Jung


Before giving some more information about the new book, I would like to make a very brief introduction for him. Carl Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and founder of so called analytical psychology. His unique and broadly influential approach to psychology has emphasized understanding the psyche through exploring the worlds of dreams, art, mythology, world religion and philosophy. Although he was a theoretical psychologist and clinician for most of his life, much of his life’s work was spent exploring other realms, including Eastern and Western philosophy, alchemy, astrology, sociology, as well as literature and the arts. Jung emphasized the importance of balance and harmony. He cautioned that modern humans rely too heavily on science and logic and would benefit from integrating spirituality and appreciation of the unconscious realm. Carl Jung was also among many great personality theorists who drew inspiration and guidance from the ancient Greek Four Temperaments model and its various interpretations over the centuries. Carl Jung’s key book in this regard, which extended and explained his theories about personality types, was Psychological Types, published in 1921.

The Red Book

The Red Book is a nearly 100-year-old book, bound in red leather, which has spent the last quarter century secreted away in a bank vault in Switzerland. It is big and heavy and its spine is etched with gold letters that say “Liber Novus,” which is Latin for “New Book.” Its pages are made from thick cream-colored parchment and filled with paintings of otherworldly creatures and handwritten dialogues with gods and devils. As written by Sara Corbett in the New York Times magazine, between the book’s heavy covers a very modern story unfolds. It goes as follows: Man skids into midlife and loses his soul. Man goes looking for soul. After a lot of instructive hardship and adventure — taking place entirely in his head — he finds it again.

Apart from its intrinsic interest, it is a magnificent work of art (the original is on show at the Rubin Museum in New York). Written in German Gothic script, with an English translation, it is illustrated with tempera paintings by Jung which reveal him to be a gifted, if sometimes frightening, artist. Jung spent from 1914 to 1930 working on the book, which he felt had emerged from his “confrontation with the unconscious”. There is no final text, only an unfinished manuscript corpus. Yet it enables the reader to gain a window into the genesis of Jung’s psychology in a way that none of his published works has done. He develops his theory of “individuation”: that is, how personality develops over time and how an individual is split between the “I” (conscious existence) and the “self” (total personality including the unconscious mind). Jung came to believe that he had lost touch with his “soul”, that he had sacrificed it to science. “The Red Book” shows, in literary and symbolic form, his own process of individuation.

I also will try to confront with my unconscious and try to create my own version of the ‘Red Book’ for my project. I hope I can manage to finish it in one piece and not get further lost.

(An update: I have bought a copy of this famous Red Book, which costed me a little treasure (that I didn’t care evenif I had to starve for the rest of the month) and witnessed what a great piece of art it is. I think there is no way one can come nearer to it…)

Censor in art

Posted in art with tags , , , , on December 8, 2009 by artodisiac

While I was walking in the corridors of Contemporary Istanbul last week, a guy thrusted a newspaper into my hands. It immediately drew my attention since there was an attractive headline: China steps in to censor works of art. Living in a country where bureaucrats split on to artworks from time to time or prime ministers sue anyone including many artists criticizing the government, I sometimes fear that my country will face the same thing very soon.

China celebrated the 60th anniversary of the foundation of the People’s Republic of China last month by parades and performances, with promises of increasing openness by the leadership. On the other hand the ministry of culture has quitely introduced measures to censor works to be imported or exported across Chinese borders. What a frightening similarity; celebrating the 86th anniversary of the republic with promises to follow the contemporary doctrines of the founder Atatürk while permanently closing the cultural centers named after him with no replacements or logical explanations to public with the hope to make people forget about it in the fast moving agenda of the country. Distressing enough, they somehow succeded in it.

Anyway,  coming back to the main subject of this entry, under the rules introduced in China, works of creative aesthetic significance including paintings, calligraphy, sculpture, photography, installations and other work for export must be accompanied by a description of the content.


Works by the Gao Brothers (above Catching the Prostitute,2007) was rejected several times with respect to new rules.


If that is not agreeable to the ministry, it can prevent export. In regard to works being imported into China, it states: No unit or individual may sell, display, exhibit or transmit exported artworks without approval.

For foreign art exhibitions in China, an exhaustive list of documentation must be provided 45 days prior to import.

The wording of the declaration in China makes the announcement sound temporary but galleries fear that the measure is a long term ruling that, while affecting art from all periods, will particularly apply to contemporary works. The motivation seems principally political to chinese galleries since the censors are obsessed with Mao and the Cultural Revolution issues; nudity for example do not bother them at all.

A new trend in investment: art

Posted in art with tags , , on December 6, 2009 by artodisiac

It was a mistake to take the 7.30 pm shuttle to go home on a night of a national football match. As it was not enough, I had to sit next to one of my instructors. I am not a talkative type normally, especially after a long day at uni and mostly seem distant to people I am not friends with.  I thought how unlucky I was while trying to find something to say in order not to be seen as a weird fart. However, to my surprise, our chat turned out to be very interesting. Although we stuck in the traffic for 2.5 hours, which normally is a huge torture, I didn’t realize how time passed while we were discussing the state of art in turkey.

As a visiting artist from Germany who is familiar with the international arena, she said that the art market in turkey seems very promising for artists and collectors are increasing in number every passing day despite the global economic crisis. She said that collecting art work has become the emerging investment tool. I wasn’t so sure of that until I went to a art fair the very next day. When I walked around the pieces of art, I was surprised that most of the works were sold (some sold more than once).

Contemporary Istanbul 2009

One of milestones of Turkish contemporary painting Burhan Doğançay’s work “Blue Symphony” sold for 2.2 million Turkish Liras just a few weeks ago. This figure is the highest price ever paid for a work by a living Turkish artist. A few days after the sale, the buying company admitted that it paid this high price in order to revive the Turkish art market.

Despite the global crisis, Contemporary Istanbul continues to get richer every year with additional events and is being organized this year with increased interest and participation from galleries as well.

Last week, art lovers and Turkey’s high society rushed to the CI 2009 art fair in hot pursuit of the latest trend in prestigious investment opportunities: contemporary art.

Local and foreign galleries were located on two floors of the fair area. The abundance of Berliner galleries was striking on the first floor. According to fair organizers, Contemporary Istanbul invited the Berlin Gallery Owners Association, German galleries and collectors to the fair due to the 20th anniversary of the launch of Istanbul and Berlin as sister cities. In the area titled “Art Form Berlin” in the Rumeli Hall, visitors saw very creative works of German contemporary art. There were also many works from eastern artists. For instance, this year the fair’s guest country of honor was Syria.

By bringing a different dimension to art events in Turkey, Contemporary Istanbul  brought the world’s contemporary art scene to the city together with collectors. In addition to foreign collectors, Turkish collectors are also showing more interest in contemporary artwork, resulting in Turkish contemporary artwork becoming more valuable in the international arena. Millions are being paid for the work of some of these artists.

Last year, artwork valued at $12.5 million was displayed at Contemporary Istanbul and sales were strong. This year, when the sales of Turkish contemporary artwork at both Turkish and foreign auctions are considered, it can be seen that the global crisis has not affected art. As a result, CI’09 organizers are expecting intensive demand from collectors. The contemporary artwork being purchased and sold at high prices shows that the culture and art industry has much to gain from this field.

Virtual Bodies

Posted in art, Uncategorized with tags , on November 17, 2009 by artodisiac

I have been away for a while, due to my father’s operation. Well, although I couldn’t write for some time, I had too much to talk about. The ‘exhibition season’ has started:) I went to the opening of a photography exhibition last week. Being a photography editor in a magazine, I attend lots of exhibitions. This one was one of them, however it was a bit different in content. When I talked to the artist, namely Ali Alışır who is also an academician in Yeditepe University, he said that he aimed to question the place of “the body” and the individuals in consumer society. Nice thought.. This has always been a popular subject for many artists though. What interested me in this exhibition how the models exhibited are transformed into virtual bodies and artificial androjin identities which no longer has any side to be desired.

from the exhibition

As Alışır says; the body has replaced the soul in today’s consumer society. And the body is surrounded by the myths of health, diet, theraphy and desire. We are constantly invited to re-discover the bodies by Mass media which converted them into an investment object. For example; the temperature of a model in a woman’s magazine is the same as a modern furniture. This is an “ambiance” temperature. New sexuality is hot and cold just like the hot and cold colors game in “functional” housing. The erotism is not in the desire but in its indicators.

Sexuality is no longer just in sexuality, but also in many other places; media, cinema, literature. Likewise the politics is not only in politics but has spread to all areas. To religion, art, philosophy and to science. Today, football is a little politics, art is a little magazine and the magazine is a little art.

The fact is intertwined with the copies and the reality, with the appearance. Day by day, our lives started to go into a simulation. Society is now composed of largely similar individuals who speak, think and wear as in the world of television so that the type of individuals trying to find a sense for the existence has largely disappeared.

As we can call it “the Transparency Era”, this is an age where we can’t help but mix everything to everything. Everything could be everything and everyone can say or do everything. Politics are determined by public research; ads by testing; songs played on the radio by consumer panels, the end of the movies and posters by polls and television programs are determined by ratings. This work is an attemp to reveal this inversion and the transsexual structure of the system. It is based on the despair and the disintegration of individuals subject to continous sexual, political and religious manipulation.

The models exhibited are transformed into virtual bodies and artificial identities which no longer has any side to be desired. Cloned bodies and the heads found a body in other individuals. This irony is an artistic criticism of how we are transformed into similar copies in a cultural and mental state of cloning.

What Keeps Mankind Alive

Posted in art, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 25, 2009 by artodisiac

What keeps mankind alive

you gentlemen who think you have a mission
to purge us of the seven deadly sins
should first sort out the basic food position
then start your preaching, that’s where it begins

you lot, who preach restraint and watch your waist as well
should learn for all time how the world is run
however much you twist, whatever lies you tell
food is the first thing, morals follow on

so first make sure that those, who now are starving
get proper helpings, when we all start carving

what keeps mankind alive, the fact that millions
are daily tortured, stifled, punished, silenced, oppressed
mankind can keep alive, thanks to its brilliance
at keeping its humanity repressed
for once, you must try not to shirk the facts:
mankind is kept alive by bestial acts.

you say the girls may strip with your permission (whoa!)
you draw the line dividing art from sin
so first sort out the basic food position
then start your preaching, that’s where it begins

you lot, who bank on your desires and our disgust
should learn for all time how the world is run
whatever lies you tell, however much you twist
food is the first thing, morals follow on

so first make sure that those, who now are starving
get proper helpings, when we all start carving

what keeps mankind alive, the fact that millions
are daily tortured, stifled, punished, silenced, oppressed
mankind can keep alive, thanks to its brilliance
at keeping its humanity repressed
for once, you must not try to shirk the facts
mankind is kept alive by bestial acts…

Well, nothing seems to have changed much,does it? Dating back to ’30s, this song still keeps its power in making us perceive the haunting and disastrous effects of global changes. Aren’t we in the same position  facing a global economic crisis and thinking about how our future will be as Brecht feared about the transforming world after the economic collapse of 1929?

When I saw the title of the 11th International İstanbul Biennial this year, I thought that it really is a good timing to remember Brecht. The Biennial takes its title from the song ‘Denn wovon lebt der Mensch?’, translated into English as ‘What Keeps Mankind Alive?’. The song closes the second act of the play The Threepenny Opera, written exactly 80 years ago by Bertolt Brecht in collaboration with Elisabeth Hauptmann and Kurt Weill. A phenomenal success at the time of its premiere in 1928, the play was written as an adaptation of John Gay’s 18th-century The Beggar’s Opera, and it set out to revolutionise theatre as both an artistic form and a tool for social and political change.

The song has been covered by various artists, from  Tom Waits to the Pet Shop Boys. I like Tom Waits version,

Lİsten to \’What Keeps Mankind Alive\’ from Tom Waits

Despite its assertive and promising title, I did not like the content of this year’s Biennial much. Well, this is a subject of  another entry, I will not talk much about my dissapointment in this welcome. However, by bringing back Brecht in my very first entry, I intent  to set up the grounds for my future entries, as IKSV did, to think about the role of artistic endeavour in the conditions of contemporary capitalism, to reevaluate our everyday practices, our value systems and modes of operation. Brecht invites us to rethink our position again and again, to see the world as amateur actors, without dulling our critical faculties or our potential for intervention and change by learning the rules all too well. I accept his invitation and start this blog as an amateur activist trying to intervene the ongoing era ‘where millions are STILL daily tortured, stifled, punished, silenced, oppressed‘. Who knows, may be the realization of my utopia is on its way; the food problem solved and now its time for the soul to survive where art is on the top of  list once and for all. Please do not attempt to laugh, it is my utopia…