A FOREST AND A TREE
artists: Yael Bartana, Phil Collins, Esra Ersen, Jakup Ferri, Emily Jacir, Ahmet Ögüt, Sislej Xhafa
curator: Pelin Uran
Within the last twenty years, the interest of the art world in the 'other' has caused artists from non-Western cultures to highlight their identity and cultural origins and to locate themselves within that arena. Theories and practices that inflated the importance of cultural criteria assumed that racial or cultural difference was essential to empower these artists. However, attributing a different social space to non-Western artists has marked them as 'others'. a forest and a tree challenges the current practice of reading non-Western works through the filter of national, ethnic, or cultural origins. This exhibition seeks alternative interpretations of these works that are more constructive in perceiving the relationship between ‘self’ and ‘other’.
Trembling Time, a video by Yael Bartana questions national identity and the imposition of belief systems by the state. Her strategy is to foreground an event without staging it, and to transform that event into a visual metaphor. In the video how to make a refugee, Phil Collinsfocuses on the representation of refugees in international media by showing Western media’s consumption of the ‘other’. Somebody Else’s Car, a slide projection by Ahmet Ögütshows the artist, as an intruder who transforms two private cars: one into a taxi and the other into a police car. This intervention foregrounds the two divergent potentials implicit within the system. Emily Jacir’s video from Texas with love underlines the human desire for freedom. She drives in the name of people who are deprived of the chance. This small act of driving freely can mean freedom for people living in other parts of the world. Stock Exchange, a video by Sislej Xhafa questions the position of the subject in relation to economic systems. The artist draws an analogy between the flow of stock market money and the flow of traveling people in order to criticize the economic values that have triggered displacement. This is Disney World by Esra Ersen voices the conditions of glue-sniffing street children in Istanbul. Jakup Ferri’s video Save Me, Help Me foregrounds the process that a non-Western artist has to undergo in order to gain recognition.
The title, a forest and a tree, is derivative of the idiom 'not being able to see the forest for the trees'. The linguistic twist reflects the object of the exhibition, namely to explore ways of reading and interpreting the relationship of the part to the whole in such a way as to neither deny the specificity of the artwork, nor rule out its condition in a wider context.
The multi-layered, semi-abstract quality of the visual elements in the artworks makes it possible to view the themes of national identity, immigration, exile, and the lives of repressed minorities from a wider perspective than one limited to geography or ethnicity and invites viewers to build associations between different situations and to interpret fragmented contents as inter-relational and applicable to a variety of contexts. By broadening the meaning of the works in such a way, a forest and a tree also asks whether art can provide a space in which social issues are extended beyond their specific context and understood in more universal terms.
Courtesy of Alexander and Bonin Gallery, New York / Annet Gelink Gallery, Amsterdam / Kerlin Gallery, Dublin / Magazzino Arte Moderna, Rome / Platform Contemporary Art Center, Istanbul