Contemporary Istanbul art fair 2013. Social Art and Its Contemporary Dynamics. Is Istanbul a Laboratory? By Hasan Bülent Kahraman.
The transition from the twentieth to twenty-first century did not only refer to a temporal continuity and it wasn’t happening by nature. Continuity of time was going to bring us to the twenty-first century anyway. On the other hand, the twenty-first century was also bringing us to the concept of “millennium,” which had an importance in Western metaphysics. Since human relationships are based on transforming nature on a cultural platform through intellectual effort, and humanity struggles to overcome and restrain the nature on these levels, the twentieth century gives way to the twenty-first century on the verge to a profound intellectual break.
During the transition to the twenty-first century, the most important issue was the great criticism against the idea of modernity and the grand split it undergoes. During the twentieth century, using different methods, all nations agreed on the notion of modernization that was in some sense developed as the homogenization of humanity and can be summarized as installing Western metaphysics into ‘outsider’ societies but the result was the same: a systematic formation that prioritizes and is led by the government. This transformation would be based on two big pillars: refusal of the past, along with the complete cultural baggage if necessary, and the reconstruction of the subjects, the human beings towards the guidance of the government. This method, which can be described as the abolition of the subject, made it natural for the great totalitarian regimes to appear. The twentieth century means millions of people abolished by those regimes.
During the evolution towards the twenty-first century, the first protestations were against the hegemony of the radical rationality that had built this system. Because, post-Weber bureaucracy with a government and organon was the concentration point of rationality. In the end, the Cartesian radical rationality was the imprisonment of human consciousness in the human consciousness itself. With this appreciation, science as a tool to control nature had turned into a superior category that left no space for the subjectivity of the individual.
The re-emergence of the subject, and its desire to bring forward the sum of values hidden inside it is a problem of identity. Of course, politics of memory and space can be added to that. The Proust-esque memory as ‘remembering today’ and the coincidences and spontaneities that makes it work was replaced by a remembering policy that offered multiple choices and multiple consciousnesses. A Bergsonian integrity of time was no longer needed either.
Within this new appreciation, subjects were the individuals who would build their own existence with their own willpower. Such an assent did not only drive back the notion of state, but it also brought forward the notion of publicum, the sense of community. This innovation begins with the replacement of the notion of society with societies. We can also call these communities. Once the communities emerged, spatial politics changed firstly. The vertical depth of the space that contained the homogeneous and uniform humans now was going to be replaced with a horizontal span that meant varieties living together. These varieties living together in a narrow area without conflicting but “rubbing” to each other created the new forms of social space. On the other hand the space the communities have been created is now only topological, it’s not a notion that directly belongs to the “ground.”
The twenty-first century has unexpectedly found itself in an almost scary virtuality with the innovations electronic media has created. The “crowd” Plato heavily criticized in the context of “theatricality” in his last dialogue Nomo, is not only in the amphitheatre or agora anymore. It is everywhere. Furthermore, what’s produced now is not “common thoughts” anymore; it is the “uncommon” thoughts.
What does art represent in this structure?
The answer is hidden in two points. First, this stadium is a matter of democracy. A pluralist democracy that is based on varieties and nourished by interaction is not a utopia but a reality for the twenty-first century. Secondly, if we can talk about this kind of democracy, then the relationship between art and community will also turn into another phase.
The new phase of the relationship between art and community makes the visibility of art inevitable. As a form of production that is pluralist and based on varieties, art is the reference point of this new sense of community. This new sense of community cannot evolve naturally by itself. It needs to important devices to align and direct. Intellectual production and its alignments and directions are the constative powers of artistic expression. The new democracy has to be inspired by democratic theory and though on every step. Similarly the dynamic and constantly changing texture of art is necessary for the formation of an astatic democratic platform. This pursuit emerging within the new urban texture is a matter in itself.
The new global capital is building new cities. This is a new urban texture that allows the inner movement and liquidity of the capital. The most important aspect of the new city is that it is gentrified. This is not a choice but a need in terms of the new capital, because the new city is also the realization of a certain aesthetic visuality.
Performing gentrification through new artistic institutions is a wise choice.
The income produced by new museums, art spaces and galleries is a planned and systematic application. This means that art creates a new policy of circulation on the grounds of the city. This art that meets the expectations of upper classes still has its own critical, social identity.
More importantly, art should interrelate with large communities. That kind of art will have the real critical power. That kind of art is a field of resistance itself. With this aspect, it is sure that the relationship between art and community will appear as opposition and resistance. A “real” democracy is only real as long as it gives the opportunity to oppose and resist. This is why the relationship between art and community is a necessity and expectation today, more than ever.
Having the characteristics of a metropolis in any aspect, Istanbul is an important laboratory in this sense. The capital it attracts, the transformation it undergoes, and finally the artistic activity and production articulated to these turns Istanbul into a new focal point that needs to be observed in a new way. It is sure that we are witnessing a phase that the relations between capital and politics are turning into the relations between capital and art. But the real question is, within the gentrification it undergoes, how much place Istanbul will give to artistic discourse. Will this art form a platform of resistance in the social grounds that remains from the transformation areas with a global architectural language; or will those “new” areas actually open a door for the pluralist, variable, provocative art?
A city, which has never been close to the language of social art in any way, even today, is going to determine its character as much as it answers these questions while it globalizes.
Contemporary Istanbul art fair 2013
Guardians of Time by Manfred Kielnhofer page 41-45
Toplumsal Sanat ve Güncel Dinamikleri
İstanbul bir Laboratuvar mı?
Hasan Bülent Kahraman