Balkan's "Simulacrum" series makes up most of ttıe pieces in his solo show where he unravels the asethetics of futurism.
Through steep, graffitied tangles of brick and metal, narrow slopes lead under the shadows of halved walls bristling with the overgrowth of old İstanbul amid the storied alleyways of İstiklal Avenue where the thirdfloor gallery Versus Art Project hosts Gökhan Balkan s solo exhibition, 'The Third Nature'
THE SPACIOUS, clean wooden desk of a gallerist is an inviting sight. Sleek computers are lit, if not öpen. Hot, caffeinated drinks are readily served, if not in hand. Fashionable curators are surrounded by high shelves stocked with large, colorful exhibition catalogues and art books bearing famous names alongside the more obscure whose inner cii'des demand that the inquisitive public take a closer look.
Conversations ensue in a heady, esoteric atmosphere conceivably similar to the exchanges between powerful magicians shar ing delicate secrets. It is an air in which theories alternate betvveen sides of the mind with a casual liberation from the norms of the Street, vvhere most concepts rarely touch ground, and where the flightiest whims of the artistic imagination are free to spread both wings and ascend tirelessly into the stratospheres of new thinking at the Creative cusps of history and technology. In a peaked frame of mind, Gökhan Balkan sat before Tuana Pulak, the assistant director at Versus Art Project and pontificated with an intensive focus on the theme of his solo exhibition, extrapolating broadly on the Central motif behind its title, "The Third Nature." In a time bending streak of cerebral discourse, he championed the ideo "lllusion Zone" is a bold statement on the inner vvorkings of the ubiquitous cosntruction sites of contenıporary urban life as they isolate humanity from nature.
logical significance of his work with a men tal charge comparable to the earth s hak ing might of a wild stallion galloping at full speed över the psychological landscapes of the current paradigm, focusing ever so exactingly on the edge of the present. His creations evoke the fragmented, distended and uncomfortable overlaps where the cyclical and linear patterns of existence spiral out from the decadence of anthropocentıic evolution. He presages an age defineci by the independently self-reproducing and intercommunicative artificial intelli gences that people will foreseeably leave to a post-human earth made bar ren and lost to the potent blink of the sun, the saving rush of water, the lasting compass of wind, where only the rawest foundation of nature survives the turn of the epochal tide to renew its universal energy unchecked by a ravagiııg, dominant species.
Balkan is a serious intellect, as he lavishes his audience remotely through his art and expansively in person with generous doses of insight and knovvledge, spanning everything from his critiques on Renâissance humanism to a detailed interpretation of the 16th century painting by Holbein the Younger, the famous oil on oak, "The Ambassadors." His musings on the writings of Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Hegel, Jacques Lacan, Slavoj Zizek and Ray Kurzweil are virtually bound less as he conveys the essence of his art as a fundamental inquiry into the defınitions of reality and the mind.
His core terminology for his solo exhibition at Versus Art Project is ultimately fixed on an enumeration of the progıessions of nature. For example, whereas "The First Nature" connotes the natural environment, and "The Second Nature" industrial construction, "The Third Nature" points to a shadowy realm only dissected by the boldest of futurist thinkers. To form his notions about an increasingly nonfıctional simulacrum in which smart machines reproduce each other and create new languages with out human intervention, he consistently returns to a momentous conversation held between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, the two leading global innovators whose names are household synonyms tor the most advanced technological leaps in contemporary living.
"We think that this whole universe is created for human beings. It's very easy to think egocentric, or anthropocentric. Even in this Al discussion, we think its dangerous for human beings, but maybe its bet ter for human evolution," says Balkan, as he sips his coffee in betvveen effusive bouts of dialogue questioning the hümanist basis of postmodern identity with an extraordi nary capacity to reflect on the pervasion of intelligent technology among his peers. "When I say 'The Third Nature,' there can be a Fourth Nature, or Fifth or Sixth, there can be an infinite nuraber of these Natures. If there are only two, that vvhich is given and made, then we will think in a dual way. But when we say t lirce or four the dualism is over."
"Anything that is unknowıı to us. Anything that we fear we cannot overcome, that we cannot fight, that might be stronger, we automatically think of destroying it or completely abandoning it," Pulak responds, smartly dressed and clearly well versed in the concepts of her current artist at Versus Art Project, as she prepared the entire gallery for Balkans works that he had produced especially for the space for some eight months in 2017. "Up until this point, everything we have talked about is betvveen 'The Second Nature' and 'The Third Nature,' but we have completely abandoııed 'The First Nature,' vvhich you cali the truth, vvhich is something that isnt formulated vvith culture, social norms or identity, but is something that exists before vve are born vvhen vve are in the vvomb. Agahı, it is unknown."
With its leanings tovvard the expressly more subversive, spotlighting emerging perspecti\res vvhile encompassing the vvorld of international art fairs, Versus ArtProject keeps an eye on empty zones of privation and erosion vvhere art has a singular po tency as a source of fresh Creative energy. Dravving from such themes as identity loss, gender inequality, migıant displacement, and the bitter end of gentrification, the gallery embraces "The Third Nature" by Balkan for his peculiar attention to the "coincidentia oppositorum" of de/construction as provroked by the capitalist extremes of technocratic globalization, illustrating vvith his distinctive techniques the more sensitive areas of life today by exposing the utter vulnerability of being human in the face of bleak, robotic times. His works are aesthetically distinct in three sculptural pieces "huMAN PERIOD" "lllusion Zone," "Post Human / Anti-identity" and in six series: Simulacrum, Self-Portrait, Flavved Relation, Ground, Breakthrough, Accumulation.
On entering Versus Art Project, upstairs from the old-fashioned Hanif Han building foyer belovv the architectural elaborations of its three-story bay vvindovv engraved vvith the date 1904, the Simulacrum Series is immediately apparent, comprised of five larger canvases and 24 smaller pieces, ali of them the product of mixed techniques employing methods integrating chance causaThe "Self Portrait" series reduces Balkan's otheraise charming childhood portrait to an abstraction of flesh made trom silicone.
tion through processes of image transfer. Balkan traveled to the Anatolian neighborhood of Kozyatağı in Istanbuls eastern outskirts for the series, first photographing hundreds of angles among the ubiquitous and uncountable high rises before tıansforming them into icons of the dystopian imagination befitting the literary persuasions of J.G. Ballard. His pieces bear textural resonances in liııe vvith his philosophic decentralization from ali that is anthropocentric in the manmade confines of modern realism and its manifestations as they are unceasingly erected in the glaring light of day. The nucleus of his visual proclamations gain three-dimensionality vvith lllusion Zone, a half-built construction project pieced together into an unlikely plastic collage of sheep bone and Computer parts. And vvith "huMAN PERIOD" he asserts having crystallized his artistic advocation vvith "The Third Nature." The figüre of a man holds öpen the definitive industry lıook, "Architects' data" at a page that measures building proportion to the human body. Petrified vvith cracked plaster, it exudes the abstraction and futility of humankind striving against the reality of creation as it courses through a person, its ultimate subject in the process of remaking itself.
Much of "The Third Nature" is dense, difficult, even insufferable, as vvith the grotesque and distuıbing Flavved Relation and Self Porti'ait series, yet in the Ground series Balkan offers a visual ıespite, hcvvever haunted by the co nere te artifice of its natural facade, outvvardly fated to total, posthuman desertion.