The Artist of Steel: Ömer Pekin at Versus Art Project
"The Uncanny, The Real, The Epiphany" is full of pieces that evoke the philosophy of Graham Harmon vvhose thought in speculative realism sees perception as part of a subjective experience with the guality of objects, be they material or intellectual.
A REGULAR patron walks into a cafe. They order up, “Ill take the usual." It seems normal only because it has happened before.
Ömer Pekin achieved a painterly effect for his latest series of sculptures exhibited at the current Versus Art Project. Titled 'The Uncanny, The Real, The Epiphany,' the show runs until June 9. It is an exploration of the boundless imagination of an architect-turned-artist chock-full of ideas.
Now, an art enthusiast, especially that special brand taken by contemporary sculpture, walks into a gallery. There are incomprehensible shapes on the walls, on the floors. There is a dense, philosophical text to read. To the regular, it is the usual.
To new patrons, it is a most eccentric and even pretentious display of a kind of baseless superiority complex founded on something like group hypnosis, the self-satisfied collective captivation with a totally irrational consensus, almost like a mask that disguises the true underbelly of unthinking, mass attraction. A moth is burned on the flickering light, and the next follows in a headlong rush.
And what is it? It could be a place to hide a treasury of wealth, of ideas, of sentiments, visible only to the initiates. Who is the person that walks offstage? They might be someone that no one would suffer, so they sculpt mainstream desire into a painted icon.
Art is not immune to ridicule. It arguably needs criticism. Though there is a hasty cynicism at work in those who would laugh at the challenge of independent and nonconformist creativity in a city polluted in more ways than one, craving free expression like the clean air that is tasted exclusively at its remotest corners and rarely, in the eye of its storm, downtown in the core.
Taking a step back. Those in search of art that trends to a different beat, that is difficult, unpopular and even questionable find themselves standing in islands of small crowds surrounded by the high seas of the greater society outside that amasses unfocused like the runaway trains of the pedestrian mobs and traffic jammed bridges, locked behind doors sheltering domestic tradition, inside saving all of the little boxes from office to home.
A Philosophy of Touch
Ömer Pekin went up against a number of walls, dissatisfied with the limitations of architecture as a visionary graduate from leading institutions, Kunste Wien in Austria and SCI Arc in Southern California. Like many degree holding individualists, he had more to say than could be contained by the halis of academia, oppressed by its echoing delays. It is, in fact, a well-worn path taken by many architects, to move into the art realm where more expansive thoughts are realizable. A notable example is the multimedia artist and writer Pınar Öğrenci who founded MARSIstanbul after her architectural research studio as a socially provocative artist initiative in Istanbul's core district Çukurcuma.
Deeply informed by the rich literatures on the intersections of art and architecture from Europe and America, Pekin found his way to the very latest book by a luminous European Graduate School professor, the philosopher Graham Harman, which sparked his fascination that led to the painterly, tactile forms of his current exhibition at Versus Art Project, "The Uncanny, The Real, The Epiphany." Harman is a leading voice in a new movement of contemporary philosophy known as speculative realism.
Like most expert philosophical discourse, Harman is barely accessible to the layperson unschooled in the total genealogy of thinkers from Socrates to Judith Butler and everyone parallel and in between who has ever critiqued human thought with the systematic inquiry of the Western academic discipline that rivals Talmudists and Vedantists for the sheer mental exhaustion that it requires to build such knowledge from generation to generation of bookworms.
Generally speaking, speculative realism resists human fınitude, rejeeting the essential principles of Kant and ali forms of anthropocentrism.
"Since real objects exceed the grasp not only of human theory, perception, and pı actical aetion but of every şort of direct relation, then I wonder how it is possible for one entity to influence another in any way," wrote Graham Harman in the fourth chapter of his book "Object-Oriented Ontology: A New Theory of Everything" published in March, and read soon after by the arehiteet sculptor Ömer Pekin, who had a most brilliant idea light go on in his head after scanning the passage. "Given that real objects are, by definition, incapable of touching each other, we need to find a way in which they touch without touching, through some sort of indirect contact. Tlıis concept is known in OOO [object-oriented ontology] as 'vicarious causation."
Curating an Epiphany
Harman's writing is enlarged and pasted on the wall as part of the Versus Art Project exhibition curation for "The Uncanny, The Real, The Epiphany." its effect on the mind of Pekin is distilled in the proposition that Harman puts forth, namely that mental experience is like a theatrical model of aesthetics, where, as cited, the reader of Homers classic metaphor of the "wine-dark sea" takes on "wine-dark" qualities themselves when they read the epic, as a method actor assumes a role with hyperrealist tendencies. Pekin visualized "The Epiphany" from the text as the culmination of a series of intelleetual encounters, fırst exploring what he and Versus Art Project have termed, "Tlıe Uncanny." Whirling vibrations of untitled, colored Steel are turned on and left to public diseretion upstairs in a historic, Levantine apartment building ty'pical to the back alleyvvays of old Beyoğlu district, a minute's walk from the back entrance through the vintage airs of Atlas Cineıııa. A pool of water ıipples and quakes atop a black disc, a folded sheet is powder coated and glimmers with warbling circles of light projection, a lacquered oblong and curved reetangular monolith are grounded against the wooden floors.
Tire artist says, and gallerists confirm, that it is all one contiguous piece of work. Even when it seems that creatives have mapped tire bounds of contemporary abstraction, with some cursing the day it was born, a young and inventive thinker like Ömer Pekin steps in to retrace the cartographies of open-form expression.
His work is truly uncanny. Inspired by the Statue of Liberty as a sculpture, as it is also fitted with electricity and plumbing. His pieces are literally pieces, fragments of the contemporary and its postmodern aesthetics, sketched against the blank canvas of the gallery walls at Versus Art Project to conrpel onlookers to reach out and feel the Steel material that is synonymous with industrial strength, with military might and even mythological power.
Part of the curation included a semi-capsulelike wall structure. Entering it is like walking into a preliminary architectural sketch of an Orthodox church, with its anterior poked through with holes to ventilate the air for the preservation of holy books, or in this case, to allow people to observe the art from an altered perspective, revealing certain aesthetic similarities to the projections of circular light. In that way, as Harmans philosophy details, the art is personified. By looking into the holes, the person becomes what they perceive, or what they consume, sensually, mentally or otherwise.
"In the interplay of objects and senses, the possibility of a fixed truth is suspended. [...] Light and darkness bind ali things in reality, and metaphor emulates the binding of reality inspiring thoughts and feelings," wrote Pekin in an essay with the young philosopher Emir İnanç to accompany "The Uncanny, The Real, The Epiphany" in which the two intellects merge over a series of molasses-heavy, trenchdeep statements of pure, abstract thought. "Through the power of imagination, a metaphor effortlessly gives birth to other metaphors as their qualities collide with each other, and bring into existence new compositions. [...] The metaphor will initiate and merge you with the real, bringing you a pulse eloser to the heart of darkness."