22.04 - 22.05.2022
Hearing the Undertow
Versus Art Project participates in Senkron 2022 with a selection of works by five artists. By seizing the opportunity created by Senkron to focus on video art, they invite us to think about the place that digital motion pictures occupy in the field of contemporary art. The online video selection titled Undertow, consisting of works by Alper Aydın, Sena Başöz, Yelta Köm, Metehan Özcan, and Sibel Horada, is based on the determinations and imaginations of the connection that digital technology establishes between art and life today. Leaving the popularity of video as a show, it pursues the potentials of video as art in the context of its relations with poetry, story, painting, sculpture, cinema and documentary.
Inevitably, the relationship between technology and culture in its historical context will determine the domain of video, which is a "television technology" in the words of Ulus Baker. While making their selection for Senkron, Versus Art Project also took into account the year-long discussions on digital art. In the reign of technology, that is to say virtual reality, artificial intelligence, big data, NFTs, they reflected on the relationship of art to life and the body. Today, digital image, which is in high demand in the art market as well as in the culture industry, is offered for consumption as a kind of abstraction with an anesthetic effect, and finds its body by being spatialized in a concave shape. The intense pleasure that the body takes from illusions under ostentatious audio-visual-graphic siege created by the means of technology is as old as mass culture itself. On the other hand, the difference between illusory admiration and aesthetic experience is one of the main issues of philosophy and art theory. Given the art arena’s fondness for technological amusements today, the exploration of technique's evocative potentials seems to have gained urgency again.
First of all, it is impossible to argue that technical equipment has only an alienating, narcotic effect. Because a human being is already a living creature with prosthesis due to the lack of his body, for being an "unqualified animal". The Greek "techné" is all that man practices and performs, including art. Therefore, for man, technique is the way of touching the world. While the technique is embodied through gestures, the body is formed and deformed. This is how man discovers himself and possible worlds. Many behaviors that our species consider natural; walking, making love, eating, drinking, dancing and even sleeping are actually technical feats. Jean Luc Nancy states that the human body, which has gained extensions, has become “articulated”, equipped with tools, “exosomatique” (extruded), cannot be thought of outside of technique and therefore is “connecté” (connected). Our world is “eco-technique”. The world is a set of interrelationships between technical-bodies.
Being “techno-logical” is completely different from this. When a kind of "logic" becomes "reason", "techné" now means the management and plundering of the world's and human resources in line with a certain goal. In capitalist logic, all the resources of technique are mobilized for capital accumulation, while technology dissolves the ties between nature and human, and between human and human. When put at the service of the industry/cultural industries, technic becomes technological to perform an affordable, finite, defined function. The creativity of technology is questionable because, in Steigler's words, creation is to reveal the incalculable, the infinite, and the incomplete. The emergence of the new is only possible when the body with prosthesis and technique encounters the world and touches the material. When a person is “ex-posé”, when he comes out through technique, when he exists outside, he is in an “ex-isence” and is in a creative state.
With these thoughts, Versus Art Project has turned to efforts of videographic research that say "I see" as opposed to the "show" of images that only "display" themselves. They brought together works in which technique is used as a way of touching the world, following the efforts of taking the camera out, turning it towards one’s self, looking at the present moment, the event, the flow, especially the inhuman elements, the smallest, light and fragile ones.
The works you will see in Undertow use the technique as a method of touching the bottom wave of vitality. As artists oscillate between the abstract and the concrete, the animate and the dead, the formed and the formless, the rational and the irrational, they breathe new life into the digital image.
Alper Aydın's video titled Phreatic begins with the routine image of the ship traveling between two continents in Istanbul. First, we see the waves and foams left by the engine in the sea as the ship moves away from the shore. Then the camera zooms in, and effortlessly, with a little technical intervention, the water acquires a density and heat reminiscent of magma. The waves turn into flames in seconds. Directly witnessing the secret hidden in matter, the kinship of water and fire, gives the audience the primal excitement of many forms of knowledge ranging from chemistry and biology to magic and alchemy. The word Phreatic, which has its equivalent in both hydrology and volcanology, has the freshness of the moment magma touches the groundwater. Is it possible to imagine a more creative encounter than that moment?
The connection of touching water with purification and cleanliness is one of the first things we learned. The first thing we learn about fire is that we shouldn't touch it. Yet every child is a little Prometheus. Without the sensation of matter, neither knowledge nor wisdom would be possible.
Metehan Özcan participates in the Senkron selection with a work from the Dekor series, which he describes as a video sketch. “The sketch is the private part of the work.” It carries the privacy of the moment of touch, the moment before the sense becomes meaning. The artist does not use the technique to "grasp" or "seize" in Dekor. He's browsing. In the images flowing in front of the moving camera, the eye caresses the city. It allows cities to flow over and touch one another. In the meantime, it leaves the creation of meaning to what accumulates in the “sensor”. Just like the same way memory works.
Eucalyptus and palm trees which were brought to Izmir in the 1930s, sweep the sky. The air, dust and light that have been rubbing against their leaves and trunks for decades have changed the shape of the trees. The dirty water flowing under the train bridge in Kahramanlar, Alsancak, carries garbage. The remnants of the city wrap around the legs of the bridge and accumulate there, layer by layer. Concrete pillars change form as they keep track of elapsed time. Possibly, no one sees this.
Time Worm, 2014
Creative Documentary Film
Sena Başöz's Timeworm is a video that combines the footage of the silk farming activity that continues in a room of a village house in Kulp, Diyarbakır with the performance of the children in the district. Başöz chose to call her video a "creative documentary". Maybe to remind you that looking also means telling stories every time.
Silkworm has no life in the farm. There is only time. It spends all its time spinning its precious cocoon that will prepare it for the future. It feeds to work and produces, but dies at the hands of humans before it turns into a moth. While the silkworm's soul infiltrates matter during labor, it becomes a source of life for another species. The life cycle of the peasant family, the future of their children, depends on the "present" of the insect. On the other hand, their lives will last as long as they can be productive, and they will die before their time is their own. Maybe they will never be able to go on vacation, their retirement will never come. "If the silkworm spun a cocoon for the sole purpose of spending its life as an insect, then it would be a true slave." In the capitalist sense, technology can equip you with silk wings while weaving cocoons from some lifetimes, but it will never allow you to be a butterfly.
Migration Wave, 2019
There are exiled corals in the lead role in Sibel Horada's video called Migration Wave. Corals can no longer blend with the sea. Due to the constructions around Yassıada and Sivriada, the sea has become unable to embrace them. The artist brought a coral family to Heybeliada Seminary and set up a small rehabilitation unit there for them. We watch and hear the final breath of the sea. The strong coral population, which is the founder of the ecosystem, is tried to be kept alive with an artificial system consisting of plastic pipes, cans and pumps.
Sibel Horada mourns for the corals at school desks that no longer have students. The rustling breaths of creatures forced to migrate and die as a result of man's violence to the world fuse with each other. There is an exhilarating power due to its timelessness, in the grief caused by the intensive care given to the already lost ones, which does not expect anything in return. Paying as much attention to the lost as to what has not yet to come leaves one saying that "everything that has once lived can live again".
It is an elegy for all possibilities - Part I, 2022
Voiceover : Cansın Asarlı
Videographer : Noyan Ayturan
In Yelta Köm's video titled it is an elegy for all possibilities - Part I, the meditative search of the voice-over is accompanied by the flow of matter. Words and elements are looking for a way, a direction together. The myth dating from prehistoric times to the present and the logos of our age were poured into the same sea. Sounds and images first turned into prophecy, then knowledge, and finally lament. “Ancient cities had floor pipes made of lead that we now use as batteries.” says the artist. He sees pieces of earth, rocks, metals above and below the ground as a time penny bank. Recognizing that the matter knows and remembers, he imagines the post-Anthropocene era with the help of ancient divination methodologies. According to the artist, the history where dream and reality are intertwined, “a metaphysics of a mixture” is waiting to be heard in all its possibilities:
“The fluid, the structure of the universal circulation, is the place in which everything comes into contact with everything else, where it manages to join the mixture without losing its form and its own substance.”
The works in the Undertow selection preoccupy Gaston Bachelard's definition of material apprehension (imagination materielle): Imagination and creativity arising from touching and being touched by water, fire, silk, stone, coral, lead. The sculptor's hand, that touches the mud, thinks with it while shaping it. Matter and body change together all along the touch. Bachelard says that technique is the thinking of the body with matter. Therefore, it is also touched with the camera. Earth, fire, water, light, and their sensations such as warmth, hardness, and fluidity, before they turn into images and ideas, flow like a deep wave under life, which at first glance seems calloused, concrete and lost its magic. It is the skill of artists to listen to and hear the world with all their heart, to catch the undertow to flow from sense to meaning.