Once again, I’m going to exer­cise my utter bad faith in order to talk about two appar­ent­ly unre­lat­ed top­ics, Turkey and con­tem­po­rary art.

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Indeed, begin­ning on Sep­tem­ber 14th, Istan­bul became the host of a Bien­ni­al – the 16th – while also inau­gu­rat­ing a muse­um along with galeries that “dare” exhib­it artists who do oth­er things than Ana­to­lian macramé or  the revis­it­ed ceram­ics or pot­ter­ies so dear to the heart of our autocrat.

My old bones don’t allow me to come and go every day in these exhi­bi­tion venues flow­er­ing on the occa­sion of this com­mer­cial  free-for-all of con­tem­po­rary Art, so, for the main part, I take in arti­cles pub­lished here and there (in Eng­lish, if you please).

And since this was not part of the Reis’ media cov­er­age, I expect­ed to encounter  tru­ly free crit­i­cism of this con­tem­po­rary Art try­ing so hard   to avoid the cross-hairs of the pow­er­ful in Turkey.

I don’t know,  such as show­ing an artist sewing his lips or tying his hands, for instance, instead of a green square sup­posed to rep­re­sent opti­mism for a future in some ten years down the road…

The title of the Bien­ni­al under the French com­mis­sion­ner Nico­las Bour­ri­aud: “The Sev­enth Continent”

The French­man has cho­sen “Ecol­o­gy” as his theme.

He asked 56 artists to put them­selves in res­o­nance with the float­ing islands of plas­tic garbage in the oceans…

A pow­er­ful top­ic, that put me in res­o­nance with the fact that France was also a pur­vey­or of garbage in the Mediterranean.

Not to wor­ry, the Bospho­rus is no lag­gard in this mat­ter either.

But per­haps Nico­las was hop­ing to sug­gest Hasankeyf in a sub­lim­i­nal way —  the damn, not made of plas­tic but of con­crete — present­ly engulf­ing a civ­i­liza­tion while the world looks the oth­er way.

In this fair, held in “hos­tile ter­ri­to­ry”, every one was hop­ing for a renew­al of the crit­i­cal appraisal con­tem­po­rary Art might make on the Turk­ish regime. A mul­ti­ple lay­ered crit­i­cism, mind you, noth­ing imme­di­ate­ly iden­ti­fi­able as polit­i­cal, but pow­er­ful, in oth­er words, com­mer­cial­ly com­pat­i­ble and with no pos­si­ble one-way tick­et to the “has­sles” category.

So we will talk about visu­al arts …with Guat­tari-like jar­gon to act as a dis­guise for self-cen­sor­ship a la turca.

Because, there are also artists in Turkey, if you don’t mind. 

And here, I must inform you that they “destruc­ture the present for anoth­er future” in instal­la­tions or works that are beau­ti­ful to look at and well arranged, no doubt about it but with­out any, I do mean anydenun­ci­a­tion or resis­tance. To see  the destruc­tion of the Sur neigh­bor­hood through a moun­tain of burn­ing tires (and under­stand this is what you’re see­ing) is not a sim­ple mat­ter, yet, apparently…If you look at it sideways…

Now, con­sid­er­ing my cul­tur­al devel­ope­ment is  still at Zeki Müren, music-wise, at Yıl­maz Güney  for cin­e­ma and at Neşet Günal in paint­ing, I’m a poor judge of what our young­sters attempt­ing an artis­tic career in the present cli­mate are up to… But if all they can show is self-cen­sor­ship and the fact that they are eat­ing in the regime’s hand, or in that or the ones who aspire to seize pow­er while remain­ing in Kemal­ist nation­al­ism, they can­not count on me to speak kind­ly of them.

But, admit it, I have trou­ble remain­ing kind when I real­ize that those of our artists who are not in jail could not care less about the con­text in which they are on exhi­bi­tion, and turn up their noses at us with their intel­lec­tu­al mas­tur­ba­tions to which we don’t under­stand a thing, while see­ing pol­i­tics elsewhere.

You can make up your own mind about this fair and what I saw.

Still in the best of bad faith again, I would like to make a final remark.

When I read the arti­cles on the web treat­ing of con­tem­po­rary Art where they men­tion the Bien­ni­al, I notice they always begin by wash­ing their hands… You know, the sen­tence that quotes Zehra Doğan with such com­pas­sion — ” the poor artist that was jailed for her art” – before mov­ing on to the main business.

Not one of those arti­cles asks why Zehra Doğan, who is now free, does not fig­ure in the Istan­bul Bien­ni­al. Yet, she had a reg­u­lar address for close to three years where she could be con­tact­ed eas­i­ly, and where, despite cen­sorhip, she con­tin­ued cre­at­ing… even with garbage.  Which was the theme, was­n’t it?

But I’m off my rock­er, I’m told she’s only good for pro­duc­ing “the pornog­ra­phy of vio­lence” as some said recent­ly in Turkey about her instal­la­tion at the Tate Mod­ern in London.

The old bid­dy does­n’t know a thing about con­tem­po­rary Art, yet she is a con­tem­po­rary of this art that often speaks of noth­ing but the navel of the glob­al­ized world, and sells in fairs made specif­i­cal­ly for that pur­pose.“Deleuze could have writ­ten that, no?

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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