Français | English

Frac­tured Spine”  is a mixed media exhi­bi­tion that will take place at the Pho­to­basteil in Zurich from Octo­ber 28 to Novem­ber 18 2021, at the ini­tia­tive and under the cura­tor­ship of Niş­ti­man Erdede.

Under the head­ing “Resis­tance to cen­sor­ship through vis­i­bil­i­ty in jour­nal­ism and art” the exhi­bi­tion deals with the man­ner in which artists express specifc forms of resis­tance in the artis­tic field. The works on exhi­bi­tion illus­trate the theme of human rights, of the right to free­dom of expres­sion and their vio­la­tions through State repression.

Art, through the direct emo­tion­al dia­logue it estab­lish­es with the indi­vid­ual to whom it is addressed, has the prop­er­ty of self-trans­for­ma­tion into a pow­er­ful tool of infor­ma­tion and sensitization.

Ini­tia­tives based on sol­id con­cepts often arise through the involve­ment of one and the oth­er, and with the con­tri­bu­tion of net­works woven, lit­tle by lit­tle, in sol­i­dar­i­ty. An exhi­bi­tion can also become the mir­ror of a col­lec­tive approach that is crit­i­cal, demand­ing and accusato­ry.  This is the case with “Frac­tured Spine”.

Thought over a peri­od of four years, built up step by step by Niş­ti­man Erd­ede, this exhi­bi­tion is the result of a deter­mined and clear-mind­ed intention.

The road trav­elled up to the open­ing of “Frac­tured Spine” is one that involves a long story.

I would like to relate a part of it, the one to which I was one of the wit­ness­es. This wish is not as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to talk about myself. Sparks of sol­i­dar­i­ty shine on each link of the a chain which, I hope will go on stretch­ing out toward the next one, with­out ever com­ing to an end. And this cur­rent phase, in the form of an exhi­bi­tion, shows how meet­ings and con­tri­bu­tions are impor­tant, even in their  hum­blest  forms of support.

I will not linger over Zehra Doğan Kur­dish artist, jour­nal­ist,activist and pre­cious friend. She was sen­tenced and impris­oned for close to three years for “hav­ing tres­passed beyond the lim­its of crit­i­cism”, accord­ing to the judge. In Novem­ber 2017, the Swiss asso­ci­a­tion of free thinkers, Frei Denken, award­ed its Free Thinker prize to Zehra who was then in prison. I went to Zurich for my friend, with inde­scrib­able emo­tion and pride , in order to receive this Euro­pean prize in her name, one that turned out to be the fore­run­ner to many others…

Fol­low­ing the cer­e­mo­ny, I stepped out­side to calm my emo­tions with a cig­a­rette. A young man was stand­ing near me and we start­ed talk­ing. This was Niştiman…

This warm exchange in Turk­ish, where each of us almost com­plet­ed the oth­er’s words, con­tin­ued at a dis­tance. We were look­ing out from the same win­dow. The link of friend­ship became stronger. At the end of 2017, we began orga­niz­ing var­i­ous ini­tia­tives around Zehra, includ­ing one in Mor­laix, around the exhi­bi­tion of her prison works. Still in prison at the time, Zehra Dogan became an oppor­tu­ni­ty to meet again. A round table about art brought togeth­er Niş­ti­man, along with activist artist Gian­lu­ca Costan­ti­ni and Elet­tra Stam­boulis, an inde­pen­dent exhi­bi­tion orga­niz­er and author of graph­ic strips.

I will always remem­ber Niş­ti­man’s words when he empha­sized an impor­tant  top­ic. “I believe two things dri­ve the artist. Emo­tion and moti­va­tion. Moti­va­tion encour­ages the artist to move for­ward and suc­ceed. As for emo­tion, it is linked to cul­ture, to a peo­ple, to a His­to­ry of which the artist is an inte­gral part. When the artist is guid­ed sole­ly by moti­va­tion, he or she moves toward per­son­al suc­cess. And, unfor­tu­nate­ly, the place in which he or she will find recog­ni­tion will be the art mar­ket, on which the West holds a monop­oly. Per­son­al­ly, I feel like a small bit of the soils on which I grew up, a cul­tur­al mol­e­cule in the strug­gle that forged me. For that rea­son, I’m dri­ven by emo­tion and that is what leads me to action. For me, there is some­thing that must be raised high through art, and that is the tes­ti­mo­ny of the cul­ture and the His­to­ry that feeds it. This is why I do not want to act sole­ly from moti­va­tion and thus become the mon­key of art mar­kets, on which I hold a very crit­i­cal out­look.” These words led to much reflec­tion in the audi­ence. Fol­low­ing the round table, the exchanges con­tin­ued. For what was pre­cise­ly at stake was that bal­ance which is not always appar­ent in the “career” of all artists. A pre­cious equilibrium…

Through these renewed meet­ings with Niş­ti­man, the meet­ing with Elet­tra and Gian­lu­ca, the cir­cle of friend­ship widened, as did the sol­i­dar­i­ty net­work. In fact, since then, one like the oth­er have been involved in var­i­ous ini­tia­tives. Today, Gian­lu­ca con­tin­ues to denounce, to sup­port artists, intel­lec­tu­als, authors from var­i­ous parts of the world, notably singer Nudem Durak, jour­nal­ist Ned­im Tür­fent, both of them Kur­dish and impris­oned… Elet­tra has tak­en on the orga­ni­za­tion of exhi­bi­tions, round tables and con­fer­ences in Italy, or yet again, the pub­li­ca­tion of books by Zehra Doğan who, now free, brings her sup­port to oth­er “polit­i­cal hostages”. And all this is part of a whole that informs, ques­tions, leads to reflec­tion and sen­si­ti­za­tion through art. The efforts of one and of anoth­er can become waves of sol­i­dar­i­ty, pro­vid­ing a col­lec­tive lifet, thanks to the will, the shar­ing and the con­tri­bu­tion of peo­ple around us at “human lev­el”, each in his or her own way, with his or her know-how, avail­abil­i­ty, gen­eros­i­ty. You who read these lines are a part of it…

The exhi­bi­tion pro­posed by Niş­ti­man Erd­ede is part and par­cel of this approach…

But who is he ?

Niş­ti­man Erd­ede, the ini­tia­tor and orga­niz­er of the exhi­bi­tion, was born in Diyarbakir in 1979. Decolo­nial­ist artist, free­lance radio jour­nal­ist and writer-design­er he moves and works in Zurich where he arrived in 2008 as a polit­i­cal migrant.

He left Turkey fol­low­ing a first pro­vi­sion­al deten­tion for his polit­i­cal involve­ment. It took six years for his asy­lum request to be accept­ed in Switzer­land, allow­ing him to lead an active life as an acknowl­edged refugee. Between 2010 and 2014, Erd­ede par­tic­i­pat­ed in a col­lec­tive set up by refugees; an asso­ci­a­tion of the Zurich Autonomous School (ASZ), of the artis­tic train­ing Insti­tute of the Zurich Supe­ri­or School of Arts ZHdK and oth­er artis­tic insti­tu­tions. Always under the sta­tus of an asy­lum seek­er, he applied to the ZHdK, was accept­ed and stud­ied in the Depart­ment of Art & Media between 2013 and 2016. At that time, Erd­ede was already reflect­ing on the rela­tion­ship between his­to­ry, mem­o­ry and eman­ci­pat­ing action in the con­text of the move­ments emerg­ing from invol­un­tary emigration.

Under­stand­ing his work is also a mat­ter of explor­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty of mak­ing vis­i­ble one’s own expe­ri­ences of denial of free­dom, as well as col­lec­tive expe­ri­ences, be it through writ­ing or the prac­tice of de-col­o­nized art.

For “Frac­tured Spine,” Niş­ti­man shares his ini­tia­tive’s inten­tion and objec­tive as fol­lows: “To what extent can art and art exhi­bi­tions inspire a crit­i­cal reflec­tion on polit­i­cal and social process­es? The exhi­bi­tion and the pro­gram aim at cre­at­ing a dis­cur­sive real­i­ty cur­rent­ly unknown, not only by most peo­ple in Switzer­land, but also in Turkey itself. In the same man­ner, the exhi­bi­tion con­tributes to a sen­si­ti­za­tion and an improve­ment to the sit­u­a­tion of human rights in Turkey.”

The choice of venue for the exhi­bi­tion is not acci­den­tal. “Frac­tured Spine” is held with­in the walls of Pho­to­bastei whose objec­tive is “to ren­der vis­i­ble pho­to­graph­ic cre­ation and its enor­mous artis­tic poten­tial between spaces out­side-the-walls, on the one hand, and estab­lished insti­tu­tions such as gal­leries and muse­ums on the oth­er hand.”

This ini­tia­tive is enriched by a pro­gram the details of which you can find on the web­site frac­tured-spine. Films and videos, per­for­mances, dis­cus­sions with artists will all be an inte­gral part of the exhi­bi­tion. Niş­ti­man con­sid­ers this aspect as “putting the empha­sis on cen­sor­ship, art and jour­nal­ism with the fol­low­ing ques­tions rais­ing deep reflec­tion: what does free­dom of expres­sion mean under an auto­crat­ic regime? How can free­dom of expres­sion be exer­cised in the insti­tu­tion­al frame­work of an exhibition?”


I wish to note I will be par­tic­i­pat­ing per­son­al­ly in Kedis­tan’s name, from Octo­ber 28th to 30th, with a round table sched­uled on Octo­ber 31 at Pho­to­bastei 0.2 at 2pm, includ­ing Elet­tra Stam­boulis and Gian­lu­ca Costan­ti­ni, once again, in order to dis­cuss activism and sol­i­dar­i­ty through art and col­lec­tive ini­tia­tives. (Hours and dates to be announced short­ly).

Two rep­re­sen­ta­tions as part of the sup­port­ing pro­gram will take place in the Citykirche Offen­er St-. Jakob with the fol­low­ing pre­sen­ta­tion: “An impor­tant cor­ner­stone of the work at Citykirche is its com­mit­ment to sup­port­ing refugees who, still today, suf­fer var­i­ous forms of dis­crim­i­na­tion in our wealthy coun­try. Many of them do not receive Ger­man lan­guage class­es paid for by the State, are not allowed to work, and some­times live in extreme­ly pre­car­i­ous and con­fined con­di­tions. We reg­u­lar­ly attempt to pro­tect refugees from the threat of expul­sion in a church asylum.”

Niş­ti­man Erd­ede explains: “In the exhi­bi­tion, artis­tic posi­tions of Turkey are jux­ta­posed with posi­tions of Turks and Kurds liv­ing in Switzer­land as well as those of Swiss and inter­na­tion­al artists treat­ing of real­i­ties described here in their work.” In this exhi­bi­tion, the pub­lic can see work by belit sağ, Edi Hub­schmid, Ercan Richter, Fer­han Mor­d­eniz, Gaël Le Ny, hêlîn, Gian­lu­ca Costan­ti­ni, Hüsamet­tin Bahçe, Manuela Hitz, !Medi­en­gruppe Bit­nik, Melih Sarıgöl, Sal­ly Schon­feldt, Yousif Sal­ih, et Zehra Doğan.

Niş­ti­man con­cludes: “Along with my per­son­al ref­er­ences, I am con­cen­trat­ing not only on local and inter­na­tion­al posi­tions, but also on posi­tions and debates in Turkey. Exem­plary works by artists who were cen­sored are tes­ti­mo­ny to this. Frac­tured Spine intends cre­at­ing a space in which artists regain their free­dom of opin­ion and speech.”

And he pro­vides a clos­er pre­sen­ta­tion to a few of the artists con­tribut­ing to this project:

The artist and jour­nal­ist Zehra Doğan is co-founder of the press agency direct­ed exclu­sive­ly by women, JINHA, since for­bid­den, bring­ing to light the polit­i­cal con­di­tions and dai­ly life of women belong­ing to eth­nic minori­ties in Turkey. She was impris­onned for her crit­i­cal con­tri­bu­tions against the system.

Zehra Dogan

A hand­ful of sky” 2018, Diyarbakır prison. On pil­low case, jav­el water, ball­point, 69x 92 cm. (Pho­to : Jef Rabillon)

!Medi­en­gruppe Bit­nik show “Deliv­ery for Mr. Assange” . In 2013, Bit­nik sent Julian Assange a par­cel to the Ecuado­ri­an embassy in Lon­don – like a “ping from the real world” and a test of the sys­tem. The par­cel was equiped with a cam­era that doc­u­ment­ed its jour­ney through the postal sysem and pub­lished the images in real time on Inter­net. The con­tri­bu­tion by !Medi­en­gruppe Bit­nik shows in an exem­plary and clear-cut way that sol­i­dar­i­ty is pos­si­ble through the angle of artisic work and that free­dom of expres­sion is a world-wide challenge.

exposition fractured spine Mediengruppe Bitnik

!Medi­en­gruppe Bit­nik, “Deliv­ery for Mr. Assange”, exhi­bi­tion view, Helmhaus Zurich, 2014 Pho­to: FBM Stu­dio / cour­tesy Helmhaus Zurich

belit sağ’s work dis­sects the com­plex links between image pro­duc­tion and ide­ol­o­gy, visu­al habits and stan­dard­iza­tion. In an inter­view titled “my cam­era seems to rec­og­nize peo­ple” in the frame­work of the 2nd Bien­ni­al of Con­tem­po­rary Pho­tog­ra­phy in Mannheim-Lud­wigshafen-Hei­del­berg  in 2017, she declared: “As some­one with a past as a video-activist, and involved in an artis­tic activ­i­ty nowa­days, I keep on mov­ing in the grey zone between the two.”

Exposition Fractured Spine belit sag

belit sağ, “What remains”, 2018. Sin­gle video chan­nel, 7’05”

Gian­lu­ca Costan­ti­ni self-describes as an activist artist. Although involved almost on a dai­ly basis with the evo­lu­tion of human rights in a num­ber of regions in the world, Turkey occu­pies a spe­cial place in his work. He con­sid­ers Istan­bul as his sec­ond home. Since the demon­stra­tions in Gezi park in 2013, he has dealt almost exclu­sive­ly with impor­tant events in the coun­try involv­ing cur­rent vio­la­tions of human rights.

Gian­lu­ca Costan­ti­ni, “Moth­er Tay­bet” Human Rights Turkey, 2016–2019, Dig­i­tal draw­ing, 29,7 cm x 21 cm.

Manuela Hitz, a young artist from Zurich, is also part of this project. Her work shows great sen­si­tiv­i­ty and aims at throw­ing a dif­fer­ent and nov­el look on the topic.

exposition franctured spine manuela hitz

Manuela Hitz, “The Win­dow”, 2021. 65 x 50 cm.

An exhi­bi­tion worth seeing…

For more information:

You may use and share Kedistan’s articles and translations, specifying the source and adding a link in order to respect the writer(s) and translator(s) work. Thank you.
Naz Oke on EmailNaz Oke on FacebookNaz Oke on Youtube
Naz Oke
REDACTION | Journaliste 
Chat de gout­tière sans fron­tières. Jour­nal­isme à l’U­ni­ver­sité de Mar­mara. Archi­tec­ture à l’U­ni­ver­sité de Mimar Sinan, Istanbul.