Friday, June 22, 2007

Venice Biennale: A Note on Turkey and Lebanon

For the first time Turkey and Lebanon are officially represented at the Venice Biennale. Those of us who cannot afford to go there can visit the sites online. Turkey is represented by a quirky artist Huseyin Alptekin . Alptekin has been doing offbeat interventions in Europe and Turkey for quite awhile.

In Albania, for example, he hired Kiaja Kiuru from Finland to create a lace covering to cover one of the 500 bunkers left behind by a paranoid dictator.
Here is a photograph of one of her lace covering as shown in a gallery in Istanbul. Kaija Kiuru, originally from Lapland, created “Chamber” in 2002. Using dozens of antique circular tablecloths that the artist collected in secondhand shops, she constructed a temporary domestic shelter from the fruits of thousands of hours of work. Kiuru is concerned with the nature of home and women’s lives and the fact that 80 percent of the world refugees are woman and children. The simultaneous fragility and semi transparency of the tent created a stunning resting place.
I discussed Alptekin's work with Kiuru in
Sculpture , May 2004. Here's a quote:

"Alptekin invited Kaija Kiuru to create a lace cover for a bunker. The lace domesticated these useless shelters. The Bunker Research Group (BRG) connects reality and paranoia, derelict socialist structures and contemporary art, change and stasis."

As for Lebanon, it is one of the hottest places in the world from the perspective of wars, politics, and artists who are actually in the midst of it, figuring out ways to both simply survive and to engage with what is surrounding them as an ongoing reality. The result is a multmedia experimental group of artists who collectively address the insanity of war, suicide bombings, and public pathologies.
Here is Rabih Mroue, a performance artist:
"Searching for a Missing Employee", as performed in 2004 at the Lift Theater Festival. He uses video, news clippings archives, narratives, and a diagram of the information to try to "find" this person who has disappeared (as thousands did in Lebanon during the Civil War 1975 - 91) with only traces left of their existence)

The result is that we realize once again that history is a fabrication based on narratives and procedures that make no sense at all. If that isn't pertinent to our present moment, what is?
Mroue is not showing in Venice, but this gives a little context.
Walid Sadek ,who is showing in Venice, works in texts.
Last year in "Out of Beirut" at Oxford Modern Art he showed labels for landscape paintings by Moustafa Faroukh, a well known Lebanese artist, leaving a space for where the art work would have been and adding a poem of his own which invoked the missing landscape ( both the missing painting, and the landscape that no longer exists because of war).

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