Wednesday, 6 April 2005


In 2003 Platform was invited by Rooseum, Malmo and WHW, Zagreb as a third collaborator in a series of discussions, exhibitions and publication, which would take as their point of departure the term Normalization. The mere mention of normalization, carries with it a multitude of connotations: the EU process of transition, one of adoption and transformation; its contrary and the desire to achieve normality, ‘hope in liberation and independence. Hope in a normal life where we are neither heroes nor victims’.* The ambiguity of such a term, its perception from different geographies, cultures and individuals, plus our personal approach to curatorial practice, resulted in less of a collaborative outcome and rather presented an opportunity to emanate three different approaches while continuing to embrace clear cross-references.

Throughout the development of Normalization, Platform was wary of proposing a single response as an analysis of the term. Again it was the ambiguity of the word that revoked a single curatorial approach. And, although by means of different perspectives, a collection of art works in one exhibition could balance such a predicament, this alone would not absolve the curator’s responsibility to also confront the proposition. Hence, Platform’s personal response in its pursuit to communicate a notion of normalization has been one of trepidation and enquiry, resulting in a progressive art program that focused on the multiple meanings of the term, its usage, manifestation, its political and social implications via the involvement of different modes, media and protagonists.

In October 2004 Platform launched its Normalization process by inviting three artists: Can Altay, Solmaz Shahbazi and Phil Collins, to independently present their work and consider the relationships between each other’s practices with reference to the concept. During this phase an impending probability that Platform would have to relocate and the prospect of losing our exhibition space, put many ideas on hold. Confronting this situation and its own conditions of normalization became the main topics of discussion. The move did not come about, but its potential led to concerns about the transfer of a scene, the import and export of art, site specificity and audience.

These ideas were developed in two exhibitions entitled Art For…, which strove to discuss the conditions of ‘art for export’, in particular the exchange between Turkey and Europe. A selection of work by artists from Turkey that had previously only been shown abroad was installed within Platform’s exhibition space. The entrance became a reference point, the walls clad with posters and a table laid with catalogues from various Europe and Asia based exhibitions that have imported work, sometimes almost the entire scene. Art For…1 and 2 questioned whether this situation of export arose from a lack of audience, or clientel in Turkey? Whether artists from a certain culture change their practice on realizing that they cannot capture the attention of the local audience, or that their work cannot be exhibited because of political reasons or misunderstandings? Whether there are specific types of requests from the international scene that are placed upon them? Or just the opposite; whether they are creating works that they would want to see in another context?

Following Art For… and a program of talks and discussions, Normalization introduces the term via a diverse group of works that pronounce a range of commissioned responses, or presupposed tendencies towards the theme.

Can Altay, invited at the very start of the discussion, created a series of site-specific installations, each one re-presenting the previous exhibition hosted at Platform, but in a condensed form. In Normalization he provides a frame and historical review of the Art For… exhibitions, including his own work as previously viewed within their contexts. In so doing, he references the personal as a product and producer of normalization and raises questions relating to scale, packaging and consumption as an aspect of contemporary life, which Altay proposes ‘is, itself structured around a series of installments.’

Phil Collins and Solmaz Shahbazi, also involved from the outset of Normalization will as well present work in the 9th Istanbul Biennial. The introduction of artists participating in the Biennial and the support of specific artists over longer periods of time, were additional positions we were interested to take within the normalization process. Collins will spend three months in Istanbul from June on residency with IRP to produce work for the Biennial, in advance he has presented a selection of photographs within Normalization. Taken in places of intense socio-political conflict, these images collectively constitute the very fabric of everyday life more or less anywhere. Shahbazi, who will spend time in Istanbul this summer in order to make a new video work, was commissioned to make a third part to her Tehran series, the first being Tehran 1380 and Good Times/Bad Times. Her new work, Persepolis (2005), does not focus on the city itself, but on details within apartments, sweet memories and the construction of personal and collective narratives.

Two other artists with previous and ongoing connections with Platform are Wael Shawky, who has completed a six-month residency here, and Yael Bartana who will spend three months with IRP again in preparation for the Biennial. In the exhibition Shawky presents Cave (2004), which features himself in a local Istanbul supermarket reciting sections from the Koran. At first glance, the video appears much like a news-broadcast, effectively blurring the lines between consumerism, dissemination of information and exotica. Bartana exhibits Trembling Time (2001) in which she captures an aspect of collective memory related to the ‘Soldiers Memorial Day’. Her camera is directed at cars slowing out of respect on a major motorway, supplemented by the pause exaggerated in editing, the work offers a perspective of a ghostly world where movement and immobility merge into one.

An ongoing interest in the work of Mark Leckey, who previously exhibited at Platform in Coming Up, led to the inclusion of Made In Heaven (2004). An inquisitive form of allure haunts this computer-generated vision of Jeff Koons’ iconic bunny. Observed in Leckey’s own London flat, the implied camera circles the sculpture, an appropriation that positions the infamous work literally within Leckey’s grasp.

Also included is Hip Activities (2004) by Aydan Murtezaoglu, which offers a reduction to a kind of indifference via image, a treatise on the quest to transcend the bounds of the possible, a self-proclaimed ‘melodramatic parade of displacement.’ The multi-media installation: I Am the Martyr Comrade Jamâl Sâtî (2003) by Jalal Toufic, which attends to the “martyrdom” of Jamal Sati and his pre-recorded statement exposed in the work’s title. And, finally, Roman Ondak’s performance Good Feelings In Good Times (2003), periodically resulting in an artificial queue of people standing in line at Platform’s door. The fake queue is a reference to everyday-life and symbolises stagnation as well as order and shared mindset. If the visitor asks ‘what are you queuing for?’ the exhibition itself becomes a point of reference, as the response will most likely be a shrug and the reply ‘we don’t know’ as the queue disperses.

*Mahmoud Darwish

Normalization is supported by European Cultural Foundation and was conceived as part of a series of exhibitions, lectures and discussions initiated under the umbrella concept normalization. Parallel programs have been developed by Rooseum in Malmo, Sweden and WHW in Zagreb, Croatia. A joint publication will emerge from the three interpretations.

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