In 1924, French writer and poet André Breton wrote in his Le Manifeste du Surréalisme, Manifesto of Surrealism, that “We are still living under the reign of logic: this, of course, is what I have been driving at. But in this day and age logical methods are applicable only to solving problems of secondary interest.” What Breton refers to is that there are problems in life that do not have rational and logical solutions.
This theme is explored in Destruction 2011, a current art installation in Istanbul which aims to deconstruct conventional ways of dealing with global problems. Instead, Destruction 2011 takes a new artistic approach and opens for alternative dimensions.
“We want to raise an awareness of all kinds of destruction in society.”
For many people, the exhibition may be a unexpected experience. At the opening party, the Istanbul audience was not only stunned by the poetic energy of the surrealist works displayed but also by the novelty of the live and improvisational performances.
The exhibition is hosted with pride in a building on Beyoğlu’s Akarsu Street which used to be a well-known spot for transgender prostitution For many Istanbul inhabitants, this was the only thing they associated the building with. Now, Destruction 2011 coordinators Rafet Arslan and Alper T. İnce have transformed the building and this “memory” into a venue for artistic endeavor.
The opening of Destruction 2011 on May 12th was full of performances. Each room in the building showcased different artworks exploring the theme of destruction. On the second floor, a live sex talk was held, on another an improvisational performance by well-known Turkish artist Komet who started screaming “I am not an artist!” into the crowd during a visit. “One of the best moments of this project,” says Arslan.
“I am not an artist!”
The exhibition and exclusive events aim at discovering a new sort of “solution”: not through logic but instead through surrealism. Arsalan: “We want to raise an awareness of all kinds of destruction in society.”
The Destruction 2011 project is at the same time a critique, a banquet and an act of poetry. Significant and attractive art as diverse as paintings, sculptures, drawings, installations, art videos and performances are gathered inside this peculiar space. No longer a place for prostitution, the building, waits for starting a second life as a hotel “But first, it is host to our exhibition,” says Arslan. This way, the destruction project also extends to the physical space through remaking the building.
Arslan explains: “Over time, various people turn out to live in the same building at different points in time. They all leave their own prints and add something from their inner world to the spirit of the space. Just like humans have a memory, so do buildings. And, just like humans bear marks and lines on their faces, so do buildings have cracks at their beams, columns and walls.”
While the project deals with destruction, this does not signify a process of degeneration. Arslan: “This is not about decadence, because this is a banquet and carnival-like kind of destruction. We are not unhappy or depressed, we are celebrating the destruction.”
Destruction 2011 is a campaign organized horizontally through nightly performances, conferences, blogs, forums and film screenings. It explores a variety of issues: ecological destruction, the upcoming fifth sun of the Mayan calendar, the future of the global capitalist hegemony, the Third World War and prophecies of Babylon, and it brings together the works of 60 artists from Turkey and abroad.
Among these is Serra Behar’s work entitled Paradise Flower, which dwells on issues of human suffering and identity crisis. While living in England, Behar considered the difficulties of being. “I wanted to explain this state of mind via art. I decided to make a bird, as this is a powerful metaphor for existence and non-existence.”
Performance artist Burçak Konukman raises questions about artists as part of the market scene. His work includes a cover of Sex Pistol’s music. “In my opinion, the artist is an anarchist, hence the choice of this band,” says Konukman. He continues: “The life of an artist dependent on market conditions is depressing. That’s why I chose to do an art performance on this issue.”
The carnival-like structure of these works recalls the idea of the banquet. The contributors are celebrating the joy of being in a way that is reminiscent of French poet Pierre Reverdy’s The Glory of Words: “I had almost given up when suddenly everything came flooding back, freshness of feeling, angels’ whispers, memories of the past, a way into the future, above all, the joy of being able to see the distance stretch far ahead.”
“Istanbul is one of the most heavily populated, lively, active and complex megalopolises in the world.”
Arslan once wrote that Istanbul is a capital of chaos. “It is one of the most heavily populated, lively, active and complex megalopolises in the world. Its memory is stored with a history of several thousands of years, the ghosts of hundreds of civilizations, wars, immigrations and disasters; all etched in a collective consciousness. There is a skyrocketing real estate market, towering buildings built one after another, gigantic shopping malls looking like they were beamed down from Blade Runner, new bridges, highways belting around the city, never-ending construction works and build-demolish archaeology.”
This is exactly where Destruction 2011 takes off. Just like the city, the project and its poetic features keep evolving day after day. And, what it does is helping to reshape both the artistic approach and the collective memory of Istanbul and its inhabitants.