Istanbul Projects

 Istanbul Diptychs


October 2008



Istanbul Center in Brussels is presenting an exhibition introducing contemporary artists from Istanbul with their paintings, drawings, photography, video and installations. The works mainly deal with architectonic or urban cityscapes, daily life topics, traditions and modernities and global pursuits.

Why focus on Istanbul in these exhibitions?

First, since almost two decades Istanbul has evolved into a vital site of contemporary art exhibitions. While in economy and politics the city fulfils its function as a command point of global marketplace and a production site for information economy, the culture and art accordingly unfolds its new forms and dimensions.

Secondly, the city concentrates on diversity even though the globalisation process has introduced a strong unifying corporate and commodity culture, which is fairly dominant in the centers and the periphery of the vast city. The diversity emanates from the continuous immigrations from all directions, from Anatolia in the past, from Eastern and Southern neighbours in the present. An undercurrent amalgam of cultures is making up a redundancy and multiplicity of traditional and modern cultures and identities.

Thirdly, in the heterogeneous contemporary art productions since the beginning of the 90’s, the city appears as an integral part of the micro and macro narratives, representations, simulations and metaphors. In the paintings, photographs, videos and installations of a large number of artists we can trace, recognise and perceive Istanbul as the reason of the work, while not directly the theme or the subject.

Istanbul is one of the most enticing cities of this world; and this has been elaborately expressed in many ways through different art forms, when art was about the Beautiful and the Sublime. We know that, after the erosion of traditional and modern worldviews and values things are different now; artists do not produce simple beautiful, sublime works. Yet, the culture maintains its function as being a part of social life and the critical conscious of the society, and artists face the situation in which patterns for orientation and action of the past no longer work. They have to find new options and actions to provide answers. 

Yet, these answers are most of the time private, subjective, hermetic and closed to direct access. The works of the artists provide visual tools of perception and reflection and open our minds to the diversity of thinking and creativity.

The exhibition presents ten individual artistic positions of visual interpretations on Istanbul together with their distinctive selections of literary texts and poems of renowned writers and poets from Turkey.
The ever popular form of diptych, that displays two images attached to each other is being used here as a representation of verbal and visual culture with the claim that there is an ongoing spirited competition between the verbal and visual culture, regardless of the occupation of electronic visual information.
This ancient tool of representation has its modern and post-modern examples in today’s art, mostly related to the dichotomy of socio-political state of affairs or philosophical and theoretical debates and criticisms. Within the post-modern production the form of diptych served as an instrument of influencing the viewer’s attention and perception towards a more elaborate interpretation and comparison of his/her position in relation to the presented image. The division of the image clearly calls for a division of thinking. In today’s culture of visual knowledge we are still tied up to two kinds of knowledge as described in the prophetic book Orientalism of Edward Said. He indicates the distinction between knowledge “that is the result of understanding, compassion, careful study and analysis” and “knowledge that is part of an overall campaign of self-affirmation”.

Beral Madra©