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Love and Other Matters: Servet Kocyigit solo exhibition on view at RAMPA in Istanbul
Servet Kocyigit’, Kayık / Das Boot, 2004. Surf board, iron, electric fan. Photo: Courtesy RAMPA.

ISTANBUL.- Servet Kocyigit’s solo exhibition titled, “Love and Other Matters,” is being hosted by RAMPA through October 20. The exhibition includes his recent works and some works presented in Turkey for the first time.

The central questions in the exhibition are how romanticism is perceived, how emotion gets socialized and culturalized (through gender). In Kocyigit’s artistic approach, the fields in which aspects of womanhood and manhood contradict each other, function as a conceptual bridge between himself and his audience. Having a direct relationship with the domestic life in Turkey, the everyday and domestic culture, these works –taking into consideration their open-ended structures– transform in this exhibition into a semantic map composed of personal codes that reflect back onto the audience. This solo exhibition, which aims at representing Kocyigit’s long-term process of artistic research and production and which examines different layers of his practice, captures the relationship between the traditional and the familiar with humour on all sides.

The relationships and semantic leaps between the artist’s works exhibited in different forms, such as video, photography and installation all come together and transform the given space into a conceptual house, an imaginary living room, an island composed of the power of imagination. ‘Sunset’(2012), one of the works featured in the exhibition, designed as a hand-made lacework, has been imprinted in a red pictorial, reading “Fuck You Sunset. As in an anti-monument or a lyric, which is eternal, dedicated to those moments when our hearts are broken; after the sunset in an indignant poem—reminiscent of a melodramatic movie scene.

In his installation, “Coins” (1999), as an another strategy of experimental conceptualization, Kocyigit hides chocolate coin wrappers under a carpet—a historic symbol of wealth among eastern civilizations. A feeling of nostalgia for the neighborhood grocer-stationery-toy shop (poigiantly evoked by Turkish author, Orhan Pamuk, who compares it to the magic of Aladdin’s Store) and the frustration over the missing contents of the chocolate wrappers from our childhood, are reflected in the installation of the carpet with its contrived value and modified richness.

The most striking corner of the lost living room is created through a mocking imagination and by means of a reconstruction of the child-adult perspective, . Kocyigit’s “Das Boot,” (2004), a scratched, upturned surfboard, mounted on an ironing board stand is dedicated to Turkish mothers who spent their Sunday evenings ironing their children’s uniforms while watching the popular television series, Dallas.

In his work, “Higher Education” (2004) produced in the Netherlands, Servet Kocyigit transforms the hiearchical structure of education into an ironic form by using the power of illustration in literal language. This free-hand composition, formed by combining superimposed school desks and educational appliances over students is pregnant with associations of alignment, discipline and schooling.

“Motherland” (2007) is a photograph of five soliders – each dressed in a different uniform – holding a seemingly complacent and self assured belly dancer. Kocyigit proposes different readings for this image: “The image can be read first of all as a classical conflict of gender through women’s positions in different societies; secondly, it can be read in terms of the relationship of contrast between power and vulnerability; and finally, especially if one considers the title of the work (Anavatan, in Turkish), it can be read as an army which controls the country just as much it protects ‘her’.”

Among all of his Works “Truth” (2011) utilizes the most elements of abstraction. A series composed of videos and photographs depicting a group of cameramen, photographers and correspondents as a group within a derivative (reproduced, copied, secondary…) choreography evoking contemporary media, are all familiar. This army of media, whose purpose is ambiguous, calls to mind the mechanized world of politics, art, and sport which reproduces itself so long as it creates scandals. The endless running-and-chasing relationship between the machine and the social concern and agenda is abstracted in an atemporal, spaceless, and unmarked language of theatricality.

In these works, which establish rapid relations among humour, satire, and criticism within an axis of cultural continuity -- ranging from Nasreddin Hodja to Aziz Nesin, from the traditional to the modern -- Kocyigit provides clues as to how he describes his own generation and position: “Growing up in the 80’s in Turkey wasn’t very much about bad haircuts or shoulder pads. After the military coup (the third in the country’s short history) the atmosphere in Turkey was rather dark. We were going to school, secretly reading some of the banned books, listening to the banned music, and we thought freedom must be something like that. We wanted the freedom but we didn’t understand the definition of it so much. It took me quite a long time to understand what freedom really is through art

Servet Kocyigit’s, Love and Other Matters is a salient turning point in Kocyigit’s practice. The exhibition, which was a part of several international shows, including 27. São Paulo and 9. Istanbul Biennales, and exhibited in prominent international art institutions including MuHKA-Media and De Appel, masterfully conceptualized semantic structure, personal codes, simple emotions and intellectual exercises that transform into a subtle mind game in which masculine and feminine expressions, domestic culture and uniformed-civil life collide with one another.

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