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"Unknown Forces: Gestures Beyond Surfaces" opens at Tophane-i Amire Culture and Arts Center
Yang Ah Ham, Bird's Eye View, 2008.

ISTANBUL.- Unknown Forces, a group exhibition of international artists examines how different interests and forces operate to inform our urban environments and life experiences. What questions can we raise regarding the socio-political effects of globalization in developing urban communities and in what way are these phenomenon brought to bear on how memory and identities are negotiated?

Istanbul has been recognized historically and geographically as a city where Asian, European and Islamic cultures converge. Long known as a hub for cultural exchange that cultivates transformations of these cultures, this city is often regarded as a place that is constantly changing into something else: its buildings and neighborhoods adapting to shifting social, economic, religious and political circumstances. While retaining traces of its diverse histories, Istanbul also reflects numerous aspects of the urbanization process and currently, the ongoing rupture of psychological apprehension accompanied by the erosion of value systems and the absence of spatial memory and vanishing traditions, which are prevalent features of the contemporary metropolis. The group exhibition, Unknown Forces investigates the layers of shifting gestures both on and beyond the surface of how cities are experienced. These gestures accompany the constant transformations of urban society that occur not only in the physical manifestation of a city but also extend into the invisible arena of the underlying social systems. Presenting works that adopt and merge different practices, materials, and perspectives, while also addressing notions of urban living, not only in Istanbul but also throughout the world, the exhibition suggests viewers re-examine the cities they live in as alternative spaces for creative investigations and challenges. What forces generate these transformations and what surfaces/bodies are they inscribed on over time?

The exhibition title is borrowed from that of filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul's work Unknown Forces (2007). The video shows the nomadic lives of day laborers in pick-up trucks. They are hauled around by contractors from one construction site to another in the artist's home region of north-eastern Thailand during the country's real estate redevelopment and political maelstrom of 2006. Straddling documentary and fiction, Weerasethakul’s works present fundamental forces that affect politics and society. In a rapidly developing and changing city, the artist focuses on the sentimental reactions that arise in the vernacular lives of people; he looks at the cracks and frictions that occur during these changes, and he examines the layered movements that happen both on and below the surface.

Works in the exhibition are shown at a variety of heights. The audience experiences different perspectives: that of watching television at home on a television monitor, looking at an electronic billboard in the middle of a city, experiencing the illusion of watching some event happen right before your eyes, and seeing a video that looks like a billboard sign. Through the differences of perspective and experience inside a space, the audience is provoked to ask questions of how globalization and political influence affect a city’s community and development as well as our memories and identities in dealing with experiences of different cities. The audience asks questions concerning what unknown forces drive changes in a city and memories of the city that have been changed by globalization or economic theory. With these questions, the audience might experience multilayered perspectives: of the spatial composition of Tophane-i Amire, an old historical space, meeting the content of artworks and of how different interests and forces work and affect our lives through tangled stories of “unknown forces.“

Artists Caner ASLAN, BAE Young-whan, Alicia FRANKOVICH, Liam GILLICK, Nilbar GÜREŞ, Yang Ah HAM, KIM Beom, Joohyun KIM, Meiro KOIZUMI, Aernout MIK, Ahmet ÖĞÜT, Fahrettin ÖRENLI, Nam June PAIK, PARK Chan-kyong, Tino SEHGAL, Bruno SERRALONGUE, Seung H-Sang*, Do-Ho SUH, Tadasu TAKAMINE, Koki TANAKA, The Propeller Group, VANDY Rattana, Apichatpong WEERASETHAKUL, Haegue YANG, Jun YANG

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