Ecological curating in times of pandemic: Pera Museum opens "Crystal Clear"

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Ecological curating in times of pandemic: Pera Museum opens "Crystal Clear"
Ilana Halperin in collaboration with Knitstanbul, Our Hands Enact the Geologic Process I–V, 2020. Hand-dyed Merino Urth Yarn. 95 x 155 cm. each.

ISTANBUL.- Pera Museum’s new exhibition, Crystal Clear, opened to the public on December 22 and can be visited through March 7, 2021.

Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation Pera Museum in Istanbul bids farewell to 2020 with an exhibition highlighting the global crisis under the influence of the pandemic. “Crystal Clear”, curated by Elena Sorokina, brings together the works of 20 artists from different countries and generations who engage with the questions of transparency and opacity, earth and de-growth, and the extractive logic that we have to challenge. Created in the context of the pandemic, the question of sustainability in artistic and curatorial practices became central for the exhibition, affecting changes in its structure and choices of material the artists would use.

“Crystal Clear” features work by Sammy Baloji, Minia Biabiany, Katinka Bock, Bianca Bondi, Gaëlle Choisne, Kıymet Daştan, Elmas Deniz, Sinem Dişli, Gluklya (Natalia Pershina-Yakimanskaya), Deniz Gül, Ilana Halperin, Gülsün Karamustafa, Yazan Khalili, Paul Maheke, Şener Özmen, İz Öztat, Hale Tenger, Güneş Terkol, Berkay Tuncay and Adrien Vescovi.

Despite all the current difficulties engendered by the pandemic, the exhibition is open to the public. The Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation Pera Museum considers art to be essential to daily life, even in challenging times.

Crystals in Art, Magic and Healing
The histories, qualities and uses of crystals and minerals provide the basis for the conceptual framework of the exhibition. Having properties ranging from almost perfect transparency to complete opacity, crystals have been used in all areas of human activity, from science and magic to technology and healing. They constitute a perfect emblem for the fluid and porous borders between animate and inanimate, organic and inorganic. Curator Elena Sorokina explains: “Scientists typically describe crystals as “growing”, even though in their eyes they are not alive. Many living organisms, such as molluscs, are able to produce crystals. In many ancestral cultures, crystals and minerals were regarded as sentient. They also belong to the earliest examples of extraction.”

The imperfect contaminated transparencies of crystals, opacities of the soil, and logic of extraction intersect in this project as thematic strains. The project was inspired by Bruno Latour’s “Down to Earth: Politics in a New Climatic Regime”, Byung-Chul Han’s “The Transparency Society”, and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s ideas on extractivism. Simpson argues that extraction is not just about mining and drilling; it is a mindset, an approach to nature, to ideas, and to people, and it is this mindset and approach that we must change.

Ecological Practices and Sustainable Curating
Conceived 2 years ago, long before the advent of the pandemic, the exhibition concept developed through and integrated all the stages and uncertainties of the COVID-related confinements, de-confinements, and re-confinements in different countries. In this context, the question about sustainability in artistic and curatorial practices became central. The exhibition addresses the following questions: how can we curate ecologically and with care? how can the carbon footprint of exhibitions be reduced? Crystal Clear reflects the programmatic approach taken to address these questions, insofar as it radically limited the shipping of objects, supported local collaborative production of exhibited work as well as creative recycling strategies, and greatly reduced the amount of travel for all participants. In other words, it adhered to the principles of a contained ecosystem of relations and a small circular economy by developing methods and tools to reduce the project’s carbon footprint in the dynamic interaction between production, display and recycling.

Textile Exhibition Architecture
The focus on ecological curating effected programmatic changes in the very structure of the exhibition and the specific choices of material the artists would use. It has consciously opened the borders between the artists’ works and the exhibition architecture. The inclusion of mostly textile-based work transformed the logic of display, shifting the focus from solid objects to fluidity, translucency and a certain theatricality and sensuality. Solid partition walls are kept to a minimum and come from recycled sources. Textile-based works play a special role in this exhibition, in that they function both as artwork and exhibition architecture.

Exhibition Catalogue: Chronical and Theoretical Framework
The exhibition catalogue functions as both a chronicle of the artistic and curatorial decisions made under COVID conditions and a theoretical framework of the project. Alongside Sorokina’s curatorial essay, it includes “Where to land after the pandemic?” by Bruno Latour, which was the most discussed text in France during the 1st confinement. Professor Spyros Papapetros discusses the artistic fascination with liquid crystals and their role in the animation of the inorganic. Katy’taya Catitu Tayassu, an artist, cultural historian, and practicing shaman, reads the project from her animistic and cross-sensorial point of view.

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