Sea Elephant Travel Agency, Istanbul presents within the frame of the Parallel Events of the 8th Istanbul Biennial (20-27 September 2003):
B-fact (Black Sea, Baltic Sea, Barents Sea)
Huseyin Alptekin and the Sea Elephant Travel Agency organized “B-Fact”, an off-beat, open-ended, and provocative event that unfolded over several hours. In this collaborative exhibition, he worked with Halil Altindere and Vahit Tuna in Istanbul, Minna Henricksson from Helsinki and Love Enqvist from Sweden.
Photos from Love Enqvist – www.loveenqvist.se
Narratives of Travels
Several works in “B-fact” addressed slow travel and ordinary people. These artists embraced a counter-discourse to the grand narratives of travels that seek out ruins of the past and to the government- and war-oriented focus of contemporary media. In their acceptance of the mundane and the local, they also countered the pretensions of the international biennial format. Timo Vartianen, Finnish artist and mushroom picker (a reference to his roots in the Karelian area of Finland), presented a collage of sound, writing, photographs, and clothes in Walking and Hitchhiking. He has covered amazing distances: 8,000 kilometers through Russia, the Baltic countries, Poland, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland. His journal is a travelogue with entries like “Nights,” “Fear,” “Pleasure,” and “Wild Animals.” Swedish artists Love Enqvist and Martin Berling documented their Stockholm-Istanbul: A Paddle Trip Through the Baltic Sea, Danube and the Black Sea with the canoe, the paddle, and photographs. The artists performed a three-month act of endurance as they embraced the physical experience and constructed an alternative to political geography. Underscoring the fact that gender differences still matter on the road, Kristina Junzell and Jessica Jalmo of Sweden traveled by the less macho means of train through Stockholm, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Macedonia, and Greece to Turkey for their Stockholm-Istanbul: A road movie through “The New Europe.” As an alternative to the catastrophes of daily news information, they spoke with ordinary people about their dreams for the future, what makes them happy, and what is important to them.
The Istanbul “B-Fact” (other versions appear in other places) included two other segments in different venues. Near Taksim Square, the heart of contemporary Istanbul and the elegant Marmara Hotel, a street-level foyer was the site of Bathers (2001–03), a video by Elina Brotherus. On three large facing screens nude Finnish bathers slipped in and out of a cool Northern lake, dispassionately entering and exiting the vision of the stationary camera. Brotherus’s piece is about the ordinary event, and familiar art subject, of bathing, but here the watcher does not control the models as in paintings like those by Rembrandt and Cézanne.
Blue Noses Group
The top floor of the Marmara Hotel hosted a performance by the Blue Noses Group. Ten floors below in Taksim Square, Siberian artists Alexander Shaburov and Slava Mizin began exploding firecrackers out of their pants. As part of their ongoing 25 Short Performances About Globalization, they had managed to get by hotel security with the firecrackers taped to their legs. The result was a hilariously funny spoof of militarism, terrorism, and suicide bombers, ironically timed just two months before the real thing happened only a few blocks away. The Blue Noses Group’s videos in the gallery display almost took over the show. In Two Against the Russian Mafia, which has five episodes including Attack of the Clones and Show Girls, they used a combination of cutouts and video with slapstick humor to appropriate a Russian militia TV series. The heroes (the artists) take on the absurdity of the social sphere, from pop culture to globalism.
Written by Susan Platt published May 2004 in Sculpture