The cancellation of the exhibition Post-Peace
The curator and some of the artists at DEPO
What does it mean to live a peaceful life? Can we even speak of a category like peace or do we rather mean the absence of something that is the opposite of harmony, freedom, rights and respect? How do people in Europe face the confrontation of war in other countries through the arriving of refugees and the fear of terror in their apparently peaceful lives? And is the end of war automatically peace? Some of the questions that the Exhibition Post-Peace was going to face, if it was not canceled by Akbank Sanat five days before its opening on the first of March, because of the current political circumstances Turkey is facing right now.
The official statement of Akbank Sanat about the cancellation says
“[…] However, over the course of our preparations, Turkey went through a very troubled time. In particular, the tragic incidents in Ankara are very fresh in people’s memories. Turkey is still reeling from their emotional aftershocks and remains in a period of mourning.
In accordance with Akbank Sanat’s sense of responsibility in the Turkish contemporary art world and following various considerations regarding the delicate situation in Turkey, the exhibition has been cancelled.”
The curator Katia Krupennikova is working and living in Amsterdam and won the 4th international curator competition of Akbank Sanat in 2015 with the concept of “Post-Peace” former “How I start worrying. The Symptoms of Post-Peace”. The jury consisted of Bassam El Baroni (Independent curator and theory tutor at Dutch Art Institute, Arnhem), Paul O’Neill (Curator, writer and Director of the Graduate Program at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, New York), and Iris Dressler and Hans D. Christ (Directors of the Württembergisch Kunstverein Stuttgart). AkBank Sanat accepted the decision of the international jury. Basak Senova the organizer of the curator competition published her statement on her homepage some days after the disclosure of Akbank Sanat. In her statement she is declaring that she is not willing to subject herself in terms of black and white thinking and decision making. Furthermore she is appealing to the concerned persons and the audience that the unfortunate occurrence will lead to a constructive one.
Also the curator, the jury and the artists, although they identify the cancellation of the exhibition as a censorship of something that was planned and organized for more than half a year, are able to understand the pressure of the current political circumstances Turkey is going through and the responsibility of Akbank Sanat as a private institution for contemporary art, that might not want to be associated with the topic of this exhibition in this context.
The wish of the participants and the curator to turn the silence into a constructive dialogue about the meanings of peace and war in the world affairs and the responsibility of art in times of social and political tense situations in to giving space for a dialogue and the opportunity of different perspectives, is still in an uncertain status. One of the ideas to make the show happen was to separate the art pieces consisting of installations, video projects, performances, visual arts and concerts and present them at different venues in Istanbul and abroad. The curator herself figures out, that the show is not mandatory contextual bound to the location of Istanbul, but the question is rather more how the happenings influence the way how the show might be presented in the future.
Cancellation is even one step further than censorship. And the missing transparence concerning the specific reasons for the hard cut is one more criteria to speak about the possibilities and freedom of art nowadays, in general and especially in Turkey. In 2015 Turkey was counted by freemuse in the top ten list of “countries with the most serious violations of artistic freedom” thus lying level with Syria and Burundi. Cases of self-censorship are not included and hard to gather.
So why is nobody talking about the art pieces after the cancellation?
Last Tuesday, on the actually opening day, the curator Katia Krupennikova and some of the participating artists who came for the opening to Istanbul, met in DEPO, a culture and debate center near Tophane, to talk about the incident. Not many people except the concerned persons and the people from DEPO attended the meeting. It was public, but not spread. They talked about what it means, that the dialogue about peace is denied and that the imposed silence gives them a voice. For sure the cancellation and thus the absence of their art especially in this precarious times is expanding and recontextualizing the levels of meaning and gives them maybe even more attention, especially because nobody expect the involved really knows what was going to be shown. So it is easy for the outstanding unknown to reduce them to their nationality and how Turkey is related to those, like in the case of the curator, or to speculate if the artists were addressing Kurdish issues. But none of the artists is declaring that her or his work might be the reason for the censorship, moreover they think of the topic by itself to be too offensive.
small concert of A.S.I. at DEPO
The majority of the artist as well as the curator are living and working in Amsterdam, although their backgrounds are diverse. The artists invited to participate in the show included Anonymous Stateless Immigrants, Ella de Búrca, Anna Dasović, Yazan Khalili, Adrian Melis, Dorian de Rijk, belit sağ, Alexei Taruts, Anika Schwarzlose, Lybov Matyunina and Anastasia Yarovenko; the writers Oxana Timofeeva, Ece Temelkuran, and Etel Adnan; and public programming participants Yaşar Adanali, Pınar Öğrenci, Koken Ergun, and Jaha Koo.
Anonymous Stateless Immigrants got popular through the A.S.I. Pavilion on the Venice Biennial 2015. In this show they were planning to do about six concerts during the exhibition period. To question and break the construct and structure of nationality is their mission and might get the heart of the matter in dealing with questions of peace and war. The melody and lyrics of the songs are mixed of Kurdish Turkish and Russian Ukrainian origins, but not to understand them in particular rather than convey a feeling of a wider context also historically. One of the artists of A.S.I., he is a refugee, speaks about hope as central element of peace. They were the only ones that could present a piece of their work on this Tuesday in a public space.
The “Lasagna of the history with the sparkles of Instagram culture and TV propaganda” stated the artist Lybov Maryunina about her work ‘Post Fairytale’ an experimental documentary film staged in the former city Königsberg, what is today the city of Kaliningrad. A teaser of the film can be seen here:
Also Siyah Bant and Artist Rights Justice took notice of the occurence and try to evaluate the situation to support the organizers of the exhibition and the artists.
As long as the further actions in this incident and its possibly implementing keep in this uncertain status we have to remain in ambiguity and eventually consider ‘The banned is the desired‘. The absence of this exhibition is not just like the absence of peace in times of war, but rather more leaves a gap which reminds more than ever of the difficult conditions we are living in. And maybe the best way to circumvent the censorship of institutions is to show them off-stage in art studios in Istanbul and to declare the private to public space. Like Jan Hoet did in his project Chambres d’amis 1986, during which citizens allowed their apartments to be transformed into pieces of art and which was already inspiring for the curator Katia Krupennikova in her ‘insideout’ project last September in Moscow.