The artist Ahmet Öğüt (1981, Diyarbakir, Turkey) will present his first large solo exhibition Mutual Issues, Inventive Acts at Kunsthalle Basel. In his drawings, performances, photographs and videos, Ahmet Öğüt addresses social phenomena and thematises historical processes and their effects on the society and politics of his homeland. For the artist, the choice of a medium is crucially dependent on a work’s idea and hence can alternate between the more intimate form of a publication to public performances.
For Kunsthalle Basel, Ahmet Öğüt has developed a special exhibition display, consisting of various zones. Whereas the focus in the first zone is on the innovative acts of individuals and doesn’t relate to a specific color, the three other zones are oriented around the colours red, yellow and green. The red zone takes as its theme the importance of community in today’s urban society. Dealing with state representation of power and coming to terms with history are the points of contact for the others.
*Mutual Issues, Inventive Acts, 2008 is a new project by Ahmet Öğüt based on precise observations of daily life on Istanbul’s streets. The artist shows eight large-format photographs in which found scenes – for example, a man trying to repair a street lamp by standing on two ladders, one on top of the other – were restaged in various European cities, as well as a selection of drawings of other inventive plots. These practical ideas for adversities of all kinds seem, at first glance, rather absurd, but they point to the conditions under which people live in their respective social and economic contexts. A lack of resources is also the idea behind the video Short Circuit, 2006, which shows children playing football at night. Their playing field is a street, which is illuminated briefly at regular intervals by a single passing car. The film implies another aspect of Ahmet Öğüt’s works: translating facts into fiction by means of expressive images. In Öğüt’s work, the intensification of a possible reality sometimes turns suddenly into the absurd, by showing the futility of a situation and at the same time revealing the comedy in it. The video Death Kit Train, 2005, is one example; it shows a group of men pushing a car. Because the first men are joined by an endless series of other people who in turn push those in front of them, the situation is stripped of its original goal. It shows an act of community that relates industrial production to the significance of manual labour.
The installation Today in History, 2007, consists of a mural, a wooden figure, and the book of that title and attempts to come to terms with historical events. Öğüt compiled excerpts from Turkish newspapers from 1961 to 2007 and illustrated each of the texts with an image. A description of the first escalator in a department store in Ankara (1967) is included alongside one on the murder of Armenian journalist Hrant Dink by a young Turkish man (January 2007).
In addition to history, grappling with the use and meaning of state symbols is a central aspect of Ahmet Öğüt’s oeuvre. Magic Eye Flag, 2008, is an edition of 3D postcards with a five-point star – a symbol common on flags, including Turkey’s own – which is employed here as a picture puzzle and becomes only recognisable on closer inspection. A subversive commentary on the representation of power is also found in On the Road to Other Lands, 2008, a publication produced as part of the 5th berlin biennial based on Ahmet Öğüt’s extensive research. The German printing office, which is located next to one of the biennial’s exhibition venues, prints euros, bank notes, and passports for various EU countries, former East Bloc states such as Romania, and for Turkey. The artist mixes real documents with fictional stories by precisely analysing the pictorial idiom of passports on one hand and creating collages from the information collected on the other. The visual material for this book is shown at the Kunsthalle Basel as part of an installation. Exhibited in colourful picture frames, the pages of the book are shown in the display cases from an apartment and hence suggest a ‘Community’ greater than that of belonging to a nation. Finally, Perfect Lovers, 2008, was created in reference to the eponymous work by Felix Gonzalez-Torres; it shows a Turkish lira next to a one-euro coin. Whereas in Gonzalez-Torres’ work two supposedly identical clocks are hung next to each other, Ahmet Öğüt’s deceptively similar coins comment with a wink on art history and point to the different economic and political realities of two states whose rapprochement is the subject of current debates in Europe.
< A hundred copies of the publication On the Road to Other Lands were published as an artist’s edition by Kunsthalle Basel in collaboration with A-Prior magazine, Ghent; the publication is available in the bookstore of Kunsthalle Basel.
< On the occasion of the event – series “Archiv des Alltags” at Theater Basel (Klosterweg 6) an evening with performances and readings by Ahmet Öğüt and Aleana Egan takes place on Friday, April 18, 2008 at 8pm.
Ahmet Öğüt (1981, Diyarbakir, Turkey. Currently lives and works in Amsterdam with a studio grant from the Rijksakademie).
Solo exhibitions (selection): 2007: *Softly but Firmly, Galerija Miroslav Kraljevic, Zagreb / 2006: Light Armoured, YAMA, Istanbul / 2005: Ahmet Öğüt, Mala Galerija/The Museum of Modern Art of Ljubljana.
Group Exhibitions (selection): 2008: Car Culture, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art; 5th berlin biennial; Lucky Number Seven: SITE Santa Fe Biennial; 10th Anniversary Exhibition: Fuild Street, KIASMA Contemporary Art Museum, Helsinki / 2007: Stalking with Stories, Apexart, New York, The Emergency Biennial world tour/stop 9, 10th Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul; Pensa-Piensa-Think, Centre d’Art Santa Monica, Barcelona / 2006: Every Wind That Blows, Smart Project Space, Amsterdam; A Forest and a Tree, Kunsthalle Exnergasse, Vienna.