Art in America: Istanbul Curator Pulls Work From Auction, Sparking Censorship Debate

by Sheela Raman 

01/26/12, Art in America

The chief curator at the Istanbul Modern banned an artwork from a charity auction last month, sparking debate about the rise of censorship in Turkey.

Turkish artist Bubi Hayon donated a wooden chair with a chamber pot on top of it to the fundraiser. Hayon was among several artists selected to submit works for the auction. Levent Calikoglu, the museum’s chief curator, said in an email interview with A.i.A that he knew Hayon was planning to donate a chair or throne made out of waste materials, but was not aware of the addition of the chamber pot until four days before the event.  Asked what was inappropriate about the chamber pot, Calikoglu replied that the nature of the artwork was fundamentally altered with the addition, and that this new character was not in line with the fundraising aims of the event. He said that Hayon told him, “The bourgeoisie should learn about art,” when asked about the chamber pot, which he interpreted as another sign that Hayon was no longer cooperating with the museum’s objectives.  

Hayon, a 55-year-old Istanbul-based artist, told A.i.A. that the museum had given him no guidelines. “If in fact they had placed any limitation or interference, I would not have accepted the offer,” he said.  “An artist does not consider whether his creation is appropriate for exhibition or not, whether it is liked or not. He does not create with the apprehension of sale or approval,” he said. His intention with the artwork, he said, was to present an object that is normally a symbol of power and control in an ironic way. He also hoped that the work would question taboos on the sacredness of art and point out that museums are not places of worship.  By vetoing his work, Hayon said, the museum decided for its guests what was good for them without consulting them, as if protecting them from danger or obscenity.  It reflects a limited notion of what guests are capable of appreciating, he said.

Members of the Turkish art community have rallied around Hayon. A panel discussion at the museum two weeks after the work was banned about an exhibition of women’s art in Turkey titled “Dreams and Reality,” morphed into a protest against censorship.

Eight artists, including Leyla Gediz and Inci Furni, asked that their works be removed from “Dreams and Reality” in response to the Modern’s actions. Over 288 members of the art community have since signed a petition, written by artist Hakan Akcura, condemning censorship.

The Istanbul Modern has defended itself, claiming that the art community’s reaction is disproportionate to the events. Calikoglu said the Gala was a private event intended to support the museum’s educational programs, and the selected artists volunteered their work, knowing that the museum was aiming to sell and profit from their contributions. “If artists are free to change their minds and alter their creations at the last minute, then the curator, too, should have the right to decide not to include the object in the process, especially when the alteration fundamentally changes the essence of the project,” he said.

Firat Arapoglu, an Istanbul-based art critic, said in an email message that the museum’s defense that Hayon’s work did not fit with the spirit of the auction was too vague and that, in fact, the removal of the work constituted censorship. He cited other recent examples of censorship, including the removal of a large monument, “Monument of Humanity,” from the city of Kars on the order of Prime Minister Erdogan, and the jettisoning of artist Extra-Struggle (Memed Erdener)’s “Mausoleum of Extra-Struggle with a Minaret” by the privately organized Istanbul Summer Exhibitions. “Traditional lifestyles and contemporary art can sometimes clash,” he said. “Contemporary Turkish art has undergone a rise, but the issues that it faces going forward haven’t been discussed openly until now.”

This entry was posted in Atılkunst, bubi, Ceren Oykut, Güneş Terkol, istanbul modern, levent çalıkoğlu, leyla gediz, Neriman Polat, sansür, Selda Asal, İdris Naim Şahin, İnci Furni by omosis. Bookmark the permalink.

About omosis

Selected exhibitions, activities: 2013 Artist presentation: "Being in Sweden, being an immigrant, being an artist", Adaevi, Museum of the Princes' Islands, İstanbul, Turkey "Yersiz: Kader Birliği", Mardin, Kızıltepe, Turkey “Ja jag vill leva jag vill dö”, Tegen 2, Stockholm "Vilken tur! Himlen omfamnar oss!" / "What luck! The sky embraces us!" / "Ne şans! Gökyüzü hepimizi sarıyor!" Photography Exhibition, Ideas and Innovation Fair, Stockholm "Milat" Exhibition for Hrant, Getronagan Lisesi'nden Yetişenler Derneği, Harbiye / Rumeli Han C blok 6.Kat - Beyoğlu, İstanbul 2012 Migration Connections Project 2012 Exhibition, Museum of the Princes' Islands, İstanbul, Turkey Edinburgh Middle Eastern Film Festival, Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK Artist Talking and Screening, Agent Ria, Still Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK 2011 Ars retorica, Hall the university library of Paris 8 – Saint Denis, France The Exhibition on the 20th Anniversary of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey: Where Fire Has Struck, DEPO Istanbul, Turkey 2010 PAI 2010-2011 in Thebes, Conference Center of Thebes, Greece International Media Arts Festival Videfesta’10: Archive Fever, Goethe Institute, Ankara, Turkey Temps D'Images Portugal 2010 Festival Film Award for Films on Art section "From childhood to police station" Exhibition, Free Expantion Platform, Istanbul, Turkey HEP Iran screening, Sazmanab Project, Tehran, Iran AthensArt 2010 contemporary art exhibition, Athens, Greece PAI 2010 contemporary art exhibition, Samothrace, Greece "Thistles of Sazak" screening and exhibition, 7th Karaburun Festival, Izmir, Turkey Distance Festival, London, UK "Artist Cinema", Art Beijing, China Over trubled water, Tegen 2, Stockholm, Sweden Ankara International Film Festival, "Video: Spaces of Memory", Ankara, Turkey Direct Channell, Canakkale' Turkey !F Istanbul Film Festival 2010 online program: See it yourself (This village)' Istanbul, Turkey HEP Screening, AFA Beijing, China Tornavideo, Tamirhane, Ankara, Turkey 2009 “Projected Visions: 35 years of Turkish video art” exhibition Meeting Europe - Istanbul, Wacken Exhibition Centre, Strasbourg, France HEP (Human Emotion Project) Screening, AFA @ Portuguese Bookshop Gallery, Macau, China co-exhibition "Dirty Story", BM Suma, Istanbul, Turkey HEP (Human Emotion Project) Screening, Caldas-da-Rainha, Portugal HEP Screening, Berlin, Germany "Thistles of Sazak", art performance, Karaburun, Izmir, Turkey "Istanbul-Off-Spaces" co-exhibition, Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien, Berlin, Germany co-exhibition "Interzone:Nation", Gallery Galzenica, Zagreb, Croatia HEP Screening, LaSala in Cigunuela, Spain HEP screening, Melbourne, Australia "Varning för klämrisk", Solo Exhibition, Tegen 2, Stockholm, Sweden to Ankara International Film Festival, Ankara, Turkey 2008 1st Int. Roaming Biennial of Tehran, Berlin, Germany "Hög på Golvet" group exhibition at Tegen 2, Stockholm, Sweden 1st Int. Roaming Biennial of Tehran, Istanbul, Turkey International Mail Art Project 2008, Conceptual Continuity Supermarket 2008 Art Fair with Tegen 2, Stockholm, Sweden 2007 "Fear of god" co-exhibition, Hafriyat Karakoy, Istanbul, Turkey "Bodrum Film Festival", Bodrum, Mugla, Turkey "Jag, min husses hund" group exhibition, Tegen 2, Stockholm, Sweden "Nightcomers" project in the 10th Biennial of Istanbul, Istanbul, Turkey Scope NYC [PAM], Scope Art Fair, Lincoln Center, New York, USA 2006 co-exhibition "Labyrint" in Botkyrka Konsthall, Stockholm, Sweden Artist's "Sann dialog" ("Real dialogue") contemporary art activity has been started. Stockholm, Sweden Artist sent his videoperformance named as "Öppet brev till Migrationsverket" to Migrationsverket ("Open letter to Sweden Migration Board") 51', Stockholm, Sweden 2004 Artist given his art-object named as "För uppehållsstillstånd" to Migrationsverket ("For residence permission"), Istanbul, Turkey co-exhibition "Bridge from east to west", BBK Karlsruhe, Germany 2003 co-exhibition of AIAP "Hal/iç" with work name the "Difficult sleep". Kadir Has University, Istanbul, Turkey 2002 co-exhibition "Arts Plastiques" in METU Spring Festival at METU Congre Center, Ankara, Turkey co-exhibition "A travel into life" at Kargart, Istanbul, Turkey 2001 "Sometimes when I'm high, I watch TV", video performance screening, Dulcinea, Istanbul, Turkey Artist's "Solitudo" contemporary art activity has been started. A solo contemporary art exhibition with 210 participants: I want my mirrors. Dulcinea Istanbul, Turkey 2000 co-exhibition "Veritas Omnia Vincit", Istanbul, Turkey Artist's "I want my mirrors" contemporary art activity has been started, Istanbul, Turkey 1999 "2th Interbalcanic Symposium of Visual Arts" and co-exhibition, Samotrache/Greece 1998 "...self", solo exhibition. Dulcinea, Istanbul, Turkey co-exhibition "The Other", Istanbul, Turkey 1996 "Citypaintings", solo exhibition. Habitat II/NGO Forum '96 art activities, Istanbul, Turkey Publication of book of poems: "Limpin Bird" (Aksak Kus) (168 page, 81 poem, 81 picture), Istanbul, Turkey 1995 Fourth Biennial of Istanbul, Istanbul, Turkey co-exhibition "Young Activity/Borders and Beyong", Istanbul, Turkey 1991 Short film maker and director, ("Everything is as it is", 24', 16 mm. Included in TRT's "Young Cinematographers" programme), Istanbul, Turkey

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