Everything Interesting Takes Place in the Dark: ASLI ÇAVUŞOĞLU

7 February - 7 March 2020

Galeri Nev Istanbul presents Aslı Çavuşoğlu’s Everything Interesting Takes Place in the Dark, an exhibition that launches “Annex”, a font conceived by the artist, and designed by Özer Yalçınkaya. For this debut, “Annex” is deployed through a set of two-toned neon sculptures, which render the font’s style guide one letter at a time within the gallery walls, while a series of publicly displayed exhibition posters take the font to the streets.

On a formal level “Annex” finds its inspiration, and shape from a socio-political phenomenon Çavuşoğlu has been documenting across Istanbul for over a decade. Herein anti-establishment graffiti is quickly redacted through the use of counter-graffiti marks that make the original slogans, such as “the only way is revolution”, or “another world is possible”, illegible by rendering the letters into jumbles of crosses, triangles, circles, squares, and other abstract geometric blocks. In addition to presenting the font’s style guide, which condenses its source material into a codified type, the artist lays bare the very process of these revisions by transcribing each letter of the alphabet respectively into two-toned neon sculptures.

The move to situate the font in public space through the show’s advertisements also transforms these posters into ostensible cyphers through which various censored graffiti may be decoded across the city. This form of mimicry borrows from the art and activist collective the Situationist International, particularly their use of détournement –a technique in which advertising language, imagery, and most importantly, it’s distribution methods, are commandeered so as to disrupt, and question intended messaging. From a titular standpoint, “Annex” likewise teases another form of ambiguity as the word can imply a necessary, or even, a welcomed addition to something, but it can also mean an appropriation by force. Sympathetic to all forms of use, the font may be downloaded for free, and utilized by 3rd parties.

“Annex” also calls to mind a philosophical device known as Sous Rature, which is commonly translated as “under erasure”. Typically, a key word, which could change the entire meaning of a sentence, is strategically crossed out so it is both there, and not there, at the same time. This paradox, predicated on a word being both present and absent, provokes the reader to wrestle with the author to establish intention as well as to question the very nature of signification itself.

Returning to the exhibition title, audience are teased with the idea that Istanbul is littered with several armies of the night comprised of hidden authors who write, and rewrite, the city’s political unconscious under the cloak of darkness so that their deeds may be spied in the light of day. As a final conceptual twist, Çavuşoğlu “shadows” this ferment through neon, which is best seen when under shade.

Adam Kleinman