Galeri Nev Istanbul opens the new season with a group exhibition Agon that will be on view from October 17th to November 22nd. The works in the exhibition are compiled around multiple meanings, associations and a critical reconsideration of the ancient Greek term agon.
In general agon refers to a gathering, struggle, or contest. The term enjoyed a wide range use in ancient Greece from the gathering to watch subsequent contests during Olympic games to the debate between protagonist and antagonist in Classical tragedy resembling dialectic dialogues of Plato. The word is also the root for the political theory of agonism, which should not be confused with antagonism. Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto Laclau point to productive potential of conflict in societies and recapitulate their theory with the term agonistic pluralism. Mouffe&Laclau present agonistic pluralism as a way of countering the rising authoritarian types of discourses and politics in the age of neoliberal hegemony. Claudio Colaguori also discusses the usage of agonism in length. From a sociological point of view Colaguori argues that competitive mode of interaction forms social hierarchies based on competition as a form of exclusion. In that regard cultural ideology of competition operates as a mode of rationality that reinforces the order of domination. These conflicting views about the use of the term in the current political context were the main inspiration behind the idea of putting this show together.
Keeping in mind the distinction between antagonism and agonism, the exhibition aims to offer a venue for contemplating both the productive and destructive capabilities of the conflict. Agon aims to approach the term with a critical distance both through the implications of the works and also in the context of different artistic practices themselves.
Exhibition includes one of the earliest works by Hale Tenger “History of Time” dating from 1990. The physical potential of wobbling in the work questions idea of monumentality that is associated with virility throughout history. The work denies the spatial accumulation of the monument yet has a sculptural presence. Conveying the idea that the history of civilization has always been a matter of struggle without glorifying the patriarchal power structures might not be a fragile position as it was before yet appears as a necessity for a better understanding about what is happening in the Middle East now. Nermin Er’s recent paper works show how the artist’s interest in the urban landscapes is developing towards abstraction. The abstracted forms do not conceal the critical relevance of Er’s choice of the urban scenery; namely construction sites and unidentified structures creating impressions varying from the bureaucratic buildings to memorial spaces. Eviner’s drawing installation “Stage For Daily Politics” provides a valuable insight for the crossings between drawing, 3D modeling, and architectural plans in her artistic methodology. The affective quality of her lines and forms are juxtaposed with fundamental elements of her artistic research processes. Nazif Topçuoğlu’s “Selfie” can be considered as a seminal moment in the artist’s oeuvre since for the first time Topçuoğlu puts himself in the frame transposing the multilayered relation of gaze in his photographs. Canan Tolon participates the exhibition with her work “Alidade” dating from 1993. The use of different materials like steel, metal, wood, wax, grass and linen is characteristic for this particular period of artist’s oeuvre. Apart from revisiting Tolon’s investigations in the aesthetic possibilities of conflict through materiality, looking at “Alidade” gives the audience an opportunity to contemplate on the lifetime of an artwork; an integral part of Tolon’s aesthetics. Tayfun Erdoğmuş’s water drawings employing Wasserzeichen (Watermark-Fligran) technique playing with the trace and shadow challenges his approach to materiality. Registering the memorial traces within the paper rather than employing them on its surface, the works are presented through a special arrangement of lightning. In her acrylic painting Aras Seddigh depicts a struggle between her crossbreeds: combinations of the figurative and the gestural. Gökçen Dilek Acay participates the exhibition with her video “Barking Woman” apart from the gallery’s artist roster. The arrhythmic sound of barking sets the tune in the exhibition space.