Paradise Lost: Middle Eastern Art at the Guggenheim
Art in America (June, 2016)
The interplay between the layers suggests mashrabiya lattice screens and barbed wire, means of arresting movement. Visitors are encouraged to walk across Dust Breeding (2015), Bulgarian-born, London-based Turkish artist Ergin Cavusoglu’s anamorphic floor drawing that takes its title from Man Ray’s 1920 photograph of Duchamp’s Large Glass with Dust Motes ; a closed-circuit camera is trained upon a vantage point from which the drawing looks three-dimensional. But the monitor that relays these images is out of the sight line, several yards away. Both Hefuna and Cavusoglu’s works suggest a Middle East that becomes both legible and mobile only when mediated from a considerable distance.
BUT A STORM IS BLOWING FROM PARADISE: CONTEMPORARY ART FROM THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
The New Yorker (June 2016)
A hazy curatorial theme of “geometry” (drawn from Islamic decorative arts) shoehorns some strong projects (including an anamorphic projection by Ergin Cavusoglu) with the sort of homogenized, foreign but not too foreign declarations of identity and history already familiar from art fairs.
Turkish art in the city that never sleeps
Frieze New York, ‘Court and Cosmos’ and more
Cornucopia (May 5, 2016)
As one of the world’s art meccas, New York is always teeming with exhibitions, fairs and public art installations. This month a good number of the thousands of works on display are by artists from Turkey, both present and past. So lace up your trainers, because we’re traipsing around the Big Apple to see all the Turkish art on offer.
The focus, however, is on Ergin Cavusoglu, whose solo exhibition at Rampa Istanbul, Which sun gazed down on your last dream?, is running concurrent with Frieze New York. From new sculptures to video, painting and drawing, Cavusoglu’s works explore a kind of metaphoric inebriation from wondering about and wandering in the trivialities of the world – they look at the everyday in a uniquely philosophical and spiritual manner. Not only does Rampa’s stand at Frieze New York act as a mirror to this solo exhibition, it also shows the artist’s range by displaying works from 1998 to today. The impetus behind emphasising Cavusoglu’s work is his inclusion in But a Storm is Blowing from Paradise: Contemporary Art from the Middle East and North Africa at the Guggenheim. Opening April 29 and on view until October 5, the exhibition features his three-channel video ‘Crystal & Flame’ (2010), which has recently been acquired by the museum. The show, curated by Sara Raza, will travel to the Pera Museum in 2017, where visitors will also be able to see Gülsün Karamustafa’s installation ‘Create your own story with the given material’ (1997). (While her work was also acquired by the Guggenheim, it won’t be displayed in the New York show.)
Translation of tradition. Ergin Cavusoglu in Istanbul
Artribune (April 1, 2016)
" Galeria Rampa, Istanbul - until 7 May 2016. All the magical world of Ergin Cavusoglu in Turkish gallery spaces. To immerse the viewer in a marine silence and in a special environment, which encodes the dream."
With a post-modern nature softness in which the citation, the different repetition and translation of the tradition are treated in key exquisitely elettrologica, Ergin Cavusoglu (Tirgoviste, 1968) puts forward a pararcheologico path that makes use of various materials and invites the public to discovering traces, memory debris, landscapes and precious objects. Thanks to a linguistic arsenal that combines sculpture - elegant installation Percé Rock (2016) -, video, photography and painting (the series Spheres of the Firmament Anthropomorphism is a dive In the timelessness of 2015), the artist constructs the ramp Istanbul a daydream ( which sun gazed down on your last dream? is the question mark that acts as food for the journey to the exhibition) made ??of imaginative discoveries. In the street, in an outpost of the gallery, Place After Place (2008) is an enveloping device that opens and closes an exciting exhibition itinerary.
Interview with Ergin Cavusoglu
The 4th International Canakkale Biennial
Wall Street International
(30 October, 2014)1914-1918 The Centenary of World War I is the broader theme of the 4th International Canakkale Biennial held in the city of Canakkale, Turkey that is an important geographical point where Mediterranean, European and Middle-Eastern cultures intersect. This fourth instalment of the Biennial borrows its title and conceptual framework from Plato’s statement “Only the dead have seen the end of war”, with the aim to reflect on past and present political, social and cultural events that occurred as a consequence of the collapse of the Ottoman and Russian empires, and furthermore the resulting calamities of war in the region. The Biennial invited some leading contemporary artists (among which Maja Bajevic, Ergin Cavusoglu, Douglas Gordon, IRWIN, Anri Sala, etc.) to interpret the repercussions of cycles of war and peace and the following political, economical, social and cultural developments in Europe, the Balkans, the Caucasus and the Middle-East thus stimulating positive debates about the future of the younger generations. On the occasion of the opening of the Biennial I met Ergin Cavusoglu and had the chance to talk about his project Lundy, Louis, Barge and Troy created for the 4th International Canakkale Biennial.
Ergin Cavusoglu was born in Bulgaria as part of the Turkish minority and studied in Istanbul and London where he lives and works. He has enjoyed solo exhibitions in different spaces and countries including BM Contemporary Art Centre, Istanbul (1996), Haunch of Venison, Zurich (2007), Kunstverein Freiburg and ShContemporary, Shanghai (2008), Ludwig Forum Fur Internationale Kunst, Aachen (2009), The Pavilion Downtown Dubai – UAE (2011), Whitechapel Gallery, London (2011), etc. He represented Turkey at the Venice Biennale in 2003 and was shortlisted for Artes Mundi 4 – the UK's biggest international contemporary art prize and Beck’s Futures prize in 2004. He was also included in many group exhibitions and International Biennials as the First Kyiv International Biennial of contemporary art (2012), the 3rd Berlin Biennial (2003) and the 8th Istanbul Biennial (2003). He is well-known for his multi-screen video installations in which he explores and posits questions about our place in a globalised society marked by mobility and meeting between different cultures. In his artworks he reflected about concepts like space, non-place, liminality and the conditions of cultural production.
Lundy, Louis, Barge and Troy (2014) is your last masterpiece commissioned and produced for the 4th International Canakkale Biennial. Could you please tell something about this new project and its link to the aim of the Biennial?
Lundy, Louis, Barge and Troy is a two-channel video and sound installation that was commissioned and produced specifically for the 4th International Çanakkale Biennial 2014. The conceptual framework is twofold: one screen presents the shipwrecks of the fleet of the Allies that were sunk in the approach to the strait of Dardanelles in Turkey during the ‘Gallipoli Campaign’ of World War One. The second video channel shows the bustle of contemporary vessels crisscrossing the blue waters above. The work’s title is composed of the names of the ships and the edit of the footage implies that the battleships perished along the same axis one following the other. The camera tracks slowly over the length of the shipwrecks thus revealing them from an unfamiliar bird’s eye perspective. Their decaying remnants are both hauntingly beautiful and menacing. We cannot escape thoughts about the circumstances of their ill fate. However the work does not attempt to illustrate or narrate these uncontrollable conditions and acts of war. Instead, through a very particular filming technique of vertically scanning the seabed and the waters above, the work endeavours to signify the importance of the act of sombre remembrance and reconciliation. This is further emphasized by the installation that presents the cinematic footage over two large vertically positioned and set apart angled screens thus acting like gates of heaven and hell, past and present.
Between the artworks included in this edition of the Biennial which works have drawn your attention?
The biennial presents a diverse range of works including multi-media installations, paintings, sculptures and photographs. Among them I was drawn to Klaus vom Bruch’s performance and video piece entitled War Capriccio (2011), Douglas Gordon’s 10 ms-1 (1994), Murat Gok’s Low Approach (2009) video piece, Radenko Milak’s series of watercolours, Tunca Subasi’s paintings and the single-channel video of Akram Zatari entitled Letter to a Refusing Pilot (2013), among many others.
With reference to your artwork and the two different video channels (one presenting the shipwrecks of the fleet of the Allies and one the bustle of contemporary vessels) it seems to me a reflection on two different ideals and approaches. We are living in an age of fast and big changes as for an example the globalisation and the multiculturalism, do you think that the art can help us to reflect about these changes and rediscover a new sense of ethics or awareness of responsibility?
Art has always fulfilled multiplicity of socio-political roles depending on the framework, the stage where the artworks are presented and moreover the inner capacity of art to tell a story or comment on the everyday in a non-linear format. The fast-paced age we live in often requires kind of pauses, interruptions and points of reflection. Art in its current modes of production and dissemination often acts as an anchor, or a catalyst for understanding and responding to issues related to globalisation, multiculturalism, morality and indeed ethics.
“Limen” is a Latin word meaning a line, a boundary establishing an inclusion/exclusion relationship, a link between what is inner and what is outer. This is a long-time theme often present in your artistic practice. Why it is so important in your practice?
The broader themes of in-betweenness and liminality often resonate throughout the range of my artworks. The concept of liminality is central to my practice on a multitude of levels and experiences and my close encounter with various forms of expression that I have acquired throughout my extensive education in fine art from classical forms of expression to more contemporary guises. The separate projects are structured in several themes, which unfold different aspects of the conceptualisations of space, place and rhythm analysis in a broader sense. They often present different registers of mobility looking at the ideas on a progressive sense of place, patterns of ‘social spaces’, and the notion of borders from a number of perspectives. The architecture of the installations further emphasise and aid the understanding of these notions in the ways they are experienced by the viewer.
Turkey is a land that borders East and West and historically a stage for the negotiation and dialogue between different cultures and people. How much has this condition had a bearing on your formation as artist?
Lundy, Louis, Barge and Troy represents another instalment of my work in the pursuit of themes of estrangement and spatial geometry seen earlier in Downward Straits (2004). The liminal zone of the strait that separates East from West at the Bosphorus is now repositioned along the vertical axis looking down and upwards, so as to imply a proactive space between existence and non-existence. This inversion of space acts simultaneously as a point of reflection and spatial displacement.
How and when did your art passion is born and developed in these years?
I was born in Bulgaria and commenced my studies in Fine Art at the age of 14 at The National School of Fine Arts ‘Iliya Petrov’, Sofia in the early 1980s. However my father is also a professional artist and a scholar and I actually began preparing for the art school even at an earlier age. This was followed by an extensive art education in its modern and contemporary guises at the University of Marmara, Goldsmiths, University of London, and the University of Portsmouth. This extensive engagement with various forms of expression and thinking processes informed my practice on a multitude of levels.
What are your future projects?
As always I work on multiple of projects simultaneously. They range from large-scale video and film installations, three-dimensional sculptural works and site-specific anamorphic drawing installations to more conventional line drawings and sometimes just utilising or appropriating found, or what I call ‘nature-made' objects. The core of my practice is the layering of ideas thus attempting to map out the thinking processes that help us to comprehend socio-political issues, as well as introspectively addressing maters related to the conditions of cultural production and scholarly understating of art today. The pattern of literary references in my narrative works unfold a series of moral parables that have a hypothetical relevance to contemporary art and comment on the creative processes at large. I am currently collaborating with the New York based scriptwriter Arnold Barkus on a feature film entitled Ephemeral Patterns. This work stems from a major initiative by the then UK Film Council and Arts Council England in 2007 when I was asked to propose an idea and then commissioned to write a full-length feature film script based on the strength of my research into the narrative-based moving image. I am also in the production stages of a large three-channel video and sound installation project that was commissioned by Extra City Kunsthal, Antwerp, in a partnership with 0090 Festival, Belgium, FLACC, Genk, SAHA Istanbul, Spacex, Exeter and Z33 House for Contemporary Art, Hasselt. The collaboration will result in a series of solo exhibitions at each venue in the 2014 – 2015 period and an accompanying publication. The project is called Desire Lines - Tarot and Chess. The concept takes its cue from Italo Calvino’s book The Castle of Crossed Destinies (1973), and obliquely reflects on elements from Vladimir Nabokov’s book The Luzhin Defence (1930). One of the components will be a scene that depicts a poetry-reading event. The poems have been commissioned specifically for the project and I already have commitments from internationally renowned poets such as Jo Shapcott, T.S. Eliot Prize winner Philip Gross, the human geaographer and poet Tim Cresswell and Susan Wicks among others.
Adaptation – Cinefication
Cornucopia Magazine (2014)
The latest exhibition from the Turkish artist Ergin Cavusoglu examines the artist’s engagement with painting in its classical and contemporary guises, and juxtaposes them with his better-known film installations. Cavusoglu thus retraces recurring preoccupations in his practice, showing his older works in a new context.
The wider concept refers directly to the ‘The Soviet project of “cinefication” that represents the most grandiose scheme of film distribution, exhibition and reception that the world has known to date’, as described by Thomas Lahusen. Cavusoglu borrows this framework to comment on the current globalised system of ‘cinefication’ of the arts.
Guleryuz and Cavusoglu show career shifts at Istanbul’s Rampa Gallery
Today's Zaman (March 12, 2014)
Cavusoglu's "Adaptation - Cinefication" in the two-room Rampa gallery across the street shows examples of his former life as a painter in one room; in the other, a darkened screening room with rows of cinema chairs, his five recent short films are being screened in a continuous loop. Using ominous, repetitive music (some of which was specifically composed for the project), the five pieces each have a similar existential loneliness that connects them. Both Rampa exhibits are on view through April 5.
Adaptation - Cinefication
TimeOut Istanbul( April 4th - 6th, 2014)
Saturday is your last chance to see Ergin Cavusoglu's show "Adaptation - Cinefication" at RAMPA, which applies the Soviet concept of "cinefication" – a complex and hyper-organized scheme of artistic production, distribution, exhibition and reception – to current trends in the arts.
In the studio: Interview with Ergin Cavusoglu discussing his work inspired by Marcel Duchamp
SEDITION BLOG (October, 2013)
Following his recent launch on Sedition, we caught up with Cavusoglu who talked us through his latest artworks, his interest in Marcel Duchamp, and his meticulous creative process.
Could you tell us a little more about the pieces you have created for Sedition?
I created specifically for Sedition three video pieces entitled One Hundred Thousand Balls, Joker Shuffle and Bubble Dart, all (2013). All three works convey ideas influenced by and comment on Marcel Duchamp’s ironic certificate called the Monte Carlo Bond or Obligation pour la Roulette de Monte Carlo, which he issued in 1924. For instance One Hundred Thousand Balls reflects on the Company Statutes document, which Duchamp used to advisedly legitimise his illicit bonds. Bubble Dart on the other hand substitutes with a dartboard the roulette wheel onto which his photograph taken by Man Ray is superimposed, thus making him a target. Moreover Joker Shuffle visually and contextually interprets his portrait with hair covered in foam and shaped into pointed horns, and so on and so forth.
Can you tell us about your creative process when approaching making new works?
My approach to art making is that it is foremost a scholarly activity and my creative process frequently involves distilling complex visual and textual information and contextual materials that all somehow have hypothetical relevance to the perceived systems of art. Interestingly the visual manifestation of an artwork is the last element I consider in the course of developing an idea. For example this particular body of works begun a while ago with a concept, which I will outline below in the very abstract and incoherent format entered in my notebook:
“Artists indexed market value of currencies. Each country will be rated according to the calibre of artists it produces and their place in the stock market. Rather elitist results predicted. Artists determined market value is the only real value as it is abstract and unsolicited…” (20 August 2012)
Another statement I wrote in my notebook on 17 June 2012 declares that:
“The most creative times are when you are not making artworks, but thinking about them. The making of art devoids of creativity.”
In an essence I first map out and test the concept, content, and context of the project over a prolonged period before I launch into making. Although I am better known for the large-scale spatial video installations, my practice is grounded in classical understanding of art, both in the making and the thinking. Therefore I will approach each concept with the medium it necessitates rather then being driven by so called signature style and medium specificity.
What inspired you to use Duchamp’s Monte Carlo Bond as a reference point for your digital editions on Sedition?
Possibly the most important aspect of Duchamp’s practice for me is the layering of contexts and the engagement with the intellectual rather then the visual. It is that extra depth and complexity in his work I find very rewarding. Moreover in the Monte Carlo Bond he questioned the actual system of art, and in the process helped establishing the current modes of art production, distribution and consumption, which is also curiously related to aspects of the digital format of dissemination employed by Sedition.
How do the works contribute to your wider practice and ideas explored in your work?
The themes explored in these pieces are very much intrinsic to broader ideas I am currently developing for a large narrative video installation piece. In that sense the films are both part of a larger body of works, but moreover of interrelated systems of creative thinking.
What interests you about distributing your work digitally?
The de-materialisation of the images in the process of digitisation allows the viewer to test the conceptual and contextual parameters of the artwork without the guidance and the tools employed by the traditional art establishments. It is certainly more democratic, but at the same time challenging. The work of art has to compete with an array of visually complex high and low production imagery available across various digital media platforms that are inextricably generative and occupy a large chunk of our everyday interactions and communications with the outside world. I quite like the idea of positioning art within these very competitive and fast-paced domains of popular culture.
What are your favorite artworks on Sedition?
I like works that are intellectually challenging and multifaceted. Works that offer not just visual, or retinal complexity and satisfaction, but also generate an intellectual thought and discourse and thus threading a connectedness to established art forms from past and present.
What are your current projects and exhibitions? What are your plans for the upcoming months?
In the last two years I have been developing a project entitled Desire Lines -Tarot and Chess, which will consist of a large-scale three channel video and sound installation, sculptures, paintings and anamorphic drawings. The work was commissioned by Extra City Kunsthal, Antwerp in partnership with 0090 Platform, and FLACC, Genk. The final piece will manifest itself next year in a series of large-scale solo exhibitions, site-specific works and process driven projects across the different venues. Desire Lines – Tarot and Chess examines the convergence of destiny and chance, and the disjunction and dissonance that takes place when juxtaposed with notions of the logical, categorical and rational, and which will be broadly positioned in the realms of the speak-able and the visible, or the literary and the pictorial.
The installation will consist of three distinct elements. The conceptual framework is based on the tarot and the game of chess, with references to their depictions in literature. The Tarot section takes its cue from Italo Calvino’s book ‘The Castle of Crossed Destinies’ (1973), whereas Chess remotely reflects on elements from Vladimir Nabokov’s book ‘The Luzhin Defence’ (1930). Calvino’s book portrays an encounter of travelers who tell their adventures (or whose adventures are told for them) using tarot cards instead of words. The interpretations of the cards in the book allude to classic tales such as Faust, Oedipus, and Shakespearian narratives such as Hamlet, Macbeth and King Lear. The third component of the installation will be a scene that depicts a poetry-reading event. This scene will act as a catalyst that will attempt to arbitrate between the Tarot and Chess elements. The poems will be commissioned specifically for the project under the theme of Desire Lines. They are broadly paths of will that represent the search for the shortest navigational route between an origin and destination. Structurally the work will attempt to entwine and present a series of moral and philosophical tales in the tangible format of theatrical performance.
Sculpture in motion for a city in motion
The National, Dubai, UAE (18 October 2011)
Despite what your eyes tell you, Ergin Cavusoglu's sculptures aren't really there. An interactive art installation by the celebrated Turkish artist is at The Pavilion, Downtown Dubai until December 4, and draws viewers into a 3D wire-frame world that appears and disappears around their feet.
Dust Breeding is a one-piece, non-commercial show that comes at a key time for the Turkish artist. He's just had a wildly successful solo exhibition at Istanbul's RAMPA space that coincided with the city's biennial last month.
Cavusoglu's artistic practice is all about playing with perspective. Walking into The Pavilion's Gallery 1 space, seemingly abstract strips of vinyl creep across the concrete floor and move up the walls. Carefully positioned lighting shimmers from above, creating a depth of glow around the red and yellow lines. But it's only when the piece is viewed from a certain angle that the intention behind this work becomes clear: from the correct perspective, the abstract lines take shape as a wire-frame model of a factory that seems to rise up from the ground.
Cavusoglu has sited a camera at this vantage point, with a monitor just next to it. As viewers walk into the space, they float into view on-screen - ensconced in a three-dimensional sculpture complete with walls, chimneys and windows.
He's staged a number of these anamorphic installations in the past, and is also comfortable using film, creating multiple-screen pieces that meld scenes together into a stack of layered narrative. But the interactive element that is key to Dust Breeding really gives it life. The October 2 opening night saw crowds floating merrily en masse through the artist's 3D construction on-screen.
The National spoke to Cavusoglu just before his show opened, after he'd spent a couple of days exploring Dubai: "When you fly in, you see the patterns of the desert, and then these oases of buildings in between. But on the ground, driving on roads that move between this architecture, I really started to think about the work again. You experience the piece by moving through it and this city is very much like that. I know architects think that the way we move through a building is formulaic but I don't know whether the city's planners designed Dubai in that way."
The show has been brought to The Pavilion by Sara Raza, a London-based curator, who also worked with Cavusoglu on his recent RAMPA show. She explains that the Turkish artist develops on ideas championed by Marcel Duchamp early in the 20th century. Duchamp pioneered the idea of the readymade, and the very act of moving an object into a gallery imbuing it with a contemplative value, regardless of its material value in society. Duchamp did it with a urinal, but here, Cavusoglu offers an "abstraction of the readymade", Raza says. "This is a 'post-object' artwork," in that it he has transported an architectural drawing of a cement factory in Turkey into an art gallery.
The factory that the work is based on sits just outside of Istanbul, on a lonely industrial highway stretching to Ankara. It is a cement factory, dubbed "Noah" by its owner, and was also used as the set for Cavusoglu's two-channel film Silent Glide, directed in 2008/2009. It is the largest cement factory in Europe. "The sheer scale of the building is overwhelming," says the artist.
Cement is, of course, a symbol very pertinent to rapid urban growth, particularly in the Gulf. "But cement is also very ephemeral," Cavusoglu notes. "It begins as a powder, with a density like sand, but through solidification becomes something real and solid." He makes a connection between this process and the idea of moving through one of his anti-sculptures to bring it to life.
The temperament of Dubai has only confirmed Cavusoglu's belief in wanting to site this piece here.
"I didn't realise how diverse the city is. I wouldn't just call it international because it's a new breed of nomads."
Cavusoglu was born in Bulgaria, travelled back and forth to Turkey throughout his life and has now settled, for the time being, in London. The transience of this anti-sculpture - coming and going depending on perspective - has direct parallels in the city that it's housed in as well as the artist's own life.
"I feel very much at home here in Dubai. It's a particular type of mentality that's drawn to these places. It's becoming more common and for me - it represents the future."
Smart, interactive and welcome to varied interpretation, Dust Breeding is a worthy insight into a conceptually tight voice in new Turkish art, and best viewed by night.
From Old Disco to New Media, Istanbul Capitalizes on Biennial
By Susanne Fowler
The New York Times (September 14, 2011)
ISTANBUL — With 4,000 art-world professionals and 700 journalists descending on Istanbul this week for the opening of “Untitled (12th Istanbul Biennial),” curators at galleries and museums around the city are capitalizing on the event by staging parallel screenings and exhibitions.
Rampa “Alterity” is the name of the solo show at this gallery in the Akaretler-Besiktas neighborhood through Nov. 5 by Ergin Cavusoglu, a Turk born in Bulgaria and living in London. The show, named exhibition of the month by Time Out Istanbul, is a disparate mix of new pieces and previous video works that examines the human tendency to search for structure and meaning in what could just be coincidences. Case in point: Scenes inside a homey Turkish restaurant where an anecdote reveals an unexpected ending.
By Rachel Spence
Parallel events: Best of the rest in Istanbul
Financial Times (23 September 2011)
Dreamy, cerebral installations, drawings and film from London-based Bulgarian Ergin Cavusoglu. The centrepiece is the five-channel film installation “Crystal & Flame”, inspired by an Italo Calvino text, but the show-stoppers are floor drawings that leap into three dimensions as spectators cross them.
10 of the best exhibitions at the Istanbul biennial
The Guardian (21 September 2011)
Another very different retelling is Ergin Cavusoglu's Alterity (at the Rampa gallery until 20 October), a rewarding meditation on the great Turkish film Yol and Robert Bresson's Au Hasard Balthazar, which both feature donkeys in central roles.
• Antrepo 3. Cavusoglu's Alterity runs at Rampa, 21a Sair Nedim Caddesi, Akaretler, Besiktas, rampaistanbul.com
Aesthetic, complex works on display at Rampa
Hurriyet Daily News (25 October 2011)
Rampa, Istanbul is hosting Ergin Cavusoglu’s solo exhibition titled ‘Alterity’ until Nov. 5. Cavusoglu’s exhibition Alterity considers the human impulse to see pattern and meaning in otherwise random events. His videos and sculptures examines and explores this interpretive urge as an inbuilt and intellectual reflex.
Ergin Cavusoglu’s current “Alterity” exhibition of his sculptures and video works at Istanbul’s Rampa in the Besiktas neighborhood, once again consists of a number of disparate elements. Unveiling a number of new pieces alongside highlights from his repertoire of video works, Cavusoglu retraces recurring preoccupations in his practice and shows older work in a new light.
As an artist, Cavusoglu explores geographies and informal architecture and reflects them in his creations with aesthetic and complex language.
The centerpiece of the “Alterity” exhibition is a five-screen installation, Crystal & Flame, expanded from its first staging in London in 2010. This work takes its cue from a quote from “Six Memos for the Next Millennium” by writer Italo Calvino, who describes the transformative properties of fire and the phenomenon of crystallization as exemplars of natural forces that echo the competing energies at work in the contemporary city.
Within the weave of the piece itself, form emerges out of flux before becoming re-cast and re-forged. Embodying this process is the filmed rehearsal of a theater play, in which the director (as surrogate for the artist) endeavors to harness the parallel efforts and instincts of the actors, balancing the creative virtues of improvisation with the demands of the script.
A further layer of meaning is bestowed by the play itself, adapted from a short story by Chekhov. In its ambiguous stance on the merits and the limits of freedom, it contrasts a Utopian desire to both seize and change the moment with a somber apprehension of the role of fate.
Two iconic video sequences bookend the rehearsal footage. In one, a precious stone is honed and polished in the sanctum of a gem-cutter’s studio. In the other, a conversation ensues in the home-from-home of a local Turkish restaurant, the evident warmth of the gathering stoked by simple food from a rudimentary grill.
The mood cools and the food loses some its appeal as one of the protagonists talks (at great length) of a film he aims to make, which addresses the tragedy of rural poverty and culminates in a scene where the daughter of a peasant family dies after the donkey she is riding wanders into a minefield.
A new piece by Cavusoglu picks up the thread, reinforcing the influence of brute reality and the asininities of destiny. Alluding to Robert Bresson’s film “Au Hasard Balthazar,” Cavusoglu’s video invokes not only its formal composition but also its iconography and its symbolism. In Bresson’s film, a humble donkey (a metonym for Christ) enacts its own journey of grief and suffering as it is passed on from owner and subjected to increasing indignities. Coincidentally, as if to prove that chance always carries a sting in its tail, the donkey’s fate exactly mirrors that of the girl that first kept him as a pet. Although Cavusoglu’s video follows closely in Balthazar’s footsteps, it cannot hope to carry the stern force of Bresson’s stark parable; indeed its subject may be how stories themselves are passed on, and made to serve new masters.
One of those chance encounters that reveal everyday surrealism, the image of the bike pinned and spread-eagled alongside the ‘Balthazar’ video, lends it a whole other significance. The video is accompanied by drawings and sculptural objects (including a rendition of the bike itself).
These collateral works extend the themes of the video elements and continue the interplay of complexity and chance within the exhibition as a whole.
Cavusoglu exhibition unravels the processes of perfection
Rumseya Kiger, Istanbul
Today's Zaman (19 September 2011)
“Baskalik/Alterity,” a selected retrospective exhibition by Turkish conceptual artist Ergin Cavusoglu, is currently on display at the Rampa art gallery in Istanbul’s Akaretler neighborhood.
Bringing together old and new works from the London-based artist, the show is filled with references to the world of literature, cinema and art history.
The centerpiece of the exhibition is Cavusoglu’s 2010 video installation “Crystal & Flame” (2010), commissioned by the Film and Video Umbrella organization in the UK. Taking its name from a passage in Italian author Italo Calvino’s “Six Memos for the Next Millenium,” the installation piece explores the process of perfection from diverse perspectives while simultaneously questioning the role of politics in art through a set of three separate videos.
One of the videos depicts the rehearsal of a play based on the short story “House with a Mezzanine” by Anton Chekov. The story, an extended reflection on the conflict between action and idleness, with an apathetic landscape painter taking the side of idleness, was adapted for the stage and performed by a professional theater team for the video, which shows a selection from the rehearsal process. The video focuses on a small portion of the play, showing the actors and director working to perfect their performances. In order to improve their acting, the performers are constantly told to cut and given new directions by the director.
The theme of the work of perfection is reflected more concretely in a video that records a diamond in the midst of the polishing process. The cutting and polishing of the small diamond echoes the performers at work, receiving criticism from their director. The meticulous process, patiently carried out by the gem-cutter, uses a flame to shape the diamond’s surface; the perfect form is reached through the convergence of crystal and flame, which are described by Calvino in his text as “two forms of perfect beauty that we cannot tear our eyes away from, two modes of growth in time, of expenditure of the matter surrounding them, two moral symbols, two absolutes, two categories for classifying facts and ideas, styles and feelings.”
The third video, shown in a separate area behind the other two, adds even more symbolic depth to the concept of perfection. In this video a chef in a Turkish restaurant works to prepare dinner for a group of diners who sit alone in his restaurant. One of the members of the group tells the bitter story of a little girl, used by her family to smuggle illegal products on a donkey over the border between Syria and Turkey. The storyteller explains that he hopes to shoot a movie of this story one day and that he makes additions to the story, polishes it, each time he tells it. The idea of development as a process is also reflected in the video itself, which is cut to emphasize close-ups on the faces of the storyteller’s audience, rather than the storyteller himself, thereby pushing the viewer to think about the intentions and effects of his art. Unlike Chekhov’s landscape painter, the storyteller emphasizes his belief that one should make an effort to leave something good behind and that art is the perfect medium for doing so.
“Alterity” also features Cavusoglu’s other series, including two large drawings on the floors of the gallery space that take on a third dimension through video cameras located above them and a threefold installation paying homage to French director Robert Bresson’s famous film “Au hazard Balthazar.” The show will run through Nov. 5. For more information, visit www.ergincavusoglu.com and www.rampaistanbul.com.
TimeOut London (October 21 - 27 2010)
Ergin Cavusoglu's three-screen installation, 'Crystal & Flame', requires some temporal outlay. The extensive opening section - documenting a filmmaker dining with friends in a Turkish café while a chef mans the grill - turns out to be just an hors d'ouevre for the film next door, featuring a group of actors extensively rehearsing a Chekhov play. (A third section featuring a gem-cutter polishing a diamond is almost ambient, an elliptical commentary on the rest.) Nevertheless, and unexpectedly, you may well stay for the duration.
Through the director's descriptions, the restaurant scene conjures up a fictionalised film drawing attention to the maiming of children by landmines on smuggling runs between Turkey and Syria: his description of its horrific ending is indelible. If this raises the issue of the moral responsibility of the artist, it's counterpointed by the art-for-art's-sake expostulations of the painter character in the Chekhov play, who argues against a Salvation Army-type woman.
Rehearsal and description put play, film, and their embodied positions in a state of potential; Cavusoglu isn't taking sides. The symbols of fire and crystallisation (from the grill to the gemstone, the dramaturgical idea to its realisation), and the verve with which the film director and the actors put their cases, figures the whole as a study in competing ethical energies. Meanwhile, formal and cultural associations reverberate within its triangulated structure. Stealthily satisfying stuff.
Crystal & Flame
AN Magazine (October 2010)
This new, multi-screen work by Ergin Cavusoglu (commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella) is prefaced by a quotation from Italo Calvino’s ‘Six Memos for the Next Millennium’:
"Crystal and flame: two forms of perfect beauty that we cannot tear our eyes away from, two modes of growth in time, of expenditure of the matter surrounding them, two moral symbols, two absolutes, two categories for classifying facts and ideas, styles and feelings… A more complex symbol, which has given me greater possibilities of expressing the tension between geometric rationality and the entanglement of human lives, is that of the city."
Calvino’s words set out the material and metaphysical landscape from which Cavusoglu’s piece emerges: two screens—one a cool depiction of the cutting and polishing of a gemstone, the other a convivial restaurant scene—bracket and are counterpoised by a third, a group of actors rehearsing a stage play. Crystal & Flame demands the viewer’s attention, for although the screens can be seen simultaneously, each of the three narratives asks to be absorbed individually. In Peer Gallery the adjacent rooms for this interplay of narratives express the inability to encompass completely their significance: the three into two (il)logic is a fitting echo of the sublime awkwardness of Calvino’s own fictive meta-texts, but at the same time it prompts the viewer to traverse the two spaces in an attempt to tease out meaning. One question might be: how can the rehearsal of a stage play, in which the propulsive thrust of the narrative is constantly interrupted and deferred by the requisite instructions of the director, be seen to elide with the ‘naturally’ unfolding conversation in a Turkish grill, and the release-from-nature paradigm of the gem-cutter’s art? In each film the concept of boundaries, borders, and liminal spaces are played out: between fact and fiction (the restaurant conversation), acting and not-acting (the stage rehearsal), nature and artifice (the stone-cutting sequence).
In the first room the film begins with the restaurant chef lighting an open flame-grill, followed by the arrival of a group of six people who proceed to occupy one of the tables. The informal (and ostensibly unscripted) conversation gravitates towards the recounting, by the chief male character, of a film script outlining the smuggling of goods across the Turkish/Syrian border. This account becomes increasingly tense as the narrator reaches its shocking denouement, the apparently empty restaurant gradually taking on the emotional ambience of a stage set. Interestingly, Cavusoglu has here uncoupled the subtitles from their diegetic source by projecting the spoken text onto a separate, angled ‘letterbox’ surface below the main screen. This adds a further element to the already tripartite arrangement, and makes explicit the artist’s deployment of language as a structural, pliable component within the work.
In the second room the remaining two works are positioned adjacent to one another, the footage of the gem-cutter in his workshop projected onto an angled screen situated on the floor. The viewer is here invited into a different kind of relationship with the subject (the stone itself—we only ever see the cutter’s hands): this meditative film is seen as if under a microscope, or in a display case, its portrayal of material transformation providing an unwavering foil to the more emotive content of the other two pieces. The final screen depicts the rehearsal of a stage adaptation of Chekhov’s ‘An Artist’s Story’ (itself the depiction of a triangular relationship), in which the eponymous lead character becomes fixated with two sisters, one of whom has strong philanthropic principles that contrast with his own unworldly self-interest. The emotional trajectory of the story is constantly interrupted by the director, whose stop-start modulations and suggestions serve as a theatrical correlative to the gem-cutter’s own work-in-progress. Here artifice is foregrounded, but serves to accentuate the emotional impact of the plot—the final scene is affectingly played out three times, a final coda to the triadic structure of the whole. At the same time, this rehearsal itself rehearses the generic form of the first film and seems to question the authenticity of the restaurant scene: the occasional camera shots of empty theatre seats mirror that scene’s vacated dining tables. Similarly, references to jewellery abound in the Turkish grill piece, returning the viewer once again to the stable central image of cut crystal.
Calvino’s notion of rationality and entanglement gives Crystal & Flame its dialectical form, but Cavusoglu’s exposition provides no easy resolution: its themes seem not to have emerged fully formed, but instead to have been genuinely and awkwardly wrought out of the narrative material from which they came. Intractable and compelling, Crystal & Flame leaves the viewer mentally navigating its conceptual spaces long after departing the actual rooms of London’s Peer gallery.
Crystal & Flame
The Global Dispatches(October 2010)
Ergin Cavusoglu's installation "Crystal & Flame" is part of the Free to Air series of exhibitions and events funded by the London Councils that will show throughout the city over a four-year period. The theme of each newly-commissioned project derives from Roosevelt’s ‘four freedoms’ – freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear.
On exhibit until October 30th at PEER, is Crystal and Flame a three channel video installation commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella under the rubric “freedom from want”. London-based artist of Turkish descent, Ergin Cavusoglu has chosen to present an installation that works on multiple thematic levels while also inscribing itself in the social fabric of the city of London.
The artist’s point of departure was a text by the Italian author Italo Calvino, “Six Memos for the Next Millennium” (1988), in which the novelist/essayist charted out a writer’s manifesto well in advance of the new millennium. His six categories or chapters are: lightness, quickness, exactitude, multiplicity, visibility, and finally consistency – a section that was never written due to the untimely death of the author. Cavusoglu embraced Calvino’s juxtaposition of two symbols – crystal and flame – polar forms of aesthetic perfection that we cannot tear our eyes away from. Through precisely filmed images and recorded sound, the artist extrapolates metaphorically on the divergence of these two symbols or absolutes, both aesthetically and morally.
As visitors to Peer enter the first room of the gallery they encounter a video screen depicting a casual dinner scene amongst guests at a Turkish grill restaurant. The verité styled document focuses on one man’s ad hoc recounting of a harrowing tale of children used to smuggle goods across the border between Syria and Turkey over terrain riddled with landmines. Meanwhile, viewers can peer into a second room where two other videos are projected simultaneously.
The smaller of the two screens in this second room is set on an angled platform and depicts in meticulous detail the handling and cutting of a raw stone into a commercially marketable diamond of exquisite beauty. The third screen shows a filmed rehearsal for a theater play based on a Chekhov short story. Freedom from want, as a theme, is grappled with directly by four actors, most blatantly in an argument about philanthropy between a landscape painter and a woman raising funds to aid victims injured by a series of forest fires. This screen is, in various ways, Crystal and Flame’s vortex where meanings and dissonances resonate. As a rehearsal for a stage play, we are witness to a work-in-progress, similar to the diamond cutter’s buffing and polishing of his cold raw stone. The fiery emotions of stage-actors, harnessed by director Robert Delamere, are meanwhile juxtaposed with the simpler restaurant scene in which dinner guests are un-self-consciously just being themselves as they listen to a true-life story.
In many ways, Cavusoglu’s work is faithful to the Calvino manifesto that inspired him. While driven by a complexity of themes, there is a lightness that Calvino would have approved of. When seeking an answer as to how multi-tasking can be acceptable within literature, Calvino turns to “brevity” as a key to allow the writer to “unite density of invention with a sense of infinite possibilities.” Those viewing the installation at PEER will be torn between three competing screens vying for their attention, each riveting in its own way. Each viewer will therefore also walk away uniquely affected. But what will undoubtedly remain consistent is the artist’s provocation to each viewer to read his work for its intended themes while remaining open to an infinite sense of wonder and possibility. The sixth and last chapter of Calvino’s manifesto was to be called “consistency”. In many ways, the multi-tasking “Crystal and Flame” forges a balance and strikes a tone within complexity, thus aesthetically performing the missing chapter of Calvino’s “Six Memos for the Next Millennium”.
Melissa Gronlund, Frieze (April 2009)
‘There is no Road…’ also effected, perhaps despite itself, a separate critique of Romanticism: one of simply eroding and effacing its charm through repetition. All paths, all paths, are superficially similar – a convention in Aranberri’s work aimed to examine. Ergin Cavusoglu’s lush painterly video Fog Walking (2007), meanwhile, best encapsulated the frustration involved in this monotony. It was made when Cavusoglu was in Biarritz during ten straight days of fog, and is set to The Firebird Suite (1910) by Igor Stravinsky, who worked in the area between 1922 and 1924. The symphony crescendos with the image of a sunrise, which is set in the first third iof the film, thus creating a peak that ultimately signifies nothing: a morning but with no change in the foggy landscape or the rhythm of the editing. The video addressed Romanticism by running it into the ground – letting it tire itself out on its own loop of rehearsal, steadily losing climatic and symbolic potential in an ever-growing build-up of constraint and claustrophobia.
David Terrien, ‘There is no Road’ Art Review (March 2009)
A haunting video shot by Ergin Cavusoglu in stormy weather on the French coast near Biarritz (Fog Walking, 2007) comes across as painterly in its slow movements and obscured views but provides on of the few aural points of reference within the hushed, darkened galleries, the work’s otherwise almost silent looped soundtrack climaxing every seven minutes or so in the horns of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite (1911).
Kunstverein Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany
Translated by Rosanne Altstatt
Michael Hübl, Frieze (October 2008)
The first thing you hear is the clatter of a train. Even before you enter the Kunstverein Freiburg’s large, darkened exhibition space housing the Bulgarian-born Turkish artist Ergin Çavusoglu’s solo exhibition ‘Place after Place’, you are confronted by a the soundtrack of Midnight Express (2008), which sounds like it’s from another era. From speakers at the entrance of the exhibition, railway carriages can be heard rumbling over a switch – an anachronistic noise in the age of high-speed train travel.
The show’s central work, on the other hand, the video installation Point of Departure (2006), thrusts the exhibition into the modern age. Composed of six synchronized projections arranged to form two rectangles with three audio channels, the work re-creates an airport environment: the tedious security controls, the interminable waiting, the fleeting contacts. Çavus¸og¹lu’s images are not taken from large international air traffic hubs, however; rather, the artist filmed at London’s suburban Stansted Airport and at the airport in Trabzon, a city on the Turkish coast of the Black Sea. Both locations are destinations for budget flights, and Çavusoglu’s work emphasizes this. One long tracking shot shows a row of aircraft all bearing the logo of budget carrier Ryanair. In the image of these grounded aircraft, Point of Departure could foreshadow a future in which rising oil prices would force budget flights to be discontinued, and such sights will seem part of a bygone era.
The contradictions, losses and latent tensions of globalization and migration are the thematic current of Çavusoglu’s work. Point of Departure calls attention to the sometimes-irrational procedures that dictate our movements in airport terminals – even though these exchanges are organized according to specific rules. Airports employ cutting-edge technology, yet the use of X-ray scanning machines is motivated largely by a relatively uncontrollable psychology: fear. Çavusoglu lets this ambivalent correlation be felt in his work. The artist films bulky bags and crammed plastic sacks tumbling out of the baggage system while a crush of older Turkish women dressed in muted-coloured robes grab for their belongings, accompanied by a threatening thumping sound, like a rapid heartbeat.
But the suspense leads nowhere. No one is exposed; there is no arrest; no bomb suddenly explodes. Instead, the artist visualizes subtler tensions: the Turkish women in their inconspicuous dress stand in stark contrast to the casual demeanour of a computer-toting man (played by the artist himself) from the mobile Western middle class who ambles through the goings-on. He makes a conspicuous counterpoint to the women’s crutches, canes and humble baggage. Two types of culture clearly meet here, but Çavusoglu does not pit one against the other. The laptop-wielding man is not presented as the hero of a new age, nor are the physically less able women deemed part of a dying breed. Instead, what becomes apparent in Çavusoglu’s work is how unconstrained they seem – as if the security apparatus and controls don’t bother them at all.
Identifying instances in which seeming anachronisms coexist in modern spaces is a recurring theme in Çavusoglu’s work. Globalization has been accompanied by an intense acceleration of existence that is inescapable. Air travel, for instance, allows people to leave their homelands to find better living conditions, but their new surroundings do not necessarily quench the need for cultural and social belonging. Çavusoglu repeatedly brings these kinds of losses back into view, but he also shows how resistant and persistent some habits and traditions are. In his video installation Silent Glide (2008), two lovers are captured in the midst of a quarrel. When the male protagonist quotes from Leo Tolstoy’s memoirs, or when his partner assumes the attitude of a spoiled young aristocrat, it seems that this scene could just as easily have taken place 100 years ago. The dispute plays out against the backdrop of the shipping channels across the Sea of Marmara, while a bleak vista of the cement factory in the Turkish city of Hereke can be viewed through the window of the room in which the couple is arguing. The dust-grey construction site offers no hint that sumptuous silk carpets have been knotted in this city for centuries. Çavus¸og¹lu successfully sustains a sense that something here is not right, something far graver than a relationship crisis. The fragile, white model ship that the artist repeatedly introduces into the frame becomes a symbol of this troubled feeling, triggering associations with the ghost ship Flying Dutchman and other tales of disaster on the high seas. Such notions could suggest something poetic, even romantic, yet Çavusoglu keeps a vision of harsh contemporary reality firmly in focus throughout. Frequently, his aesthetic precision lends Çavusoglu’s work an air of inconspicuous normality. Yet behind every image, every scene, nothing is certain, everything is in motion; nothing is more than a fragile construction.
John Hansard Gallery, Southampton, UK
‘Ergin Cavusoglu’, Frieze (September 2006)
The city of Trabzon sits on the coast of the Black Sea, 100 miles from Georgia and 200 miles from Iran, at the south-east corner of Turkey. With one foot in Europe and another in Asia, Turkey is, geo-politically, an apt location for Ergin Cavusoglu to focus on in his 2006 work Point of Departure. The six-screen video installation is shot at both Trab–zon and Stansted airport in England, gateways at opposite ends of what Cavusoglu terms ‘the European idea’. His camera follows two travellers: one a Turkish graduate student touching down in England on his way ‘further west’, and the other a British journalist on her way to the Middle East.
Airports are often seen as quintessential non-places – halls through which somnambulant travellers are ushered with as little fuss as the architects and ground staff can arrange. Having passed through passport control and baggage-check into ‘air side’, you are technically neither in a country nor out of it. Cavusoglu’s installation played on this indeterminacy, emphasized by a soundtrack in which the background noise of echoing footfalls, trolleys, squeaks and electronic beeps forms a relentless aural cloud over the work. The real subject of his work, however, is not globalized homogeneity but difference, articulating the specifics of place through details. By focusing on hair-styles, signage, tea and manners he picks out visible flotsam that reveals the cultural undercurrents passing beneath the surface.
Like the projection of an X-ray luggage scanner screen which sends translucent images of personal effects across the gallery floor, Cavusoglu’s footage deliberately evokes the cold stare of the CCTV image. The two characters in the film are actors, and their studiedly casual behaviour is that of people who know they are under surveillance, doing their best to act naturally. Cavusoglu’s method is one of emulation; in recording the airport he adopts its techniques of monitoring, recreating its atmosphere of listlessness edged with paranoia. Unlike Mark Wallinger’s transcendental airport video Threshold to the Kingdom (2000), Point of Departure is not an easy work to watch. It was impossible to see all six screens simultaneously, and the viewer had to shift around the space for the 32 minutes of its duration, enduring the fatigue of audio-visual bustle while waiting for the narrative scraps that infrequently emerge.
A similar sense of watchfulness pervades Adrift (2006), in which two adjacent pairs of projections play out footage shot in Europe (Antwerp Station is occasionally recognizable) and the USA (New York and Rhode Island). Journeys again provide an unambiguous meta-theme; yachts and aeroplanes edge slowly across the screen; cities are filmed from the windows of moving trains. Cavusoglu uses these motifs to knit together a visual essay on the transport of ideas and taste. Antwerp’s station, built by Louis Delacenserie in 1905, is famously pompous, borrowing Renaissance, Moorish, and Byzantine styles in its magpie pursuit of grandeur. New York’s Carnegie Hall and the New England mansions that Cavusoglu films, built by 19th-century industrialist settlers, are no less indebted to European ideas of refinement and prestige in their form and purpose. A simple, repetitive soundtrack (a few notes borrowed from Bach) and melancholy shots of people waiting or wandering aimlessly evoke the swells and currents of the ocean that divides the two continents.
The porosity of borders is also alluded to in Dissonant Rhythms (2004), a two-screen projection consisting of a series of static shots; a World War I military base outside Antwerp and a series of World War II bunkers nearby. Despite the 30-odd years that divide their construction, it is difficult to
tell them apart. Their concrete surfaces suffer similar scarring, and as the undergrowth begins to absorb them into the forest the details of their histories retreat. While few people today would remember such structures being used, their lumpen presence in forgotten corners across Europe still sits darkly in the continent’s collective consciousness. Cavusoglu describes, like boats on the ocean, the ways we are subject to currents of history beyond our control.
‘Ergin Cavusoglu: Point of Departure’
Stephen Riley, AN Magazine (July 2006)
It is a cliché of current times that ‘we are all members of diaspora now’. Whether that stands close scrutiny is debatable. However, as the skies are criss-crossed with aircraft carrying business people, pleasure seekers and refugees, it is clear that something has changed, even from half a generation ago. In the Global Village we are all permanently on the move, and we are all familiar with the stress and tedium of airports.
The eponymous ‘Point of Departure’ comprises five projections on translucent screens, with a sixth projected onto the floor. The screens, wich feature scenes from two airports, create an architectural space through which the viewer can pass. Characters meet at Stansted and Trabzon in Turkey: airports at the Atlantic and Asian fringes of Europe. There is a hint of narrative, but nothing conclusive. The familiar experience of X-ray baggage checks, metal detectors and PA announcements is played out. The sleek steel and glass architecture of Stansted is visibly different from the cream and grey municipal style of Trabzon, but the experience is essentially the same.
Adrift is the second major piece in the show. Four screens change continually: city streets, grand buildings, people walking, tube trains departing; in the background the city’s noise is coupled with portentous-sounding music. Kids swing on a scaffold. The moon appears in the night sky and then vanishes. Tourists in a museum study an architect’s model. A jet flies (now ominously) over the New York skyline. A yacht floats serenely by in a seascape.
Equivalence to the real experience of contemporary spaces is created. One becomes aware of the partial understanding one has of a complex space, in which information is gathered and filtered because there is too much to take in. This also draws attention to our relationships with art and screens: an expectation of conventional narrative is created, but the sequences refuse to offer this. The egalitarian qualities of the screens override the natural mental filters through which we attend to some things and eliminate others, and each of the scenes with its potential for meaning or meaningless demands equal attention.
Ergin Cavusoglu - Sunderland
The Guide, The Guardian (18 February 2006)
Born in Bulgaria as part of a Turkish minority, the internationally-renowned video artist Ergin Cavusoglu has made geographical and cultural estrangement the central business of his work. He charts no-man's zones, interstates, border lines, airport customs desks. Such places are imbued with a fearful thrill and frissons of dread. Downward Straights is a haunting sequence of observations of nocturnal ships passing through the Bosphorus. Tahtakale documents the incongruous business of a currency market in a huge baroque building. Central to this exhibition is a specially commissioned six-screen installation contrasting the goings-on at London's Stansted Airport and Trabzon Airport in Turkey. These in-between landscapes are familiar to most, yet largely ignored by art.
Neil Mulholland ‘British Art Show 6’
Flash Art(January – February 2006)
The latter begins auspiciously with two multi-screen video installations: Ergin Cavusoglu’s Tahtakale (2004), which invocates the atmosphere of a currency trading black market in Istanbul, …
Stuart Coomer, ‘London’
Artforum (December 2005)
Almost half of the participants in this year’s show, which was curated by Alex Farquharson and Andrea Schlieker, were born outside the UK, and most now live and work in London, including Ergin Cavusoglu, a Turkish video artist whose statement in the show’s catalogue seems a relevant corollary to the city’s emotional tenor in 2005. Cavusoglu suggests how being under surveillance makes one more acutely conscious of one’s location and movement in space: “When I came to live in Turkey and then in London, under totally different conditions, I had to define a new territory, and define myself within that territory.”
David Briers, ‘Something of the Night’
Art Monthly (December – January 05-06)
In Ergin Cavusoglu’s four-screen video installation (seen at the 2004 Beck’s Futures show) silhouetted ships slide silently through the Bosphorus against a continually absorbing backdrop of the distant street lights and traffic movement of Istanbul. But both videos have an unsettling underside.
Frieze (January – February 2006)
Shown next door to Martin’s film, contemporary reflections on everyday life in video works such as Rosalind Nashashibi’s Hreash House (2004), which represents the comings and going of life in Nazareth, and Ergin Cavusoglu’s Tahtkale (2004), which shows black market currency traders in an Istanbul bazaar, are thoughtful and provocative, yet one can’t help wondering how interesting some of the video work – with its occasional lazy lapse into a kind of faux documentary approach – really is.
Adrian Searle ‘State of the art '
The Guardian (27 September 2005)
Ergin Cavusoglu went to film the black-market money dealers in Istanbul.
As much as these works reflect the fact that film and video have now become dominant ways of working, they are all in a sense elegiac encounters with places, people, cultures. Conversations in Nashashibi's film are untranslated, and the camera hovers over dinners, siestas and calls to prayer. The haggling in Istanbul market is full of threat and ambiguity: "I buy all sorts ... Exact, I've got exact euros ... there's definitely going to be a crisis, definitely a crisis!" Over the voices Cavusoglu has superimposed a solemn Byzantine ecclesiastical chant. You feel the complexity of the world.
Arifa Akbar, ‘As Hirst hits 40, meet new faces of UK art scene’, The Independent (06 June 2005)
The new faces of the contemporary British art scene are revealed today - and they hail from countries as far afield as Guyana, Bulgaria and Canada. The international range of artists selected for the prestigious British Art Show reflects how London's art scene is fast usurping New York and European cities as the place to be.
Rising stars of contemporary art.
Born in Bulgaria in 1968, he graduated from the University of Marmara, Istanbul, in 1994, and from Goldsmiths College, London, a year later. He now lives and works in London and he has had solo shows both in Britain and Turkey. He was short-listed for the Beck's Futures Prize last year for a video installation that included close shots of oil tankers crossing the Bosphorus Strait in the dead of night.
Steven Bode, ‘Not Fade Away…’
Contemporary (Issue 71 2005)
In the week of writing this piece, London seemed especially illuminated with new video shows: Catherine Yass’s riveting and unremitting documentary study of Israel’s new ‘security’ barrier at the Alison Jacques gallery; Dryden Goodwin’s haunting landscape vignettes at Stephen Friedman; Ergin Cavusoglu’s equally lyrical multi-projection installations at Haunch of Venison; Joan Jonas’s still-vibrant genus of video, dance and performance at Wilkinson and (love her or hate her) Sam Taylor-Wood crying a river at White Cube.
The Daily Telegraph (18 December 2004)
The most memorable viewing experience was Downward Straits, a video installation by Ergin Cavusoglu, shown during the Beck’s Features exhibition at the ICA. It involved close shots of oil tankers crossing the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul in the dead of the night. The sound involved wireless messages in between control towers. The piece documented a somewhat sinister activity with intense poetry and beauty. It evoked a multitude of emotions, more than you would get from a multi-million dollar film.
The Guide, The Guardian (23-29 October 2004)
The rich and mesmerising visual style of Cavusoglu's video installations, such as Downward Straits, shown at this year's Becks' Futures, have attracted a lot of attention recently, probably because his work has an intensity that sets it apart from the dominant documentary style of video or photo-based art. Tahtakale is a four-screen installation that portrays a group of market traders going about their business in Istanbul's Grand Bazaar while, on another screen, labourers queue to receive goods. Poised In The Infinite Ocean was shot around the Bay of Biscay and shows a lighthouse and seaside chateau being buffeted by a storm. The videos are infused with mourning, as if the intimate human presence is an ephemeral thing within a larger structure, whether nature or capitalism, and Cavusoglu seems motivated by a desire to capture moments and places as they become obliterated by these implacable forces.
‘Nahum Tevet & Ergin Cavusoglu’ Independent, Going Out (11-17 September 2004)
In the opening scenes of Robert Altman’s film Short Cuts, helicopters sweep low over Los Angeles, they are only spraying insecticide, but it feels like an invasion. Ergin Cavusoglu’s new multi-screen installation, Entanglement, also sees helicopters as a kind of threat from above.
The Bulgarian-born Cavusoglu is drawn to film in marginalised and fraught locations. Once there, he records the helicopters flying overhead at night: you can hear them roaming about, but they’re hard to see.
Reviewed by Catriona Black, ‘Outer Limits’
Sunday Herald (19 September 2004)
Two works of art are currently holding the monopoly on DCA’s sizeable gallery space. One of them sends you running for cover, and the other lures you into forbidden territory. One surrounds you, while the other won’t let you in. One is video, the other a mass of plywood. They are worlds apart, but what connects them is the subtle sense that each is deeply rooted in the history of painting.
Ergin Cavusoglu, a Bulgarian-Turkish artist based in London, was once a mural painter, with classical concerns about the relationship between painting and architectural space. He has wrapped six video screens around the walls of a room at DCA, creating a moving mural which transforms the space into an infinite expanse of night sky. Baroque painters employed the same tricks 400 years ago, but where their skies were billowing with elegant angels, Cavusoglu’s are occupied with whirring helicopters. Both are symbols of a greater, all-seeing power from which you can’t escape.
You know they’re helicopters before you even see them, thanks to the malevolent soundtrack creeping around the darkened corners of the entrance corridor. The layered audio of purring blades can’t fail to put you on your guard as you edge your way in. Ever seen a mouse in the middle of a room? At the merest suggestion of danger, it’ll head for cover. The same instinct will grip you in Cavusoglu’s installation.
You may have seen some of this artist’s work earlier in the year, as part of the Beck’s Futures exhibition at CCA in Glasgow. If so, you’ll know his concern is with surveillance, and the ambiguities of public and private space. Growing up in communist Bulgaria, Cavusoglu has had first-hand experience of life with Big Brother, but it’s far too easy to blame the reds and leave it at that. The fact is that he didn’t have to go as far as Bulgaria to find surveillance helicopters to film. There were plenty available in east London. The searchlights rake the night sky, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be irrationally scared of being picked out. If you can manage to stand your ground long enough, it becomes clear that minus their sound, these helicopters are almost entirely abstract. Their structures are visible only in a few quick frames, and otherwise all you see is lights, dancing yellow, red and blue against a pure black backdrop. There are no reference points in the ground or the sky. There are no human faces appearing in any cockpit. Entanglement is a moving abstract painting which absolutely dominates the space you’re in.
It takes a bit of adjustment time (comprising possible wobbling and guaranteed gormless blinking) to go straight from the oppressive, buzzing darkness of Entanglement into the bright, sunlit space of Nahum Tevet’s Seven Walks. The large gallery comfortably houses a sprawling mini-metropolis of painted plywood structures, all vaguely redolent of broken household furniture.
Like Cavusoglu, the Israeli artist showed at last year’s Venice Biennale. Judging by the current crop of shows in Scotland, there must be one year’s turnaround time between spotting an international talent and installing them in your gallery.
Moira Jeffrey, ‘It’s all in the mind’
The Herald (3 September 2004)
So don't be put off if the names Ergin Cavusoglu and Nahum Tevet don't mean much to you. Cavusoglu, is the London-based Bulgarian artist whose luminous film of the Bosphorus at night was a highlight of the recent Beck's Futures exhibition. Tevet is a prominent Israeli artist and teacher, whose work has been seen in Lyon, Pittsburgh and Venice, but never in the UK.
Their concurrent shows in Dundee are both elegant and complex, containing more social implications than their apparently formal appearances apparently might allow.
Neither show is sensational, each has a kind of quiet authority: Cavusoglu as a youngish artist reaching his stride, Tevet as a mature 58-year-old at the culmination of a recent body of work that has occupied him for seven years.
Cavusoglu's work, Entanglement, is a six-screen video installation that covers three walls in a darkened room. Stepping into it you are surrounded by a mysterious son et lumiére: lights dance around you, there is a low thrum. It is only gradually that you realise that this rather beautiful entertainment, like an abstract painting come to three- dimensional life, is actually the sight and sound of police helicopters in night-time pursuit.
You are thrown back into movie clichés; the bombast of Apocalypse Now with its soundtrack of the ride of the Valkyries, the moment in 1984 when a moment of intimacy between Winston and his lover is rudely shattered by a terrifying helicopter at the window, the glamour of Al Pacino in Heat. You think of helicopter gunships in modern warfare and their role in peacetime supervision and policing. The footage is real, shot in the east end of London.
It is beautiful sinister and somehow stirring.
Martin Coomer 'Lager tops'
Time Out London (7-14 April 2004)
Beck's Futures begins with a nocturnal chug down the Bosphorus and ends - or at least my visit ended - with an interminable wait, in Seattle, for a train. To watch Ergin Cavusoglu's video, 'Downward Straits', you walk between screens. On either side of you shadowy vessels glide past, obscuring the twinkling lights of the shoreline. One view is of the east bank from the west, the other focuses on the west from the east. We're in the no man's-land that divides the European and Asian parts of Istanbul - 'a passageway for ships carrying cargoes, smuggled goods and human trafficking', the handout reminds us.
Brought up in Bulgaria as part of the Turkish minority and now based in London, Cavusoglu obviously brings to this work highly personal understanding of migration.
However, in his quietly impressive, understated installation, one thinks less of the specifics of time and place on screen than of journeys in general; what might be darkly sinister, or politically motivated, is also beautifully hypnotic.
Adrian Searle 'Full steam ahead '
The Guardian (30 March 2004)
Like Cross's work, Ergin Cavusoglu's four-screen video installation is meant to make us think about cargo, traffic, distances. It is night, and silhouetted ships cross the screens, against the city lights, making their way through the Bosphorus at Istanbul, Europe's crossing into Asia. The backwash slops rhythmically against the shore, and a pilot's radio conversations murmur quietly. The spotlit mosques, the anonymous passage of the shipping, the winking lights of the hillsides are all mesmerising. We are caught between the screens, as though in our own straits. We think about the man on one bank, looking towards the other with his camera. He can record only what is visible - and yet he is also recording something else. Now living in London, Cavusoglu is an ethnic Turk, born and brought up in Bulgaria. Downward Straits, then, can be seen as a journey through his own life, his own crossings, his own place between places. It is an extremely beautiful work.
There are dozens of artists working like Cross and Cavusoglu now, their cameras aimed at the everyday, a place, an event. This work is less documentary than poetic description, a restaging of the world, homing in on details, places and moments. It matters what is filmed, the ways things are edited and projected, the viewpoint itself. This is why these two artists stand out. In the wrong hands, such a method of enquiry can be anecdotal and dull.
Sophia Phoca, 'Britannia Works'
Contemporary (Issue 65 2004)
Ergin Cavusoglu's video Street Dance (2003) illicitly documents life outside his window, where semi-closed blinds reveal a group of boys dancing around a car. The voyeuristic camera provokes a sense of anxiety as it uncomfortably draws the viewers' attention to the similar scene being played out downstairs.
The Sunday Times, Culture (28 March 2004)
... Ergin Cavusoglu continues to mix art with surveillance, creating a mini video Bosphorus for us, through which all manner of suspicious ships appear to be sneaking at night. Is this really a secretive and magical show? Or am I imagining it?
Rod Liddle, 'Tosh and Beck's'
The Times (27 March 2004)
On the numerous video installations, you should not miss Ergin Cavusoglu's Downward Straits, a gentle and mesmerising nighttime video loop of ships sailing silently down the Bosphorus, or the equally conventional (and, uh, accessible) Delicate Balance by his Turkish compatriot HalukAkakce.
'Space is the artistic frontier', The Herald (26 March 2004)
Ergin Cavusoglu's Downward Straits is a haunting night view of the Bosphorus. Standing between four screens, you watch transport ships glide in dark silhouette up the river.You are standing on the border between east and west, lights glow, worlds collide and all around you people and goods shift silently.
Tim Dowling 'Art show that's far from uniform'
The Guardian (24 March 2004)
While some of the work may not be ingratiating, there is a calm, non-confrontational feel to the show: from Philipsz's piped-in, one finger piano rendition of the theme from Don't Look Now to Bulgarian-born Ergin Cavosoglu's walk-through, four-screen video of the Bosphorus Strait filmed surreptitiously at night. It represents a definite move away from dead sharks and unmade beds.
Michael Corris, '3. Berlin Biennale'
Art Monthly (April 2004)
Ergin Cavusoglu, a Bulgarian artist living and working in London, created a disorienting, menacing video installation of a night-time scrambling of helicopters, hovering in the sky while sweeping the ground below with searchlights.
Thomas W. Eller
‘Berlin in Winter’ Artnet (20 February 2004)
Thankfully, some works went beyond the level of commentary and created a presence in their own right. Ergin Cavusoglu's video of helicopters at night opens the viewer's imagination. Whatever allusions it contains and whatever explanation might be given to justify the existence of this projection, it quietly sinks in, to become one of show's lasting visual impressions
Sara Arrhenius, ‘8th International Istanbul Biennial’
Artforum (January 2004), p.151
In Ergin Cavusoglu’s video installation Entanglement, 2003, helicopter searchlights in the night sky produce a beautiful play of light and color against a sound track of airplanes and sirens.
Eleanor Heartney, ‘Mending the Breach’
Art in America (December 2003), p.78
Bulgarian-born, London-based artist Ergin Cavusoglu traded on a similar unease in a video installation titled Entanglement (2003) that plunged the viewer into a dark room lit by helicopter searchlights and pierced with the sounds of planes and sirens.
Time Out London No. 1736 (November 26-December 3 2003)
Ergin Cavusoglu’s videos of night-time cities have an abstract poetry unrelated to their voyeuristic subject matter; …
Robert C. Morgan, ‘Whose Justice? Reflections on the Istanbul Biennial 2003’
NY Arts Magazine (October 2003)
One of the most striking multiple-screen video installations was by the Turkish artist, Ergin Cavusoglu, entitled Entanglement (2003). In the dark spaces of the continuous screen, one hears the roar of engines and the bobbing lights, presumably of jets in the process of landing. The aura is mysterious, but riveting. If other forms of "political art" were capable of finding this balance – where poetry is felt as real, instead of academically imposed – the direction of Biennials would become something more and, at the same time, something less. In this sense, quality –whether in art or politics -- is never really out of date.