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Fikret Atay
Floating Imagery 

20th- 30th November

Curated by Sabine Küper-Büsch​

In collaboration with the Mahalla Festival 2018

Courtesy of the artist, Pilot Gallery in Istanbul, Turkey & Galerie Chantal Crousel in Paris, France.

The miracle of the moment in the aesthetics of Fikret Atay

The video starts with close-ups of Faces. Several people are looking far away towards a horizon. Then wind is playing with the long hairs of some of the Females. Orange life wests appear. The set up seems familiar. Suddenly the Camera moves upwards picturing out of a Bird view perspective. The boat appears. The focus lingered on faces during the entire Video. At the end of the film, the camera will pan out to reveal that the boat is actually not on the water and doesn’t move. 

The Flood is the title of the latest Work by Fikret Atay. The Videographer is part of a minority of international successful artists of Kurdish descent, who chose to stay and produce in the Southeast of Turkey, far away from the centers of the Art scene, for many years. Finally, Atay left his hometown Batman in 2017 to settle to Örebro in Sweden, 200 Kilometers West of Stockholm. The Video was produced in Gotland, an island in the Baltic Sea and the new residence of many refugees in Sweden. The artist delivers a statement together with his work:

“Globalization seems to melt the borders between countries while creating new boundaries. Reducing the distance between people from different cultures could enable people to recognize each other, instead of triggering proxy wars as we witness them right now. The most common way of escape has always been the sea. Usually it is more difficult to build fences on water then on land. The sea has become an arbitrary symbol for a new start to the desperate though. I wanted to discuss with immigrants, who leave their war-torn countries in search of safety and peace somewhere else. They cross borders, they try to reach Europe on overloaded boats and many people die on the way. The sea, instead of opening the gates of heaven, turns out to be hell. Like it happened to Noah’s ship, the sea retreats and the ship remains on the mountains”. (The Flood, Fikret Atay)


Fikret Atay highlights very often the tensions that rises from the gaps between the powerful and the non-powerful. His works deal on the surface with political and economic causes of dissent, while actually pointing on hidden metaphysical voids. His works in Turkey narrate the permanent opposition between the West and the East, civilians and military, tradition and progress apparently naive but with profound questions coming along with them.

The work, “The Country for Old Man” is composed like a poetic fragment freezing the miracle of a moment of truth in an absurd pose full of contradictions. By the virtue of its radical simplicity, Atay’s language plays an anti-rethorical and demystifying role: it creates a metaphorical frame around the hard dogma of a region patterned by archaic patriarchal structures and the language of weapons. Commenting the work Atay quotes his grandfather: “My grandfather said: I have no birth report. I was not in the army. My father did not allow me because my two brothers never came back from military. That is why I have no any identity. According to the system I did not exist. I am not alive. My children are not registered with me. My longest trip was from my village to Batman. But I am quite happy. Because I am here. I know all these hills and valleys inside out. I shepherded. I used to go a hunting and hunt partridge. The system does not see me, but you do. Nice to meet you!”.

The Video “Theorists” was produced in a religious school, where boys have to learn the writings of the Koran by heart. Most of them don’t know Arabic. To be able to master this impossible memory performance, they are practicing also after the lessons. The pupils chant out loud while circling the room. Since nobody pays attention to the rhythm of the others when reciting, a discordant babble is the result.

Atay's work underlines the contradictions that are associated with such teaching practices and sharpens the consciousness for the problematics of a strict religious upbringing. The effect that physical activity, such as walking and talking, has on the processes of incorporating a certain sermon, is transportable to other discourses as well. The issues operated here claim a validity that allows them to be carried over to other cultures and situations. The whole frame transmits these certain miracles of moments and poses in the works of the artist forming powerful statements.  



November 2018

Fikret Atay was born in Batman in 1976. He graduated in fine arts from Dicle University in Diyarbakır. In 2010 he was nominated for the bi-annual Future Generation Art Prize, presented by the Victor Pinchuk Foundation. He had solo exhibitions at PILOT Gallery (Istanbul, 2014), Viafarini Docva (Milano, 2010), Bonner Kunstverein (Germany, 2008), Site Gallery (U.K., 2007), UCLA Hammer Museum (Los Angeles, 2006), FRAC Ile-de-France-Le Plateau (Paris, 2006), Maison de l’Architecture (Paris, 2005) and Museo de Arte Contemporáneo di León (Spain, 2005). He has participated in numerous group exhibitions, both nationally and internationally, at prestigious art museums and institutions including Istanbul Modern, New Museum, Tate Modern. 

Recent group exhibitions include “Lines Made by Walking”, Haifa Museum of Art, Israel (2011), “Future Generation Art Prize@Venice”, Palazzo Papadopoli, Venice (2011) and “Starter, Works from the Vehbi Koç Contemporary Art Collection”, ARTER Space for Art, Istanbul (2010). 

His work was also included in the 10th Lyon Biennial (2009), the Alexandria Biennial (2009), the 10th and 8th Istanbul Biennials (2007, 2003) and the Biennale of Sydney (2006).

Fikret Atay lives and works in Örebro, Sweden.

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