In the Memory of Joseph Beuys: An Exhibition from the 1980s and Its Impact on the Izmir Contemporary Art SceneRabia Özgül Kılınçarslan
In the 1980s, one of the most important debates in the arts and culture scene in Turkey is the commercialization of art. One of the results of the commercialization of art is the transformation of the work of art into a decorative object. As a solution to this problem, instead of a work of art produced by traditional mediums, an artistic practice outside the demands of the art market has been proposed. The question of how and with which mediums to create this artistic practice has brought out alternative artistic tendencies. Held in 1986 at the Izmir German Cultural Center, Another Art Collective Exhibition in the Memory of Joseph Beuys exhibition is an important example to understand these discussions. Joseph Beuys, one of the important artists who determined the language of contemporary art with his artistic practice, blurred the border between art and life and expanded the field of art disciplines with the concept of social sculpture. The fact that it is the first group exhibition in the Izmir culture and arts environment where alternative art practices are exhibited determines the place of the exhibition in the art history chronology. The aim of this study is to convey the previously unwritten content of the exhibition, which shows an extremely important historical shift in visual art practices, and to reveal its art-historical importance.
Joseph Beuys’un Anısına: 1980’lerden Bir Sergi ve İzmir Çağdaş Sanat Ortamına EtkisiRabia Özgül Kılınçarslan
1980’li yıllarda Türkiye kültür ve sanat sahnesindeki önemli tartışmalardan biri, sanatın ticarileşmesidir. Sanatın ticarileşmesinin sonuçlarından biri de sanat eserinin dekoratif bir objeye dönüşmesidir. Bu soruna çözüm olarak geleneksel araçlarla üretilen bir sanat eseri yerine, sanat piyasasının taleplerinin dışında kalan bir sanatsal pratik önerilmiştir. Bu sanatsal pratiğin nasıl ve hangi araçlarla oluşturulacağı sorusu, sanatçıların alternatif sanatsal arayışlarını ortaya çıkarmıştır. 1986 yılında İzmir Alman Kültür Merkezinde gerçekleştirilen Joseph Beuys’un Anısına Bir Başka Sanat Toplu Sergi Gösteri sergisi, bu tartışmaları anlamak açısından önemli bir örnektir. Artistik pratiğiyle çağdaş sanatın dilini belirleyen önemli sanatçılardan biri olan Joseph Beuys, sanat ile hayat arasındaki sınırı bulanıklaştırmış, sanat disiplinlerinin alanını sosyal heykel kavramıyla genişletmiştir. İzmir kültür sanat ortamında, alternatif sanat pratiklerinin sergilendiği ilk grup sergisi olması, serginin sanat tarihi kronolojisi içindeki yerini belirlemektedir. Sergide yer alan sanatçıların bazıları, 1980’li yıllarda Türkiye’de sergilenen alternatif sanat çalışmalarını ve kavramsal sanat eserlerini üreten ve kavramsal sanatın dilini belirleyen sanatçılardır. Bu çalışmanın amacı, görsel sanatların üretim şartlarında yaşanan son derece önemli bir tarihsel kaymayı gösteren Joseph Beuys’un Anısına Bir Başka Sanat Toplu Sergi Gösteri sergisinin daha önce ele alınmamış içeriğini aktarmak ve sanat tarihî bakımından önemini ortaya koymaktır.
In Memory of Joseph Beuys An Another Art Joint Exhibition Show event, one of the important examples to understand and rethink the 1980s, when alternative approaches started in the art of Turkey, took place between March 10th and 23rd, 1986 in Izmir German Cultural Center. The emergence of the exhibition, the manifesto of the exhibition, and the motivation of the artists to participate are the opposite of the commercialization criticism of contemporary art today. This study which discusses the exhibition, a first for the emergence dynamics of contemporary art in Turkey in the 1980s and the culture and art scene in Izmir, has been carried out by using primary and secondary sources. In this study, the materials, showing the discourse of the exhibition, documents, showing the exhibition setup, and the works of the artists were examined. An interview was made with the artist Vahap Avsar, who took part in the exhibition setup and the exhibition. These collected data were evaluated within the art discussions of the 1980s.
Turkish contemporary art history researches usually focus on the singular narrative mainly, for reasons of the lack of Turkey’s chronological study of contemporary art, archives, and documents, and the inability to establish a link between the cases that are disconnected with each other and with actors. In addition to these studies, the works that are made by focusing on thematic exhibitions also serve as a source for the historical narrative. In this respect, group exhibition, which is a collective event where artists come together around a certain discourse, is important in terms of understanding and positioning the artistic debates of that period. It is the first group exhibition in the Izmir culture and art scene where alternative and new artistic trends take place. It partially has basic features such as discourse partnership, material and technical partnership, and form commonality, which we can see in one or more of the group exhibitions. The fact that group exhibitions have a common artistic approach and discourse, which are presented as a manifesto and have an avant-garde proposition, enables us to easily mark these exhibitions in a chronological study of art history. Discourse partnership, that is, the partnership in aesthetic and ethical values can be examined through the explanation of “common minimum” in the exhibition manifesto.
At the exhibition, alongside the works with artistic expression fields such as collage, photography, painting, and printing that have already proved their majority; we see that some of the works in these fields are exhibited together when conceptual art and installation art did not yet become one of the important expression areas of contemporary art in the 1980s. Although we do not find it difficult to accept such an exhibition as a contemporary art exhibition today, the coexistence of these approaches for the 1980s can be described as both a bit contradictory and avant-garde. In the 1980s, they criticized the negativities such as the artistic desensitization, created by similar works on the taste in artistic activities, the transformation of the artwork into a decorative object, and/or a commercial commodity. They underlined that artwork is an artistic and cultural communication tool.
In the field of fine arts, it is inevitable to talk about the impact of the Istanbul State Academy of Fine Arts in Turkey. It is possible to observe that the effects of periodic differences and lifestyles on which this effect began to lose its power in the 1980s directly reflected on the art environment. The decrease of state support for culture and art and the oppressive attitude of the political environment to opposing discourses affected the discussions in the culture and arts environment. In these years, when the number of private galleries increased, banks started to open branch galleries in other provinces besides Istanbul and Ankara. Bank collections have had an important effect on the formation of the art market. Private galleries, which opened one after another in the 1980s, also affected the art market. Galleries have played a very important role in increasing the number of collectors, sales of their works, and promoting the artists.
After 1980, the changes in Turkey’s cultural and artistic environment’s reflection have been seen in Izmir. In the Izmir culture and art environment, there are a limited number of private galleries such as Vakko Gallery, private bank galleries (Isbank, Yapı Kredi, Esbank, Ziraat Bank, etc.), as well as the galleries of the cultural centers of local administrations and universities in the 1980s. However, in this period, artworks for plastic arts, painting, and sculpture are seen in exhibitions in Izmir. Some artists-academics who studied abroad and met alternative trends in art, such as Erdag Aksel, Cengiz Cekil, and Ann Aksel (Dorsey), who also took part in the “In Memory of Joseph Beuys” exhibition, were influential in the development of contemporary art in Izmir in the 1980s. It is the first group exhibition where conceptual art examples and alternative art practices are exhibited in the Izmir culture and art environment. A significant number of artists (Necati Abacı, Halil Akdeniz, Ann B. Aksel, Erdağ Aksel, Turgut Aldemir, Hüseyin B. Alptekin, Vahap Avşar, Zafer Aytekin, Canan Beykal, Michael Bishop, Lynn Criswell, Cengiz Çekil, Osman Dinç, Ahmet Elhan, Ayşe Erkmen, Adem Genç, Serhat Kiraz, Ahmet Koman, Füsun Onur, Ahmet Öktem, Mümtaz Sağlam, Fevzi Saydam, Sarkis, Yusuf Taktak) in the exhibition are the founding actors of the contemporary art scene of Turkey. Another importance of the ‘’In Memory of Joseph Beuys Exhibition’’ is that it is the first exhibition of Huseyin Bahri Alptekin, an important artist in Turkish contemporary art. It is important that the Collective Exhibition I and Collective Exhibition II, held at the Turkish American Cultural Association, is a continuation of this exhibition and that some of the artists, participating in this exhibition, continue their joint search for new trends with these exhibitions.