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İbrahim KOÇ

I Have No Idea

DATE 13th Oct.-30th Nov. 2015

Ibrahim Koc

"I Have No Idea"


Space as Ready Made

For over a century, space plays an increasingly important role in the production, presentation and reception of art. Before the 20th century, it existed mainly as illustrated or represented topic. The real space, in which the piece was to be exhibited, was of secondary importance. Art’s architectural and socio-political contexts were neither much considered by the artists nor by the people who presented the work or the ones that observed it. Since dadaist, surrealist or constructivist circles started to revolutionize the formal and conceptional relations between artist, artwork, space and visitor, the neglection of the in-situ of an artwork came to an end. The Merzbau of Kurt Schwitters (1922) intertwined the piece with the space of its production and exhibition. El Lissitzky, who developed his concept of Proun for changing from painting to architecture (see e.g. Proun Room, 1923), claimed also that modern art needs a modern exhibition space, and therefore created spatial exhibition designs accord to a modern notion of aesthetic. In Marcel Duchamp’s installations at the shows of the Surrealists in New York in 1938 and 1942, space finally became a fundamental part of the artwork. In the second half of the 20th century, Yves Klein established in The Specialization of Sensibility in the Raw Material State into Stabilized Pictorial Sensibility, The Void (1958) space as artwork itself, and Arman formulized in Full Up (1960) an early form of institutional critique based on the use of the gallery space. Later, this path was followed by Claes Oldenburg, Daniel Buren and others. Following the spatial inventions of Arte Povera, Minimal Sculpture, Environment Art and Land Art, Installation Art finally maintained the interconnection between an artwork and its space. Today, contemporary art is based on these spatial revolutions, so that currently artists, art managers and art lovers have to review artworks in the triangle of piece, context and space.

Ibrahim Koç’s current installation project “I Have No Idea” follows the above mentioned discussions, as it exposes space as fundamental matter of the whole work. Here, work refers to a synthesis of being an artistic project, an installation and an exhibition. It is all at ones. The project’s space is more than a location of production or display but the main object of interest itself. It does not function as frame or platform, but becomes the formal and conceptual reason for the total project. 

The location of “I have no Idea” is Koc’s studio, in which he has worked for eight years. Due to his moving from Istanbul to Sydney, around two years ago, the workshop has not been used for a while, and is therefore in a state of sleep. Neglected and abandoned, it openly shows the traces of its past to the visitor. The space seems old and tired while trying to tell its own story. Rudiments of Koç’s work, finished and half finished sculptures, instruments, materials and objects give a glimpse into the bygone time, when this space was filled with life and art. Now, that time stands still, it resembles a spatial cadaver. The space simultaneously refers to its history as artist studio and historical Greek (Rum) flat. The apartment belonged to a Greek-family, and therefore refers automatically to a certain part of Istanbul’s cultural, political and urban history. There is no neutral space in this city. Everything is covered with the memories of thousands of different generations. The uncountable stones of the metropolis’ buildings whisper their stories when you listen carefully. In “I have no Idea” though, the space is not silent anymore. It screams and shouts at the visitor. Blaming him and the rest of us for its fate, it forms a critical stand against the usual way of exhibiting artworks. The bad shape of the space is a direct slap in the face of every exhibition visitor, who expects to see nice pieces in a clean and neat environment. The state of the space is a formal expression of the idea of the whole project. “I have no Idea” formulates a powerful critique of the state of contemporary art and its context. Here, especially the way how art is promoted and advertised through the common exhibition strategy of the white-cube-gallery means the core of its critique. The white cube’s aesthetic of the sublime has the negative side-effect of supporting art’s limited notion of being exclusive, expensive and elitist. Here, Koç’s project rebels against the shiny shell around the contemporary art scene, in which fancy exhibition openings, media coverage, sponsor agreements and sales sometimes seem to have become more important than the production of art itself. We talk more about galleries, biennials, curators, and collectors these days than we review artists and artworks. We focus more on art’s context than art’s production. Just check out the current texts about the shows of the leading institutions, museums and the Istanbul Biennial. There, we mainly discuss concepts, spaces, and other contextual matters. Art criticism has therefore changed into an art-scene-criticism. We as writers and readers feel this lack of criticism for a long time, and that is why we all complain about the weakness of critical writing and thinking. Many attempts to overcome this depression have been taken, and recent tendencies in our field of art writing and art criticism show that awareness is spreading, and counter-movements have been taken. Still, changes in art and culture are slow and need time. We have to be patient. Koc’s space though is outrageous, tired of waiting in dirt and dust, it protests against our scene. It underlines production, and values it over display. With a weird spatial intimacy, it reveals its real being, is not shy of showing the outcome of production, and discusses the process of art production as much as it reviews the notion of memory. Here memory refers to micro and macro circles: The micro refers to the history of the artist in this workshop. The macro relates to the local situation in Tophane, which for the last ten years became an important location for artists and galleries. Still, eruptions and difficulties exist between the members of the art scene there and the inhabitants of the neighbourhood. Though I fear that gentrification will solve the clashes in its own way, as in the end wild urban capitalism will expel both sides from this site for bringing in new dwellers and wealthy owners. “I have no Idea” refers also to this urban reality, which we all face. With its old and destructive character, the studio forms an opposition against the shiny residential plans of a brave new world with a bright future. 

Besides its authenticity as an artist’s workshop, it also contains some pieces that Ibrahim Koç has either created for this occasion or set-up for display. The neon-work Devren Satılık is made for “I have no Idea”, and deals with the above mentioned danger of urban capitalism as well as an overwhelming art economy. It seems absurd and ironic with all the dust around it. Besides this, the video work “Chair” shows Ibrahim Koç working in his studio. In the centre of the piece is a chair, which the artist has found on the streets, and constantly uses while he works. In the current spatial situation of the installation, this video is like a reminiscence of the past. It is shown together with the real chair, and therefore refers to a given reality, as well as to its representation.

In the end, “I have no Idea” is a link to the current state of Ibrahim Koç’s artistic oeuvre, which is changing from sculpture to object based works in combination with sound, light, video and installation. In contrast to its title, the project is full of thoughts, references and concepts, which critically comment on the actual state of art and its context. It is a successful example for space as ready-made, and proves the power of space on the production and exhibition of art.

Marcus Graf