Sefer Memişoğlu exhibition creates new dimension of sensation
A video still from “Rendering Rome”
The first solo exhibition in Turkey from Turkish artist Sefer Memişoğlu, delving into the concepts of sensation, authority and violence, is currently on display at Gallery Non in İstanbul’s Tophane quarter.
Titled “Matters of Fact,” the show that runs through Oct. 15 refers to a concept in Gilles Deleuze’s book “Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation,” which can simply be described as a third dimension of sensation among the figures Bacon constructed in his artistic universe.
At the entrance to the gallery, a video of a swan projected on a black screen welcomes the audience. The colors of the spectrum, emanating as beams of light from the swan’s eyes, link the video to another three-part video placed at the opposite end of the floor. The video in the middle features a soap bubble reflecting the colors of the spectrum, while in the other two knives make a constant stabbing motion toward the bubble.
“The swan is the symbol of elegance, gentility and grace. It also serves as an art-historical reference. Swans are quite widespread in still-life paintings, especially in North European art, and they are a symbol of the defeated enemy. In social life it was also a status symbol; only aristocrats could hunt swans, and these aristocrats also commissioned paintings of them,” the İstanbul and Amsterdam-based artist explains in an interview with Today’s Zaman.
Together, these videos constitute a piece titled “Blow Up.” The stabbing motion of the knives is a violent movement that entices one to keep on watching expectantly in order to see what will happen next. And it is exactly this sense of expectation that creates an opening of perception, the concept the show was developed around.
The phenomenon of embodiment emerges through the soap bubble, which allows the beams of the spectrum to be seen, Memişoğlu explains.
“Normally it cannot be perceived by the naked eye. But transparent surfaces, the bubble or the eye of the swan, allow it. There is the potential for turning into an image. The swan’s eye is kind of a hole or rift leading one inside and the bubble is also a type of eye without a body,” he elaborates, adding that knives are more phallic objects and they motion with a certain aggression, while the bubble is a more feminine form poised between existence and nonexistence.
Negative and positive powers are in perpetual motion in “Blow Up,” the artist adds, also pointing out that the left and right screens move between black and white in set periods.
“One can interpret the black and white as night and day. I believe it gives a feeling of being trapped. When you think about it together with the photographic installation up on the gallery wall, you can see its resemblance to a swan moving on a lake,” he says, noting that his aim is to give a form to all these possible sensations or other situations that could be evoked in the mind of the viewer.
The photographic installation, titled “Soft as a Swan and Sharp as the Face of a Lake,” creates a dimension that allows the viewer to see multiple times in one moment, which is not possible in video, and it also reflects an attitude pointing out the reality of the image. “The nature of the image and the active structure of the cinema are laid out here. Also, the tension between the black and white is carried to the surface. You may see as well the glide of a swan, cutting the smooth surface of a lake,” Memişoğlu notes.
Located on the basement floor, another video, titled “Rendering Rome,” is an exercise in watching and sensing a deeper dimension without directly seeing it. “It is not related to the city of Rome, but to the idea of authority, authority’s way of legitimizing itself, representing people and supremacy. The expression of this is Rome; it is one of the first examples in which civilization organized in the history of man. The scene depicting the action of beveling the tramlines at night in the video references the power of that organization,” Memişoğlu explains.
The last work, placed on the second floor, is a charcoal drawing titled “Petrifying Gaze.” It delves into many concepts such as authority, castration, violence, imagery and embodiment, all at once. The work features the head of the mythological figure Medusa under the arch used by Italian painter Gentile Bellini to frame his famous image of Sultan Mehmed II in the 15th century. According to the legend, Medusa’s head is covered by snakes and anyone who looks at her would turn into stone. Memişoğlu’s drawing, on the other hand, depicts the snakes as phalluses. “The snakes are, of course, phallic figures symbolizing male sexuality, seduction and erection. The drawing renders these snake symbols into what they really are,” he says. The power of blinding the onlooker is also evoked in the art piece by projecting a powerful source of light onto it, which makes the viewing uncomfortable for the visitors.
For more information about “Matters of Fact,” go to www.galerinon.com.
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Rumeysa Kiger, İstanbul