Rumeysa Kiger: Burak Arıkan maps social relations of art world in Turkey


Burak Arıkan maps social relations of art world in Turkey

As with so many of the other institutions and social networks that shape our lives, most of us tend to take the art world as a natural fact, something that is just there.


But, just like other social realities, the art world, too, is made up of complicated networks of people, money and power. A new solo exhibition by Burak Arıkan at the Maçka Sanat Gallery in İstanbul?s Maçka neighborhood represents the latest stage of the artist?s ongoing attempt to shed light on these sociological and economic aspects of the Turkish art world.


Curated by Nazlı Gürlek, the exhibition, titled ?BURAK,? features the İstanbul and New York City-based artist?s ?Collector Artist Network: Phase II,? which seeks to map relationships between artists and collectors in Turkey. Participating collectors were asked to provide lists of the artists whose works they have in their collections. This information was then processed digitally to create a visual representation of this network of connections, represented with collectors as nodes connected to each other by their art holdings.


The exhibition itself, part of a series of exhibitions marking the Maçka Art Gallery?s 35th year anniversary, features a large visual display in which visitors can see the results of these efforts as well as a separate area where they can navigate the database on their own in an interactive large screen. The first part of this project, ?Artist Collector Network: Phase I,? is also on view as part of the exhibition ?Seven New Works? at Borusan Contemporary in İstanbul.


In the process of generating the data Arıkan has so far been able to invite the participation of 49 collectors he contacted through his personal network, and 19 of them have agreed to participate, he explains in an interview with Today?s Zaman. ?Each collector was asked to convey a list of artists in their art collection. Some did not even bother to answer, some said they want to keep it private, some said this is against their market strategy, and some others were highly interested in seeing such an invisible structure and kindly agreed to reveal their lists of artists,? he says, adding that the result is a self-organizing software-diagram which exposes ?central artists, indirect connections, and tight clusters in the collectors-artists network while displaying its market relations.?


The resulting map is not, of course, exhaustive of all such networks that exist in the Turkish art world, but that was not the goal of this work, which the artist sees as rooted in the methodology of ethnographic research. ?The research is by its nature a semi-representative research. You can never, after all, capture the complete structure of a society, you can only have snap shots of it. In fact, many artists, from Hans Haacke, to George Masciunas, to Mark Lombardi, were only able to capture instances of the society,? Arıkan further explains.


The artist previously said that one of the goals of his work is the creation of abstract tools that can help in the creation of a new type of reality. As such, it is the use to which it can be put that determines the success of the project and so far the results have been positive. ?At the exhibition opening, I saw people taking notes and I have also noticed people navigating deeper on the network at an imaginary level to further bring out the potential of the work,? he said.


Since receiving his master?s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2006, Arıkan has been developing several creative research projects on various topics. The OPENSTUDIO project, which he worked on at the Physical Language Workshop run by John Maeda from the MIT Media Lab between 2005 and 2008, provided an electronic environment for participants to create and sell artworks to each other via a virtual currency. ?It was an experiment on capitalism and art in the form of live simulation of an art economy. The ?art institution? itself was the target of our criticism. We had tried to build a platform with economic, cultural and political elements that were different from the existing structure of the art institution. By using the Internet and digital resources, we imagined, designed, and developed a networked open ecosystem where all activities were transparent, and which provided constant mobility and association, from one work to the next, from a gallery to an artist, or from a price to a concept,? Arıkan elaborates, noting that in his recent work he has been researching such interactions within the existing art ecosystem. ?But this time, rather than a system generating data through users? activities, I generate [the] data myself — artists who exhibited together, collectors who have shared artists, etc. — through ethnographic research methods.?


Apart from analyzing these networks himself, Arıkan also offers numerous workshops across the world where participants map and analyze complex social structures for themselves. ?These are series of workshops focusing on the design of large-scale networks as a creative activity and expanding the individual?s thinking about the network as a creative medium. Starting from hand drawn simple graph models, participants gradually build complex network diagrams. We?ve been developing and actively using ?Graph Commons,? a collaborative network mapping platform, at the workshops for visualization, group collaboration and further sharing,? he explains.


Arıkan will be discussing his artist-collector networks in a session on Thursday at 4 p.m. at the Contemporary İstanbul Fairground. Also, as a part of his current show, which will run through Dec. 13, he will talk about his works at the Maçka Sanat Gallery on Nov. 29 at 6.30 p.m. and a full-day ?Network Mapping Workshop? on Nov. 30. Those who would like to join the workshop should e-mail For more information about the artist, visit and to get more information about ?Graph Commons? visit


Rumeysa Kiger, İstanbul

bu yazı ilk olarak Today’s Zaman’da 23/11/2011’da yayınlandı, yazarın izniyle burada da yayınlanıyor..

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