Rumeysa Kiger: “John Cage gets centenary celebration at İstanbul gallery

John Cage gets centenary celebration at İstanbul gallery

John Cage
John Cage is getting a birthday bash in İstanbul on his centenary. The Kuad Gallery in the city?s Beşiktaş district is continuing its ongoing focus on the past 50 years of contemporary art with an exhibition celebrating the 100th birthday of the late composer, who shaped the future of music with his avant-garde, experimental style.

The exhibition, titled ?John? Cage?,? an allusion to one of Cage?s most famous works, 4?33??, features works by a number of artists offering their own interpretations of concepts pioneered by Cage.

Beral Madra, one of the curators of the show, explains that the exhibition has two important goals: ?The first is to commemorate John Cage on his birthday and bring him to the attention of younger generations, since he foresaw the possibilities of technology and the science of the electronic image age at a very early point. Secondly, using Cage as a reference point, the show aims to draw attention to minimalist works and point out the deadlocks of image production and aesthetics that suffer from ?over-reference? and that are prone to pollution.?

The works in the exhibition depict significant themes from Cage?s life. A work depicting a rock garden from a Japanese temple by the Turkish-Armenian contemporary artist Sarkis reflects Cage?s interest in Zen Buddhism; Su Mei-Tse?s negative photograph ?Trees and Roots #1? calls to mind the composer?s fascination with nature; the performance video ?Concave,? by Taldans, is suggestive of his modern dance collaborations; and a minimalist light show by Teoman Madra, who performed multimedia shows in the 1960s and ?70s in order to put Cage on the cultural agenda in Turkey, highlight the composer?s endless experimentation.

Curators Ayşe and Alpagut Gültekin, who have been closely following the works of the artists in the show through their magazine DOXA, selected the works for this exhibition with Cage and other contemporary minimalists in mind.

The show is especially important for audiences in Turkey due to a lack of interest in contemporary music here, Madra says. ?This is because there are no outlets that publish or present [contemporary music in Turkey]. On the other hand, there is contemporary music education in universities, and the graduates of these schools can produce authentic works if they find the resources. Unfortunately, there is no public support policy in this regard in Turkey. In the end, these performers end up in foreign countries out of necessity,? Madra laments.

She notes, however, that this lack of interest is ?paradoxical,? as Sufi music, which is popular in the country, is fundamentally minimalist — just like Cage?s music.

?In fact, Cage?s music should not be unfamiliar to [Turkish audiences] in this regard. However, the aspect of Modernism that merged with consumer and mass culture did not let tradition become modern. Conceptual and minimalist productions, which were the most authentic field of Modernism, were not in demand,? she explains, noting that they might be more important in the contemporary era of visual pollution.

In the center of the gallery, right in front of a photograph of John Cage, there is a 3,000-year-old river stone unearthed during excavations for the Marmaray Project in İstanbul. ?During İstanbul?s turn as a European Capital of Culture in 2010, I put a lot of effort into making sure that river stones found in Yenikapı were not destroyed. We put on a small show with artists using these stones in Sütlüce Park, and some of the installations are still there,? she says, adding that the stone in this exhibition represents the music of silence. ?The wisdom of a stone that was buried under the ground for thousands of years corresponds to the wisdom of Cage,? she adds.

As part of the exhibition, an interactive performance titled ?Radio-Kontak? will be staged by multimedia artists Batur Sönmez on Sept. 3 at the gallery, while musicians Tolga Tüzün, Alper Yılmaz and Sami Altındağ will present a mini concert in the gallery on Sept. 4 at midnight.

The show will run through Sept. 5, Cage?s birthday, at Kuad Gallery in the Akaretler neighborhood. For more information, visit

Rumeysa Kiger, İstanbul
Today’s Zaman Newspaper

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