The project title “Rejection Episodes” is derived from the science of medicine: Immune cells may cause serious damage in order to protect the body from any medical intervention by triggering rejection episodes. The immune system functions by distinguishing between cells it recognizes as ‘self’ and foreign material. The occurrence of these episodes is totally instinctive. Similarly, a social rejection may also be instinctive and beyond reasoning. The project has been developed by detecting such social cases; the emphasis is mostly on Turkish cases in the context of urban culture, particularly experienced through/by Turks in Belgium.
The project can also be seen as an attempt to map the contradictory and heterogeneous social situations that are experienced on a daily bases. Nevertheless, the project has no intention of representing the country, but rather to present a series of cases somehow connected to each other.
Therefore, throughout the project, the investigation of these cases operates on different layers through urban culture, disproportioned overpopulation, culture clashes produced amongst migrants coming from rural Anatolia along with the other inhabitants of the city, extreme imbalance between levels of income, nationalist inputs, unitarian state policy, military significance, the re-creation process of the nation since the foundation of the republic, and identity problems.
“Rejection Episodes” also focuses on documentary-type works along with artistic expressions through cultural productions. The selected media vary from video to photography, painting to printing, computer games to stickers that spread around the Vooruit building and De Centrale. The Vooruit building hosts works for longer hours -during the day and night, whereas De Centrale opens only 2 hours each evening. This division also implies a content-wise categorization as most of the works inhabited by De Centrale are directly extracted from Istanbul’s daily life realities.
The Vooruit building salutes the street with Hatice Guleryuz’s work, “The First Ones“ (2000-2006), on its front façade. The silent work repeatedly shows pupils in a primary school singing the Turkish National Anthem and uttering the national oath, which carries an authoritarian tone praising the unity of the nation along with the virtues of diligence, courage, and honesty. The visuality of the work also overlaps with the history of the building.
The ticket office located at the entrance of the building features the NOMAD section which exposes the detailed framework of “Rejection Episodes” through a trailer-like video projection and sound.
At the entrance, Ali Cabbar’s triple digital painting series “Disorientated II, Rootless II, Dislocated II” (2006) are located. As a Turkish artist living in Belgium, Cabbar’s works depict the issues of alienation and strangeness.
In another entrance point, Yesim Agaoglu’s photographs, “Which Woman?” (2006) and “Hands up!” (2006), question the contradictory positions of women and the representation modes attributed to them in the urban and rural context, together with social and ideological inputs. Zekiye Sarikartal’s prints -“After Effects” (2006), hanging from the ceiling all the way down to the staircases- bring a historical edge to these questionings with the early women image of the Republic.
Again at the staircases, Nermin Er’s cut-ups, “To be continued” (2006), on glass plate, depicts interrelated stories and cases with an amalgamation of daily life realities and fantasies.
Winter garden hosts the works of Arzu Ozkal - Orhan Telhan, Osman Bozkurt, Bengisu Bayrak, and Banu Cennetoglu. Extrastruggle uses the tiles on the cafe’s glass ceiling and the winter garden for his “Letter” (2001) series that reflect on the juxtaposing situations since the foundation of the republic, and the nation’s continuous reorganization through new reforms -such as the Alphabet Reform in 1928 which also led to a reform in the Turkish language.
Arzu Ozkal - Orhan Telhan, who lived in Ghent for a while, developed a computer game called “Defixed” (2006) that takes place between two terminals who play against each other’s perception of the other. “Defixed” works on the assumptions between the Turkish and Belgian cultures.
Bengisu Bayrak’s video installation "Fast-Iman" (2003) questions the relevance of religious messages for contemporary life. On another level, it also documents the consequences of neo-liberal economy on our way of life. The video documents a strategy developed by a mosque in Istanbul by running lines from the Quaran on a digital display screen above the entrance of the mosque. Bayrak chooses an alternative way to give info about the work; instead of using a descriptive text, she uses a documentary video, which is displayed via a small monitor.
Osman Bozkurt’s works are quiet explicitly orientated in detecting social rejection episodes. His video and photograph series “Auto-Park: The Highway Parks of Istanbul” (2003), operates as an outstandingly vivid example of a social rejection episode: the use of strips of greenery between highways as areas of leisure. It documents unexpected and unorganized actions that penetrate through the dictated imperatives of globalized urban situations. Inhabitants, living in the outskirts of the wealthy and extravagant zones of other urbanites, subtly resist territorial decisions.
Banu Cennetoglu’s printed matter, “15 Scary Asian Men” (2006), reverses the direction of perception modes by mirroring the Western approach on “unknown” identities. The uncertain time and space co-ordinates of her photographs, along with the vagueness of the landscapes, hide these unknown identities that can only be detected through the process of approaching details.
In the Brugzaal, Koken Ergun’s two channel video installation, “I, Soldier” (2005), documents an annual military ceremony of the National Day for Youth and Sports -which celebrates the start of the independence war. While a Turkish officer recites a poem about the merits of soldiers, a nationalist hip-hop song accompanies the parade instead of marches. Although this work emphasizes the significance of the military and the nationalist expressions in the country, it also shows the shift that has been going on at the basis of the representation modes of celebrating national days; whereas in the hall of the Brugzall, Osman Bozkurt’s photography, “Ironing” (2006), depicts the traditional and domestic side of these representational modes.
In the meantime, Ceren Oykuts’s wall drawings, “Record” (2006), on the walls of the entire building, document and depict the cases of social “Rejection Episodes” in the streets of Ghent. As a comparative presentation, her works, concentrating on Istanbul streets and daily life experiences in the city, are shown in De Centrale.
Ali Taptik’s photography series called “Accident and Faith” (2004-2006) is also projected in De Centrale. His series is about interconnected frames of the experience of living in Istanbul. It is about the relationships, places, people, emotions and coincidences.
Osman Bozkurt’s site-specific transparent series “Istanbul” provides another perspective to approach the structure of the city, which hacks itself through random constructional and social rejection episodes.
Extrastruggle’s oversize light box, “Trakonya” (2001-2006), lightens De Centrale from a corner below. The work is a juxtaposition of two figures: a girl with curly pigtails who takes the shape of two minarets wearing a school uniform, and the pictogram of high voltage (a male figure, hit back by the lightning). The clash between life styles, sexes and ideologies, along with the tension of potential conflicts, draw an overall picture of the usual social state.
Both the works and stickers produced by Ceren Oykut, Extrastruggle, Sunipeyk, and Nermin Er provide a continuation between these two venues. The variety of the visual language of the stickers duplicates itself with the visual languages of all the works that structure the project. Although these works emulate cases detected mostly in Turkey, particular works in the project that reflect on parallel cases in Ghent enforce us to get acquainted with diverse realities and the inner dynamics of each culture. Hence, the accumulation of these works form evidence for the occurrence of rejection episodes within any system, despite its authority and control mechanisms.
Rejection Episodes is an exhibition in the framework of Istanbul Ekspres, a collaboration between Vooruit and De Centrale, an old electricity factory that is now an intercultural meeting place.