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Signs Taken in Wonder

MAK Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art, Wien

Searching for Contemporary Istanbul. Works by artists from three generations, born between the 1930s and 1980s, develop an imaginative narrative about the culture and history of this many-faceted metropolis equally shaped by European, Oriental and Asian influences.

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Participating Artists: Hamra Abbas / Murat Akagündüz / Yeşim Akdeniz / Eylem Aladoğan / Meriç Algün Ringborg / Hüseyin Bahri Alptekin / Halil Altındere / CANAN / Aslı Çavuşoğlu / Cengiz Çekil / Banu Cennetoğlu / Mutlu Çerkez / Antonio Cosentino / Canan Dagdelen / Lukas Duwenhögger / Cevdet Erek / Erdem Ergaz / Murat Gök / Nilbar Güreş / Sibel Horada / Emre Hüner / Aki Nagasaka / Olaf Nicolai / Marcel Odenbach / Ahmet Öğüt / Füsun Onur / Mario Rizzi / Nasra Şimmes / Erdem Taşdelen / Cengiz Tekin / Güneş Terkol / İrem Tok / Uygur Yılmaz.

Simon Rees, MAK
Bärbel Vischer, Curator, MAK Contemporary Art Collection

The MAK exhibition Signs Taken in Wonder. Searching for Contemporary Istanbul, presents a topical snapshot of contemporary art production in the context of the city of Istanbul. Works by artists from three generations, born between the 1930s and 1980s, develop an imaginative narrative about the culture and history of this many- faceted metropolis equally shaped by European, Oriental and Asian influences. The exhibition will envelop the MAK Exhibition Hall in a subtly atmospheric impression of the city on the Bosporus.

This seminal exhibition project was made possible by the integrated, international oil and gas company OMV, which focuses its cultural sponsoring activities on cultural exchange in the area of contemporary art between the company’s core markets in Austria, Romania, and Turkey. This contribution by OMV produces important cultural dialogue over-and-above its economic engagement in these regions.

Starting from the significance of literature in informing collective notions about foreign cultures, narration as a subject of contemporary art is the defining curatorial theme of the exhibition. The exhibition takes its inspiration from an essay written by Homi K. Bhabha that describes the moment of wonder and amazement of the discovery of a new and foreign language and culture. A similar spirit informs Franco Moretti’s book about world literatures and culture in translation—Signs Taken for Wonders (London, 1983)—and what that translation means for construction of “world views.” Similar reference can be found in texts by the Turkish authors Orhan Pamuk and Mario Levi and in work by international authors like Pierre Loti.

Signs Taken in Wonder intends to produce a narrative of personal worlds in a time of rampant globalization. Featured in the exhibition are works that explore introspection, personal and visionary narration and dialogue, documenting a far- reaching external-and-internal movement and transformation. Works by Turkish artists find their synergetic counterpoise in examples of international contemporary art that cast light on Istanbul’s cultural memory.

The Searching for Contemporary Istanbul is reflected by artists who live and work in the city, including international artists based there, Turkish artists living abroad, and international artists who have made work about the city.

In the center of the show is an intervention by artist Cevdet Erek, winner of the 2012 Nam June Paik Award. He develops an expansive minimalist installation for the central exhibition hall which is illuminated through the museums 19th-century skylight construction. Alluding to the museum’s history and built-structure, Erek makes daylight a formative element of the exhibition and uses temporary architecture to make a metaphorical statement reflecting his interest in rhythm and space.

The multiplicity of artistic approaches presented in the exhibition reflects the MAK’s mission as a universal museum of applied art and the cross-boundary dialogue and exchange between applied art, design, architecture and contemporary visual art that it engages in. The exhibition includes works that use ceramics, textiles, design, architecture, and various different production techniques (installation, painting, sculpture, photography, and video).

Emre Hüner’s major installation A Little Larger than the Entire Universe (2012) that was recently on show in “Manifesta 9” collects fragments and narratives as diverse as the NASA space-program, utopian dreams, ceramics based on forms taken from nature, hand-tools, creating a dialogue between science, progress, and visionary thinking. German artist Marcel Odenbach’s two-screen video Männergeschichten 1 (Men Stories 1, 2003), meanwhile, underscores male ritual played exemplified by being shaved at a barber’s shop.

A number of women artists are building a feminist context within the exhibition combining traditional crafts with new technologies. Füsun Onur is producing a new hand-beaded textile work for the MAK exhibition. Onur has reserved the right to turn away from major histories and grand statements to produce an immensely personal and feminist position—connected to private worlds and the quasi-traditional realm of handicraft. Onur has been influential on a younger generation of artists prepared to carve out personal niches inside programmatic discourses of identity and gender politics. CANAN’s delicate video-animation, Ibretnüma/Exemplary (2009), painted after the style of Moghul miniatures and ceramic decoration, tells the story of a young-beauty living under the aegis of Islamic doctrine in the 20th century and the difficulties this causes in her life.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication published by MAK, Vienna / Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern.

Image: İrem Tok, "Untitled (Munich)", 2011 © PİLOT Gallery, Istanbul

MAK Press and PR:
Judith Anna Schwarz-Jungmann (Head)
Sandra Hell-Ghignone
Veronika Träger
Lara Steinhäußer
T +43 1 711 36-233, 229, 212

Press Conference Tuesday, 22 January 2013, 10:30 a.m.
Opening Tuesday, 22 January 2013, 7 p.m.

Finissage Sat, 20.4.2013, 1 p.m., Curators guided tour, Simon Rees & Bärbel Vischer (German and English)
2 p.m., Screening, Murat vs. Ismail (Mario Rizzi, Turkey, 2006)
MAK Lecture Hall 3.30–6 p.m., City tour with Aslı Çavuşoğlu, Meeting Point: Cash Desk Weiskirchnerstraße

MAK – Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art
Stubenring 5, 1010 Wien, Austria
Opening Hours:
Tue 10 a.m.–10 p.m.
Wed–Sun 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
Mon closed
Free Admission on Tuesdays 6–10 p.m.
€ 7,90 / reduced € 5,50
Free admission for children and teens up to 19
Free Admission on Tuesdays 6–10 p.m.
Family ticket € 11 (2 adults and at least one child under 14)

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