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London 1997-2000

Heavy Papers

Curated by Denizhan Ozer

Istanbul Biennale collateral exhibition
Galeri Merkur Istanbul September-October 2011
Tesvikiye Mh. Sakayik St. Aylin Apt. No: 75/5 Nisantasi - Istanbul
 +90212 231 69 87

Artists: Elvan Erdin, Gulin Girismen, Maria Hinze, Maslen & Mehra,
Seckin Pirim, Dallas Seltz, Duygu Suzen, Thurle Wright

Upon observation of the history of civilization, we can see that paper holds significant importance in the physical and cultural life of mankind. Throughout its life, mankind defined its space of liberty
and the relation to its surroundings via paper.

The history of primitive paper began in 4000 BC in Egypt. A sort of paper was obtained by lining sliced stems of papyrus upon a wooden plate and hammering them. Also, parchment paper, which was produced from the hides of various animals, was used throughout history. However, the closest to the contemporary paper was first discovered by Ts’ai Lun, an Imperial Chinese palace clerk in 105 AD. Obtained by mashing mulberry tree bark, hemp and fragments of fabric and pressing them, this paper began to be produced in Central Asia after centuries.

After China, paper was first produced in Samarkand in 751. It reached Baghdad in 793 and eventually, this method made it to Spain in 1151 via Damascus and Tripoli.

In the beginning of the 18th century, Rene, a French scientist submitted his formula of the contemporary paper, which he attained by observing wasps and their hives, to the French Academy of Science in 1719. In 1798, with the invention of the machine, which produced a sheet of paper per turn, paper was developed to the current day.

With its millennia-long adventure, paper has always been the messenger of progress and due to the preference of the “cognizant subject”, it has always held a place in the shaping of life, identified with truth. Along with being employed for documental purposes such passports, certificates, diplomas, maps and deeds, it has also been a constantly used material of hygiene, sanitation, education and transportation. In short, paper is an indispensable fact ıf life.

History is kinetic and thus aids the occurrence of thought structures. Mankind is more concerned with the transformation of thought structures rather than their permanency. The analytical structure of thought, along with examining a whole, attempts to incite change with small details. Although contrasts and deep contradictions attempted to renew the structure without toppling it and caused the transformation of knowledge, they also became elements of self-destruction. Everything is a construct within virtuality and it opposes the documental credibility of paper. The glorifying of visual media such the television and the Internet seeps into the subconscious of contemporary mankind, straying it away from the systematic of analytical thought and goading it towards simplistic and ready-made tendencies.

“This has several reasons. First of all, we live in a thoroughly visual culture. The pleasure derived from what Freud called secondary urges such as “looking” and “watching”, or as he coined it, “scopophilia”, is highly instigated in our period. From dawn to dusk, we look, we watch and we derive profound satisfaction. This sensation was ready to rise in earlier times but the means of its satisfaction was far more limited. (*)

Today, the urge of watching is satisfied in incredible scales with television, Internet etc. Therefore, mankind is alienated to its own past and its own life. Hannah Arendt states “Alienation should not only be observed as an economic concept.” This is a very apt observation. In our current age, it is more concerned with carrying us to the future rather than with “now” and thus, mankind began to become alienated to itself, to its current moment and its own culture. This occurs in the field of arts as well. Flexible visuality transformed the ideology that seeped into the subconscious into a social logic. The object gains or loses value with the status, which is granted to it. Apart from the art that became a vogue, when we deal with the painting upon the paper or the paper that is given form, we observe that paper is preferred by numerous artists. In Heavy Paper exhibition, we observe the most prominent examples of paper.

In her work named “Broken Villages” Elvan Erdin attempted some sort of memory tracing with Caucasian topography, which she tracked with Google Earth. Instead of directly presenting her findings, she brought it to another level by creating her own map on paper and depicting the dilapidated households and cemeteries from memory.

In what they dubbed museum series, renowned Maslen & Mehra recreated in paper, the historical relics they encountered in New York Metropolitan, British Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum. Their shoes, made with paper mache and plaster techniques, which refer to natural life and the history of civilization, are not replicas but works of art per se.

Roland Barthes, a prominent thinker and semiotician of 20th century, defines fashion as a signifier and a message. Fashion, which currently shapes and defines our dresses and daily life, is actually a language and it is often spoken via clothing. Gülin Girişmen is another participant of Heavy Paper. In her work, named Ophelia, she crafted a paper facsimile of the clothes she produced in her daily life. Enveloping the whole body, this is far more fragile than its mainstream, fabric counterparts. This dress, which needs to be protected rather than worn, is made of a heavy paper and it makes a reverse reference to the ever-shifting phenomenon of fashion.

By employing school atlas books, encyclopedias, instruction manuals, textbooks, dictionaries, newspapers, catalogues and storybooks as his main components, Thurle Wright involved herself in a creative process by differentiating them. Counted amongst the world’s most prominent paper artists, Thurle Wright creates new visual forms out of the information, language and the texts in the papers he used. Upon close examination of cuts, folds and weaves, new links and meanings can be sensed within the newly created form.

Due to his employment as a clerk during his military service, Seçkin Pirim, in his “discipline factory”, intervenes the overlapping layers of orderly systems with minute actions that disrupt this structure. His work consists of overlapping of 800 milimetrically-cut papers with each piece cut 100 times. The order in the artwork, which gives a feeling of space upon inspection, is disrupted via intervention. By using the paper scraps from the cut pieces, the artist conveyed the spatial feeling in a convex and concave sense, in the same frame. Form-wise, the artwork states the differing feelings the same form in identical sequences.

One of the promising members of the younger generation of artists, Duygu Süzen depicts the uncanny world of the depressed and cornered human being in the anonymous urban life in her large-scale artworks.

Canadian artist Dallas Seitz participates with his “Tourist Postcard”. In his project, which continues since 2000, he intervenes to the postcard, which are people’s means of documentation of their past as they determine the place and location of their travels. The artist’s interventions with black paint resulted in neo-surreal compositions, which consequently led to new historical and mythological readings.

German artist Maria Hinze, delves in an quest which clears the borders with combinations of paining and drawing. With her deconstructions, she questions artistic context and meaning. With the fantastical imageries the artwork, which derives from historical and artistic discourse, we realize that we’re taken to a dream-like journey. Images consisting of flower and plant decoration embrace the spectator with psychological and historical ties. In her artwork which is to be exhibited in Merkür, she will engage in an inquisition of identity with contemporary problems as her point of departure.

The contemporary relationship between arts and mankind, with the influence of media, treads upon a visual path. This means visuality’s ascent to godhood and the abandonment of written culture and paper. Despite this actuality, “paper” remains an enduring phenomenon, bringing value to life and arts.

With the right discourse in eternity, there is so much to tell on paper.

Denizhan Özer


(*) Sexuality Imagery Pornography, Hasan Bülent Kahraman, Agora Bookstore 2005, page 50.