The Istanbul-based duo made up of Yasemin Baydar and Birol Demir are known for their playful installations and performance pieces that examine contemporary culture’s pleasures through a neutral lens that is neither judgmental nor sympathetic, and their latest show at Gallery Isabelle Van Den Eynde continues the project. The duo’s esoteric name and the fact that the show is highly conceptual might intimidate someone who doesn’t normally flit confidently between galleries, but in reality this show is all about contemporary pop culture, with messages accessible to anyone with a mobile phone who has ever snapped a selfie.
Right from the start, the show assaults us at the gallery’s entrance, as we’re forced to pass a chain link fence lit up with a neon sculpture spelling out the message that has been made trite by over-rehearsed flight attendants and telemarketers the world over, Thank You for Your Cooperation. The signage implies that everyone who enters is complicit in submitting to an order, but exactly what we are guilty of upholding is initially puzzling. Was there a waiver that we somehow missed signing?
Stepping into the exhibition offers the sensation of abruptly landing in a candy-colored universe populated by various mirrored installations and sculptures all of which demand examination. But before you can cross the polished concrete floor to take a closer read, your cell phone rings and you fumble through your pockets in an embarrassed panic. You could have sworn you’d switched your settings to silent mode!
However, upon listening to an electronic orchestra composed of other staccato notifications in quick succession, it becomes clear that the tones are part of a layered sound sculpture titled FOMO. As in #FOMO: The 21st century term that stands for fear of missing out, popularized by the Tweet-savvy to name the unsatisfying sentiment that wherever one is, there is always someplace trendier to be. Social media exploits this restless mood by encouraging users to take selfies, check into glamorous geographic locations, and otherwise incite envy in friends and acquaintances alike.
By rattling off these sounds, all of which will have varying relevance to each visitor (depending upon one’s phone model and settings) the artists are calling to consciousness how our emotions and sense of self-worth are ruled by the virtual world, and in consequence how rarely our minds are connected to our bodies in a state of present tense being.
The PROFILE series, which consists of four jewel-toned tempered glass panels printed with capitalized block letter font, further explores today’s notion of time. When regarded quickly, the letters appear to spell out gibberish, but upon slow study it becomes clear that these are widely used hash tags such as: THE_NEXT_KATE_MOSS, EXHIBITIONIST, TRIPPING, NO RELIGION, FRENEMY, HISTRIONIC. It’s impossible to scrutinize the work without finding yourself reflected in the mirror as an accomplice to the art, posing for a kind of compulsory selfie.
Nestled among the truly pretty (note that use of the adjective is not meant to imply an absence of meaning) works, is the WALKING ON AIR series, which presents generic family photos sullied by thick layers of artificial mud. The images reference precious photographs found floating in the remains of America’s 2012 Hurricane Sandy, a natural disaster that will go down in history for the devastation and displacement it caused. In this series, :mentalKLINIK cleverly counters the FOMO predilection by calling into question what lasting happiness is really about.
Solid conceptual exhibitions remain relatively new to the region, and although Thank You for your Cooperation is quite open-ended, it is also entirely relevant to our times and thus for the most part (other than the ambiguous SIMON, Floor 23rd which features a child’s teddy bear trapped in a gold diptych, which felt like someone was trying so hard to be evocative that the work’s message became convoluted) relevant to anyone with a social media account. The show also further establishes Gallery Isabelle Van Den Eynde as the space to visit in Dubai to take in a program of boundary-pushing yet eloquent contemporary art.
You can meet :mentalKlinik here.
Photo Credits: Courtesy of :mentalKlinik and Gallery Isabelle Van Den Eynde