The exhibition „Signs Taken in Wonder“ at MAK Vienna surveyed the work of 33 international contemporary artists from three generations and their production in the context of the city of Istanbul, a city shaped by European, Oriental and Asian influences from 23 January until 21 April 2013.
The inspiration of the curatorial theme was taken from an essay by Homi K. Bhabha about the phenomenon of amazement experienced during the discovery of a new, foreign language and culture. The significance of literature as a medium to communicate notions of foreign cultures and narration as a subject of contemporary art is central to the concept of this exhibition.
Another source playing into the theme mentioned by the curators Simon Rees and Bärbel Vischer is Franco Moretti’s book Signs Taken for Wonders (London, 1983) dealing with world literatures and culture in translation and with the significance of translation for the construction of collective “world views.” Also Turkish authors like Orhan Pamuk, Mario Levi and international authors like Pierre Loti refer to similar notions in their texts.
A prominent work of the show was Nam June Paik Award winner Cevdet Erek's minimal installation on the ceiling of the central exhibition hall, which was illuminated through the museum's skylight construction. Referring to the history and structure of MAK’s 19th century building, Erek uses daylight as formative element of the exhibition, alluding to his interest in rhythm and space.
Cevdet Erek, „re-Illumination, 2013, exhibition view at MAK Vienna, 2013. Photo: MAK/ Katrin Wißkirchen
Another interesting work in the exhibition was Emre Hüner’s major installation „A Little Larger than the Entire Universe,“ that was recently shown at Manifesta 9. In this work the artist 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.
Emre Hüner, a Little Larger than the Entire universe, 2012, exhibition view MAK Vienna, 2013. Photo: MAK/ Katrin Wißkirchen
Emre Hüner, a Little Larger than the Entire universe, 2012, Detail. Photo: MAK/ Katrin Wißkirchen
Füsun Onur produced a new hand-beaded textile work for the MAK exhibition dealing with discourses of identity and gender by combining traditional crafts with new technologies.
Füsun Onur, miracle (symphonic poem), 2013, textile, beads, 300 x 150 cm. exhibition view MAK Vienna 2013. Photo: MAK/ Katrin Wißkirchen
At the same time, German artist Marcel Odenbach’s two-screen video Männergeschichten 1 (Men Stories 1), underscores male ritual played exemplified by being shaved at a barber’s shop.
Marcel Odenbach, Männergeschichten 1, 2003, 2 channel video installation, 10’. Photo: Courtesy Sharjah Art Foundation
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
The exhibition is accompanied by the catalogue SIGNS TAKEN IN WONDER: Searching for Contemporary Art about Istanbul, edited by Christoph Thun-Hohenstein, Simon Rees and Bärbel Vischer, texts by Vasif Kortun, Mario Levi, Markus Neuwirth, Bige Örer, Nikos Papastergiadis, Simon Rees, Gerhard Roiss, Christoph Thun-Hohenstein and Bärbel Vischer, German/English, c. 192 pages, MAK Vienna / Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern 2013.