DEPO Istanbul is currently hosting an exhibition organised by Bialystok-based Arsenal Gallery titled ‘The Oxymoron of Normality.’ The curator of the exhibition, Monika Szewczyk, was directly inspired by Bulgarian historian Alexander Kiossev’s ‘Notes on Self-Colonising Cultures’ in which he addresses issues of identity and self-definition in the context of the condition of East-Central European and the Balkan countries. In her curatorial statement she refers to Kiossev, who calls those countries “self-colonizing cultures,” emphasizing the fact that this colonisation is in a way “voluntary” and happens without any external force such as the lack of continuity in the democratic process.

The Oxymoron of Normality, Exhibition View at Depo Istanbul, October 2014

With the theme of this exhibition the curator focuses on the complex term of “normality” and the constant struggle of our own values with those that are more universal. She refers to people in her own country asking “when will it be normal here” meaning the way it is elsewhere in Europe. The feeling which, according to Szewczyk, connects Poland and Turkey manifests in the phrase „We are Europeans, but perhaps not in a full sense,” referring to the fact that both Polish and Turkish societies have historically experienced “peripheriality” or remoteness, wether social, economic or political. She describes that post-communist countries feel that real socialism has interrupted the continuity of normal life, whereas in Turkey, each catastrophe such as a coup d’etat, or an earthquake, or a devastating economic and social crisis, is always followed by amnesia as a long-established and legitimized way of “normalizing” the daily life.

In her exhibition Szewczyk wants to encourage an artistic discourse, incorporating artist’s statements and diverse voices from Poland and Turkey capable of exploring the reasons and mechanisms, which seem to paralyse their respective countries, without being trapped by the limitations of political or economic divisions. The curator states that instead of recording the ongoing disasters and repeating them as silent witnesses and victims, the crucial element possibly leading to a solution would be the investigation of the mechanisms behind these traps. ‘The Oxymoron of Normality’ is a refreshing and challenging attempt to draw attention to seemingly invisible forces behind social and economic problems, offering a new perspective on Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

The exhibition is a result of the cooperation of Turkish and Polish artists and two exhibition venues – Arsenal Gallery in Bialystok, Poland and DEPO in Istanbul. After being on show in Poland from 13 June until 10 August 2014, the exhibition is hosted at its Istanbul venue DEPO from 17 October until 30 November. The exhibition was organised within the framework of the cultural programme of the 600th anniversary of the Polish-Turkish diplomatic relations in 2014. It will be accompanied by a panel discussion involving artists and curators.

Participating artists (Poland): Jadwiga Sawicka, Anna Konik, Oskar Dawicki, Hubert Czerepok, Franciszek Orłowski, Marek Wasilewski, Piotr Wysocki

Participating artists (Turkey): Can Altay, Fatma Bucak, Hera Büyüktaşçıyan, Ali Taptık

Visit Arsenal Gallery’s website for further information on this exhibition.