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  Exhibition and Events



Masa Projesi
Address: -
Members: Önder Özengi*, Vahit Tuna*, Sinem Kurultay*
*: Will be present by the opening.

Masa Project* uses a special table as exhibition space and defines itself as:
"As an extension that excludes art created for the system, as an environment that aims to compose an area with no boundaries for the Artist, MASA welcomes everyone!"

* Masa: Table

About Masa

Önder Özengi: Vahit, MASA (literally meaning table in Turkish) entered our art scene in the year 2006 with the exhibition of Erinç Seymen. Can we go a little further back? How did you come up with this idea and with whom did you cooperate in realizing it?

Vahit Tuna: MASA’s priority was taking personal initiative. This project emerged at the conjunction of the “me-office-art production” triangle and the “sharing-new space- independence” triangle. Then it needed to become organic and integrated into a natural process. We can also interpret this project as an attempt to break down the homogenous definition of art and to bring art down from its place on an ivory tower. An action that lead to new cracks and to leakages from these new cracks and the formation of little lakes from these leakages… An act of creating new narratives and exhibition opportunities open to experimentation and allegory that aim at breaking down the existing and widely taught meta-narratives of art. A process of taking initiative to support a need for creating art for no reason. MASA was created as a wholly independent formation that would have problems with integrating into the system right to the very end.

ÖÖ: Masa has realized 16 exhibitions so far. Let’s talk about unrealized projects and interesting proposals. I remember Şener Özmen’s rakı-drinking proposal. What other interesting project proposals did you receive aside from those that were realized?

VT: All serious proposals were realized. All those works that aimed at participating in the Masa project with commitment were exhibited; but there were several projects that were intended just to make conversation… Of course, the initiative to realize an exhibition lies with the artist; we are only trying to help. For this reason, we sometimes encounter problems when it comes to opening up to public space.

ÖÖ: I was included in MASA project in April 2008. What was the reason for this invitation? Was it a bottleneck or an opportunity for opening up?

VT: The fact that I designed and produced MASA doesn’t mean that I own it. Just like it is the case with the exhibitions: Masa’s exhibitions develop as natural processes, just like an organic structure. Hence, it is more appropriate and functional for it to develop and expand through integration. We need this kind of expansions to learn public space practices more thoroughly and to open up our space. Because what we call public space is also an organic structure that grows and develops in time. It is obvious that there are certain bottlenecks but these are not of a kind that we are familiar with –for instance, like it was the case in the 80s, with overproduction. It is more like a jam between state-public space-art audience; it is actually more like a fact of life than a bottleneck.

ÖÖ: Let’s talk about future projects. Masa book, Berlin Masa and another Masa planned in Spain. What do you think these mean? Aside from being the foreign replicas of an alternative exhibition space…

VT: We tried to document every exhibition –with all the talks, all the texts written on the works, etc. This activity was aimed at producing a book in the end. I hope we can find the necessary resources to realize this book. It is exciting for us to see that Masa project is being replicated in other art centers. It stands proof to the fact that small scale actions can also have big impacts. Humble tolerance will expand its space by increasing its functionality at the face of gigantic institutionalism.

VT: What’s missing in contemporary art today, Önder?

ÖÖ: I think there is no criticism. This allows the energy around to express itself in an uncontrolled manner, which is good in terms of increasing the production. But on the other hand, it causes the content of production to dry out and the possible relations that ideas and concepts form or might form with other disciplines to be impoverished from the start.

VT: How modern is it to take initiative on the local level?

ÖÖ: I think that this emphasis on the local has lost its dominant role in the process of understanding what is here and now. In the blurring of the difference between inside and outside that moves back and forth between local and universal, the scale of the initiative that we take also becomes vague. When we think about Masa as an initiative, it is hard to say whether it is operating on the local level or on a larger geographical scale. It tours in betwen Istanbul’s spaces but the artists and their concerns are not merely local.

Masa, June 2009

Exhibited Project


Isabel Schmiga*
*: Will be present by the opening.

Isabel Schmiga is fascinated by the potential for an object or idea to change state, which she then examines and puts into process either literally or figuratively. In many of her works existing objects such as ties, leaves, marbles and forks, or printed images and diagrams are transformed into new, more conceptually complex versions of themselves. But in her work POLIS, her starting point is an extremely specific emblem - it is the Turkish Police badge, a designed composition of imagery that is already a socially and politically charged effigy.

Schmiga's version of this badge in her work POLIS presents an extremely uncanny proposal. Through a layering of a carved relief of the emblem atop the original design, Schmiga draws attention to the badge's eerie skull-like shape: the outline of the skull is already marked out by the symmetrical, aerial view of a police cap that creates the shape of the badge; the double eagle insignia forms a moustache; the crescent moon and star motif an ominous third eye. As in Hans Holbein's The Ambassadors, 1533, the layered representation is rendered as if in anamorphic perspective and only becomes clear when viewed from an angle. As the cut outs appear and their depth gives a slight shadow, a perfect skull appears. In this camouflaged state, the badge, like the police it adorns, amalgamates an aura of protection with an implication of fear.

Schmiga became obsessed by this authoritarian ornament after spending several months living opposite a police guard in Istanbul, Turkey.
For her, the feature of the skull was always present in the shape and detailing of the badge and her double-relief print was made as a response to the image she was seeing all around her. This badge is omnipresent in Turkey, seen on the police uniform, as well as the forces' cars, buses and stations, so its appearance in Schmiga's work is in part due to its being an everyday encounter. For her this badge, as with any other object, was available to be taken and morphed by her personal reflection. So while Schmiga's work POLIS of course refers to a media acknowledged concern about Turkey's police presence, attitude and occasional use of disproportionate force, as well as to a general atmosphere of contradiction and awkwardness that is caused by tensions of group mentality and nationalism, it is also a simple response to a visual slippage created by the shape and design of the badge.

This slippage is then pushed by Schmiga, so that other signs and symbols become more obviously integrated into her interpretation of this emblem. By placing the mouth of the skull in line with the double-eagle motif, she visually replicates a different statement of nationalism, the preference for males to don a moustache. The third-eye is formed by Turkey's flag, suggesting the overriding presence of National authority, but at the same time it is a reference to Islam and the rule of the former Ottoman empire; a combination of associations that can be read as the eye of knowledge, a control of will, or a system of belief, all issues that are very pertinent to the political situation in Turkey today.

When exhibited POLIS consists of a repetitive series of Schmiga's photographic reliefs snugly butted up against one another filling the length of an entire wall. There are never less than five of the framed images presented at one time, a reference to the group presence of the police in Istanbul especially in the central entertainment zone of Istiklal Caddesi. Here police are nearly always present in groups of at least three, and often usually five or more. During public demonstrations or pre-publicised events when the police anticipate their necessity, they often outnumber those they are supposedly protecting, but are in fact waiting to control. In Basel for Schmiga's exhibition in von Bartha Garage, 60 of the badges were positioned in a slightly uneven line hinting at the meagre allowance of individuality given to each member of the formation, as well as the tension felt in numbers and in the expectancy of friction. The skull seen in such prevalence and force also replicates the gas masks often worn prematurely by the police before the potential, or actual release of tear gas, a practice that is not uncommon in the current climate of the city.

Hence for a variety of reasons and on many levels Schmiga's work creates a sense of deja vu for those who live in the vicinity of this badge. As the skull was always there for Schmiga, it is now also always there for those who have experienced her work. Through a simple visual act she has marked a new relationship between the public and their encounter with this particular sign of the police. More importantly her work encourages a more general moment of reflection for us all on society's level of acceptance of forms of power and control in our every day environment.

Director, Artist Pension Trust, Dubai


Isabel Schmiga

Isabel Schmiga

Masa Project
Exhibition view





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