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Sarkisí 50-year career, plus last-minute surprises
Sarkis’ 50-year career, plus last-minute surprises
Imagine an exhibition where the beginning does not match the ending, an exhibition that undergoes constant transformation.

Conceptual artist Sarkis Zabunyan’s “Site” is on view until Jan. 10 at İstanbul Modern.

It is unlike traditional exhibitions. It is different, open-ended, surprising, mystical and filled with innovations. Forget every other exhibition you've seen until now for a short while and get ready to go on a journey toward a “city,” toward the streets of Sarkis Zabunyan's exhibition titled “Site,” on display with its tiny rooms and colorful works at the İstanbul Museum of Modern Art.

“Site,” the curator of which is İstanbul Modern's head curator, Levent Çalıkoğlu, encompasses works from the Turkish-born Armenian conceptual artist Sarkis' 50-year career. Let us emphasize, however, that this is not a retrospective.

The distinguishing characteristic of this exhibition is that like with Sarkis' other works, it insists on “incompleteness,” it is open-ended and multilayered and more importantly, it is a “display of a display.”

In the exhibition there is a metronome matching the 70-year-old Sarkis' heartbeat, which echoes in the room. This way the artist's heartbeat accompanies his artwork every day.

Noting that he has never organized this kind of an exhibition before, the artist says “Site” is an exhibition “that serves as a get-together” and asks that it be read like a book and watched like a movie.

In “Site,” Sarkis leaves the frequently renewed installations -- works which he has accumulated over the years, such as clothes, sculptures, stained glass and neon signs -- at the brink of a magical world. We can say that “Site” reveals the milestones in Sarkis' career. With a wide-ranging selection of the artist's works, from an installation that depicts the bombed Sarajevo Library, to another one that depicts the monsters in Tolkien's “Lord of the Rings,” and from one inspired by German Alban Berg's “Lulu” opera, to others which were inspired by German Romantic-era artist Caspar David Friedrich's pictures, Sergei Paradjanov's films and John Cage, “Site” is a multifaceted city.

On the second floor of the museum are the artist's gouache paintings. In the photography gallery there are eight films that refer to Caspar David Friedrich's pictures and 20 single print photographs titled “Operation Organ” which were taken in 1972.

Noting that Sarkis is “an installation artist that thinks with concepts,” Çalıkoğlu said: “Sarkis offers new connections to objects that belong to different times. He [disassembles] locations to carry them beyond their practical usages. He allows art and the viewer to take advantage of every kind of sight, scent and hearing experience. The artist builds his work discipline between the past and present.”

You can contribute in the exhibition

With the notion that sites always change, the exhibition “Site” is constantly renewed. The photographs on the walls are changed periodically and additions are made to the artworks on view. Viewers will be able to leave anything they like at the stand located near the entrance of the exhibition under the sign saying “Leave something from you.” Visitors may even have the chance to meet Sarkis. The exhibition is a long maze that recalls many different thoughts and images. Like Sarkis told visitors in his notes, the only thing you have to do is be open to different and surprising emotions that will arise within you as you observe the exhibition.

Bearing in mind that Sarkis constantly roams around this exhibition which offers last-minute surprises, “Site” runs until Jan. 10, 2010.

18 September 2009, Friday


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