NEWS / 2015

Nezaket Ekici, group exhibition, Dissonance, Percept Art Gallery, Mumbai

Percept Art in collaboration with Consulate General of the Republic of Turkey hosts the exhibition Dissonance : Transgressed Boundaries between Desire and Fear curated by Isin Onol and Jesal Thacker, inviting four artists presenting diverse positions within the framework of the exhibition: Nezaket Ekici, Prajakta Palav Aher, Pinar Yoldas and Nita Tandon.

There is no unity to be expected in invoking the “human race”. The sheer diversity of interests and situations, the vertiginous differences in wealth and power, the multiplicity of cultures and ways of relating to the soil, all forbid that any appeal to a “universal human interest” will trigger any assent.

Now, I am going to ask you the toughest question of all, the really divisive one: do you consider that those who are on the opposite sides of the ecological issues in which you are engaged directly or indirectly are irrational beings that should be resisted, disciplined, maybe punished, or at least enlightened and re-educated? That is, do you believe that your commitment is to carry out a police- or a peace-making operation of some sort in the name of a higher authority? Or do you consider that they are your enemies that have to be won over through a trial the outcome of which is unknown as long as you have not succeeded? That is, that neither you nor them can delegate to some superior and prior instance the task of refereeing the dispute? 

Getting involved or not getting involved with collective acts of other humans – During these moments in our subjective decision-making processes our behaviours and attitudes have a momentary clash, due to the conflicting sensitivities that we are experiencing. Introduced by Leon Festinger in the field of social psychology back in the 1950s, the term cognitive dissonance  denotes these moments of discomfort, where two inputs conflict with each other due to contradicting moral, cultural, social, or economic values.

As the individuals of contemporary societies, the circumference of our freedom in daily decisions is gradually narrowed down under the influence of contradictory pieces of information. Every choice that is eventually related to what and how we consume, as well as what and how we produce, is under permanent pressure exerted by marketing technologies and information overflow. At the same time, the individuals are often left alone with their decisions, because it takes decades, if not generations, until it is proven that a particular action, or the use of a particular product is harmful to the environment: I need a computer with a decent processor, but learnt that it is produced and assembled in China under outrageous conditions. I would like to have hygienic conditions at home, but heard that most of the available products at the supermarket are terribly harmful to the ecology. I refuse to participate in the mass killings of the meat industry, and chose to be vegan, but read some articles related to over-agriculturalization of the globe that is endangering the ecology just as much, by excessively using fertilizers, and food poisons. I decided to buy organic products only, as far as I could afford; on the other hand I could actually buy cheaper products and share them with the child begging by the door of the supermarket. I also have read online articles on how to differentiate non-GMO products from organic ones, and how the labels delude consumers. Even organic farming endangers the ecology, when it comes to productivity growth, by excessive agriculturalization of the soil, which goes hand-in-hand with large scale commercial harvesting of trees. I avoid buying coats and shoes that are produced from leather or fur, only to find out that my purely chemical coat and boots were harmful to my health, and that they never will be recycled, not to mention the chemical waste generated during their production. I routinely separate plastic bottles, coloured and colourless glass bottles, metal and paper, even if I hear about nuclear waste being dumped underground.

When Festinger was occupied with the theory of cognitive dissonance, his main focus was to see how an individual’s behaviour changes when her/his moral values conflict with an alternating choice that is likely to yield a profit: In his experiments, he saw that people’s very subjective opinions could change when there is profit involved in the process. Since then not only the might of capital has increased tremendously, but also the conceptions of religious, moral, social, cultural, national, ecological, bio-ethical, scientific, artistic, technological values have been transformed globally into such formidable forms that in the presence of that overwhelming and permanent flow of information, our internal monologue consists of nothing but conflicting cognitions.

How do we position ourselves when we are faced with bio-ethical questions? To what extent do we decide to support humanity’s desire to manipulate genes? How do we handle the ecology as the only ‘owners’ of the planet? How do we treat animals and other species that are mainly our ‘food’ or ‘entertainment’? How do we process our waste, which is the result of our excessive production and consumption? Most of these questions are dealt with using collective acts, social institutions, that allows ‘us’ to use the pronoun ‘we’ as human beings, although ‘we’ altogether constitute an extreme diversity.
This twisted diversity however has lost its authenticity. It has been abused aggressively, and mostly reduced to an immense economical gap. With the evident support of the politics produced in the landscape of post-Fordism and post-colonialism, as well as the neo-liberal economic policies of the global hegemons, the human beings’ desperate attempts at forging ‘global’ values, equality, and peace have been manoeuvred into a gridlock.

Technology and science have been accelerating progress with enormously high force throughout the past sixty years, particularly since World War II. As a consequence, the contemporary global human is facing an ecological crisis and is often paralyzed by devastating pessimism. Thanks to the information technologies, it is also virtually impossible not to be informed about all the dilemmas and disasters that are caused by our supposedly great achievements. This fluidity of information and the extreme pace of developments result in a permanent shower of sparking cognitive dissonances in our brains – as if our decision-making circuitry would have been shorted.

Is it sufficient to free myself from the animal politics of the global civilization by becoming a vegan? Is it enough to withdraw my participation from the unequal distribution of wealth and the abuse of human labour, by consuming fair-trade products only? Will I not be responsible anymore for the violent acts of my fellow-humans, if I refuse to take part in the army? If I do not purchase the cosmetic products that were tested on animals, will I save at least one creature? How large an impact can my actions actually have on political ecology? To what extent can I silence my mental stress in singular decision-making processes in the age of the so-called ‘anthropocene’?

Dissonance: Transgressed Boundaries between Desire and Fear focuses on such moments of conflict that are experienced by individuals living under the frustrating apprehension of the ecological crisis, which is accelerated by excessive production and consumption of goods, as well as the confusion fostered by an overflow of conflicting information.

The exhibition deals with singular reactions to, as well as refusals of, particular collective acts and social institutions that are produced by human beings, but at the same time constitute the forces that dominate us. It aims at problematizing the subjective resolutions that the individuals find in their endeavour to living a healthy, moral, peaceful, harmless life, despite the aggressive regimes of the hegemonic powers.

Dissonance: Transgressed Boundaries between Desire and Fear implies the inevitable burden of pessimism that is caused by the ecological crisis that is not only the result of human domination of other species, but also of other human beings.  The exhibition focuses on artistic behaviours that are provoked by such moments of conflict, caused by contradictory subjective values and social impositions.

Performance artist Nezaket Ekici engages mythic characters, historical facts, social norms as well as her own physical possession of her body to illuminate the aspect of breaking away the barriers by her performances. She sets up a space for the female body within a bewildering imagery of femininity, oscillating between being the object of desire and the object of fear. Throughout each performance, Ekici reproduces the female image in constant transformation between femme fatale, a heroic goddess, and a gentle ‘lady’.

Nezaket Ekici presents her work Screaming Feathers that was originally produced in 2006 as a response to the humans’ handling of their coexistence with the birds, which has been a significant topic since infectious diseases such as SARS and bird flu created enormous fear in Western societies. Having been introduced by the migrations of birds, primarily from Asia to the Western geographies, these diseases triggered political discussions about migration as well as animal health. Being the first domesticated animals, the abuse of poultry and their results were reminded to humanity. Inspired by these topics, Ekici brings together ten pillows filled with bird feathers into a setting resembling a laboratory or a slaughterhouse, created by the artist. Using a shower cap, construction safety glasses and industrial rubber gloves, as well as wearing a black synthetic dress, the artist creates an environment in which she triggers conflicting sensations in the observer. With the help of this uncanny setting, as well as the sound of screaming hens, the view of the feathers that flit about creates a discomfort, while otherwise it would evoke the memory of a pillow fight.

In Blind, a performance documentation video (referencing Saint Cecilia – The Invisible Piano, a painting by Max Ernst from 1923) Ekici encages herself in a gypsum shield with only her arms left visible and free. She hammers onto the structure around herself, smashing it into pieces, to finally break free. The performance thus implies the concretization of besetting values, and their stagnancy that later becomes gruelling to liberate from.

But All That Glitters is not Gold, is a performance video in which the artist creates a physical and mental challenge: First to lock herself up, then to rescue herself from a golden cage. Resembling a fairy tale image at the beginning, the performance gradually turns into an experience of encountering the pain of the other, as the artist is challenged to reach the carefully placed 30 golden keys that are hung from the ceiling. Starting with her nicely tailored dress and high heel shoes, the weak, decorated feminine image turns into one of a struggling, sweating, ‘real’ human: The battle to escape from the set-up prison becomes tangible.

Similarly, Cream opens up a space for the audience to experience the transformation of a beautifully designed female body into a machine, as if fulfilling some predetermined requirements. The persistent act of stirring the liquid cream results in thick butter texture. The performance re-enacts the ancient practices of making butter manually, from today’s view, where human body no longer remembers its physical capabilities of producing without machinery.

Nita Tandon’s video of her performance Fingerprint Erased creates a similar confusion for the audience, bringing up the question of what leaving traces behind would mean under today’s landscape of surveillance and control. The digitalised image of the fingerprint of artist is reproduced on a glass surface, with thick plasticine, turning the trace into a texture. The artist’s attempt to clear the image from the glass resembles the attempt of clearing one’s digital traces. In a time where the social media and Internet have become the largest source of shared information, this work poses the question of sharing information in the digital sphere. The artist’s act of collecting the leaving traces of the embodied fingerprint creates a spiritual connotation, resembling the act of collecting ashes after cremation. Playing with the dichotomies between three and two dimensionality, visibility and invisibility, analogue and digital image, as well as leaving-erasing traces, the artist points at the moments of uncertainty in perception.

Prajacta Palav exhibits her community-based work Mala, consisting of a video and an installation, that are the result of a long-term project. In the process of creating the work, the artist collects waste plastic from the streets of Mumbai. Performing the act of making spiritual garlands, the artist introduces her technique of making mala to different communities. Allowing them to experience this act of making mala with the broken pieces of plastics, the artists opens up questions about the relationship between pain and waste. Addressing the problem of excessive waste, Palav creates a space to twist this meditative activity of garland making into processing waste from within.

Prajakta Palav harnesses the consumerist ideology of the society and its ever-increasing uses of polythene products that pose a threat to animate life in the surroundings. In her interactive performance – which results in a sculptural installation – she repetitively produces beads made out of plastic scrap, tying them along the fibre to create ‘Mala’. The process touches upon dangerous waste heaping in urban regions and utilizes the context of religious customs to create a satirical focus on the existing dilemmas.

Pinar Yoldas exhibits her recent sculptures that are particularly produced for this exhibition, related to her series Designer Babies. Working closely to the field of bio-ethics, the series focuses on pre-implantation genetic diagnosis techniques. Through her scientific and artistic research, the artist questions the limits of the human beings’ will to alter human biology, as well as the world around them. Showing the , Yoldas highlights different aspects of transhumanism, imagining possible cultural varieties of the desire for altering the human body and mind. These carefully designed sculptural installations consist of synthesized foetuses stored in incubator jars. These hyper-objectified designer babies point at moments of extreme ‘cognitive dissonance’, in which a human life-form is in the position of deciding to what extent science and technology should be allowed to modify life itself.

In Desire in Bloom, we see a crystal egg that shatters light into its rainbow colours, mint coloured eggshells of a spring songbird, and a young girl that kneels down at the sight of her blooming sexuality. Desire in Bloom is dedicated to the awakening force of bodily desire in the young human. Instead of menstruation blood dripping down her thighs, this youngster sees bubbles of desire bursting up between her legs.
But what do you do when desire is out of control? When desire is a surge of color and form that expands in space?

The artists narration about her production process of Hypersensitive is compliments the perception of the sculptural work: “You are being hypersensitive to things I said, I was just joking around.” she said to the Hypersensitive. Hypersensitive went to the bathroom and looked at her body. Everything looked normal. She had two arms, two legs, a face with one nose, two eyes, two ears. Her skin looked normal, the colour of a mildly tanned Caucasian. Everything looked normal but why then, she felt like something was broken? That she was somehow hurt? Where was the wound if she could not spot it on her body? Next morning, when she woke up, she was in utter shock. Her entire body was covered by these slimy wedges of flesh. Her back, her head , around her ears. These new additions to her somewhat mediocre human anatomy, were super sensitive. A mild touch of the pillow felt like being hit by a truck. When she walked she could feel every stream of air touching her new body parts. On the radio, a meek version of Sibelius’ violin concerto in D minor was playing. Her new body parts sensed this as if it was ten planes taking off all at once.”

Another sculptural installation, Drosophila Sapiens / Homo Melanogaster was inspired from genome Drosophila (the fruit fly), which is a genetic model for several human diseases including the neurodegenerative disorders Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, spinocerebellar ataxia and Alzheimer’s disease. About 75% of known human disease genes have a recognizable match in this genome. This creature is the midway between the fly and the human, specifically designed for disease research.

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