Art Exhibition at Pulchri Studio
You can read online the catalogue of Walk of Truth’ s exhibition at Pulchri Studio.
In October 2011, Walk of Truth organised an international art exhibition at Pulchri Studio, The Hague, titled: ‘The Location of Culture’. The exhibition, which marked the launch of WoT, featured artists from Cyprus, Greece, the Netherlands and Turkey. The exhibition runned from the 22nd of October until the 13th of November, 2011.
The Location of Culture
‘The very concept of homogeneous national cultures, the consensual or contiguous transmission of historical traditions, or ‘organic’ ethnic communities – as the grounds of cultural comparativism – are in a profound process of redefinition.’
As Homi Bhabha notes in the above extract from his book ‘The Location of Culture’, from where this exhibition also borrows its title, the notion of culture is constantly being redefined. Bhabha introduced the notion of cultural hybridity as a feature of modernity and set out to highlight the connections between colonialism and globalism.
The title is also a nod to Walk of Truth and its activities as the newly established foundation embraces cultural heritage and the potential to build bridges for the future by symbolically launching its activities with an exhibition of contemporary art.
But what do we mean by ‘culture’? As a concept it appears in a diversity of fields, including, history, art, politics and anthropology, therefore it can cover a wide spectrum, relating to ideas about human creativity, issues of collective identity and social organization, diversity, cultural property and monuments. As it cannot be contained within a specific field, similarly it cannot be pinned down in time. Culture is constantly moving as it hovers between the past the present and the future, yet it performs differently in each one of them.
Cultural heritage is the ark of history, carrying those frozen fragments of civilization that map the collective activities of human beings and their relationship with one another. It brings together the material and immaterial manifestations of past intellectual achievements and acts as a depository of cultural knowledge that facilitates the conversation between the past and the present.
Moving from the past to the present, provides an understanding of culture in a state of flux, never static, reflecting society’s continuously shifting landscape. Furthermore, central to any conceptualization of ‘culture’ needs to be an acknowledgment of ‘cultures’. We cannot speak of a universal culture, as it cannot be confined to any one prescribed system of signs and beliefs, but rather to a network of cultural systems. These networked cultures have the capacity to act as a force in social, economic as well political transformations that can come about through participation, dialogue and community engagement. In the context of art, culture is foundational for expression as well as the outcome of that which is being produced. It is a platform of investigation and cultural production that taps into diverse systems of knowledge and means of communication.
The exhibition looks at the multiplicity of contemporary cultural production across different trajectories that intersect at various levels, as in language, medium, or ideas. Taken together and individually, the works reflect a plurality of artistic expressions that often trace the nuanced and conflicted spaces that we inhabit, but also the shared experiences and trials. They express the porous borders of culture systems and signs and reveal an underlying traffic and osmosis, a cultural exchange that has become the norm and not the exception.
The Location of Culture brings together artists from Cyprus, Greece, the Netherlands and Turkey highlighting the common ground for intercultural dialogue. The aim is not to map a national representation but rather expose a cultural bricolage, where geographies overlap as in Annemieke Louwerens’s postcard –collages where images from Bahrain and Scheveningen are brought together and propose a new topography, or Melita Couta’s geological maps that are embedded with family pictures as the artist traces her own identity and journey to find her roots.
Questions of identity and hybridity are also pertinent to Hussein Chalayan’s investigations of cultural symbols through the mass movement of people. Displacement as a result of conflict, economic migration or ethnic persecution is also referenced in the work of Andreas Savva and Lefteris Olympios, while Johannes van Vugt considers the legacy of colonization and the encounter between East and West.
The heritage of war figures in Toula Liasi’s work, in images that resist nostalgia and act as subtle reminders of the devastation left behind. Lia Lapithi with humour offers a branch of olive in her recipe for ‘Olives in Syrup’ when delicate issues are to be discussed.
By contrast Stelios Faitakis’ painting ‘Dream’ stages an activist discourse as it seeks to establish the site of revolution and Angelos Papadimitriou voices his dissent to the normative functions of a petit-bourgeois society.
Irini Miga delicately crafts her hybrid sculptures based on a personal lexicon stemming from the subconscious that, nevertheless, resonates with a wider contemporary culture.
Savvas Christodoulides questions the culture of mass consumption and elevates mundane everyday objects to totemic artefacts. On the other end Kim de Ruysscher empties out art historically ‘precious’ materials and turns them into meagre objects. Mass media and technologies also enter the realm of culture as they increasingly shape our view of the world. Phanos Kyriakou investigates the culture of the internet and its encroachment of our daily lives while Kyriaki Costa questions how our understanding of the world around us is conditioned by the plethora of images that we are consciously and subconsciously bombarded with.
Maria Loizidou’s Eucalyptus, provides a shelter and weaves tradition and contemporary art into a space to talk about various issues, while Gulsun Karamustafa talks about the passing of tradition through the empty spaces of a hamam in Turkey. Diana Blok revisits a vibrant Istanbul after a long absence and is fascinated by the changing face of the city where she sets out to photograph diversity and document ‘otherness’.
Klitsa Antoniou delves into the role of memory and how it operates in the understanding of the self, with large mirrors that offer glimpses of the present through the fragments of the past. Memory is also central to Sinem Ertaner’s work that re-evaluates the present through a past she stumbles upon that opens new meanings.
Man’s relationship to the natural world is the subject of Lefteris Tapas work which explores how nature informs architecture while Celine van den Boorn registers the rift in the relationship between the order of nature and the order of man
The artists presented here have different perspectives in relation to the production of culture yet collectively they reveal that culture is relational, always exposes and is exposed to the Other.
…and the Future
In lieu of a conclusion for this exhibition which set out to explore cultural diversity and commonality, one could ask ‘why does culture matter?’ Culture matters because it reflects man’s capacity to accept changes but also hold on to tradition; it is the capacity of an onward and forward movement into the future – even if it reflects into the past – that fosters progress. Culture matters, as Arjun Appadurai stresses, because it strengthens ‘the capacity to aspire.’
Pavlina Paraskevaidou, Curator, Writer
Photo in post: Temporal Meditations by Hussein Chalayan