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Ahmet Öğüt: Exploded City / MATRIX 231

January 24, 2010 - April 11, 2010

Ahmet Öğüt: Exploded City, 2009 (detail); scale model buildings, vehicles, mixed materials; 169 5/16 x 189 x 63 in.; installation detail from Pavilion of Turkey, The 53rd Venice Biennale. Commissioned by Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV).

Download the exhibition brochure (PDF).

This city is from the future. It’s called The Exploded City. Those who live there have emigrated from faraway lands, with dreams of traveling to the future. When they realized that there was no finding the future, they decided to build this city. It is said that hundreds of different languages, such as Otesian, Bosnian, Albanian, Kurdish, Castilian, Irish, Turkish, Persian, Arabic, Urdu, Anglo-Frisian, and other Saami, Altaic, and Slavic languages are spoken in this city. These people who don’t speak each other’s language, instead of creating a lingua franca, have learned to communicate through looking into one another’s eyes. Not before long, they taught me this eye language as well. In this city, all the other remaining languages are like a constant background noise. They actually resemble the besieging of the city by various types of birds.—Ahmet Öğüt

With Exploded City, Ahmet Öğüt envisions an imaginary metropolis comprising buildings, monuments, and vehicles that have figured in acts of violence and terrorism over the past two decades. Structures from Turkey, Ireland, India, Yugoslavia, Great Britain, and the United States, among other countries, form a unified urban scale model, reconstructing these sites in the moments before they were destroyed. The installation, originally commissioned for the Turkish Pavilion at the 2009 Venice Biennale, is accompanied by a text situating the included locations within a Calvinoesque narrative that engages the poetics and politics of space, architecture, violence, and international relations. Paraphrasing Calvino’s Invisible Cities, Öğüt presents visible but “semi-anonymous” buildings, whose intact form may be forgotten while the aftermaths of their destruction are seared into the collective consciousness via the media and individual consciousnesses via personal experience. The collapsing of time and distance in this collection of models is echoed by the vehicles—also used in terrorism, but referencing as well Öğüt’s ongoing interest in distance, time, and speed, measures by which our relationship to reality is shaped and through which disparate lands are connected.

From this central installation, the exhibition expands to other works. The film Things We Count pans slowly across the retired fighter planes at an airplane graveyard in Arizona’s Sonoran desert, as a voice counts them one by one in Kurdish, Turkish, and English. This counting, in the languages of faraway lands, connects the planes in their U.S. resting place to their actions in the larger world.

Öğüt recently had solo exhibitions at Künstlerhaus Bremen; Centre d’Art Santa Mònica, Barcelona; and Kunsthalle Basel. His work was also recently included in group exhibitions at Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw; De Appel, Amsterdam; New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; Malmö Konsthall, Sweden; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, the Netherlands; and the Berlin Biennale. This is the artist’s first solo exhibition in the United States. Born in Turkey in 1981, Öğüt lives and works in Amsterdam.

Elizabeth Thomas
Phyllis Wattis MATRIX Curator

The MATRIX Program at the UC Berkeley Art Museum is supported by a generous endowment gift from Phyllis C. Wattis; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; and the continued support of the BAM/PFA Trustees. The presentation of Ahmet Öğüt: Exploded City / MATRIX 231 was made possible in part by the Mondriaan Foundation, Amsterdam.