Esra Ersen
Antonio Cosentino

Salt Ulus

April 14 – June 6, 2015

Esra Ersen
A Possible History: When Thinking Some Play with the Mustache, Others Cross Arms (2013)

The video installation A Possible History by Esra Ersen is a historical investigation, throughout which geography and time overlap. The work describes the five days that the character E. spends in Sofia, Bulgaria in 2013. The story, which is narrated in third person, flows along accompanied by Ersen’s drawings, texts and collected photographs.

E. travels to Sofia on a quest to search for traces of the Ottoman voyagers and literary figures who travelled to the Balkans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The character performs a historical reading with the help of various texts.

Having gained independence from the Ottoman Empire at the end of the 1870s, Bulgaria then turned a blind eye to almost the entire Ottoman Imperial period of its cultural history. Conditioned historicism exists in every nation-state that attempts to build a new identity — as was the case with the Republic of Turkey. For Turkey, this new identity was exemplified with the institution of a new capital city, and hence a parallel reading of Sofia and Ankara leads the audience to question the history and construction of both cities.

After the collapse of the socialist state in 1989, the cultural narration of Bulgaria began to open out to include other ideas and possibilities, which led to a renewed interest in historical readings. In A Possible History this situation is explained with the following statement: “History is now everyone’s hobby in the Balkans, which makes sense. After all, it’s not microbiology or anything like that.”

Esra Ersen
Casting for a Canary Opera (2011)
Turkish; English subtitles

Casting for a Canary Opera by Esra Ersen takes place in the assembly area of the Istanbul Canary Fanciers Association. The club’s members stand in front of dozens of canary cages, reading aloud texts that Ersen had given them. In some scenes, canary songs and melodies played on local instruments are heard in the background as if accompanying the members’ readings.

This particular association was chosen by the artist for this work, because many civic initiatives, political parties, labor unions and bureaucrats in Turkey frequently express in their press statements that they are not simply the “Canary Fanciers Association.”

The members read Ersen’s selected statements as actors and they also assert in different ways that they are not the “Canary Fanciers Association.” In this manner, the work loosens the relation between image and text, as it refers to the current political agenda of Turkey.

Casting for a Canary Opera deconstructs the context and formation of meaning, which is established through seeing and hearing, and gives the audience the possibility to interpret this specific paradoxical connection.

Antonio Cosentino
Escape from Marmara Sea: The Stelyanos Hrisopulos (2013)

Antonio Cosentino’s installation consists of a handcrafted ship made from used tin cans and packaging, and a video that shows the artist transporting it on a trolley along Istiklal Avenue and across streets of Beyoğlu, all the way to the Bosphorus.

Cosentino’s ship proposes an engineering feat, housing various architectural components such as an amusement park and a helipad. The artist ironically draws attention to the people who had to leave, and those still leaving this geography, by using the image of a ship, while taking into account the Marmara Sea as a point of departure, as well as a zone of transition.

The boarding port of Cosentino’s ship is in Kumkapı, an area that was formally an Armenian neighborhood, a place where the demographic, ethnic and spatial transformation of the city manifests itself. At the stern of the ship is a sign of Kumkapı pointing to its harbor.

A short story by Sait Faik Abasıyanık, about a child whose toy ship is sunk by other children is also an influence for the artist. By referring to this story, Cosentino reminds the audience of Abasıyanık’s stance against the representations of minorities in Turkish literature with nationalist sentiments, starting with Tanzimat writers and continuing in the Republican era.

The artist references the micro ecosystems of city life by using recycled materials within his work, and in particular tin, which carries both an economic and cultural significance at the periphery of Istanbul. The installation not only implies a narrative about the accelerating material change of the city, as well as its socio-cultural transformation, especially from the 1970s to now, but also traces the impact of the disappearance of places on the memory of individuals over the course of time.

Esra Ersen finished the post-diploma program at École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Nantes in France, after having graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts at Marmara University in 2000. Since 1998, she has been invited to important artist residencies, such as IASPIS in Sweden (2001), and the Delfina International Fellowship in the UK (2005). Ersen’s many solo exhibitions between 2001 and 2013 include Elsewhere (Kunsthaus Baselland, Basel, 2007), and Passengers (Tanas, Berlin, 2009). She has participated in the 4th and 8th Istanbul Biennials; the 4th Gwangju Biennial; Manifesta 4; the 4th Liverpool Biennial; and the 27th São Paulo Biennial. She will also contribute to the 14th Istanbul Biennial. Ersen taught in Hochschule für Bildende Künste (Dresden), and Det Kongelige Danske Kunstakademi (Kopenhag). She lives and works in Istanbul and Berlin.

Antonio Cosentino graduated from the Department of Painting, Faculty of Fine Arts at Mimar Sinan University in 1994. He founded the art initiative Hafriyat with Hakan Gürsoytrak and Mustafa Pancar in 1996. The collective organized 16 exhibitions at the exhibition space Hafriyat Karaköy, which members of the collective ran from 2006 to 2009. Cosentino curated the exhibitions Yerli Malı (1999), Yurttan Sesler (2000), and Aileye Mahsustur (2001), in which his own works were also presented. His recent exhibitions include Mom I’m Going Out to Pour Some Concrete (Studio-X, Istanbul, 2015); Departure Marmara Sea (Bergsen & Bergsen, Istanbul, 2013) and Tin City (Külah, Istanbul, 2013). Having participated in numerous exhibitions both in Turkey and abroad, Cosentino contributed works to Spare Time, Great Work (Platform 3, Munich, 2011), and Tactics of Invisibility (Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna; Tanas, Berlin; ARTER, Istanbul, 2010-2011) with the collective Hafriyat. The artist lives and works in Istanbul.