Salt Galata, Salt Beyoğlu

Tuibfh022 Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu, Expo 58’deki Türkiye Pavyonu için mozaik duvar
SALT Araştırma, Utarit İzgi Arşivi
SALT Research, Utarit İzgi Archive
“The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations,” held in London in 1851, was not only the first international exhibition of manufactured products, but also the instigator of an entirely new, highly visual, and cacophonous phenomenon that came to be known as the world fair. In the following years, cities across the world competed to host these massive feats of display, volunteering themselves for exceptional crowds, great organizational challenge and exhaustive transformation at the urban scale. Both monumental and temporal, the world fairs were paradoxical mega-exhibitions. Positioned at the intersection of optimism, scientific progress and commercial success, they categorized, erased, produced, bent and presented knowledge. As dynamic sites of interaction, where the hierarchies of the world were laid out in plan, these fairs became texts that were meant to be read by strolling and spectating.

One of the contentious legacies of the world fairs is that they encouraged, and perhaps invented, the experience of the world as picture. Whether it was the latest achievement of technology, ambitious architectural structures that developed into urban symbols, or a showcase of consumer products or art, such fairs introduced the world as object lesson. The highest man-made structure in 1889, the wrought-iron Eiffel Tower was built for the world fair in Paris, offering unprecedented panoramas of the city. Live broadcasting from the 1939 world fair in New York introduced television to the public. As late as 1958, the legacy of the human zoo found its way into the Brussels Expo 58 in the form of a Congolese village. The space race manifested itself in the display of Sputnik in Brussels in the U.S.S.R. pavilion, followed by the awe-inspiring presentation of a rock from the moon in the U.S. pavilion in Osaka, in 1970. These fairs were prominent displays of national advancements in industry, technology and culture, as well as arenas where social class, race, ethnicity, gender, nationalism, colonialism and imperialism materialized within these modes of display. Be it the frowned upon amusements, the various propaganda tools of nations, the technological achievements of a country or a company, or “purely” encyclopedic knowledge, everything from educational to entertaining was displayed as picture. Abstract notions found physicality via the exhibited in the microcosm of nations.

The world fairs turned knowledge into mediated experience, simultaneously celebrating and exemplifying modernity. Exhibiting, by compressing vast expanses of time and space, and thereby looking, came to be the mode of the modern. A perfect product of the age of global capitalism, the world fair prolongs into the 21st century, in its evident descendent, the ongoing Expo, no longer coveted by the urban centers of superpowers that initiated and expanded the format, but by those nations seeking attention, prestige and an influx of capital. Perhaps more significantly, this model also proceeds in less obvious but equally important manifestations, including the art biennial, the mega sports event, the itinerant festival, or simply, fast tourism, among many others that rely on the experience economy at large.

Through a series of talks, screenings and occasional displays, Exhibit will strategically explore this legacy to connect our contemporary modes of being to the world fair. The infinitely fruitful material will hone in the questions of looking, exhibition-making, and representation, interrogating why the exhibition still continues to be a dominant medium of communication and exchange.

The series will commence on April 3 at SALT Galata with talk by Ahmet A. Ersoy on the Ottoman self-representation at the Vienna World Exhibition of 1873. Two talks on Turkey’s participation in the Expo 58 will follow; Selda Bancı will investigate the politics of national representation ingrained in the pavilion, and Johann Pillai will discuss his study and exhibition project on Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu’s lost mosaic wall, tracing its tortuous story from Brussels to Nicosia. The spring and fall programs of Exhibit will soon be announced on the SALT Online website and social media channels.

Exhibit series is programmed with the contribution of Duygu Demir.