I was eagerly awaiting Küçük’s exhibition, which I have been following for a while. I chose to go to the exhibition without any visual or textual direction. This was an accurate decision because the visit was more surprising than I expected. I have completed my visit to the exhibition, with deductions that were sometimes ambiguous, sometimes just right, and sometimes instinctive. Although the subjects and concepts that stand out in the exhibition itself are sometimes individualized, they are later thrown back into the air and become the story of all of us. I penned Küçük’s exhibition, which tells about the daily life, ordinariness and normality with a simple expression.
As I walk down the gallery’s stairs, I encounter with the first surprise. I see a wall ornament made of paper chain links that was left over from a celebration, but the object is not very distinguishable because it lacks lighting. The last thing I will expect when starting to tour the exhibition is a work that feels abandoned and is not clearly visible due to the dimmed lights. The placement, which first looks like a mistake, becomes meaningful at the end of the visit. This lead-in is the birthday of the main character of the exhibition!
As I walk down the aisle, I see a football that completely lost its function and laid flat on the floor. This is so neatly flattened that I remember trying to smooth the gum wrappers with our nails. I think we’re in a boy’s playground. There are music sheets scattered around targeted with dart arrows and pins. Although it is not possible to hear the voices, it is free to dream. With the association of the football, I dreamed of the cacophony created by a group of children shouting while running with the ball.
When I enter the main hall, my perplexity increases and I get a little stunned. I encounter dog treats in vacuum bags hanging on the wall, parts from the handles grasped by passengers standing on the subway, pizza boxes, dog toys and mirrors with gum wrappers with fortune quotes on them. Objects of daily life have been metamorphosed, removed from their area of use or scattered around the hall as if waiting for their audience to gain new meanings. When I get completely confused, I cannot stand it and I browse the exhibition text.
The exhibition has a biographical characteristic that can be traced through a character’s birth to adolescence and then into adulthood. The character we observe here justifies my astonishment, and it sometimes becomes a human and sometimes a dog, weaving between these two identities. While the commonalities between the dog and man are exposed, the selfness between the two is also blurred. At this point, the communication of the person who wants to get close to the dog and the communication of the dog who wants to get close to the human comes out as an important sub-element. The prominence of concepts such as repetition, tone, and emptiness in the communication between dog and human both reveals the name of the exhibition and makes the frequently encountered random melodies and communication descriptions meaningful. While dealing with the lifeline of the character, the artist leaves this character anonymous and applies it to the works and sub-texts as well. On the other hand, since this anonymity can take anyone and everyone in, it inevitably includes both the traces of the artist’s life and also causes the audience to feel like the subject of the exhibition from time to time. Although the pattern is made from the similarities between dog and human, the artist did not base all of his work on this relationship. This sometimes makes it difficult for the audience to follow the exhibition, but on the other hand, it gives new clues about the artist’s own practices regarding the social and physical ties he establishes with the objects.
I’m going back to my tour in the main hall. I can’t help looking at the mirrors with gum wrappers with fortune quotes on them, and they appear to be placed repeatedly in the hall. These short poems, which generally have suggestions about love, health, business life on them, refer here to more real moments than they should. They talk about some daily life situations such as “You are peeing in a little while” or “You can eat an outdated meal” and foresee the near future. The texts are so ordinary and shallow that it is possible and even insignificant that the subject for which it is written could either be a human or a dog. On the other hand, while reading the fortune quotes, the audience sees their reflection in the mirror and the fortune quote points to its reader every time it is read. In the exhibition, just like the mirrors I mentioned above, the subway handles scattered around the space reveal Küçük’s curiosity about the industrial environment elements and the functions and meanings of these elements. At the same time, they form stops that are included in the exhibition but are also independent from the exhibition.
The only dog figure I came across in the exhibition was created with a reference to Goya’s painting called Dog. In the original painting, the dog sunk into an oblique pile appears here again as a three-dimensional sculpture. I think it is not a coincidence that his reference to this work, which is an important trip to the tradition of painting with its simplicity, coincides with the plain style of the artist. The work, which has been the subject of discussions in the history of art since the time it was made, about where the dog looked, what mass it sunk into, has taken its place in Küçük’s sculpture as if it is still seeking answers to these questions, increasing the question marks.
Far from the worries of pursuing great meanings, the artist breaks the elements of daily life from their functions. One of these, and for me, the most striking work in the exhibition, is the model of a representative archaeological site created with pizza boxes. The title of the work is not far from its representation; its name is Archeology. From a distance, this archeology basin, which has been formed neatly on top of each other and at certain elevations, is perceived as a map of bones buried by dogs in the ground which is revealed by the artist. As you get closer, in every pizza box, you can see nothing but the leftovers of pizza that have been eaten and left with all their normality and terrific randomness. Pizza boxes also refer to the youth of both the artist and the character whose biography we watch. It is also possible to read the work as an archeology about the youth of a generation who are quite familiar with ready-made consumption objects.
A large text on the wall says “I love you” in braille. This time, the character, whose life we witness at different stages, conveys his message and emotions with an alphabet that is read by touching. The blurring lines between dog and human also guide the alignment of the works in the exhibition. At this point, the heights where the works are hanged are sometimes aligned to the height to communicate with a dog – as in the I love you text – and sometimes he places the criticisms he presents to people at their eye level. A good example of this is the study called Vegan, which confines dog treats in vacuum bags. The artist conveys our eating habits with new consumption styles. It won’t be irrelevant to compare the treats for dogs produced by humans and processed in a way that they cannot find in nature, to ready-made foods that are offered to people and that we have no idea about their production process.
If we look at it from the general perspective, the exhibition should definitely be visited by taking a lot of time because it has a quality that touches on many different subjects and concepts that are not easy to read. The biographical feature of the exhibition obscures the overdose caused by these concepts being different and many, but it can sometimes be challenging in terms of bringing distant contexts together in the mind. As someone who likes small breaks in between, disconnections and subtleties, I must say that I find the details that seem to be connected but actually far from the center, especially pleasant. In addition, I think, covering a wide range of subjects about an artist who holds his first solo exhibition is a satisfying start for the audience and a clever start for the artist too. Therefore, from my point of view, it will be an exciting waiting how he will approach his next exhibition and in what direction he will shift his focus.
As I end my visit, the celebration area at the entrance, the lights of which were turned off in a way that does not make sense for me, sends me off from the story of the character to the outside. The fun is over. Woof Woof Woof Woof Woof!
Exhibition credit: Can Küçük, Woof Woof Woof Woof Woof, Pilot Gallery, İstanbul, 2020-2021.
Photo credits: Kayhan Kaygusuz
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