REVOLT: An Archive of Resistance

05.04.2023 – 15.04.2023, Zemin Gallery Berlin
Curator: Diren Demir
Artists: Aslıhan Akın, Ateş Alpar, Doğa Melis, Ece Karakaş, Elif Soylu, Feminist Solidarity for Disaster Relief, hzr, Liana Georgi, Massar Muenster, Niyaz Uslu, Nurçin İleri, Reyan Tuvi, Serpil Çakır


There are many examples of using language as a tool for activism against the expansionist fascist mentality, which perceives every area where statements remain silent as a “consent”. Against corruption and fascism processes in which democracy is tried to be rendered dysfunctional, the need for the dynamic use, development and strengthening of the language by the people emerges. Banners are powerful expressions of shouting. The exhibition brings together artists and activists who have something to say. It explores ways to express a request, statement, complaint, demand and rebellion in public.

On this path, there are many creative ways in which the act of advocating can be expressed through language. Creative processes in revolts increase the duration, strength and intensity of the uprising. Riots are indeed creative processes in nature. All the contents on the banners in the exhibition were used in uprisings in different cities and countries, on different years. By gathering different approaches of resistance and statements in different languages, exhibition aims to present public statements and empower the activist voices and solidarity from a transnational and intersectional perspective. At the same time, the exhibition attains the status of an ever-growing archive open to public participation throughout its duration.


Colors of the Future

January 9th – February 5th 2022
Museum Gazhane
Curators: Gül Demirdag, Ali Abbas Korkmaz, Diren Demir

The “Colors of the Future” exhibition, brought to life by the Istanbul Volunteers, was held between 9 January and 5 February, hosted by the Museum Gazhane.

In the “Colors of the Future” exhibition, it was aimed to introduce the works of promising artist candidate students who graduated from fine arts departments of universities to the art community and the public. Based on the fact that a society without art will move away from modernity, we aimed to contribute to the accessibility of young people as artists and art lovers.

The exhibition, which brings together the graduation works of the students who graduated from the relevant departments of the Fine Arts Faculties in Istanbul in the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 academic years, was brought to life with the support of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.



Aesthetics of Struggle

10-11-12-13 July 2021, Akbank Art
Curator: Diren Demir
Artists: Egemen Tuncer, Burçak Konukman, Eymen Aktel, Omar Berakdar, Ömer Tevfik Erten, Zeyno Pekünlü, Servet Koçyigit, Anna Parisi, İsmet Dogan, Furkan Öztekin

To be born, to be educated, to procreate, to pay our taxes and to join the docile bodies living in a drugged contentment… There is a scenario scripted for every single living organism in order to maintain this flawed system.

The Aesthetics of Struggle brings together the unconventional practices of opposition of those who had woken up from the world of these scenarios written a long time ago, which shape the desires, impulses, truths, bodies, identities and purposes of existence of living organisms who have been living under an overcoding authority, practicing mass manipulation, controlling the flow of desire, and under different forms of masculine and economic violence.

The sum of the works that have come together, stripped of all the earlier forms of struggle and resistance that have existed so far, open the doors to re-evaluate our understanding of struggle. Is the act of struggle a miracle that is expected to appear as a result of a mass explosion, or is it a chain of prohibitions or privileges that starts with the identity of the individual/organism assigned at birth, the geographical location in which he was born, his ethnic origin, the economic status he had acquired by chance, and that continues until the end of his life?

In a period where practices of activism are rather barren, constantly repeated and consumed, but never produced anew; through works of art in which the original and transformative role of struggle comes to the fore, “The Aesthetics of Struggle” aims to expand the repertoire of “activism”, “action”, and “opposition” by way of the forms of expression that art offers. The exhibition itself attempts to intensify the transformative narrative of the artworks on individual/mass, internal/external, micro/macro scales by redesigning the place where the “spectator” is positioned by the artwork. To this end, the exhibition bases its practice on the action of “approach” that John Berger presents as “hope and an act of faith”, and applies this to the space between the work and the audience. According to Berger; “the action of approach […] will lead to collaborations which deny discontinuity. The act of resistance means not only refusing to accept the absurdity of the world-picture offered us, but denouncing it. And when hell is denounced from within, it ceases to be hell.”

The only distance that needs to be covered in order to close the “distance/gap” between the work and the spectator consists of the factitious judgements, definitions, points of view, positionings and presuppositions that are subsequently attributed to the inner relations of the artist and the spectator with themselves. Once all these are overcome, the artwork, the artist and the spectator have taken a step towards liberation and perceiving their “true identity”. In time, these steps transform the individuals who have constructed reality based on “believing”, into individuals who build their reality on “knowing”. This, precisely, is a situation that goes against the nature of any spectacle created by the domain of power. And on this issue, Jacques Ranciere says, “looking is deemed the opposite of knowing” and he adds, “The spectator is separated from the capacity of knowing just as he is separated from the possibility of acting.”

Nothing that is not real can exist in the face of an audience who have based their reality on “knowing” instead of “believing”, and this is exactly what “The Aesthetics of Struggle” aims to let the viewers find. Much like the positions of power created by means of the passive situation in which the spectacle places the viewer, the exhibition space itself engenders a certain form of power and is transformed into the field of struggle itself. The only way The Aesthetics of Struggle exhibition differs is that it seeks ways to be free from itself.

If the subject realizes that he is asleep, he will come across a deep desire to recognize his own reality. However, it is quite unlikely for the spectator to find this point of desire within a game that was created by the domain of power. While the ultimate outcome of this game that is dependent on power is to put the subject to sleep, it is rendered powerless because of its inherent dependence to power and to the “believing spectator”. On the other hand, “belief”, which forms the basis of the structure of power, is the opposite of knowing, and is doomed to disintegration with the subject’s reinterpretation of his own reality. It is exactly through this new interpretation that the exhibition expects the audience to “kill the exhibition”, to destroy the identity they know and have experienced to be themselves. This exhibition, which wishes to have never existed, brings together a variety of different fields of struggle such as climate, body, gender, consumption, economy, race, species, ethnicity and so forth, as it offers the spectator the possibility of experiencing a realm beyond the typical spectacle. The viewer’s entry into this field of experience occurs in two different ways; the first is the individual drive towards liberation, and the second is the “chained” state of the artworks and forms of struggle as they appear in the exhibition.

The nature of the power relationship between the spectator and the artwork could also be clearly seen in the relationship between authority and society. Therefore, the question “Does a liberated audience liberate the work?” and the question “Can a liberated society dissolve power?” are identical in micro and macro aspects. According to Baudrillard, the first step of liberation is to “chain” things together; “Against all modern superstitions of ‘liberation,’ it must be said that forms are not free, figures are not free. They are on the contrary bound: the only way to liberate them is to chain them together, in other words to find their links, the ties that create and bind them, that chain them gently together. Moreover, they connect and engender themselves, and art has to enter into the intimacy of this process.” For this reason, The Aesthetics of Struggle finds different practices of struggle to be “chain[ed] … gently together”, and enters into the “intimacy of this process”. These ties that bind the works together are not the utopia of the joyful and happy people of a shared world; they are united through an impulse to free the experience of living from all the flows of desire drawn for them, from identity management, from elements that shape the body, from social role inequalities, and also from the factitious walls of countries that limit the mobility of the body.

The exhibition, which anticipates transformational solutions for our age, also presents a contemporary world-picture, created through an analysis of the cold wars, pandemics, mass uprisings and the numerous phases of turmoil that the world has experienced in recent years. This picture, which is the sum of all the artworks in the show, offers various prophecies about the future based on Winterson’s idea of “Art does not imitate life. Art anticipates life.” In his commentary on Bosch’s painting, “The Garden of Earthly Delights”, John Berger offers seven prophecies that predict the future of the world. According to Berger, “The new order claims to rationalise and modernise production and human endeavour. In reality it is a return to the barbarism of the beginnings of the industrial revolution, with the important difference this time round that the barbarism is unchecked by any opposing ethical consideration or principle.” 

While the presence of docile bodies – attempted to be devised through enforcing restraints on our reflexes of reacting and resisting today – act as an evidence pointing to this; as a continuation of his prophecy, Berger envisions the picture of a system that works on the nation state, on the global racketeers of the giant banks of the world, or on the perception that people who do not produce, do not consume, and do not have money to put in the bank are redundant. However, according to him, these prophecies about the future would never come together to form a meaningful figure; “This lack of sense, this absurdity is endemic to the new order. As Bosch foresaw in his vision of hell, there is no horizon. The world is burning. Every figure is trying to survive by concentrating on his own immediate need and survival.” The world depicted in the exhibition is an assertion of the fact that this system in which we live has reduced our experience of living to merely an existence based on our survival reflex as separate individuals, and it aims to bring some clarity to this meaninglessness particular to the new order and to the long-blocked paths of analysis in a “world [that] is burning.”

Ranciere, Jacques; “Le spectateur émancipé”
Baudrillard, Jean; ” Le complot de l’art “
Demirtas, Mustafa; “Policy of Desire: Deleuze and the Guattari Effect”
Debord, Guy; “La Societe Du Spectacle”
Berger, John; ” The Shape of a Pocket “
Winterson, Jeanette; “Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery”