The Pavilion of Humanity – OBJECTION | ITSLIQUID

The Pavilion of Humanity – OBJECTION

Art | July 17, 2017 |

The Pavilion of Humanity – OBJECTION

Image courtesy of Ekin Onat and Michal Cole

The Pavilion of Humanity – OBJECTION
Ekin Onat and Michal Cole
Campiello San Vidal, Venice
From 11 May to 30 November 2017

 

Objection is a collaborative residency of internationally acclaimed artists Ekin Onat and Michal Cole at the Pavilion of Humanity in Venice. The exhibition is curated by Gillian Fox and supported by the University of the Arts London. Open for the entire duration of the 57th Biennale, the exhibition raises the question of the role of arts and culture in times of crisis, political upheaval and change. Raising their voices and baring their souls to answer this question, the two artists behind Objection make an argument of compassion and non-violent protest. Michal Cole (b. Israel) and Ekin Onat (b. Turkey) share a conviction to use their artistic practice to speak truth to power, expressing their fundamental belief in human rights and the power of art to address injustice and inequality. Objection distorts the domestic into a place of quiet protest. In this traditional Venetian house, viewers encounter installations in every mundane room, altering the meaning of these overly familiar settings. The artists question the perception of home as a neutral political space, citing censorship, oppression, and persecution within everyday environments.

 

The Pavilion of Humanity – OBJECTION

Image courtesy of Ekin Onat and Michal Cole

 

The exhibition unfolds as a conversation between each work and bears witness to a world which both Cole and Onat feel has reached breaking point. Cole’s work is rooted in contemporary feminist rhetoric, Onat’s observes systemic political oppression and the impact on both aggressors and victims. Like a home, the exhibition changes from the societal space of downstairs, to the more intimate space as one ascends. Politicised gender and national identity are concerns of both artists. The works on the ground floor of the exhibition address the private-yet-public dichotomy of their familial environment. Two central themes emerge. The first theme manifests itself in the largest rooms and articulates concerns about dehumanisation through the adoption of uniforms, the ultimate representation of authority, power and societal status-quo. The articulation of this argument is overt in Onat’s There is No Lack of Security Here, an artwork constituting a dining room table and chairs made from deconstructed military armour – shields, buttons, helmets. The work reflects on the ability of humans to disconnect from the aberration of their actions through wearing uniforms and at the same time plays on an idea of recycling, of destruction and rebirth and the transformation of the existing system that respect can be demanded and not earned. Onat believes that uniforms represent a dehumanisation of the wearer, so the beginning of her process starts with shredding of the status symbol, the uniform, resulting in a new place of positivity and function – elements for the dining room – plates, bowls and cutlery; a recycling of utilitarian to utility.

 

The Pavilion of Humanity – OBJECTION

Image courtesy of Ekin Onat and Michal Cole

 

Cole’s ‘uniform’, by contrast, is threatening in its ubiquity and passivity. Her material, the necktie, is the ultimate gendered sartorial ascent, a symbol of male power dress and formality that simultaneously unifies and categorises. The artist references ties as a symbol of masculinity and phallic potency, evidenced in the works title, Top Gun (dictionary definition: the most important or powerful person in a particular sphere) but also as representation of a presumed societal approved respectability, baring ‘silent witness’ to the machinations of patriarchal civilisation. Many of the 25,000 ties within the work were gathered by the artist herself, trophies from social interactions and interventions. Top Gun’s soft sculptural form encompasses every nook and crevice of the living room. The inherent irony that this critique of patriarchal systems was the result of thousands of hours of traditional ‘women’s work’ – picking, ironing, sewing and constructed by Cole and a team of seamstresses, adds a potency to the message. The discarded men’s ties are appropriated into the walls and ceilings and space as new décor – creating a cavernous intimacy and duplicity – part mental institution padded cell, but also part riotous party, liberation and celebratory abandon of societal norms.

 

The Pavilion of Humanity – OBJECTION

Image courtesy of Ekin Onat and Michal Cole

 

The second theme explored is the power of speech as weapons of both liberation and destruction. Here, Cole’s Domestic Godless carries a primal scream of frustration and emancipation. The idea of a woman’s voice and place – be it silent or outspoken – and when a woman can be heard, are central concerns of Cole’s film installations. Influenced by an event in her personal life that left her ‘howling like an injured dog’, it addresses the role of women across all planes of human existence, and how inner frustrations at unrealistic pressures placed upon them – to be beautiful, smart, maternal, sexual – are universal. Cole inserts outrage into the kitchen of the home, the traditionally female environment. It transcends categorisation as a place of servitude as Cole subverts the environment to a place of self contemplation, power and escapism; the only suppression is in the tiny kitchen cups, bowls and teapots, through which these silent screams echo around the empty cupboards.

 

The Pavilion of Humanity – OBJECTION

Image courtesy of Ekin Onat and Michal Cole

 

In her sound work Dead End, Ekin Onat offers a darker countenance to the power of words misused. It seems like each news bulletin draws our attention to a contemporary version of ‘newspeak’, the insidious ‘alternative facts’ coined by the new American administration. Onat, a Turkish national, is already well versed in this Orwellian condition. Dead End uses the transcripts of speeches made by the incumbent government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. These revisionist and factually absent dictums are taken from speeches made in the last 14 years of his term in office so far. True to form Dead End is situated at the top of antiquated stairs that lead to nowhere in an artistic titular double play. In a final reference to the new world order, the bright white glowing neon lights of the work spell out snippets of some of the most incendiary speeches and cement the frightening proposition that the opiate of the people is no longer religion, but words professed in the pseudodialect of post-truth. The upper quarters of the house reveal sounds of voices behind locked doors, the mute sculptures atop the bed and finally each artist’s filmic isolation of solitary tasks of an eternity, forever looping and repeating. They work together to frame the setting, aping the function of this floor as a restorative place of rest and contemplation.

 

The Pavilion of Humanity – OBJECTION

Image courtesy of Ekin Onat and Michal Cole

 

The film works, situated in the upstairs lounge and bathroom, become the embodiment of Cole and Onat’s independent practices and concerns. In Neverland, Cole embodies the Greek mythological figure Sisyphus in a hyper-localised interpretation of the never ending task. Dressed as the ubiquitous 1950s housewife, this eternal return fuses the subject and concerns of Domestic Godless and Top Gun, each commenting on the endless struggle of women to navigate the minefield of identity in an increasingly impossible and sometimes hostile society. In Crime is Persistent in the Soul Onat reduces a uniform to that of her own human skin. Coming from a dance background, the artist is at home with performance as a method of communicating her message. Like Neverland’s location off the Grand Canal, Onat’s corporeal performance will be staged overlooking the streets and waterways of Venice in a very public denouncement of uniformity. The performance and subsequent film echoes the articulation of the messages of the lower rooms of the villa. In her performance Onat wear’s a riot-police uniform and inch-by-inch, removes this and slowly cuts and destroys each element, leaving her finally naked standing within the detritus. The upper floor holds two works the artists created in collaboration. In The Journey Between Human Being and Being Human, two voices can be heard passed a locked door. As a listener sways ever so slightly closer to listen at the keyhole, the voices instead of being focused are increasingly overlapping with the realisation that two different languages are being spoken. The thematic of speaking and not being heard continues in the final collaboration, Absent Presence, found in the master bedroom. Cole and Onat here insert themselves into a room in the house. The viewer is met by life-like models of the artists, the first openly physical semblance of their form in the exhibition not on a screen.

 

more. thepavilionofhumanity.com

 

 

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