Kuyu // video installation / 2017
Kuyu is the second work of Demirel’s post-apocalyptic utopia series.
First work of the series was The Pier, a single-channel video installation.
Demirel observes abandoned architectural structures with his camera to fantasize about a post-apocalyptic future with no human survivor. How do structures live without humans they’re designed for? The work is an artistic take on the beauty of an objectively dystopian scenario.
Kuyu is designed as a 3-channel video installation, each channel at 4K resolution.
Eeriness of the living
Structurally, photography—even if at times tangentially—relates to and records the visible. This medium-specific, hefty commitment to what is already there in front of the eye(s), serves to create a tension between what the eye sees and what the eye is capable of seeing. Ali M. Demirel treads on this very territory by producing moving images that appear to be hardly moving, slowing down the viewer’s gaze to a bare minimum, thus constructing a reality that is familiar and eerie in a way only the very familiar can be.
The Pit is the second work of what Demirel calls his “post-apocalyptic utopia” series. While the first work of the series is The Pier, a single-channel video installation, speaks to the fate of post-industrial architecture, removing the human element without which these landscapes appear dis-quieting. The Pit, on the other hand, is the close scrutiny of an age-old human intervention in the landscape, the pit, to reveal what could be termed the “post-function.” What could images tell about where the human is no longer? What does the machine of the camera capable of narrating through the unempty void of the humanless?
Demirel observes abandoned architectural structures with his camera, fantasizing about a post-apocalyptic future through the images that he makes. The fantasies of Demirel are uncanny pre-cisely because there is no manipulation beyond what he actually sees. Demirel’s “fantasy” world is what is readily available, just at a different pace and at a different angle. His locations are every-where and nowhere—consequently, his camera could have been anybody’s and nobody’s.
The Pit relies on the rupture, emphasizing the post-apocalyptic and thus pointing to an apocalypse. The assumed apocalypse, a pricking of time, a split in the continuum, opens up possibilities of a new time, a new place, a new reality. After all, if the apocalypse has already happened, what else can we do but to observe, to imagine?
It is crucial to point out the progression of the post-apocalyptic utopia series. While The Pier fo-cused on the “apocalypse” of European modernist architecture, in The Pit, the artist returns to his “motherland” Bodrum for another, perhaps more personal “apocalypse.” The recent history of Bodrum is familiarly awful—a naturally beautiful coastal town transformed into a commercial con-crete jungle, rapidly losing its architectural and cultural traditions. The Pit is not only a documenta-tion of but also an extension of the landscape; this pit is a symbol of what has taken place in Bodrum, a post-apocalyptic state. Demirel’s pessimistic interpretation of the abandoned industrial architecture in The Pier moves to the more personally resonant space of Bodrum. The map in the exhibition space showing the location of the pit serves as a harsh reminder that we are indeed looking at a reality.
In Metin Erksan’s eponymous film from 1968, the pit is used as a convenient space for the murder-ess who kills her kidnapper and rapist before committing suicide. There is a parallel between the state of the pit and the woman—the woman kills before killing herself, just as nature takes over, overwhelms, and exerts herself while being destroyed. The rapist is an extension of the uncontrol-lable, impulsive nature of mankind today. Just as he was killed as a consequence of his own de-sires, we’ll self-destruct, leaving behind the sealed pit of the last scene in Erksan’s film.
In the landscape of Turkey, pits are the dark stains on the country’s conscience, serving as infor-mal cemeteries during ethnic conflicts, associated more often with loss than with water. The pit simultaneously holds finitude and the seemingly infinite. The pit is an echo chamber, associated more with invisibility than visibility. Demirel’s choice to make almost too visible what happens when a place is no longer used for what it was intended to be used for reminds viewers of the potential of the “post-apocalypse.” After all, this is what could be if we let go of function, of control, of domi-nance. It’s not a question of quality but rather of potentiality—what Demirel shows is already there, all the time, all around us. He has just chosen to point to a liberation of this potential, a full-fledged declaration of life and this life is scary, it is unreal.
Demirel’s images are not the thing itself, but the aftermath of it. As viewers, we know this gap to exist and we ignore it most of the time. Demirel draws us gently back into the eeriness of the liv-ing—all in, all the way.
- Merve Unsal