Pilevneli Gallery 2022

Adam Szymczyk

Pilevneli proudly presents “Jamming,” the first exhibition of Nevin Aladağ at the gallery.

Permanently based in Berlin and mostly working from that city, Aladağ is not an unfamiliar figure to Turkish audiences as she previously realized some of her works in Turkey and had exhibitions at Arter (2020 and 2022) and Istanbul Modern (2013), among others. Recently, the artist also participated in documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel and 57th Venice Biennial (both 2017), while her major solo shows were held at SFMOMA (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 2019) and Villa Stuck in Munich (2021).

The show at Pilevneli, conceived as a focused survey of Nevin Aladağ’s more recent work, expands on all three floors of the gallery. The works in the exhibition testify to the artist’s consistent interest in sound- and pattern-making and the function of rhythm and ornament as crucial binding elements in all social relations. At Pilevneli, an array of Aladağ’s recent and new projects can be seen (and heard); among them are unusual sounding sculptures of “Body Instruments” and “Resonating Spaces” series, abstract compositions assembling carpets of different origins and materials of “Social Fabric” series, see-through painted aluminum sculptures combining patterns borrowed from various sources (“Pattern Kinship”) and a new three-channel video installation “Jamming”. In fact, nearly all Aladağ’s works can be either performed or at least conjure a possibility of performative use.

Following up on “Music Rooms” (2017), a group of sculptures made of found household objects aided with acoustic appendages – such as strings, bells and resonating surfaces –

exhibited first at the Athens Music Conservatoire (Odeon Athinon) as part of documenta 14 in Athens, new works are featured at Pilevneli under the common title “Resonating Sculptures” (2021). They include Corner Harp, Corner Guitar, Resonating Percussion and Round Bells from “Resonating Space” series, as well as “Body Instruments,” including the Rainmaker’s Hat and Accordion Wings. Crafted with help of instrument builders, these new music instruments are inventions in both sound and form making. They can be contemplated as sculptures, worn as fashion accessories and played on, with no pre-existing user’s manual, first in an improvised manner, then with their players striving towards virtuosity through sessions of collective learning process.

Four circular wall works “Social Fabric” (2021-22) also belong to an ongoing series. Aladağ made them of cut out and re-stitched parts of existing carpets that were produced anywhere from Maghreb to China and from Germany to Iraq. The works use patterns that precisely don’t match, joined together along freehand-drawn lines – and thus serve as evidence of conflicting ways of being. “Social Fabric” series stages publicness versus domesticity, work versus leisure, women’s daily chores versus men’s pastime activities, religion versus entertainment, the West (where carpets are romanticized and appreciated) versus the East (where carpets originate and are commonly used) – and perhaps even war versus peace.

The multiplied aluminum screens of “Pattern Kinship” (2021-22) use various animal footprints reduced to abstract signs, multiplied and recombined in expanses of repeated motives – an ornament. Other patterns in the work have their origin in architecture and infrastructure of different cities in the world. The individual ceramic elements in “Jali” sculpture (2017 and ongoing) crawl up the wall that connects all floors of the gallery. They are based on open lattice patterns of elaborate window and door screens found in many countries of the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean – but also much further East – which serve as sunbreaks and at the same time enable constant air circulation in interior spaces of private dwellings and public buildings.

“Jamming”—the title of the new video installation and of the entire show – can be also understood as operating principle of Aladağ’s work: “jamming” is both interference and collective improvisation. “Jamming” uses similar motives and devices as those in some of the artist’s previous video works, “Session” (2013) and “Traces” (2015), in which instruments of both popular and classical music were animated and “played” by non-human agency – for instance by sand blown by the wind, movement of tree branches, falling water drops. Were these, ultimately, natural or manmade sounds? Nevin Aladağ’s work questions the borders and inquires the connections between chance processes and intentional actions, cultural codes and patterns of natural growth, vernacular aesthetics and industrial production, traditional knowledges and new urban lifestyles. Hers is a view on the world as a wonder that is constantly changing form, shifting, both expanding and shrinking, taking space and giving way, and slowly taking possession of all of us as we try and fail to keep it in check.

Written by Adam Szymczyk