Less than a year ago the famed İstiklal Street of Istanbul stood witness to the acts of Turkish republican history’s most violent government terror. Today where millions once united against one tyrant and where some peaceful demonstrators lost their eyes against inhuman police brutality, Arter — one of İstanbul’s most prestigious spaces for contemporary art — hosts Marc Quinn’s first solo exhibition in Turkey called The Sleep of Reason.
In fact, the title of the exhibition references Francisco Goya’s etching The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (from the series of aquatint plates entitled Los Caprichos, 1799). In the etching, Goya pictures himself sleeping, surrounded by monsters and nightmares — the products of his own imagination. Departing from its moral and historical context, The Sleep of Reason proposes an extension of our perception towards the realm of the invisible by connecting the particular to the universal and challenging our framing of reality.
The Sleep of Reason brings together more than 30 works Marc Quinn has produced since 1999, all revolving around history, time and space, body, and identity related themes. Investigating the relationship between nature and culture, Quinn’s work is often full of references to the complex process of creation, relating human history to the recurrent temporality of the cosmos. The self-portraits he has been producing every five years since 1991 are made up of his own frozen blood. His sculptures often upset the culturally standardized aesthetic norms for the human body. Quinn also likes stressing the nature of dualism that defines human life — Self/Other and Body/Mind — while discovering the reciprocated alterations or binary oppositions such as Life/Death and Birth/Destruction. In Quinns’s work, the “body” functions as a site through which new readings of the relationship between the inside and the outside can be made.
Art theoretician and curator Selen Ansen formulates the exhibition theme “threshold” as a passageway and a space of reversibility between internal and external. The historical and abstract notions that shape our understanding of the world and ourselves echo on each floor of the stunning exhibition.
The Origin of the World (2012)
This enlarged bronze sculpture of a shell —a found object as opposed to being a man-made creation — collapses time with its contrasting inside and outside surfaces. The outside of this giant shell can be perceived as a testament to the time passed with its cover-all crumples, whereas the shiny and smooth inside surface suggests the freshness and the infinite promises of the new.
Quinn started using freezing as a medium in the early 1990s, creating his first Self sculpture using his own blood. As a continuous project Quinn re-creates Self every five years, referencing our attempts to understand the transience of human life through artistic expression.
Matter Into Light (2011)
This piece is made up of two bronze skeleton sculptures that burn in flames as they sit in serene yogi poses. Set in a dark space, these sculptures invite the visitors to an alternate reality where Quinn wants you to see the continuous state of creation and destruction in the world. While death liberates the soul trapped in the body, both the body and the soul become energy that makes up everything in the universe and vice versa.
The exhibit runs to April 27, so you definitely have time to get over to Arter and see The Sleep of Reason for yourself!