Short Story – No Escape

Girl with a Pearl Earring and a Silver Camera. Digital mashup after Johannes Vermeer attributed to Michell Grafton, image source: https://wordswewomenwrite.com/2015/10/20/o-mamma-zumma-zumma/girl-with-a-pearl-earring-and-a-silver-camera-digital-mashup-after-johannes-vermeer-attributed-to-mitchell-grafton-c-2012/
Girl with a Pearl Earring and a Silver Camera. Digital mashup after Johannes Vermeer attributed to Michell Grafton. Image Source.

How social media platforms are being used by young people for experiencing art is an issue that most people can have an idea about or be familiar with, as it is being focused on and explored constantly. In this short story, I wanted to take a slightly different approach and reflect on the role of social media on experiencing art not from the point of view of a young individual or a millennial; but from the perspective and experience of a pre-social media generation. I hope you’ll enjoy.

Helen was turning 72 today, and she was alone, like every other day since Jack passed away. She didn’t have many close friends or any children, so when her husband died from a stroke one year ago, the feeling of loneliness became an undeniable, inescapable part of her life.

Jack was a painter, a very talented one – at least in Helen’s eyes. He painted landscapes and portraits, usually of women, but they were imaginary. He didn’t have models like most artists did. He was a loyal man, he surely had some unpleasant qualities, but infidelity wasn’t one of them. She sometimes caught herself imagining who might the women in his portraits be in real life – if they were real, she never asked about it and he didn’t say anything. But she always trusted and counted on him, and when he was gone, it became harder and harder for her to cope with his absence and her loneliness – some days it was just unbearable.

It was on one of those days that she decided to go to this art gallery that recently opened on her street. She enjoyed art, but she wasn’t a regular museum or gallery visitor, she didn’t have the habit to go and explore artworks regularly. But that day she just wanted to get out of the house, do something different to distract herself from her overwhelming thoughts.

After that day, she started going to this gallery once or twice every week, sometimes even more – spending hours in front of the paintings and looking at them like they were masterpieces. At first she didn’t understand how this happened, as she didn’t have this urge to visit a gallery before and there wasn’t anything special about this place. But then after a while she realized, she somehow felt closer to Jack while she was there, closer to his world. She could feel and remember his presence more, surrounded by all these paintings. This small gallery became her shelter in a sense, her best way to connect with Jack. She had lost him, but finally found a way to nurture her memory of him.

So on her 72nd birthday, Helen decided to go to the gallery again. Jack wasn’t a particularly romantic man, but he never forgot her birthdays and always gave her a small present, sometimes a painting, even though they were getting old this habit of his always continued. So on this day, she wanted to go to the gallery, to somehow feel like she was celebrating her birthday with him, even though she knew this would never happen again.

There was something extraordinary going on in the gallery that day. Well, maybe it wasn’t that extraordinary – people were constantly taking ‘selfies’ , a term that Helen learned recently, in front of the artworks. On her regular visits to the gallery Helen noticed this was happening quite often – visitors, especially young people, taking selfies or photos of the artworks, and spending most of the time looking at their smartphones, rather than focusing on and observing the works. As an old woman, she thought this was the new ‘trend’, one that she wasn’t able to understand and thought was quite meaningless and distracting, but who was she to judge?

On this particular day, this trend seemed at its peak to Helen. Almost everyone and especially youngsters were taking selfies, some were using long sticks attached to their phones to take them – Helen hadn’t seen one of those before. They were rushing around, stopping in front of the paintings and changing the position and angle of their phones constantly. Helen couldn’t understand what exactly was going on and started feeling very overwhelmed – then she saw the poster on the wall. The poster said it was the “#GallerySelfie” week, the visitors were encouraged to take a selfie in front of the artworks and post it on ‘Instagram’ with the ‘hashtag’ #GallerySelfie and the gallery ‘tagged’ in it. Then the best 3 selfies chosen by the curator and the director of the gallery would be featured there, as artworks themselves.

Helen didn’t know what most of the terms in this poster meant, but she knew that her idea for her birthday was ruined. Not being able to focus on any work or to feel that calming atmosphere and connection with Jack, she left the gallery perplexed.

She didn’t go there the next week, or the week after that. She felt like after her last visit on her birthday, being in the middle of all the rush and chaos, her vision of this gallery as some sort of haven, as an imaginary link between herself and her beloved Jack, was damaged. She didn’t know why this has affected her so much as she used to notice this behaviour on most of her visits, but perhaps seeing too much of it at once made her feel this distanced towards it.

One day, after two weeks passed by without her visits, she started feeling very suffocated in the house, alone with her thoughts. She wasn’t sure what to do, she got quite used to going to the gallery when she felt this way in the past few months. So she decided to go again, hoping the atmosphere wouldn’t be like the one in her last visit.

Upon entering the main space in the gallery, Helen noticed it was much calmer and she felt pleased. Walking around the space slowly, she started feeling her bond with this place becoming strong again, allowing her to feel a connection to Jack once more.

Suddenly, she came across the section of the room reserved for the 3 selfies – the winners of the #GallerySelfie week. Getting curious, she started looking at them carefully. In the first one, a man in his thirties was doing the exact surprised facial expression as the portrait behind him. In the second selfie, a mum and her little son were hugging each other, she wasn’t sure of the work behind them. In the final one, two teenage girls were looking to each other and laughing in front of a beach landscape painting, and there were people in the background, as the frame of this one was much larger compared to the other two. While taking a closer look to all of them, she needed to put on her glasses to be sure of what she was seeing in the final selfie – she was there too in the background, looking around with her puzzled expression.

The contrast between her confused image in the background and the laughing young girls was so strong that Helen couldn’t take her eyes off of the photo. She stood in front of it for a long time, looking at it over and over again- and then took her old fashioned phone off her pocket, and decided to take her first selfie.

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Interview with Curator Mine Kaplangı on Art and Social Media

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How many art museums or galleries are there today, that don’t have an active Facebook or Twitter page? What about the number of institutions that continue to have inflexible rules when it comes to photography in their spaces? How many of us, especially as millennials, didn’t take a #MuseumSelfie to post on Instagram yet? Even if we don’t know the exact numbers, we can easily guess the answers to these questions. Social media is becoming or already became an indispensable element in the world of art; affecting both how the institutions represent themselves and reach people, and how we experience and perceive art and these institutions; which brings many more interesting questions to the table.

In my interview with Mine Kaplangı, an art curator, artist representative and editor based in Istanbul, I wanted to tackle this growing, intriguing relationship and the questions it raises further. Mine, who is currently working on curating the yearly program of BLOK art space, a well-known contemporary art space in Istanbul, gave many thought-provoking answers to my questions. I hope you’ll enjoy!

 

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Q: As you know, the increasing presence and activity of art institutions on social media platforms is discussed greatly in art scenes all over the world these days. What are your personal opinions on this ongoing orientation and its effects and outcomes for the institutions?

A: As art institutions increase their social media presence it becomes very important to make the distinction between using these platforms for promotion and education. The increasing number of followers of art museums or galleries on social media show that people are interested in getting the latest developments in the art world this way, so using these platforms not only for promotion but also for education, giving information and making announcements becomes a crucial point. With these platforms, we – as a community linked by art – have new and bigger responsibilities for our followers, artists and visitors. Now museums and galleries have more opportunities to express themselves not only in local and physical spaces, but also in digital and global ones. By using these platforms being in connection with the global art market becomes much easier, which makes using them efficiently even more important.

Q: What about its impact on their audience and visitors? Do you think especially millennials being the ‘digital natives’, have started to perceive art institutions as more approachable, interesting or entertaining as a result of the social media effect?

A: With the increasing presence of art on social media, in a sense ‘popular’ shapes it’s way also in the art world. Social media platforms create the new trends; people turn to them for the answers of questions like “What is in? What is popular?”. Maybe someone with a thousand followers really liked a sculpture because of its colour, posted it online, suddenly there is a “popular” artwork on social media. Many people start following the artist, the gallery and so on.

Of course sharing and compressing all experiences into one timeline creates a personal pleasure for young generation. Entertainment is surely part of these platforms but this is how this new generation live now, in an age where the discussion “entertainment versus education” has ended and now entertainment is the first rule for the education, especially when it comes to art. So before they experience the actual exhibition, they check online, learn more about the trends, follow the artists they like, share the works they feel closer and share their selfies from their experiences. Also since the 90s there are many examples of digital artworks focused on social media platforms, criticising or exploring either way we are trying to learn more about the new ethical rules of these big questions through art as well. These platforms and what kind of standards they bring to our perception of art will be discussed by all of us for years I believe, until we have other platforms.

Q: In BLOK art space, what is your standpoint to this relationship as an art gallery? You have active Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages, how do you use them strategically to reach your audience?

 A: I think in this new era we are living in; this is not a choice but a need. We have no choice but to use social media platforms to reach a wider crowd. This is also a part of a business plan, since we are all connected as a large art system each one of us should offer certain information, images etcetera to get people’s attention.

This is our 3rd year in the social media field. Facebook is more of an event page for us, we almost use our profile page like if it’s our website. We use Twitter to follow local and global art news and also as a news board for our followers. We use Instagram as a timeline, almost like a visual archive. With our Instagram posts, we try to be very careful with posting all information both in Turkish and English as half of our followers are from foreign countries. One of our artists’ got an invitation to a seminar in London because of our Instagram post about her installation last year. We believe that creating these kinds of new links and connections are very valuable for the art world.

 Q: What are your opinions on the current trend of taking photographs and/or selfies in art exhibitions and sharing them on social media, especially by millennials? Do you support it and think that it should be allowed, for marketing purposes for instance? Or do you think that it distracts the visitors from the actual artworks thus it should be discouraged?

 A: This is a very on point argument at the moment for the contemporary art world and I believe this phenomenon has both its effective and contradictory sides. On one side these tools are almost becoming a form art by themselves. For instance, take the colour pallet you can choose from for your Instagram photo of an artwork. Not only people put their own aesthetic perspectives into this action but also Instagram filters become their personal choices for the last look! In addition, we can share everything easily and quickly, thus we also become like a newsletter for the art world. You follow your friend, your friend shares an artwork, you get curious, click on the artwork, and bam! You are already in that gallery’s or museum’s page. That’s indeed a very effective way of spreading the word.

On the other hand, personally I find it very difficult not to get disturbed by the fact that we are starting to feel like we need to record everything to remember. But I believe this is more related with our generation’s zeitgeist not exclusively with the art world. Every day we create another profile on social media platforms, we use different apps to create diverse types of realities. So, in this fast-track movement how we are going to find our ways? Do we have a moment to just breathe and be present, or should we just evolve with these new opportunities and discover the world of art through digital platforms?

Q: At BLOK art space, did your rules for photography change as a result of this trend?

A: Our rules didn’t change in a significant way, as we have always allowed our visitors to take photographs in our exhibitions. We only ask them not to use flash when taking photographs as it may damage some artworks or objects. If there is a certain event, performance or a screening of course we expect from our visitors to respect the works. Since our space is not very large, when it’s dark even the dimmed light from a single phone can be pretty disturbing for the viewing experience.

Q: How do you see the future of this expanding relationship between art institutions and social media? Do you think a continually growing number of institutions will become more embracing of social media platforms and enhance their presence and activity on those platforms, as it seems to be the case?

A: The future of digital technologies and how us, as the art community, will continue to use them is unknown yet very exciting! We tend to use these platforms to create a community for sharing knowledge, ideas and information. We do learn and get inspired from each other so why not continue to use these platforms to connect with one another? I believe that future will bring new ways of perceiving and sharing art, creating new discussions on topics such as “What is art?” and “Who is an artist?”. We will all experience and learn together.

Q: What about from the perspective of the audience and visitors? In your opinion will they continue to increasingly engage with art through social media, by sharing their experience of art on those platforms, or at one point this trend will reach its limit and they will start becoming weary of it?

 A: I don’t think this is a trend that one will be tired of. I just think we are going to be very tired because of carrying those smartphones and holding them up straight to get photos with a perfect angle, but probably technologies will find a way to solve these problems soon. I believe our cyborg generation will never leave their digital media platforms, we will create more platforms, maybe alternative ones with more interactive or user-friendly options. But at the end our Internet age just created a new digital world that represents our physical world. So why not learn how to represent it correctly or efficiently?

Check out BLOK art space’s official website here, as well as their pages on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Mademoiselle Privé

I’ve mentioned Chanel’s new exhibition Mademoiselle Privé at Saatchi Gallery earlier in my LV Series 3 post as an exhibition not to miss – after visiting, my opinion is definitely the same. It is a unique exhibition, or rather an experience that offers an insight into the classic yet glamorous world of Chanel, created by Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, and transformed by Karl Lagerfeld.

The exhibition is similar to LV Series 3, in the sense that they both draw on dim lighting, digital technology and can be considered as “multimedia exhibitions” as they involve different forms of media such as audio, video, texts, animations and more. Also, they both greatly encourage visitor engagement.

In fact Mademoiselle Privé carries the use of digital technology & visitor engagement one step further, as there is an app of the same name specially made for the exhibition, in order to enhance the interaction between the exhibition and the visitors.

When you first enter the exhibition, a mirrored staircase greets you, which is the reconstruction of the original one in Chanel’s apartment, where she used to sit to observe fashion shows taking place downstairs, without being seen. So if you have downloaded the Mademoiselle Privé app and hold your phone to the staircase, you’ll be surprised to see Chanel’s apartment in Rue Cambon!

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The first parts of the exhibition focuses more on Coco Chanel and the most important and symbolic places in her life. After the mirrored suitcase, you enter a room full with hats, boxes and amazing illustrations, that symbolizes the first ever shop of Coco Chanel in 21 Rue Cambon, where she used to sell the hats she made. The voice of Geraldine Chaplin (as Chanel) tells that she used to put the hats into cake boxes, and other interesting facts about her earlier experience in the fashion world continues to be heard as you walk around.

An enlarged version of one of the diamond pieces from Coco Chanel’s first and only jewellery collection “Bijoux de Diamants” in 1932 is displayed in a huge bird cage – making it appear even more charming.


One of the most interesting parts of the exhibition to me, is where Chanel’s most important totems such as lucky numbers, pearls and the color red are displayed in different forms and shapes.

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Then there’s the futuristic and somewhat laboratory-like room of Chanel’s iconic N°5 perfume.

I really enjoyed the “Jardin à la Française”, the impressive model of a garden that seems like a small labyrinth, and the walls of which are inspired by Chanel’s symbol, opposing C’s.

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Moving on to the Haute Couture section of the exhibition, where special pieces of Chanel’s jewellery collection are combined and displayed together with Karl Lagerfeld’s haute couture designs made for this exhibition. The portraits of celebrities such as Keira Knightley and Julian Moore , wearing the designers’ pieces and jewels are on the walls of the room, surrounding the mannequins.

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Finally, on the third floor of the exhibition, there are three very interesting workshops which again show the interactive side of the exhibition, and allow the visitors to get a more in depth knowledge about different topics.

Chanel N°5 Olfactive Workshop is, as understood by the name, offers the secrets of this iconic perfume.

Lesage is a famous embroidery atelier that is one of Chanel’s artisan partners. The workshop under the same name gives an insight into craftsmanship, and is for the ones who want to learn more about embroidery from professionals.

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Lemarié, the couture flower and feather maker is also a part of Chanel’s artisan team. It’s workshop is for people who want to know more about feathers and the creation of flowers, such as the iconic camellias of Chanel made by Lemarié.

I didn’t have a chance to join the workshops as I haven’t made a booking in advance, but I think that they all seem really interesting and informing, so I’d recommend you to try and join if you’d like to learn more about any of the specific topics.

I really enjoyed my visit to this exhibition, as in my opinion it was a unique experience with many special elements that are able to take you to a different atmosphere. The exhibition ends this Sunday, on the 1st of November, and admission is free.

Here is the link to Chanel’s official website for more detailed information on the exhibition.

I’d love to hear your opinions on the exhibition as well, hope you enjoyed this post!

 

Frieze Art Fair

Yesterday I had the chance to visit Frieze Art Fair, a world-famous international organization that presents more than 160 contemporary art galleries, the most popular works of different artists, lectures of significant industry insiders and much more. The fair is over but I wanted to share my impressions in case you missed it, or couldn’t get enough of it like me :) Keep on reading to find out more!

It was my first time visiting Frieze, and I can say that from now on it’s definitely a must-go event for me. It was in a big tent-like construction made specially for the organization in The Regents Park. As it was Saturday, it was very crowded inside which made it hard to walk around. Even though at first I thought that it would be hard to explore the whole place in one day, I was wrong since it was very well-organized and I was able to see all the galleries in a few hours.

As soon as we started walking around, I felt really fascinated and even overwhelmed because there were so many beautiful and appealing pieces on every corner. Some of the most striking examples of contemporary art were displayed, and installations, sculptures in different forms and works where mirrors and reflections are prominent were seen a lot. Besides the works of the most famous artists such as Tracey Emin, there were also works of hugely talented emerging artists which I thought was wonderful.

The fair also included a Sculpture Park in the English Gardens, consisting of 16 works by different artists. I wasn’t able to see all of them but especially the huge balloon painted with oil as earth was quite impressive.

Some of my favorite works from the fair are below:)

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Hope you enjoyed it, thanks for reading!

 

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Inflatable Felix, Mark Leckey,2014
Jiri Dokoupil, Untitled, 2015

 

Glenn Brown, Mercury Sent to Admonish Aeneas, 2015

 

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Haegue Yang, Sonic Sphere, 2015

Louis Vuitton Series 3 Exhibition

Louis Vuitton Series 3

Fashion and art collaborations have become quite common nowadays, for example especially high-end brands like Chanel have done many exhibitions in different parts of the world and continue to do so (Mademoiselle Privé Exhibition started two days ago at Saatchi Gallery).

Louis Vuitton is one of those brands that show a great interest in the art world; as their numerous collaborations with artists in the past also point out (e.g. their collection with Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama in 2012). As it can be understood from the name, “Series 3” is the third of their “Series” exhibitions – the previous ones have started in Los Angeles and Tokyo, and then continued in other cities.

I visited the exhibition about a week ago. It’s at the 180 Strand building near Somerset House, and it’s about the brand’s artistic director’s inspirations for the creation of the Autumn-Winter 2015 collection. As a whole I found it quite successful, as the designs of the brand are displayed in a minimalist, virtual and dramatic atmosphere; this way the focus is always on them. For instance the all-white mannequin sculptures that are decorated with LV accessories make the products stand out significantly.

The use of dim lighting and different videos giving an insight to the creation process are outstanding, especially the ones that show how LV bags are hand-crafted are very interesting. There are also catwalk videos which are shown in separate vertical screens, which make you feel like you are in an actual fashion show. Finally, one of the greatest parts of the exhibition to me is the part where a craftswoman working at the LV workshop in France gives detailed information about the bags and answers the questions of the visitors.

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Craftswoman from the workshop in France

Here is the link of Louis Vuitton’s official web page that gives detailed information about the exhibition if you’d like to find out more.

I hope you enjoyed my first post, would love to hear your thoughts!