In their own words: Istanbul’s OJ project space introduces its program of ‘inter-happenings’ + some Turkish artists it rates

, 26 June 2017

Erdem Çetrez, curator of OJ, introduces the Istanbul-based project space to aqnb, along with some contemporary Turkish artists working in the scene.

Monia Ben Hamouda + Michele Gabriele It won’t only kill you, it will hurt the whole time you’re dying (2017) Installation view. Courtesy the artists + OJ, Istanbul.

OJ, or Orange Juice, takes its name from the Istanbul-based curatorial team’s love for the healthy drink.  It’s a brand new project space located in the Asmalimescit district that initially started out as artist Burkut Kum’s personal studio in the neighborhood of Galata. Quickly becoming a local hub for like-minded artists and curators, OJ has since evolved after first exhibition and solo show of Burkut Kum’s Memorial Danger Zone (2017) into a multi-disciplinary venue for anything art-related, with ever-open doors to anyone wishing to participate.

The project then experienced a politically motivated eviction from its original post in the old Galata factory building and moved to its current place in Asmalimescit Taksim, in the process evolving into the full-blown exhibition space of its current function.  Since then, there have been seven exhibitions in the past five months, the most recent one being Monia Ben Hamouda and Michele Gabriele‘s double solo effort it won’t only kill you, it will hurt the whole time you’re dying which ran May 24 to June 10.

Burkut Kum. Photograph (2017). Image courtesy the artist + Orange Juice, Istanbul.

On top of being a physical space, OJ describes itself as an international network of artists, curators and writers with a shared aim of pushing the limits of contemporary exhibition formats and the post-conceptual potentials in the visual arts. With its roots in being a studio, the production process and an ongoing collaborative studio practice is still the main area of focus for OJ. Functioning as a mini-residency for each show, the project can be described as an alternative research centre, or a performance of ‘inter-happenings.’

Istanbul is a city that experienced a boom in contemporary arts back around 2010 to 2012 and was named the cultural capital of Europe (2010). Now, the unstable and almost threatening everyday political reality surrounding the city today almost serves as a post-apocalyptic backdrop for the alternative narrative OJ aims to introduce.  It’s a cultural response to its own environment that acts as a metaphor for a bigger global geopolitical crisis point, suggesting a new period of reconstruction, a digitally-conscious Modernism as a form of survivalism for the post-truth era.

Bora Akinciturk, body modification (2016). Install view. Courtesy the artist + The beautiful Erah, Bad Gastein

Here are six artists based or working in Istanbul selected by OJ, having had the pleasure of meeting and collaborating with them since their inception:

Burkut Kum

Born in 1997, Izmir, Burkut Kum resides between London and Istanbul. He partly grew up in England from the age of 13 before returning to Turkey to set up his first studio in Istanbul at19. He is mainly known for his non-critical take on the 21st century human condition as a self acknowledged post-millennial  ‘Modernist’. He opened his first solo studio show Memorial Danger Zone at OJ Art Space earlier this year,,. Although his main studio practice is painting, Kum’s incorporation of time based media and text within his practice reflects on multi-dimensional scapes where notions of analog and digital are merged and new realities are presented.  

Bora Akincitürk

Bora Akincitürk, born in 1982, Istanbul, is a Turkish/British artist living in London. Working between painting, sculpture, video and installation, his practice can  best be described as a somehow dark and nihilistic, yet humorous and absurd, take on contemporary life and the visual culture within it. A pioneer of internet art in Turkey, and initially a painter, Akincitürk’s work exists on its own unique plane of a digital yet fundamental human reality, dwelling into the ‘memetic’ dark corners of online communities such as 4chan and suggesting these anarchic and ever-evolving worlds of digital media as the next step of human evolution. He recently held a solo show Say Yes at the Beautiful Erah and also his duo effort with Berk Cakmakci Curtain of Like‘ opened at OJ Istanbul earlier this year.

Berk Çakmakçi

Çakmakçi is a multimedia artist mainly known for his video and photography works, as well as the experimental music project ‘Age Reform‘. His practice explores the gap  between digital and popular culture, whilst subtly giving hints of the political landscape he resides in. He most recently held a collaborative duo show Curtain of Like with Bora Akincitürk at OJ which explored the recent phenomenon of Internet’s image board culture and its mass effect in the dissolution of political ideologies.

Mert Diner, ‘red’ (2016) Painting. Courtesy the artist.

Mert Di̇ner

Mert Diner was born in 1976, Iskenderun. His practice is involved with the claustrophobic nature of the industrial and gothic surroundings of his hometown Istanbul, approaching this sense of connected loneliness with large scale abstract canvases. His work makes references to the late modernist tradition of the New York abstract expressionists, yet stand out as the products of a contemporary struggle, pointing at the grey blocks of paint covering up graffitied walls of Istanbul, metaphorically paralleling the country’s everlasting attempt of covering up creative progress of free direction.

Bahar Yürükoglu

Bahar Yürükoğlu, Divide and Conquer (2016) Installation view. Courtesy the artist + Lock Up International, Istanbul.

Bahar Yürükoğlu was born in Washington DC in 1981 and currently continues her work in Istanbul. Using photography, video, sound and installation, Bahar Yürükoğlu’s practice oscillates between the two-dimensional plane and three-dimensional space, investigating the process of translation from one to the other. When playing with light as a medium, she creates geometric shapes within her installations. She describes her own work as “an abstraction of the representational world,” playing with how we see the world through a geometric filter. Yürükoğlu recently showed solo exhibition maybe i’d like to be like you presented by Art Sumer.
Nazım Ünal Yılmaz 

Nazim Unal Yilmaz + Ozlem Unlu, If l can not fuck, it is not my tradition (2016) Courtesy the artists + OJ, Istanbul.

Nazim Ünal Yilmaz, born in 1981, Trabzon, lives and works between Istanbul and Vienna. Yilmaz’s paintings function as transformative of the daily/temporary image, which tend to become autobiographical after being exposed to a newspaper story,or  into the expression of a larger social context. He has exhibited solo shows in Istanbul, Vienna and London, and has recently opened his last solo show Sibel Beauty Parlor  at Istanbul’s at Sanatorium.**