Pg Basement presents its second exhibition, “Familiar Distance”, a solo presentation by Kanat
Akar, a young multimedia Turkish artist working across video and photography, and exploring the narrative relation between the production of images and political subjectivity. In a recent work, the two-channel video installation, “Neighbor” (2018, 17’) and the centerpiece of this exhibition, Akar is problematizing from the outset, the positions of author, subject and image in the hierarchy of storytelling. In the plot of “Neighbor”, unclear at first whether real or fictitious, the artist meets in his native city of Ankara, Arif, a young Syrian child, who has immigrated to Turkey in 2015, escaping from the traumatic destruction of Aleppo.
Arif works everyday collecting cardboard and paper in the streets of a neighborhood in Ankara, to help support his family, and received a photographic camera from Akar, with the sole instructions to photograph what he sees in the first person, and from his very own perspective. The result of his brief photographic journey is thirty-six photographs in thirty minutes, that reveal the ordinariness of his childhood experience, yet for the viewer, interpreting these images always as a document of migration and catastrophe, they become imbued not only with melancholy but also with semantic ambiguity and displacement. In the exhibition, conceived as an immersive space, the physical photographs accompany the artist’s videography.
In the winter of 2018, after a conflict broke out between Arif’s family and other families, the family decides to move. In “Neighbor”, Akar traces the visual path of Arif’s photographs, calling for a subtle encounter between the present moment, history, images and interrupted memory: “A connection was made with the simplest form of traveling: walking”. The artist, almost a hidden or accidental author, has transformed an ordinary everyday territory, into a haunted space, rich in emptiness and distance. Navigating these void spaces, once so familiar through the photographs, but in the eyes of the other, is from now on a dual act: both longing and possible reconstruction.
Blurring the lines between documentary, photographic essay and lyrical lamentation, Kanat Akar recontextualizes the possibilities of representation of the other in conflict, and without forgetting to juxtapose images of poetry with present times. Here the narrative is only a moment lost to time, not a sequence or a solution. “We will come back sooner or later. This is our home” laments the departing family, leaving us and themselves in a territory of uncertainty, as contingent, incomplete subjects, with stories yet to be told. “Neighbor” was part of the official selection of the 2019 SPA Media Festival. “Familiar Distance” is Kanat Akar’s first solo gallery presentation, and the exhibition runs from March 23 through April 19.
Kanat Akar (b. 1991) is a visual artist, lives and works in Ankara. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Bilkent University and his MFA degree from Maryland Institute College of Art, Photographic and Electronic Media department, in 2018. He was the recipient of a residency at VisArts (Rockville, Maryland) until recently. His work has been on show at BASE 2018, Istanbul, and a number of groups shows in Hungary, Italy and the United States. PG Basement is a project space launched by PG Art Gallery in 2019 with the mission to support and promote more experimental projects with young artists who aren’t part of the gallery’s program, opening up the space to young artists and curators, on an invite-only basis.