Heidi Trautmann

Dec 5 - 18 : Exhibition: “Nicosia: Point – Sight – Take Aim” by Anber Onar

This exhibition will be inaugurated by the President, Dr. Derviş Eroğlu.


The opening will be at Sidestreets on Wednesday, 5 December, at 19:30.


As a principle, Sidestreets has never inaugurated its exhibitions or events with political personalities. On this unique occasion, we decided that we would like to meet, share with, and emphasize to the President, our concerns regarding “Nicosia.”





Not Party Politics... Culture!


Having observed the inner city of Nicosia closely since 2004, we can say that the view is, to say the least, interesting. To judge something to be “interesting” doesn’t always  mean to equate it with being “beautiful,” “good” or “right”: while sometimes the “interesting” may have no overt effect on us or produce no explicit reaction from us, most of the time it raises doubts and leaves question marks in our minds, and may even be transmuted into a range of very personal issues. Resolving this situation depends on how the issues that arise find expression for themselves: in what language, in what context, and with what aim.


In 2005, within the framework of the international art exhibition “Leaps of Faith,” the large-scale installation “Outside the Projects” was set up as a parallel event, which turned out to be very controversial and was discussed extensively in the media. In general, these discussions took the form of the language used by people affiliated with different political parties to oppose each other; at the same time artists and writers also found things to say about it for different reasons and agendas. 


Interestingly, the work was discussed as “artistic” because of its context within an international art exhibition and because of the fact that it had been made by an artist. Very few articles had the insight to discuss the artistic dimensions of the actual content of the work.


One’s artistic attitude and the positions one adopts always try to go beyond their own borders, either by monstrously consuming or by creating very close relationships with all the things in their path, while at the same time daring to create new and unique means of expressing them, to generate new kinds of sensibility and modes of questioning.


The “Outside the Projects” installation  was a public intervention that did exactly this: it  presented very familiar things – things that everyone had seen or been aware of and had either ignored, or only reacted to up to a certain extent –  in such an unexpected space and context, that the public was compelled to react to it at different levels and for a range of different reasons. This installation was very different from what constitutes a political party rally or a protest by unions, because here nothing was demanded or prescribed as a remedy.


Yet the installation created a cultural shock: and although it may seem on the surface that the discussions of the artwork at the time were not serious enough for any real action to be taken, these discussions expressed and reflected at a deeper level all that people had been intending to say: the public’s unconscious. The commentators set their sights and pulled their triggers.


And they missed the mark, because the target of the installation was neither Lefkoşa nor any particular aspect of party politics: this was a deep expression of dark irony about the law, the economy, communication, and culture. The work pushed this expression to its limits, in the most relevant space, at a most relevant time, using the most easily understandable visual medium, and making an activist intervention through art, to call, through questions and reactions, for a new language perhaps, to search for new forums perhaps, which might suggest change for the future. But it is patently obvious today that in the time which has passed between 2005 and 2012, no new language has emerged, nothing new has been proposed or produced to effect change, nothing new has been suggested and put into practice.


Art always tries to go beyond its own boundaries; it has the capacity to make use of everything in its path as an artistic medium and turn it into an intellectual language of questioning. Against this, there is another kind of language used in political arenas that takes its power from the logic that everything can be manipulated to serve an agenda. Elsewhere, the differences between these two kinds of language can be discussed on different cultural levels; but here in this country, because the most widespread language is the clichés of the political parties, this language determines the cultural level, so that art can always, and easily, be regurgitated as something indigestible. This is clearly shown by the attitudes that still prevail here today, where, generally speaking, art is discussed simply as something representing “beauty”; artists are simply seen as offering unquestionably “beautiful” objects or gifts; and the idea that art has an intellectual or conceptual investment in expressing critical questions simply doesn’t exist.


The seeds for the beginnings of Sidestreets were actually sown in 2005 with the “Outside the Projects” installation, and then germinated in 2007, as the old office building at 22 Mahkemeler Önü was redesigned and renovated into a contemporary facility: the rusted opaque doors on the ground floor and the wooden structures, all covered with graffiti, were replaced with transparent glass, conceptually and physically bringing the inside and the outside together in a direct and visible relationship.


With unfortunate accuracy, as the “Outside the Projects” installation in 2005 signified the movement of the backstreets and sidestreets of the city into its center, it predicted the real politics of the city’s contemporary situation: today there is no longer a need to go to the city’s margins to see its organic deterioration and increasing poverty, because now the margins of the city have become its center. “Outside the Projects” predicted, as it were, that the sidestreets would be the city’s predicament. In retrospect, it is clear that the prediction has been realized; and it is also significantly ironic that since 2007, Sidestreets has been and still continues to be a reality in the “main street”: in the midst of the banks, the central post office, the lawyers’ offices, the lawcourts – right in the center of the city of Nicosia.  


These predictions of relationships, now realities, are all related to “NICOSIA: Point – Sight – Take Aim”; they are different facets of this exhibition, understood as a whole. For with this exhibition, we are once again directly signifying, by pointing to, setting our sights on, and taking aim at, the rotten condition of Nicosia, whose fate is perhaps to continue to rot away. And with this exhibition, and in this context, Sidestreets is also taking a new look back at its own history. Is Nicosia being targeted? What is Nicosia? Who, and what determines the boundaries of Nicosia? How are the limits of economics, politics, religion, gender, race, and so on, being set up here? How do they affect the reasons for targeting Nicosia?


Questioning these things, seeing our own history anew at every moment, trying to understand when we aimed at a target and when we missed; and with one eye shut while the other eye tries to seek our target, there is nothing we can do but PointSightTake Aim! Here, and now, one more time, is it even remotely possible to see that the target might not be Nicosia? 


On the one hand, “pointing – sighting” and “taking aim”  can be used to destroy lives; while on the other, it can also be seen as using a weapon to protect other lives. In other words, as borders and limits are drawn separating the politics of the included from that of the excluded, the struggles of the excluded (who may be children, the disabled, women, LBGT, immigrants, Cypriots, and so on) are simply seen as their target by those who can pull the trigger. As we Point – Sight – and Take Aim, but with one eye shut, to try and focus on what we are targeting, is it even remotely possible that we can understand that numerous other eyes are focusing on the same target, but without being afraid of being targeted themselves?      

--Anber Onar (Translated by Johann Pillai)


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