Is This Fiction?

With the Contributions of Calyon-Credit Agricole Group

17 February 2007 - 20 May 2007

The 5th video program at Istanbul Modern "IS THIS FICTION?" has been conceived to be presented simultaneously with the photography exhibition Turkey by Magnum Photos. The selected video works by Simone Aaberg Kaern (Denmark), Narda Alvarado (Bolivia), Esra Ersen (Turkey) and Johan Grimonprez (Belgium) propose a reflection on how we understand and deal with social realities when trying to document them. Some might think that documenting reality is a way of not intervening in it but today we are far from believing that there is such thing as objectivity in the transmission of information. We all determine our own ways of reading and understanding reality. What, then is a document? Can art possibly represent certainty? Is truth purely a matter of context? Is reality just a matter of observation or is observation itself producing reality? The selected artists and projects shown here raise these and other relevant questions about the purpose and status of photographic and video images and put into question our common acceptance of them as factual proof.

"IS THIS FICTION?" tests our faith in photographic and documentary images as valid impressions of reality, presents an opportunity to think about the ground on which different "Histories" have been built, and reflects on how the authors transform reality and our perceptions of it.

Curator: Rosa Martinez

1001 Nights, 2002

Simone Aaberg Kaern landed in Kabul airport in December 2002. She flew there herself in her 40 year old Piper Colt shortly after she had earned her pilot’s licence. Her purpose was to find the 16 year old girl Farial from Kabul, who dreamt about becoming a pilot. Born in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1969, Simone Aaberg Kaern had previously explored in her work how women became fighter pilots during World War II. In Farial's wish she saw a parallel and decided to teach her how to fly an airplane and eventually allow her to fly over Kabul.

Ten years earlier, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz had presented the sketch of their Space Power Theory, which elucidated the advantages of dominating airspace for controlling all activities on the ground. One Thousand One Nights claims everyone’s right to the sky; the freedom to fly anywhere, anytime, even after September 11th.

Olive Green, 2003

In Narda Alvarado’s video performance Olive Green, guardians of order use their authority and power to commit an ironic, anarchistic and chaotic act, using the very the rules they should preserve. A large number of traffic policemen block - in perfectly ordered formation – the Avenida Roma, one of the capital, La Paz’s major boulevards, for the sole purpose of consuming an olive in front of impatient, sometimes hysterical and extremely surprised drivers. “Olive green” is not just the color of the olive but the emblematic color of national Bolivian police. This performance, staged by the artist, shows how the usual rhythms of reality can be subverted by the imagination.

First trained as an architect, Narda Alvarado (La Paz, Bolivia, 1975) poetically explores through different media the meaning and use of art in a climate of social, political and economic depression.

If You Could Speak Swedish..., 2001

Esra Ersen’s work explores social behaviour; the way identities are shaped and transformed across national, cultural and linguistic borders. Whether working in photography, video, or installation, she often reacts to or uses a specific location in order to formalize her investigations.

In 2001, Ersen (Ankara, Turkey, 1970) attended a course in Swedish as a foreign language in Stockholm and asked the other participants to write in their own language what they would say if they could speak Swedish. Their responses went from political statements to emotional outpourings. Their sentences were then translated into Swedish and presented in a video that shows people reading their own words, during which an instructor continually corrects their pronunciation. This work reveals the pitfalls of translation, and the vulnerable state people are in when they come to live in a new country.

Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y, 1997

Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y is a video film presented as a documentary of airplane hijackings taking place between the 1960s and the 1990s. Director Johan Grimonprez (Trinidad, 1962) investigates the political ideology behind the character of the romantic and revolutionary hijacker, while unwrapping our shared desire to witness disaster. The result is a montage of photographic, electronic and digital images, combining reportage with clips from science fiction films, found footage and reconstituted scenes filmed by the artist. The soundtrack by David Shea puts together music with extracts from Don DeLillo’s White Noise and Mao II, all interspersed with a ‘70s disco theme.

This work denounces the media as spectacle, and seeks to detect the impact of images on our feelings, knowledge and memory. It also addresses the construction of "History" as it claims to represent reality.