Paradise Lost

İstanbul Modern’s new exhibition deals with the relationship between nature and technology

İstanbul Modern presents a new exhibition addressing the relationship between art, nature and technology: Paradise Lost. Lasting from 25 March to 24 July 2011, the exhibition consists of digital media and video works. Included in the show are 21 artists and a joint project who take into consideration subjects related to nature and examine the impact of industry and technology on the environment. These days during which we confront the consequences of the earthquake and nuclear disaster in Japan the exhibition Paradise Lost invites us to ponder our future through the visual arts.

Curated by Paolo Colombo and Levent Çalıkoğlu, the exhibition Paradise Lost takes a closer look at contemporary artists’ approach to a series of topical subjects pertaining to the forms of using technology, and regarding nature, the animal world, and major ecological changes that have affected the world in recent years. Artists from different generations and backgrounds come together in the exhibition: Doug Aitken, Francis Alÿs, Katerina Athanasopoulou, Jim Campell, Ergin Çavuşoğlu, DesertMed, Shaun Gladwell, EmreHüner, Nina Katchadourian, Ali Kazma, Laleh Khorramian, Guy Maddin, Rivane Neuenschwander, Ulrike Ottinger, Tony Oursler, Qiu Anxiong, Pipilotti Rist, Charles Sandison, Kiki Smith, Bill Viola, and Pae White.

Nowadays we witness the degree to which the relationship between nature and technology is delicate and global. Therefore an apocalyptic vision of the future, ecological transformations that are ever gaining importance, the redescription of nature as a sanctuary and home, forms of relationship we establish with the animal world, and our acquisitions from nature as an economic process and their consequences are some of the issues and approaches that artists featured in the exhibition use to present nature.

The exhibition’s main sponsor is Turk Telekom, its technology sponsor is LG, and supporting sponsor is Credit Suisse AG; besides the contributions of the Consulate General of the United States of America in İstanbul, the Italian Cultural Center, İstanbul, Goethe-Institut İstanbul, and the Consulate General of Switzerland in İstanbul, also contributing to the exhibition are the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality, Point Hotel, Tepta Aydınlatma, Marshall, Boğaziçi Borsa Restaurant, and Acarlar Makine.

The title of the exhibition is from John Milton’s poem about Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden and the stigma of the original sin. The common point in the works in the exhibition is “the sense of loss of primal innocence, and the feeling that nature is at odds with civilization.”

Longing for a livable world and sustainable lifestyle
The press conference for the exhibition was attended by some artists featured in the show, namely Jim Campell, Ergin Çavuşoğlu, Emre Hüner, Ali Kazma, Armin Linke, and Charles Sandison; exhibition curator Levent Çalıkoğlu; and Chair of the Board of İstanbul Modern Oya Eczacıbaşı.

Chair of the Board of İstanbul Modern Oya Eczacıbaşı noted that in most of the works in the exhibition, which reflects contemporary artists’ views of nature and their relationship with technology, the idea is conveyed that we face a definite danger and that we have to preserve our organic tie with what is left of the natural world. Adding that the artists deal with humankind’s approach to the environment, their relationship with other living beings, the animal world, ecological change, and the interaction between all living creatures and their natural and urban environments, Ezcacıbaşı said “The work of these artists reflects the conflict between nature and technology, inspired by nostalgia for a lost nature and longing for a livable world and sustainable lifestyle.”

Oya Ezcacıbaşı also noted that the exhibition presented the mark left by humankind on nature in a striking and impressive visual feast using videos and digital media, which are technology-based. She added that the artists touched upon many different subjects ranging from an Alpine village which is threatened by avalanche at the slightest sound to an eleven-year-old girl’s scream which harbors many images, roadkills on desolate highways, uncontrollable storms at sea, a fox confronted with culture and history at the National Portrait Gallery, an expedition to the North Pole, an 800-year-old oak, and deserted islands of the Mediterranean.

Oya Eczacıbaşı said that throughout the course of the exhibition Paradise Lost activities would be held at İstanbul Modern in conjunction with the show and added “The Education and Social Projects Department has prepared an educational program entitled ‘Magical Ideas’ that will take place during the exhibition of “Paradise Lost.” Through paintings, sculpture, performances and installations, children, young people and families will be encouraged to create works of art inspired by the changes in nature, technology and living spaces.Talks will be held with the participation of artists and books and cataloguesabout the artists will be available in İstanbul Modern’s library.”Eczacıbaşı thanked those who greatly contributed to the exhibition starting with the show’s curators Paolo Colombo and Levent Çalıkoğlu, and also the İstanbul Modern team, institutions supporting the exhibition “Paradise Lost,” and the main sponsor Turk Telekom.

Technology is taking the place of nature in a dominant way
Curator Levent Çalıkoğlu indicated that the exhibition is centered on an idea of nature that has been lost, has disappeared, and may be impossible to rediscover, that this nature is born out of today’s relationships of production and consumption: “The works in the exhibition explore more than the idea of an undefined, pristine, naturalistic nature. They also introduce the idea of a manufactured nature that different lifestyles, economic and social conditions, macro and micro power, and culture, place before us as an object to behold.”

Mentioning that works that point to the presence of nature constitute the bulk of the exhibition, Çalıkoğlu added that the show also includes “works that speak of the unconscious as the source of the imagination and the driving force of psychological processes that fade away and vanish in the face of nature’s sublimity. It also includes works that re-describe nature as a sanctuary, a home. Even more importantly, it boasts artworks that investigate how human nature repeats many given conditions of nature and show that the relationship between nature, humankind, and culture is woven out of similarities.”

Indicating that culture battens on the leftovers of nature and artists open to discussion how these leftovers proceed, are transformed, and put back into use in different forms, Levent Çalıkoğlu noted that artists in the exhibition attempt to show how technology fails to grasp nature and generates excess: “Having become the vehicle for rupturing nature from the human spirit and body, technology is symbolized in the exhibition by the materials used by the artists. In a world that has lost its innocence, technology, as a new field of experience, is dominantly taking the place of nature.”

Artists make use of technology to convey nostalgia
In his article in the exhibition catalogue, curator Paolo Colombo, who indicates that the artists in the exhibition have adopted mechanical and digital methods that have become part of the production of art in the past 40 years, calls attention to how interesting it is that contemporary artists, in conveying the nostalgia felt in the face of an ever changing world, use the expressive resources of the moving image, which is a product of modernity and technological progress.

Paolo Colombo points out that “this exhibition raises a number of issues such as the incidence of a neo-Rousseau attitude in contemporary society, an apocalyptic vision of a future beyond one’s control, the desire to move towards a sustainable lifestyle and the existence of a former paradise that has been recently destroyed.” Noting that the issue of “innocence and guilt” raised by Pipilotti Rist in his installation Herbstzeitlose is also raised, to some extent, by all works in the exhibition, Paolo Colombo adds “in other cases the artist raises the issue of what is wrong, what can be done to offset it, and what is reasonably possible to do by addressing our correct and incorrect behaviour towards nature.”

Activities held in conjunction with the exhibition “Paradise Lost”
In the Paradise Lost Exhibition Talks, artists presented in the show will come together at İstanbul Modern Cinema on 25 March, 2011, Friday. Session I of the Exhibition Talks will be held between 13:00 - 14:30, with the participation of Ergin Çavuşoğlu, Emre Hüner, Ali Kazma and exhibition curator Levent Çalıkoğlu; session II will be held between 15:00 - 17:00, with the participation of Jim Campbell, Armin Linke (DesertMed), Charles Sandison and exhibition curator Lora Sarıaslan. The activity is free of charge and simultaneous translation will be provided.

Books and catalogues about the artists will be available at İstanbul Modern Library.
In the free educational program “Magical Ideas” designed in conjunction with the exhibition Paradise Lost, the İstanbul Modern Education and Social Projects Department invites children, youths, and families to explore the projections of nature and technology on art, to learn about the artists, to examine works of art that combine technological and organic materials, and to play fun artistic games.

In the program, prepared with a rich content which includes painting, sculpture, performance, and installation, children, youths, and families will reflect in artistic works their ideas about the changes undergone by nature, technology, and living spheres.School groups can participate in the educational program between 25 March – 24 July, 2011 every weekday except Monday, and children, youths, and families can participate on weekends.