Artist Statement / Virtual Bodies
My exhibition called “Virtual Bodies” aimed to question the place of “the body” and the individuals in consumer society. The body has been replaced the soul in today’s consumer society. And the body is surrounded by the myths of health, diet, theraphy and desire. We are constantly invited to re-discover the bodies by Mass media which converted them into an investment object. For example; the temperature of a model in a woman’s magazine is the same as a modern furniture. This is an “ambiance” temperature.New sexuality is hot and cold just like the hotand cold colors game in “functional” housing. The erotism is not in the desire but in its indicators.Sexuality is no longer just in sexuality, but also in many other places; media, cinema, literature. Likewise the politics is not only in politics but has spread to all areas. To religion, art, philosophy and to science.Today, football is a little politics, art is a little magazine and the magazine is a little art.The fact is intertwined with the copies and the reality, with the appearance. Day by day, our lives started to go into a simulation. Society is composed of largely similar individuals who speak, think and wear as in the world of television so that the type of individuals trying to find a sense for the existence has largely disappeared. As we can call it “the Transparency Era”, this is an age where we can’t help but mix everything to everything. Everything could be everything and everyone can say or do everything.
Politics are determined by public research; ads by testing; songs played on the radio by consumer panels, the end of the movies and posters by polls and television programs are determined by ratings. My work is an attemp to reveal this inversion and the transsexual structure of the system. It is based on the despair and the disintegration of individuals subject to continous sexual, political and religious manipulation. Feel-good states coming from serum, controlled anesthesia, cloned expressions and lifes. Models on the state of sleep-swim are just carrying the happiness scattered around as a mask on their face. The models exhibited are transformed into virtual bodies and artificial androjin identities which no longer has any side to be desired. Cloned bodies and the heads found a body in other individuals. This irony is an artistic criticism of how we are transformed into similar copies in a cultural and mental state of cloning.
Ali Alışır – 2009
Artist Statement / Virtual Places
(Combining places via electronic circuits)
Even though we are standing only at the threshold of a new enlightenment with respect to technology, today the technological developments are radically changing our thinking patterns. The technology of our era is peeling off the layers left by the last couple of millennia and unearthing a whole new universe from under them. This unlimited independence is called the Virtual Reality. Every single day Virtual Reality is expanding a bit more. Just like what happened in the past, when telegrams were replaced by phones and radio was replaced by the TV. Like a virus, it is spreading to everywhere around us.This evolvement shows us that too much have changed since the 18th century, when the term “virtual” was first coined to define the optical reflection of an object. Today, -unlike in the optics-, images are not just used to reflect the world to our eyes. On the contrary, they have come to a state, in which they shape our lives, social environments, relations and finally us. With the concept of Virtual Reality, during the course of time, our thoughts along with our perceptions and experiences are carried to a transparent state. Today, we can safety say that we have become both viewers and the communication network itself.
At this point, in parallel with the speed of the technology, the art of photography resembled the virtual reality. It seems as if its realness was absorbed and swallowed inside these virtual networks. The fact that the images shot by the photographer is coded digitally and that all of them are transferred from one processor to another (from the PC to the TV and cell phones etc) had an impact on the image of photograph itself. From this point on, the “reality” is not something as clear and explicit as we thought. Its digitally coded nature and with the overwritten and repetitive coding turned photograph’s image into something completely synthetic.
The contents and spreading of the news have also undergone a change through these coding processes. On TV, the way the events are handled has become depictions of the events. (Only their digital coding, i.e. the 1’s and 0’s are transposed). Plus, with the effect of the mass communication, reality gets reproduced artificially. Economy and politics took their shares in this entire disintegration. In this era, the real economy is replaced by Virtual Economy, whereas the new media order took the place of politics.
In our day, policies are shaped with reference to public surveys. Likewise, commercials are created according to tests. The consumer panels decide which songs are to be played on the radio. The end of the movies and the design of their posters are formulated according to what the opinion surveys say. Ratings are the decision-makers for the TV shows. Maybe, the greatest change we have seen to date is that the control, production and distribution of today’s images are handed over to digital processors, artificial memories and technological communication devices.
This rapid change of the images and information initiated a switch from newspapers, magazines and books, towards the digital platforms. This setting change of setting is actually the greatest evolvement since the invention of the printing press. In this long-lasting journey, information drifted apart from the “real” setting and moved into a “possible” setting; departed from the setting of the “event” and settled in the setting of “thought”. Information spreading from a “limited” field to an unlimited one is –from that moment on- in a Virtual setting.
State of being virtual involves being something else. In other words, in one sense it is the potential of embodying all the qualities of reality. Every information within the circulation goes through a change via other information from inside the web. Today, computer-based “produced virtual images” are about to end up a position where they define the reality through themselves.
The Virtual Places Project is the artistic interpretation of the breaking between the reverse perspective of the Medieval Age and the central perspective of Renaissance. There is no more a perceivable depth and breakpoint for us in these places where share our social lives, lead a life and trade. Today, instead of these gloomy and depressing buildings, which surrounded us once, now we find the operation modes of interfaces and network representations. These places, where we connect to one another via electronic circuits (cell phones, internet) or where we surf using the unlimited information network have now turned into non-gravity interactive areas, which do not abide by any measurement rules. The Virtual Places Project is an artistic critique on the technological effect–enabling infinite reproduction and intervention- of this information and these images, which are trading places all the time, on individuals going mentally alienated from their physical setting.
Ali Alışır – 2011
Artist Statement / Virtual Wars
The fast improving technologies of the 21st century have shown us that even the cruelest wars in the world can be a source of fun. After the September 11 attacks starting after the gulf war, the target points set by Afghanistan and Iraq were attacked by improved technologies. Sitting in our comfortable armchairs, we watched the bomb attacks on civil people just like a fireworks display or a video game.
There happened big wars, invasions and losses in the past, yet none of them has been so showy and simultaneous. The basic feature that made this war different war from others was that entertainment and fighting were mingled. The war news in the commercial platform was presented in an entertaining and attractive way by media. The events being experienced were broadcast live for 24 hours nonstop just like reality shows. Something very interesting happened at this point. The concepts of reporters and fighters replaced each other. Most of the images were sent through the cameras placed on the waists of soldiers and armored vehicles rather than reporters. Thus, for the first time in the world, the audience viewed the image before the war.
In her book called “Regarding the Pain of Others,” Susan Sontag says that “since the invention of camera in 1839, photograph became a friend of death.” Today, photography has befriended with the capital. Today, rather than experienced reporters, those who can use technology effectively are sent to the battle field. This is because it is the numbers rather than news that are important for media (The losses, the cities destroyed during the war are narrated by the media as numerical data. The civil people killed and the places burnt down have been transformed into numerical/digital codes. It is as though the only evidence of wars is the numbers. The number of civil deaths has increased and the strategic value of the places invaded has changed. The places captured in media by opponent powers are displayed in graphs that show their accomplishments.
This wondrous game that covers all the world has only been turned into numbers and been advertised through the entertainment culture. After all, what is sold is not the reality of war but its attractive appearance.
Looking through the eyes of the audience, it is as if these wars of the 21st century have not even been experienced. The war scenes on televisions have influenced the audience like a drug. It is assumed that the war is going to halt when televisions are turned off. Real wars have gone on under the shadow of virtual ones. The real name of these wars taking place in the backstage of many countries is “Capital Wars.” In other words, real wars have turned into a folding screen. In this respect, it can be said that real wars (or actually virtual wars) no longer happen through guns and weapons.
Virillio notes that one of the reasons why the USA rule attacked Iraq on 10 February, 1998 was the winter Olympics that took place in Japan. This was undoubtedly because war went on ceaselessly together with capital. Virillo comes up with such a inference:
“…thus television viewers would not be surprised by the uncomfortable scenes of the Gulf War while they were watching the Olympics with enthusiasm. They would not need to zap between different channels, which would not give harm neither to the sponsors of winter Olympics and those of the wars.”
This was what happened in reality. The war broadcast on television maintained its stream and attraction. And it appeared as if it was an ordinary broadcasting stream that was never interrupted. It was as though war had no difference than other consumption products. Wars turned audience into a virtual game player through its aesthetics.
If we need to define the concept of term, we can define it as a process that again and again recreates itself. The previous and traditional definitions of war are no longer true. Rather than military forces, wars took place through systems of command and control information (cyber war), psychological operations (the broadcasting streams) and the (online and multimedia) flow of information in cultural and social spaces.
The terrifying facet of war has turned into a war scene to be watched in the 21st century. It is as if a techno-display is going on in a sterile environment purified of physical pain and senses. Television channels and online broadcasting have broadcast the weapons fired and the bombs launched at night like a firework display and with images looking like a Christmas tree. Thus, they have attributed some sort of beauty to weapons and guns. (De Lappe says that with these war scenes being faced, “The game exists as a metaphor. They do not want us to see the massacre and the coffins taken to houses. War has been sterilized for us.”)
Another aspect of virtual wars is the consumption of delight and indulgence. Wars have been coded in this way with a supernatural industry of cinema and games. These virtual images pull reality behind the stage when they are combined with war scenes. Thus, no distance is left between the pilot focused on the target and the audience focused on the screen. Virtual Wars have been a new way of realizing military fantasies in the 21st century.
Casseirer notes that: “Human beings live in a symbolic universe rather than a completely physical one. Religion, art, myth and language are some of the links that compose this universe.”
Today, these social, artistic, religious and political bounds have been carried to a virtual world. Words no longer have metaphorical meanings and visuals do not have symbolic counterparts. None of digital signs represent or reflect a reality beyond themselves.
The same transformation has been experienced by war scenes. They have turned into a system of signs that have no relation with the war itself through improved technology. Signs of war have been replaced by codes and image patterns.
The enemy is no longer the other. War has turned into a scene where individuals are joint criminals with military and civil information in an electronic platform. The good and bad men have turned into common dark points on this illuminated digital surface. War and freedom no longer have independent meanings. In virtual wars, the goal is no longer to invade a specific piece of land but to appear on these lands as uncanny figures.
Throughout history, a war has been retaliated with an attack or invasion. In a place where there is an attack or invasion, there should also be defense. Today, this does not seem possible. That is because wars have become invisible.
Every war has created its own viewers throughout history. Therefore, the wars of virtual people have started to take place in virtual environments. In the wars of virtual people, wars have maintained themselves ceaselessly and they have replaced reality. The emotional numbing and exhaustion created by extremely real images turn into the most permanent scares on the individuals who watch these wars…
Ali Alışır – 2013
Artist Statement / Virtual Landscapes
“There’s so many different worlds, so many different suns. And we have just one world. But we live in different ones.” – Dire Straits / Brother’s in Arms
Technology always has been the cradle of the miracles. We turned what the scientist dreamed of once upon a time, into reality today; by the means of technology. The fast pace of life that we have today, the high technology electronic devices that we have, the enclosed spaces that we pass most of our time keeping us distant from nature more and more. Whereas Technology has been promising us more spare time since the 19th century but people working even harder in comparison to the past. The technology should have served us. However we happened to be the ones who serve.
So, are we happened to be happier after all? Does it mean that we are so close to people via technology that we really are close?
In the past people used to know each other and their stories even better. When it comes to today we don’t know about each other’s stories. Today’s World that McLuhan described as “global village” give way to information to go around the world easily when experiencing communication in the dimension of instance at the same time.
On the other hand information in the old days; was the integrity that obtained through learning, research, experiment, or observation. These information used to have the quality of being recordable, visible, reobtainable. Talking about today (in Postmodern discourse) what is important is not searching about the truth, to displace the conception of truth itself and deciphere the process mechanism. In that sense it is targeted to multiply the truths rather than constituting new truths.
Virtual Landscapes which is the name of my exhibition and subjects are removing the information from it’s very own nature (from reality), it’s reproduction and providing it to share. When doing this benefiting the conception of tree which is the most primordial ancient symbol of information.
When we look at the ancient mythology tree that is dedicated to information and divine world, is believed to be the model of the universe throughout the history in many doctrines. The tree that is the subject of the religion that is the first sin committed by the first human (the forbidden tree and its fruit), symbolized the connection between the worlds. For instance it’s believed that the tree that jesus was crucified was made of tree of life in eden and has the attribute to resurrect the dead. The rod is holy in christianity and Judaism since, it is representing tree of knowledge of good and evil. An another tree which is believed to be holy is Christmas tree. As stated in Torah God created the human and tree of knowledge on the very same day.
The tree in eden that was the subject of Divine comedy written by Dante depicted as upside down. The tree of life in different cultures is representing cosmos and human spirit.
It is in the form of a map of macrocosmos and microcosmos. According to Kabbalists the tree of life is the model of the formation of the cosmos. The tree of life is also is the tree of knowledge.
The tree has a different significance among the other beings such as mountain, stone, tree, fire, water. The tree is always among the most primer holy symbols. The reason for it, it is tied to the ground by it’s roots, it’s branches reach out to sky, perennial. İt rejuvenates itself numberlessly by shedding leaves and coming into leaf. It’s the symbol of returning life after death.
Turkish mythology is written by the legends sanctifying tree and forest and that owes it’s power to the respect it has for it. The leaders who established states and leading the society was believed to be granted bliss by God and it was given by the means of tree. Due to tree is a medium that merge heaven and earth and bearing mankind to God. The vives of Oguz Khan and Bogu Tegin were born out trees of life and a golden stake was shining over their heads as the symbol of tree of life.
Yakut and Altay Turks called tree of life tree of world also. According to ancient Turkish tradition this, is a tree that was connecting the world from it’s middle (navel) to the otherly world and Demir-Kazık (Iron-Stake Star) it was the mediator that elevated the shamans by it’s branches to High Heavens for journey. It is single, solitaire and able to stand on by itself. İt is not in need of people; but people need it.
In the documentary “Cengiz Han’ın İzinde” (on the track of Genghis Khan) an adventure of Kalmuk family on the track of Genghis Khan is narrated. On one of the magnificent scene that they embracing trees and kissing and speaking to them it is vocalized as such: “Can you hear the trees are whispering. They talk to us gently from their tops. However we don’t listen to them… For thousand of years we pass near and turning deaf ear to them. They still saw a lot of things… There is a generous heart under this bark, I love you… You give me the power to heal.”
The tree of life, it’s roots from underground, branches from heaven reaching him so that it’s believed that people gets through it to reunite Creator. For this reason sacredness was attributed to trees but never worshipped. It was only sign of unity between the center of the world and universal axis. Another words it is a path that leads to eternity.
Shamans were also employing trees to reach out the heaven as a ladder in this context. They called this “Demir Ağaç” (Iron Tree). According to shamanistic tradition, world was connected to “Naval of Heaven” by the means of this tree and nourished through it also. The importance of this connection for the earth was the same as the significance an umbilical cord in uterus have for life.
So this cosmic pole is the Tree of Life. The creation of human being also happened to be in this center.
In many religion,the manifestation of God on earth in the shape of tree. People try to be close to the trees. They make wish to them. Communication with God is achieved through the trees. Budha whose born by a mythological birth story was also enlightened under the tree of knowledge.
The tree of knowledge also named as holy tree, the tree of the state, the golden tree and when it came to Islamic era turned into the tree of eden. On the other hand The Ottomans were accepting the trees as the symbol of sovereignity and the crown of the souls of their ancestors.
It’s defined in Sufism as the Tree of Life “Tree of the world.” Adem is only a fruit of this tree. When Mevlana said “The world is a tree and we are the frits of it”, Ataturk moved a giant building on the rails not to displace a tree; and in times sat to cry for a cut down tree. From past to present walnut tree was the subject of Nazım’s poetry and the plane tree entered into our lives as a heritage from Osman Bey. As a result of this maybe the tree of life is the symbol of both the past and the future.
The concept of family tree may also have derived from that. When the tree symbolising it’s ancestors, representing the next generation by it’s branches.
While the tree used as an instrument to direct naturel events, it was seen as a means of communication with God.
The meaning that is attributed to the nature and the tree which is seen as the part of it, attaining a new dimension by the technology today. What is starting to replace the authentic nature from now engraved on the memory for all of us, there is landscape only composed of the imagination and design. This landscape is neither similar to Cezanne’s nor Pisarro or the other paintings of the modern era. This scenery that we are in today is encapsulated by social media networks, it is a world continuously inviting us to share. We don’t just exchange the nature by the technology, we also add artificial components to it now. My usage of the trees and the nature as covered by internet networks, emphasizing our effort to fictionalize virtual worlds beyond our effort to get away from nature.
“Virtual Landscapes” bring these two information world together (the tree of knowledge in the past with social sharing medium which is internet today). And possibly trying to articulate that we find a “scenery” where there is nothing to see and learn in reality behind our world which is getting transparent in every way and behind any visual and text that is presented to us for sharing.
This scenery, brings the danger along itself to turn into an abyss any time by the unlimited and instant sharing opportunity that the digital world offers us.As Baudrillard pointed out “Even to phantasize is not needed today. Our position maybe resembles a tree lost it’s shadow… After all we are not taking roots becoming tumors…”
Ali Alışır – 2014