Turkish artist Neriman Polat’s works on ‘resistance’ in Italy

Istanbul-based artist Neriman Polat, mainly known for her works with feminist themes, is currently presenting a solo exhibition in a newly opened art space in Viterbo, an Italian city north of Rome.
Polat mainly touches on forms of resistance and issues about domestic life in her collection, which opened on May 2 at the Disambigua Art Space. Polat’s collection is the third exhibition to go on display at the art space, where it will continue until June 27.
The idea for this show came up when curator Carla Paiolo saw Polat’s previous exhibition in Istanbul, at the Depo cultural space. Eventually, Giorgia Noto also got involved as co-curator and that was how “Threshold” was made possible. The collection is named after a video installation by Polat on display at the show that brings together footage of several women leaving their flats and shutting their doors behind them.
Not only the video but the works in the collection overall are based on ideas related to actions such as moving from one place to another, motivation sources, points of starting or retreating, being in the middle and so on, Polat explained in a recent interview with Today’s Zaman.
A black backpack that is seen in all scenes in the “Threshold” video installation is exhibited together with the video and is located in a very central point in the exhibition. While the women in the video leave the places they live in, in “Barricade,” a series of photographs also featured in the show, there is a woman fighting behind a barricade of pillows inside her home, as if she is on a battlefield.
“The issue of women is, of course, very central in this show,” Polat says. “I produced it [Barricade] at a moment of [increased urge] to protecting oneself, self-defense and paranoia,” she added, referring to the social-political atmosphere in Turkey in the past few years.
The way the woman in “Barricade” is dressed is also significant: She wears a floral patterned dress — typical of Anatolian women — but on the other hand she is also wearing a bulletproof vest and is holding a machine gun pointed to an unseen source of threat. “This is a reference to domestic violence,” Polat says, adding that in the next photos of the same series, the woman lights a cigarette and waits. “There is some kind of expectancy but not a feminine way of waiting, though. I think this work has many hybrid elements in it,” Polat added.
The floral dress also appears in another work, which is located in a separate small room in the gallery. A similar kind of dress is also displayed in the same room as if it is floating in a vacuum. Every little flower on the fabric has been bleached by the artist herself one by one over a period of three weeks.
A touching song sung by one of Polat’s friends, GandOkandce Balkan, is played and it accompanies the dress exhibit, although it’s audible across the whole exhibition area. It’s an old song that was written by brothers Metin and Kemal Kahraman, who later founded Grup Yorum. “It gives the impression of an anonymous folk song and I like that impression. The visitors hear the song coming from this dress all around together with the sound of shutting doors in the other video,” Polat says.
Despite not being recognizable at first glance, both “The Dress” and “Barricade” make direct reference to the recent socio-political situation in Turkey and recall images of Kurdish women fighting in their flowery dresses, holding machine guns against occupying militants in Kobani in northern Syria. Polat was not only inspired by these women but also the “aesthetics of resistance,” which dominated Turkey’s Gezi Park protests of 2013.
“The Gezi resistance was also a threshold. We were able to be out on the streets because we overcame a certain ‘threshold’ of fear. Here, on the other hand, we see a more domestic kind of resistance, one that [takes place] inside of a house,” Polat adds.
The thread of “resistance” continues in other photographs by Polat in the show, such as a tree trunk coming out of a concrete pavement on an Istanbul street. “This one is about the relationship between life and the city. Seeing even one flower sprouting from concrete would excite us, whereas here we see a whole tree coming out of it!”
For further information, visit www.nerimanpolat.com and www.disambiguartspace.com.

A combo of stills from the video installation “Threshold” by artist Neriman Polat, on display in the artist’s solo exhibition at the Disambigua Art Space in Viterbo.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman