Ahmet Ögüt: Ground Control to Major Tom originally appeared inthe book "At Home, Wherever" published by YKY, Istanbul in 2011
Ahmet Ögüt: Ground Control to Major Tom
In his performances, drawings, photographic and video works, Ahmet Ögüt reveals and reduces the political, governmental or economic control over the way people in different parts of the world perceive everyday's reality. Ögüt strips down bare the institutions of repression (among them, very often vehicles like jeeps, cars, planes impersonate those) by either employing travesty and reduction in size (Exploded City), representing anecdotes and collected information in comic-book aesthetics that he turns into 3 dimensional forms (Today in History), filming monotonously discarded and retarded military planes (Things We Count). The artist's capacity and determination lies in revealing by means of linear dramaturgies and straightforward gestures, how these various elements, stories or situations produce history and knowledge about the global politics and relations of power(s) in contemporary society.
If from above mentioned self-determination of the artist’s main objectives (speed, distance and time), speed is mostly at work in his early ad-hoc performative acts, the geopolitical distance and time are broken down most radically in Ögüt’s installation Exploded City (2009). Here the artist offers a haunting travesty of Italo Calvino's ultimate guide to imaginary architecture, a series of dialogues between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan that the writer compiled within the pages of his remarkable short stories Invisible Cities; next to the assembly of buildings that have a symbolic value because they were used as targets for large terrorist attacks and explosions in the last 20 years, the artist exhibits his text that runs like taken from Calvino’s above mentioned book. This text takes the viewpoint of a naive traveller to a city that is composed of such buildings, and what the viewer indeed sees in front of her, is those buildings’ models, set one next to each other. Exploded City is artist's key work, in which some strategies that often constitute his works, are being employed: a provocative and silent thought for the viewers to complete and imagine the potential scenarios as well as a schematic aesthetics, recalling the roughness of comic book arts, being blown onto into three-dimensional reality.
Quite strikingly different in the visuality, but not that diverse in logic, are Ögüt’s recent works River Crossing Puzzle (2010) and Ground Control (2008). The first work is offering to viewers a possibility to play out a game of logic (to solve the problem how the group of various characters, animals and an object (a girl, a soldier, a suspicious bag, etc) should cross the river in an empty boat that carries only two persons or a person and a dog) by moving black and white comic book-like characters enlarged onto life size across the space in order to find possible solutions. This game with multiple choices, where at the end perhaps there is only one correct existing solution, echoes the Western neoliberal reality in which people are seemingly free to select, from social activism to self-mastery, just to realise that the very ground, the basis behind who offers the choices, is heavily controlled. (3) Ground Control, artist’s intervention on the basement ground of the art institution Kunst-Werke in Berlin with covering it with a thick layer of outdoor asphalt, is that desperate question, what if there is only one choice? As writes Silke Baumann in accompanying text to the work, in Turkey, asphalt laying was a means of homogenizing the country in its rapid quest to modernize. While today road building in rural areas still serves not only to open up the remote parts of the country, but also to bring them under government control, Ground Control ultimately represents itself as a political tool for the demonstration of government power. When asked about his relation to power and why at all one would bother making such things public which can potentially be seized by the governing bodies at any moment, Ahmet explains: »Power is not a perfectly functioning system. It works slowly.« (4)
1. Mika Hannula uses this term to describe Ahmet’s work Somebody’s Else’s Car (2005). Mika Hannula: “Slap-stick Comedy with a Cause”, in: Halil Altindere (ed.), Ahmet Ögüt. Informal Accidents, Istanbul: art-ist. Contemporary Art Series , p.44.
2. Sezgin Boynik: “Letter from Themroc! Conversation: Sezgin Boynik & Ahmet Ögüt”, in: Halil Altindere (ed.), Ahmet Ögüt. Informal Accidents, Istanbul: art-ist. Contemporary Art Series , p.18.
3. For more on the versatile psychoanalysis, sociology and politics of choosing, and losing, see Renata Salecl: Choice, London and New York: Profile Books, 2010.
4. Sezgin Boynik: “Letter from Themroc! Conversation: Sezgin Boynik & Ahmet Ögüt”, in: Halil Altindere (ed.), Ahmet Ögüt. Informal Accidents, Istanbul: art-ist. Contemporary Art Series , p.20.