DIY Survival Kit, 2017, Marble Powder, Polyester Resin

Along with the technology and its apparatus, human environment is evolving perpetually. Our ways of seeing change day by day. Accompanied with this fact and in a rapidly ever-changing situation, the way we see things and methods of interpretation changes as fast as technology evolves. Cihad Caner tries to push the boundaries of photography and video by developing diverse forms: physically, in sculpture and with many different objects, digitally, in CGI technology and visual in his own investigative practice. Caner is an artist living and working in Rotterdam and Istanbul. The topics he is working on vary but they are all interrelated, close knitted. ‘Caner experiments and tries to expand the boundaries of photography and video. Thus, the artist creates a discourse, applies it to reveal different structures and asks  why we produce photography; how can we derive [h6] various meanings from it, how do we deviate from mainstream thoughts? Through comprehending the differences between digital image and analog image, cyberspace and real world, Caner created a unique practice and continues along with his own artistic manner, allowing us to imagine the world and culture around us differently.

In his Root project he produces photography. With a 12 shot film camera, he challenging himself to be more creative and to have a more organic relationship with his roots, in the Malatya district, where his family came from. He is advancing the project with analog photography. Therefore he had the opportunity to understand the environment intensively in relation to the time and restricted medium in hand. Caner independently join and arrive at a deeper sense of the people and the environment of Malatya. It seems like he does his best to express his roots with analog visual apparatus. Root not only consists of photographs but also of various materials such as rubber, 3D mapping, and resin. With these materials, the artist reproduced the stones and minerals he collected in a fine archeological manner, during his journey to his ancestors’ village. With this creative attitude of duplication, natural and reproduced objects point to a tension between culture and nature, an artistic manner of creation-by-nature and production-by-culture. We begin to feel the emotional weight and solemn atmosphere of the origins of the artist.

Caner somehow leaves us with an uncertainty in creating these objects.They hint at the uncanny and the condensed trail of the past. His installation in a dark room contains a light-box and soil on the ground, so visitors can experience the environment.

The second part consists of the reproduced objects made from different materials, and prints on vinyl and aluminum. With this project, we could see the artist takes a more serious approach to objects and their ontology. Later on, Caner specifically will be focused on utilization of these quotidian objects in various circumstances like immigration, war, resistance, loss. The focus on the subjects of image culture evolves also in his subsequent works.

Abstract Violence, 2016, 3D scanned objects, Installation shot
Abstract Violence, 2016, 3D scanned objects, Installation shot

We see this in Abstract Violence. The artist filters the real objects’ intensity through 3D scanning and puts it into the virtual world. Caner refrained from exhibiting the everyday life objects, which he gathered from the Syrian War’s ruined houses, showing only the virtually created leftovers displayed in the gallery space along with the raw footage of ruined places that the artist shot in Syria. The reason behind the act of transferring the objects to the virtual environment is the complexity and arduousness of representing them.The representation of the war’s  objects would be difficult in describing and conveying pain. It can also be a challenging experience due to some painful experiences and human traumas. Found objects are completely about harsh memories and the pain of the Other. It becomes impossible for him to exhibit these objects as if nothing has happened.

What Happens To The Geographical Borders When The Land Itself Moves work, which takes the Other as artist’s focus, Caner examines the state of migration caused by water scarcity. The artist scanned 485 news articles about the subject, which put the Other at the center. The words from these news clippings are whispered and mixed with the video work. The viewer is absorbed into the stream ıf the video, by subtle pronunciation and a state that progresses towards deliberate de-focusing by being swept away by the flow of water. This time Caner combines the video work with plexiglass and sculptures; a rather non-materialistic medium with tactile, tangible objects.The video shows the flow of water and guides the whispering of the words. Various sculptures are hung on the wall and tactfully positioned on the floor. These sculptures took their forms from real objects like a mobile phone, a plastic bottle, an Arabic letter.

An important aspect of these sculptures is the way their surfaces are covered by visuals. The scanned news articles are not only a source for the video work, but also appear on the surfaces of the sculptures. This fluid imagination and the allegory of great mass immigration, created in the context of flowing water, gives us a great influence that the cultural conflicts are directly related to natural troubles, caused by climate change. The subjects the artist deals with in reference to nature, are creating an intricate relationship with the concepts he is working on. Allegories, reality of the events and life experiences are intertwining in a deliberate manoeuvre around the  video and object.

What Happens to the geographical borders when the lands itself moves
What Happens to the geographical borders when the lands itself moves, 2017, 55x55cm, Print on HIPS, Vacuum Form

Here again Caner examines the mainstream media’s common expressions against the Other stating that we cannot remain indifferent to the major social conflicts of the century, massive migrations, exploitation, human rights abuse, precarity, ecological problems and more. He tries to change the oppressive perceptions of the main media. This action is done by deforming the visual language. Not only is the content of news problematic, how this news is conveyed is one of the biggest problems in the context of transferring images, semiotics and mental perspective itself.

In the DIY Survival Kit Caner transforms objects in relation with the rising civil resistance in a globally unquiet world. This time simple objects of everyday life have changed in the benefit of resistance; resistance against inequality, corruption, distorted information. The quotidian objects’ meanings are reproduced against oppressive regimes further than allegory. Mental and contextual intentions on objects are transformed into solidarity. I a word, these objects are displayed with new use values. Can we maintain the kind of refreshment attitude that comes with change? Ideas about changes in meaning, changes in our lifestyles, dramatic opinions in systems and beliefs, striking evolutions in our symbolic meaning?

Production, representation and circulation of the image  have a great impact in his artistic study. What kind of images are important to him? What are the re-defined objects and subject transformations that the artist focuses on? Images concerning the Other can be pulled constantly from anti-democratic or even tyrannical states of meanings and mind sets. In this content Caner concerns himself particularly with cultural and societal stereotypes like the ‘monstrous’ Other.

DIY Survival Kit, 2017, Marble Powder, Polyester Resin
DIY Survival Kit, 2017, Marble Powder, Polyester Resin

Demonst(e)rating the Untamable Monster shows ‘monstrous’ subjects on a screen. In a video installation we can see two human-shaped monster figures, digitally produced with CGI technology. Here the Caner’s subjects are far from a repressive attitude towards the unknown.The artist’s monsters have a slightly wrinkled skin, serious faces and bodies that appear very close to the human form. The atmosphere is dominated by certain gloomy tones. These carefully crafted bodies are speaking in a language of the Other. Although we see two figures, we hear three different voices shifting between these two monsters. The statement of Other is much more fluid, co-existent and genuine.  The monsters can express various statements and expressions in their own body. Whether or not they are connected to their environment, they enter into an essential and existential relationship with the other beings in front of them. The existential position of the Monster is meaningful for Caner, in exploring socio-political interconnections, related to his personal background. This project also gains importance as a cause and conclusion of a broad collective effort.

Although some of his choices take on a conventional form, what Caner is trying is actually deconstructing mainstream image-making methods, in order to arrive at common socio-political and community oriented forms. Caner’s monsters have varied cultural, social and gender-related backgrounds, particularly related to the middle-eastern and far eastern world, where the others come from the Western World; women, migrants, or queer persons can be treated and be seen as monsters and portrayed intentionally or unintentionally as monsters.

Although the figure of this work takes on various features from different cultures, it is actually created by reflecting the artist’s voice and facial features on the digital medium. The monster is the signifier as the Latin verb monstrare – to show – implies.The monsters start to represent themselves, they are speaking their subjectivity. The body of the monster and the sound become a form of resistance. Language selection also is important here, there is a specific decision by the artist to use the Turkish language. We can consider this like a form of estrangement, replacing the languages that are used extensively around the world like English, but the linguistic preferences result from the artist’s particular interest in language.

Demonst(e)rating the untamable monster, 2018, Installation shot at Arcus Project open studios
Demonst(e)rating the untamable monster, 2018, Installation shot at Arcus Project open studios

Monsters in popular media are not very different from conventional depictions in older cultures in the Far East, Middle East, or Arab civilizations. Mythical creatures have human bodies and are decorated with similar ornaments and details as seen in many popular drawings. Caner takes some characteristic references from ancient Persian and Arabic descriptions of monsters and from Japanese supernatural creatures like Yokai. All this comes from intensive research and the interconnections are part of his creative process.

Dealing with the politics of images and processes of presentation can be overwhelming, but Caner has a fertile way of getting through the complexity of transmitting words and images on behalf of Other. Here the means of digital reproduction and creational entanglement with the physical world are key for him, in creating possible and equitable realms. Could virtual spaces provide the freedom for raising the voices of multicultural generations? A tool for understanding each other without a false discourse of mass media, social norms, state authority and hegemony? But we must not separate the object from its signifier in the illusion of technology, we must not be deceived by the sterilized and arrogant gaze of the pure Cartesian plane.

Demonst(e)rating the untamable monster, 2019, Installation shot
Demonst(e)rating the untamable monster, 2019, Installation shot

For us, the main issue is to not let mainstream discourse take over technology and exploit it on societies, and to start thinking about alternative ways, in real and digital worlds, as others with others, creating distinct interrelations between new possible realms based on politically, ideologically, and aesthetically equal opportunities.

In terms of Caner’s monsters, objects and images, the artistic distinction occurs right at the tendency to place the use of language of Other on an equal plane with the Western culture  and in the manifestation of an equal world.

Arek Qadrra

Arek Qadrra (İstanbul, 1995) sanatçı. Marmara Üniversitesi Güzel Sanatlar Fakültesi Resim Bölümü'nden mezun oldu. Viyana'da multidisipliner bir tarzda kavramsal sanat çalışmalarını ilerletti. Ses, video ve yeni medya üzerine deneysel işler üretmekle birlikte aktif olarak müzik prodüksiyonu da yapmaktadır. Sanat, felsefe, bilim, metafizik ve eleştirel düşünme gibi alanlarda kurduğu ilişkiler üzerinden yazın hayatına çeşitli mecralarda devam ediyor.