I had been following Hale Tenger’s work since 2007, yet we were introduced by Tansa Mermerci Ekşioğlu when she invited me to sit in on SPOT class, an art education and production initiative in Istanbul. In 2015, Protocinema re-created an early installation of Hale Tenger’s for our New York exhibition titled We didn't go outside; we were always on the outside/ We didn't go inside; we were always on the inside, 1995-2015. That exhibition was about the psychological and political aspects of living in “locales of tension”. Working with Hale in a way where we were both reflecting back to the 1990s, as well as moving forward and creating new dialogue at a different time was a rewarding experience. When I was asked to curate this commission, I knew that Hale Tenger’s experience in creating public installations made her the ideal artist for this, and it was a wonderful opportunity to work together again.
Hale Tenger’s new installation Under at Alserkal Avenue aims to “open up dialogue and improve mutual understanding between individuals, and across regions” by way of her own sensitivity and insights.
Under is about the feeling of being pushed down, and the normalisation of that feeling. These are feelings that almost everyone can relate to, we have all been pushed down in some way or another. When you visit the installation you will see that its experiential nature brings up associations via sensations. This work has a universality that it speaks to different people in different ways. Tenger creates a space to let go of judgements, to open up and to interact with people.
Public space is important because that is where communities are built and a sense of belonging is strengthened. That said, public artworks are the voices in a community; public art brings people together to have conversations and exchange ideas and information that is vital to well-being. Just as it is essential for human beings to have their voices heard, we need to listen to each other; art is an important vehicle for these exchanges. Public art is where we celebrate our victories, share our grievances, galvanize, question and support each other as part of our communities, both in Dubai and elsewhere.
The most important thing to keep in mind when curating a public artwork is to work with the strongest artists of your time, and then to support these artists to make the best artwork possible. After that - it is essential to understand the context. Even more than how sites shift from region to region, is the element of time. What is happening at this time in this place? By responding to what is happening at a certain time in history, while we are living in it, as it unfolds on the ground, and being sensitive to that moment in time, has grown in significance for me, whether in Dubai or Istanbul or New York. For example, in Hale Tenger’s installation Under, her structure is made from the same material as the rest of the buildings that surround it in The Yard in Alserkal Avenue. In this way there is a moment where it looks like everything else, and is almost invisible and unidentifiable. This is not by chance. This is the way that the systems that are in place now, which are being exposed in different ways, function. These systems are in our societies, in our nations, in our regions, and in our world, and are undetectable, permeating everything, silently working now.
Under will be on display from 19 March to 31 May at The Yard, Alserkal Avenue.