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Mar 30, 2016 3:29PM

How to bring together Pop Art and four seasons? Contemplating on this question inevitably evokes another one: how to combine Istanbul and Pop Art with four seasons? And, boy, this is no Vivaldi, no Woody Allen, nor an American romantic movie! It is Kezban Arca Batıbeki, who shows us how, indeed! What shots would bring up the four seasons of Istanbul for us? What sound and music should accompany these images? Here, we could enjoy a reading of “I Shot Andy Warhol!” through these images. Andy Warhol is there as an icon, he never moves, just like his icons didn’t. But in the background, we watch the movement of clouds, ships, boats; all these move in such a fast pace while Andy Warhol stands still in the foreground. Should we be reminded of the movie Birds as the seagulls get larger and larger hovering above the sea?  Better still, should we think of the references to the Western conception of art history based on perspective? Not only that the background is viewed as if it’s the foreground, but also the cleaning lady wiping the window, attempting to pick the seagull litter by her hands just behind the iconized Warhol in the dark, all these make the background come to the fore and get bigger – both as a spectacular, and in terms of social status. Another reading in conjunction with the TV culture is also possible here: we are reminded that the cleaning lady belongs in the world of popular culture, even though she is not an explicit part of it, and the rating concern of TV stations is ever-present with the huge popular culture they have given rise to. Wasn’t Pop Art meant to push the background towards the fore? Wasn’t it focused on what had been iconized by public attention? Wasn’t it the very approach that turned the bridge between mainstream culture and subculture into the highway it is now?



Yet, Pop Art and specially Andy Warhol, made use of both the replica and the original. But wasn’t replicating supposed to be a one-off process? While constructing the bridge between the mainstream and the subculture, this attempt also rendered that connection more fragile; after all, the replica would no longer be a work that had been deprived of its ‘aura’, but would be one that had its very own ‘aura’ instead. Remembering Walter Benjamin’s 1936 essay, once a work has lost its ‘aura’ what significance is it supposed to bear then? Artists of the Pop Art movement have already answered this question, have they not? Answers given in the form of paintings that find their originals in replication. 


In the images of four seasons, Kezban Arca Batıbeki shows us four frames in a row. One of them in the original colors of the Nature, other three in artifical paint hues. In all these images, Andy Warhol’s Pop colors prevail: they share the same moment and frame with the yellow, red, and green of Nature, with no regard for any hierarchy whatsoever. Same image is replicated four times, being colored in a new Pop hue at each instance. And this hue is in an ever-lasting harmony with the colors of Nature, rain or shine, as they say, in winter and summer, fall and spring. All these colors, in their perpetual state of naturalness, are in a way a constant reminder of how ‘naturally’ it comes to us that our world has long broken with being natural. Cinema as an important component of popular culture is also there with its sight and sound, bringing along its local response to the Americanism of Pop Art, while at the same time joining forces with it. In late 1950’s, at a time ‘consumer society’ was beginning to prevail in Europe and America, French thinker Jean Baudrillard, who had found a great source of inspiration in Andy Warhol, showed us that our Turkish movies still had a quite different ring, and flavor, too. Unlike the Western society of the 1960’s, once the macho male voice greets the ear amidst an atmosphere of sexual liberation, we come to realize that Pop itself as a component of popular culture functions through an entirely different encoding. And these codes bring us the voices of a male-dominant culture, rather than those of liberated men and women. It is virtually impossible to escape the machistic domination of the male voice, even in a woman’s delicate wailing in her own suffering. In the work which evokes reflections on relationships through voices, and the TV sound adding to them, we might trace another component of the Pop culture of our day: it is the voice of the contemporary woman, liberated in the consumer society, her voice getting harder and harder; thus the same ‘coarseness’ in male voice might well be echoed in our ‘readings’ of her voice, too. This transformation shows us that what transpires here is a kind of domination of society-wide nationalism independent of a machistic domination, or the domination of the male. In a way, it attests that the dominant culture is now the subculture, and those belonging in the dominant or mainstream culture now have come to employ the very language and discourse, ‘talk the talk’ of the subculture itself. In other words, we witness a ‘techno-hick-bling-bling’ subculture transforming into the mainstream. The domination of a subculture that has gotten hold of an entire city is thus voiced in the TV and media. The sounds of Istanbul are no longer the sounds Alain Robbe-Grillet recorded years ago to use in his movie l’Immortelle, nor the nostalgia of the romantic sounds of boats sliding in mist. In fact, the sounds of those boats which they now try to put out of service would not suffice here. All the sounds that someone intends to put out of somewhere are still part of this ongoing process, anyway. This culture, which is indeed a simulacre of the urban culture itself, is presented to the public in the form of a popular culture and is not only provided, but is modified and transformed, as well. In this sense, the sounds of Istanbul emanate from a laboratory, they are the sounds of devices that function within and by way of social processes synthesized in Pop Art.

While evoking all this, the video presentation also shows how life is transformed. When we consider that every season is there only once, yet the same seasons keep rotating despite all our forever-lost moments, aren’t the seasons a perfect symbol of time’s volatility as well as its cycling repetitions?


The Warhol figure standing still against the naked background of life with all the sped-up images running, makes us feel the perpetuity of this stillness, whereas life keeps going at its usual fast pace in and despite that perpetuity. As the background is literally brought to the fore from time to time, as the cleaning lady in the background looms up from behind in her stateliness, we are constantly reminded not only of the spectre of the popular culture, but also that it is not immune itself from fast change, either. This is a moment that evokes a plethora of elements from the changing cultural values to the transformation of a city.


Kezban Arca Batıbeki’s “I Shot Andy Warhol”, does not tell us how she shot Andy Warhol, at all, but perhaps it is about how Andy Warhol shot Istanbul through the iconization of a culture ‘popped up!’ 

Ali Akay