Vertigo: The Hyperreal Utopia Rising Within the Coldness of Steel

Istanbul Artist Collective
Jan 27, 2019 10:31PM

From Vertigo Series | No: 2 |R: 150 cm

A reality that has no actual equivalent in the daily life cycle of society, but one that is fictionalized around its own story within the boundaries of the canvas. Urban silhouettes finding an expression with a hyperreal understanding, steel constructions gaining volume as the design is redesigned, and human characters emerging as bodies of stone and flesh within the vertiginous chaos of metropolis. ‘Vertigo’, overreaches the reasons of existence of world-renowned architectural constructs, or constructs that have a significant place in historical and socio-economic urban structure they have been built in, and witnesses their transformation, evanescence, and rebirth as reality as a part of an interactive process within the triangle of artist, viewer, and work.

I will trace two theories that hold an extensive place in urban daily life to comment on the first and second period works of Seydi Murat Koç’s ‘Above the Ground’ series, which can be seen in his solo exhibition named ‘Vertigo’, and I am going to draw attention to the moments both where the primary ideas of these theories coincide with each other, and the issues the artist dealt and his technique used in order to reach a conclusion. The first theory is Baudrillard’s simulation theory which I refer in order to investigate the images of technique that enables Koç’s works to reach a conclusion; and the second is the Habermas’s social theory which I utilize in analysis the symbolic signifiers that the images constitute in his paintings.

Baudrillard’s (1982/2003) simulation theory is based on that the simulacra forms a model on its own and assumes the representation of the reality, surpassing an artificial/fabricated creation of world that has no source of reality. The components creating the background in Seydi Murat Koç’s works contain architectural constructs redesigned as being imbricated or spliced with each other, and urban silhouettes that depart from the whole with an eclectic projection. In this respect, this newly built architectural order of the artist holds on to a surreal reality, and coincides with the idea of simulation.

Every steel construction rises above the bare earth, whether it has a function within the public sphere, or it is merely the living space of individuals, it coincides with the physical reality of the utopia, because of the mass it takes up in the universe. What needs to be investigated here is that, whether the designs taking place in the urban silhouette are reflections of reality, or spectacles that obfuscate a non-existent reality.

Hegarty (2008) points out in his essay where he investigates the architectural echoes of simulation theory that Baudrillard’s simulation world aims a better, more functional and more sterile than the existing one. In this respect, first, the definition of the existing world should be examined; then, the possibilities of the better, more functional and more sterile should be pursued. The question that needs to be asked here is that whether it is possible to reach an excellence beyond imagination. Another issue is the position of the artist within a multilayered simulation sequence, and the contribution of this position to subsequent acts of reproduction on a utopian extent.

Simulation theory is built in four stages (1. Reflection of reality, 2. Concealing/altering the reality, 3. Concealing the lack of reality, 4. Simulacra) in the context of a relationship based on contradiction with reproduction. Last stage is the arrival to the simulacrum which belongs to the order of simulation, a hyperreality that has ambiguous tracks of its creative source, and can substitute only itself.

It is out of question to reach the source of the spectacle of any image in a digital world in which our every moment stirred with the images reflected from screens that are being multiplied in variety. In this respect, it can be said that the architectural designs, which are revived on lightened drawing tables and built with cold seductiveness of steel, concrete and glass on some part of the city, coincides with any part in the world of simulation. This being the case, it would be meaningful to emphasize the last two of the four stages constituted in order to analyze reality in this text, which pose to be a milestone in the process of passing into the world of simulation.

When we look into the history of civilizations and art, it can be observed that the rationalism and irrationalism’s successive leaps have been rhythmic, until they reach modernity. It is recorded that the artistic and architectural advancements within the compass of conditions and lifestyles of the day and the reaction received are the very factors that accelerated these innovative and traditional traffic. The new world order, built in the bosom of idealist and systematic structuring of industrial revolution and modernism, on the one hand, laid the foundation of contemporary lifestyles; on the other hand, created a diffraction within the rhythmic process of history on linear level. From 19th century onwards, modernism, postmodernism and the contemporary values that are not yet defined in historical terminology, renders it impossible to reach the causalities that enable us to get closer to the essence that reflects the reality of the world.

Configured by the discourse and power in order to structure social life, cities (especially European cities remainder of 19th century with their symmetrical streets and vast boulevards are the most resplendent examples) have now fallen victim to a fallacy of digital world that is impossible to keep up with the speed of time and space in the contemporary metropolises, where advanced technology has infiltrated every moment of individuals. Now, every world city, and therefore, urbanites are subjugated by simulacra.

The role of the artist is primarily as an observer, and the remainder of his observation, is the cross sections of buildings’ exterior in the narrow scale, and the urban silhouettes in the larger scale. What we experience in Seydi Murat Koç’s works is the architectural designs that have utmost importance in city identities, and the cities with their roads and squares. While every layer in a multilayered structure, adjoined one another, presents a diversity that enables analysis in itself, at the same time it refers to the collective. The impact of this relationship between these layers is that it causes a fracture on the temporal and spatial lines that the visible maintains its existence on.

In a hyperreal world, where the spatial and temporal perception is lost, the routines of daily life defined by the tense relationship of the existence of the individuals that constitute the society in this order and the monetary/economic system are identified with the experience of vertigo. Thus, if we go back to the idea that every architectural plan has a meaningful place in the world of simulation, the transformation of these architectural designs appear in Koç’s paintings into digitally altered images, refers to a reverse reading where simulation reaches a theory that renders the lack of reality invisible.

Artist’s preference of outdoor images that are open to public and plural over the symbolic privacy of interior images can be read as a reinterpretation of a pluralist response or reaction to the public, the communion in dynamics of public sphere, and the routines of daily life. The observable images in Koç’s works include urban silhouettes of Istanbul, the city he lives/works in, images of New York, which is accepted as the center of the world, especially in regard to economy, and the architectural designs in Europe which have become symbols of power in terms of their functions. The artist makes the social and cultural differences between cities apparent by means of architectural elements in the hyperreal world he designed in accordance with an observational selection, and at the same time, he reveals the similar universal functionality of monetary and power system.

The actions that organize the interaction between individuals in the social world are categorized by Habermas (1989/2007) as communicative and instrumental. While instrumental action is the consequence of the best and most practical way to reach a specific goal, the most decisive difference between these two actions is that, one is determined independently and randomly before the instrument it uses, the other cannot develop independently of the instrument of realization and words.

Another problematic connection within the scope of social theory is that, communicative action belongs to the unorganized spheres of public, like family, home, and culture, which means the world of life; and the instrumental action serves to the extrinsic goals that are focused on the constant flux of money. According to Habermas, it is only possible with communicative action to develop and better every segment of world of life that is based on the interaction of individuals constituting the overall public. In this respect, the architectural editions designed in Seydi Murat Koç’s works point at the junction of world of life, and the system of money and power, and the figures in the paintings exposes the contradictions and dilemmas that the individuals of world of life has developed in the system.

The fairies in this perfect hyperreality that is reflected from the mind of the artist, give their places to the forms of antique sculptures in some works. These sculptures, reflecting the experience of history on today seem improper among the buildings structured by contemporary aesthetic values and advanced technology. Just like the curious and puzzled fairies with motley wings of insects, whose ability to fly refutes the possibility of falling, and reinforces their privilege of immunity. The characters of stone and flesh placed on the paintings in which the artist redesigned the architecture not only touch on the past, present, and future process of linear time, but also proposes to reevaluate the ideas of aesthetic and beauty embodied in the antique sculptures, in respect of urban structuring.

It should not be forgotten that, Baudelaire’s (1863/2003) idea of ‘any form of modernity may be worthy of becoming antiquity’ is contingent upon the deciphering the hidden beauty that humanity has loaded on it. While the modernity of the past determined the functionality of the day, in the light of historical information and remnants, its interpretation can differ. In that vein, it will be inevitable to interpret the architectural and artistic referenced accumulation differently in a future period of time. Ultimately, while Seydi Murat Koç’s works reflect a tangled association between the historical texture of the city and the modern architectural constructs that reflect contemporary perceptions of technology and design; the artist marks the experiences and knowledge of the past and the idea of future in the present moment.

Ceren Turan

Istanbul Artist Collective