Fatmi criticizes the formation of supranational political and economic structures in the late 1990s and offers an ironic perspective of a megalopolis and urban architecture from an Arab point of view.
The concept of the megalopolis is being questioned in an ironic way in an exhibition recently opened by one of the young and successful figures of Middle Eastern contemporary art. Mounir Fatmi, a Moroccan artist living in Paris, is displaying his recent works in the exhibition "Megalopoller/Megalopolis," on view at the Akbank Art Gallery in İstanbul’s Beyoğlu district until March 19.
Fatmi, whose works have been exhibited in many countries, including Switzerland, Germany, France and Japan, and who was awarded the Grand Prize of the 7th Dakar Biennial in 2006, criticizes the formation of supranational political and economic structures in the late 1990s and offers an ironic perspective of a megalopolis and urban architecture from an Arab point of view.
"Curator Ali Akay and Akbank invited me to stage an exhibit," said Fatmi in an interview with Today's Zaman. This is his first exhibition in ?stanbul. "The films in the exhibition come out of the Ovalprojet, a project I did in Mantes-la-Jolie, a suburb of Paris, between 2001 and 2005, but which were recently completed, in January."
Criticizing the new era
"Broadly speaking, I would define a megalopolis in regards to the speed and rapidity of architectural development in cities without taking time to consider or reflect upon the wellbeing of the people who live in the city," Fatmi says. "Cheap construction and a lack of green spaces or walkways for example."
"New cities such as Dubai are interesting to look at in terms of their rapid construction by people from all over the world -- foreign companies and banks building new offices or headquarters and being constructed by people from other countries," Fatmi says as he explains his observations related to changes in the cities and the influence of supra-nationalism and globalism on them. For Fatmi, ?stanbul is also a megalopolis where different elements merge in the same pot. “İstanbul is a fantastic city that seems to blend old and new, East and West in the best of ways," says Fatmi. "It's ancient while developing its own voice and place in the contemporary world."
Transition in Arab world
"I work in a variety of mediums -- traditional or technological, depending on the piece I am making," explains Fatmi. "Some of the films were made specifically for this exhibition, but others, like the hard hats, form part of the larger body of work I have been developing about architecture and the city. I have also previously worked with videocassettes. In the context of this exhibition, they suggest a flat screen and allow people to project their own images and ideas upon them."
One of the most interesting sections of the exhibition is the installation comprising helmets with great French theorists' names on them. "The principal idea behind this project started with me making hard hats for some of the major French theorists, including [Gilles] Deleuze, [Jacques] Derrida, [Michel] Foucault, [Jean] Baudrillard," explains Fatmi, "and this notion of protecting the brain and to protect the fragility of thought and philosophy and protecting the structure of thought and reflection. Their names inscribed on these typical hard hats immediately suggest the notion of construction and at first sight provide a formal means to create a link with architecture."
With the Arab world undergoing a huge process of transition today, one in which the world is witnessing an incogitable series of revolutions, Fatmi says an even better time awaits the flourishing Middle Eastern contemporary art scene in such an atmosphere. "Artists from the Arab world were not waiting for a change politically or economically in order create their
work," says Fatmi, noting that the process had started long ago. "Artists have been working regardless of their situation. They will now perhaps be looked to more to add to the dialogue of what is happening politically and so forth. I think the bigger change or transition is that there is now a greater platform for artists in the Arab world to exhibit their work in the Arab world -- in Qatar or Dubai or Morocco, for example, not just in foreign countries, but now perhaps their own. That is the bigger change or transition for the artists themselves .
Hatice Ahsen Utku
28 February 2011