“The New Order of Things”
Evidently, with “The New Order of Things” we borrow Foucault’s title and would like to revere him within this artistic and cultural event launched in Sinop, the historical town at the most northern point of Turkey. It is self-evident that by using “new” in the title we are not intending to exceed our limits and trying to surpass Foucault’s wisdom. This “new” is employed possibly as an ambiguous term to imply the vanity of contemporary art system to continuously advocate the newness in art making, but also as a skeptical reflection on the state of political and economical affairs in our territory. In the age of inventing “a new” every five minutes which sometimes turns out to be a new crisis, we feel obliged to question the “political, economical and cultural new” that effects our everyday and lifetime. Nicholas Bourriaud, in his interview with Karen Moss said (*): “This pressure of the new is something which is quite new in history. But it was not a determinant interrogation for artists for centuries. And it didn’t make them repeat things. People like Vermeer and Velasquez did new things, but they didn’t think about “newness” specifically because it was not of value for them. The new as a value is something which is gone now.” Thus, by using “new” and knowing that artists are not doing new things, we challenge the public’s paradox conventions on the newness of things.
We are not doing anything new in the sense of organizing an art and culture event. In fact it is very similar to the one’s that are being realized in many small towns of EU, as an obligation to the cultural policies related to the preservation and stimulation of local cultures. Thus, with its heavily loaded history of power interactions between rulers and governments Sinop is one of the most emblematic cities in Turkey and in the Black Sea region and reflects all kinds of stereotype orders of things. Precisely this ambiguously political history and present status of Sinop leads us to think about the order of things. The subtitle of Foucault’s book is “an archaeology of the human sciences” and Foucault is referring mainly to sociology, cultural history incorporating labor, language and nature. This subtitle is also pointing out our goal to use an art event to deal with sociology, culture and environment.
According to interpreters (**) Foucault was very much involved in attacking the existing order. He mercilessly convicted today and made provocative proposals of creating everything from the beginning. While he is against the strategies of the existing order and hits this order in its most weak points, he is not doing this to replace this order with another one. For him the only alternative is to oppose; and, this continuous opposition is a kind of constant revolution.
Living as artists, curators, art experts of an unstable and conservative culture industry in a region of wars, crisis, economic manipulations and clash of religious convictions, we too agree to continuous opposition as a standard way of working. In the first Sinop biennale, we employed the title” The Thing” with the intention to make the public aware that something will enter into their daily life; this something being the sum of different strategies of contemporary art (performances, workshops, in situ works and discussions). We suppose that this first attempt had its positive reverberations, so that this year we will have a more eager collaboration of local institutions and individuals.
In another way we wanted to play our role as interrupting agents on the continuity of the orders of the past still prevailing in the collective memory of the Black Sea region. Or, to play our role in creating awareness on the impact of the present order of things. Throughout the second half of 20th century, the ethnic, folkloric, traditional and geographical similarities and affinities all around the Black Sea could not prevent the isolation of the cities and their inmates from each other. The order of polarization and imposition conditioned by Soviet Russia and United States has changed since the fall of the Soviet Union, leaving behind countries that should habituate themselves into new orders, in to neighborhood relations and into political, economic and cultural communication. Up till now politicians and bureaucrats advocate regional cooperation and resolution of the so called “frozen conflicts” which is an important factor of security and stability in the region and would have a serious impact upon the development of the regional cooperation (***) There is a comprehensive declaration of goodwill signed in 2006 in Bucharest (****) However, the reshaping of the geopolitical and economical map of the region generated new realities and new configuration of international relations, that not necessarily brought new prospects for the people of the region. The perceptions, concerns and hopes in the region in regard to this new map are still perplexed. The process of opening itself to the world goes through building a democracy and market economy, but also through serious transnational threats – or orders – such as new forms of poverty, neo-nationalism, terrorism, Islamic extremism, and drug trafficking etc…
The first Sinopale has shown us that the public in Sinop discovered contemporary art as a new medium to deal with the memory and with the current affairs. The memory is loaded with Cold War strategies using the city as the Radar Center (1954-1993), whereas the current affairs make the city the candidate for a Nuclear Plant. To our astonishment, the people were very much conscious of the natural resources and environmental wonders of the region and were organized to defend it. The artworks, created by the artists who practically made residencies in Sinop, displayed for these people a platform of relevant thinking.
We are presenting this text to the artists and art experts during a crisis in Turkey. In all probability it is an ongoing discussion about the order of things in Turkey, in the region and in the world. It is a visual language game open to all people with different backgrounds and opinions. A large part of the pleasure comes from participating in this game, however with the condition that one tries to understand the language. People study art and art history to gain access to the language of art. And, Sinopale is one of the tools to bring this knowledge to the people.
**Allan Megill, Aşırılığın Peygamberleri (Prophets of Extremity), Çev.Tuncay Birkan, Bilim ve Sanat Yayınları (1998), s.292-299