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Can Altay, "The Institute of Thresholds"

The Institute of Thresholds

Can Altay is invited to the second Yinchuan Biennale (9 June–19 September 2018) titled “Starting from the Desert. Ecologies on the Edge” under the artistic directorship of Marco Scotini. SAHA provided support for the production of the new work by Can Altay.

Can Altay’s work incorporates the story of an experiment in rural cultivation from the 1930’s and 1940’s in Turkey into three thresholds, spaces of passage, or stations. Initially titled as “the institute”, the village institutes were a pedagogical experiment in agricultural development to support the foundation of the republic and spread (or enforce) its ideals to the rural population, through the creation and distribution of an organic and committed intellectual class to the context of villages, which used to form the majority of human settlements.

The program had invested to a great extent in a hybrid format that combined Western high culture and Anatolian vernacular knowledge. An attempt at emancipating the villager from the prevalent serfdom, while instilling the ideologies of the new modernist nation state, this agricultural revolution employed collective means of production and tried to sideline the religious and feudal order at work. Leading to its demise, the institution was ultimately criticized from the Right for its modes of operation; and from the urban left for its top-down enforcement of a new culture.

Nevertheless, the story holds many potent reflections on not only the political history of the country vis-a-vis the world; but also on modes of collectivity, promise, and the construction of horizons. Altay looks into the tools, objects and systems that were at play in composing and imposing such horizons. One such is the sign/gates that were built in place as markers of territory, a symbolic architectural device that instills a promise, a gateway, a threshold. Other tools include learning devices (books, graphics, furniture); the bricks that were produced by the students and used in building; and the famous, again self-produced wooden suitcases which the graduates took with them as they headed to their mandatory 20 years of education service in villages.

About Can Altay

Can Altay (1975, Ankara) is an artist concerned with civic space, urban life, human products, and artistic activity, who utilizes images, objects, and spaces in his work. Often touching on the urban social condition and paradoxes of civilization, his work is staged and manifested through exhibitions and publications.

Altay ‘s  solo exhibitions include shows at ar/ge kunst (Bolzano); Arcade (London); SALT (Istanbul); Casco (Utrecht); The Showroom (London); and Spike Island (Bristol). His work has been included in Biennials of Istanbul, Havana, Busan, Gwangju, Marrakech, Taipei, Thessaloniki; and has also been exhibited in museums and galleries such as the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), VanAbbe Museum (Eindhoven), MAXXI (Rome), ZKM (Karlsruhe), Artists Space (New York), and SALT (Istanbul). Altay’s public projects include: “Manifaturacılar Çarşısı Plakçılık Sunar” (Istanbul, 2017); "Loughborough Records Presents Presence" (Loughborough, 2016); "Inner Space Station" (New York, 2013); "Distributed" (London, 2012); “The Church Street Partners’ Gazette” (London, 2010-13) and "PARK: bir ihtimal" (Istanbul, 2010). Can Altay is the editor of “Ahali: a journal for setting a setting” and the anthology published by Bedford Press. His work has been published in periodicals such as Frieze, Artforum, domus, AD (Architectural Design). Altay is also Associate Professor at the Faculty of Architecture and Department Head of Product Design at Istanbul Bilgi University.

About the Yinchuan Biennale

The Museum of Contemporary Art Yinchuan, which was opened in 2015 located within a large organic plantation, is the first contemporary art museum in northwest China. Striving to promote diversity in the development of contemporary art, MOCA Yinchuan is the first to be dedicated to Chinese and Islamic contemporary art. The first edition of the Yinchuan Biennale titled “For an Image, Faster than Light” was held in 2016, under the curatorship of Bose Krishnamachari, with the participation of 73 artists from 33 countries.