May 27 - June 25, 2011
Rodeo continues to be one of the most exciting art spaces in Istanbul, displaying a quality of art and an international, avant-garde awareness all too often missing in the city. This year has already seen fantastic shows of work by James Richards and Gabriel Lester. The curator Sylvia Kouvali’s latest offering is no less impressive. Anti-Hamam Confessions is a thoughtful work by the veteran artist Gülsün Karamustafa that draws upon her personal relationship with hamams.
Karamustafa’s work is essentially about her dislike of Turkish baths (as she explained in Sharing Waters: Sauna meets hamam). A video-piece, it explores the hamam in Tahtahkale, in Istanbul's spice bazaar district, built in the 16th century by Mimar Sinan but now a shopping centre. A voiceover describes her hatred of ‘these places’. For Gülsün Karamustafa, growing up in modern apartments with bathrooms, there was never any need for the hamam; indeed she had never been to one. Instead she began to hate these historical monuments, and the way in which they are interpreted by tourists. At the heart of her work is an annoyance with the Orientalising gaze of the West and the way in which it is applied to the citizens of Istanbul. By presenting a Sinan hamam which is now a shopping centre, Karamustafa questions these perceptions. Meanwhile the slow dripping of the water becomes unbearable – a form of water torture rather than the sound of a hamam – jarring with the building’s new function.
Karamustafa is a veteran of the Turkish art scene but continues to provoke surprise. Elsewhere, her work – most recently Etiquette at the IFA galleries in Stuttgart and Berlin and The Monument and the Child at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna – has drawn on similar ideas of memory, history and identity, as well as exploring, to great acclaim, the issue of Orientalism.