Walker Art Center

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Minibar, 2001
Can Altay
Courtesy the artist, Ankara, Turkey
Can Altay

Can Altay  b.1975  (Turkey)
lives and works in Ankara, Turkey

launch interview with Can Altay

An architect, artist, designer, and scholar, Can Altay is interested in unorthodox appropriations of the built environment. Influenced by Georges Bataille's ideas on transgression, Michel Foucault's ideas on power and non-nor-mativity, and Henri Lefebvre's conceptions of social space as well as by art history, Altay approaches his subject matter from a number of discursive directions. His current project, the minibar projections, is an exploration, documentation, and exhibition of the transgressive use of semipublic spaces by young people. Minibars, named by the youth who create and use them, are impromptu gathering places around and in-between buildings in Ankara, the capital city of Turkey. Architectural and geographic "one night stands," they are, in the words of the artist, "a utilisation of physical environment for an event [outside of the intent of] the builders, designers, and residents." These locations become places through occupation, use, and social relations, much as Lefebvre proposed in The Production of Space. Altay's project documents these appropriations in the form of an audiovisual installation--slides, taken at the minibars, are projected in the gallery, along with sound recordings from the events. Viewers are immersed in the experience of the minibars and the space, sometimes casting shadows as they walk through the projected light.

Altay's documentation of informal participants' occupation of the semipublic realm and the resulting architectural and social response (heightened fences, the erection of metal bars) alerts us to the increasing privatization of our surroundings and the almost complete lack of truly public space in the urban sphere. Additionally, his work captures fleeting moments in time, a sense reinforced by the age of the young minibar occupants, who are poised at the edge of adulthood.

Altay was featured in Eve Hediyesi, Oda Projesi, Istanbul, Turkey (2002); Becoming a Place, Proje4L Istanbul Museum of Contemporary Art (2001); and an exhibition at the Çankaya Center for Contemporary Arts in Ankara (2000).

--Aimee Chang

"I intend to extend the practice of appropriation to things of the world which I come across in the streets, vacant lots, fields, the ambient world, things which would not be transportable, but which I would invite the public to participate in. This would be a fatal blow to the concept of the museum, art gallery, etc., and to the very concept of "exhibition." Either we change it, or we remain as we are. Museum is the world: daily experience."
"A re-telling, a word taken to signify the simultaneous existence of different versions of a narrative within oral, and from now onwards, digital cultures. . . . The concept of rescension is contraindicative of the notion of hierarchy."
There can be two ways of thinking about belonging: one is to say "I belong to this culture," and the other is to say "these cultures belong to me."