Where the Body and the Mind Are: A Look at ‘In Exile’ at Istanbul’s Space Debris

Marcel Duchamp's Box in a Valise, 1945-41

Marcel Duchamp’s Box in a Valise, 1935-41

Salman Rushdie describes exile as a dream of glorious return, stating that exile is a vision of revolution in his controversial book The Satanic Verses. Rushdie also adds that exile always has the same paradox of looking forward by looking back.

Marcel Duchamp’s escape from Nazi-occupied France in 1935 led Duchamp create La Boite en Valise, a luggage full of replicas of his sixty-nine works. What can be described as a very Duchamp’ian act was the result of his urge to have his ‘source of mind’ with him concentrated into one luggage, beyond the physicality of these objects as artworks. As an artist who altered the limits of art works–both in definition and material–Duchamp shipped this luggage to Peggy Guggenheim’s New York address, and presented himself as a cheese merchant to distract the Nazi soldiers when crossing the border (Why not? He’s French and he’s Duchamp, right?).

In Exile at Space Debris (Installation View)

In Exile at Space Debris (Installation View)

As an artist that maneuvered around ‘reality’ and the beyond, Duchamp regarded displacement or relocating as a necessity for productivity and self-improvement. Being in the center of a constant flow of time and space meant no nationality, no religion, even no identity, and in the end, no attachment; thus turning his luggage into a mobile museum liberated from an origin or commodity.

Space Debris of Istanbul is hosting In Exile, a group of works by Istanbul and New York based artists, contemplating the notion of displacement and the possibility of an ultimate ‘home’.  Adapting Duchamp’s luggage as a metaphor, the exhibition comments on the drifting of ideas, thoughts, memories and dreams attached to those who own them. As two melting pots holding different nationalities, colors and voices on separate sides of the ocean, New York and Istanbul shelter millions adrift with the urge of a creative tone. In Exile brings together these voices, embodied into different mediums, among which are photography, drawing, sculpture, sound and painting.

Zdravko Toic's Untitled diptich

Zdravko Toic, Untitled 

Aside from its political charge, the notion of exile perpetuates a more distinct and private sense, suggesting an individualistic state of existence and life-making. One’s separation from a roof in search of various new forms of existence and creativity finds its meaning in Space Debris’ selection of works.Placed in the center of the installation is an old luggage acquired for the exhibition to speak to Duchamp and his legacy. New York based artists Suzanne Stroebe and Zdravko Toic’s geometric works of lines, rays, and colors salute those never-ending back and forth’s, while trying to bring together the missing dots through long lines to finally built sharp edges.

Christian Hansen

Christian Hansen

Christian Hansen’s photographs of desolate and barren sites and nameless travelers staring into his camera transfer the vividness of the present and the dreariness of the past. Istanbul based artist Berkay Bugdanoglu’s tryptich Exiles presents an isolated man and what’s left behind of him, portraying the physicality of mankind and the duality of being stuck in the middle.

Berkay Bugdanoglu Exiles

Berkay Bugdanoglu, Exiles


New York-based Turkish artists Ayse Nur Gençalp and Azmi Mert Erdem deliver photographic arrangements in which the nature of bi-originality, resulting in physical and mental separation, finds its visual equivalence. Gençalp’s photograph of his father at the military base in Cyprus where he served years ago and Erdem’s capturing of his grandmother through his lens on a summer day at his hometown are both infused with a tangible yet subtle longing that grabs everyone through a familiar sentiment.

Azmi Mert Erdem

Azmi Mert Erdem

Curator Seyhan Musaoglu asked participating artists to submit a sound record along with their works, documenting the essence of their works. These different ‘voices‘ coming either from New York or Istanbul, where Space Debris is located, culminated into a sound piece by the musical duo PS performed at the opening night.

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