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Ali Emir Tapan - Stories Told With Violence

Words:

Edd Norval
October 11, 2021

Ali Emir Tapan’s art uses the visceral language of violence, its actions and aftermaths, in static pieces that, without context, appear like outwardly carefree abstracted and meditative works, inviting the audience to dig deeper into how they came to be.

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On the outside, various images from smashed glass - resembling something vaguely natural, like a space where the sea and sky meet each other under meteorological duress - to warped sheets of metal, propose a textural exploration into the kinetic results of violence.


The smashed glass, serene on its own, is actually the result of a punch or a kick, the twisted sheets of metal are buckled under the ferocity of a bullet. Turkey, the home of Tapan, is a nation with a strong history of violence, both in history as far back as the Ottoman Empire, up to more contemporary displays of public protest and dissent.


He tells these stories without their sociopolitical contexts, offering us a chance to ruminate on the causes and effects of violence - its impact, both figuratively and literally. This is violence as palatable, a part of culture, not counter to it. Tapan grew up in Istanbul, hanging around spaces and people that would contradict the conservative culture of Turkey - at least as it is under the current regime and it is through this lens that he understands his subject.

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He’d spend time chatting in groups around the multiplicity of coffee houses that dot the capital, as well as listening to and attending the performances of rock and roll music. His academic background was far from Turkey, in New London, Connecticut’s liberal arts college. Spending four years there studying Intellectual History, Tapan became acquainted with some of the world’s most formidable minds and fluent in their ideas. 


This background and set of interests might go a long way in explaining his philosophical exploration of something that we tend to experience and talk of in very literal terms. Violence is a largely physical phenomenon, but its perpetrators and victims experience its impact in psychological terms - often more acutely than the physicality of violence itself.


Despite the fairly brutal nature of the violence, as touched on before, without the context of the act itself, the remnants of these incidents leave something quite dreamlike. Coupled with the consideration of the cause of what we’re looking at, there is beauty in their abstract nature, isolated from violence itself. Within this beauty comes a great sense of unease. 

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Severing the two, violence and impact, provokes a rare alchemical relationship, evoking the poetry and romanticism experienced when violence is discussed and contemplated away from its source. In the news, soldiers become heroes, entirely divorced from the details of their heroism beyond the cold statistics and vague facts of their operations.


As with martyrs celebrated as more than men through their valiant acts, these pieces are similarly comparable, having gone through their own process of transformation for a greater philosophical cause. For Tapan, the cause is art, no matter how it came to be. 

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