Journeys with No Return

By Kemp-Welch, Klara | Art Monthly, April 2010 | Go to article overview

Journeys with No Return


Kemp-Welch, Klara, Art Monthly


* Journeys With No Return

A Foundation London 18 February to 14 March

'Journeys With No Return' is a travelling exhibition of contemporary art from Turkey, Germany and the UK that aims to reflect on recent Turkish migration and to forge fresh links between three exhibition contexts: Istanbul, London and Berlin. Appropriately, Nasan Tur's Backpacks, 2006, and video documentation of them in use, playfully literalise the theme of the artist nomad, whom Nicolas Bourriaud dubbed the homo viator at last year's Tate Triennial. Tur's clattering Speaker-Backpack, Cooking-Backpack, Demonstration-Backpack, Sabotage-Backpack and Fan-Backpack, variations on the Beuysian emergency kit, come equipped with spray paint and a blank banner, challenging the political efficacy of contemporary art in public space.

If London reportedly now has more Turkish migrants than any other city in the world, many of these are recent arrivals from Germany, which, following its Gastarbeiter programme (1950s-70s), is now home to around 2.7m Turks. But anyone hoping to learn about the historical pattern of Turkish immigration or expecting insight into the life of Turkish immigrant communities may be disappointed. The three best works in the 16-artist show are poetic, deploying the video-essay format with varying degrees of narrative and visual licence, shifting between the documentary and the dream.

Adam Chodzko's The Pickers, 2009, is exquisite and bewitching. Four young Romanian strawberry pickers are filmed in an editing room discussing footage of themselves at work in a hothouse in Kent, comparing it with archival material of London hop pickers--families toiling harmoniously in an idyllic British landscape. Their conversation records their coming to consciousness ('we look much more grumpy'), revealing the experience of migrant labour and the changing pattern of British agriculture. The cold metal and glass of the hothouse is matched by the oversized electric-red fruits and their sharp green leaves; air pulses through plastic tubing that inflates and contracts as though it were a living organism blasting out heat; workers and their trolleys, joined at the hip, glide methodically along purpose-designed tracks, each in a lane of their own. Sitting in a sterile room full of computers, one of the young men says: 'Imagine if they [the British] came to us ... if their economy collapsed.' 'Then they would see what it's like to be away from home,' replies a young woman. Chodzko presents the young people as agents of their own representation as well as objects of his study, but he does not pretend that this changes their status in the global scheme of things. 'I have an editing programme at home,' says one of the boys, 'but it's strange, it doesn't have a "save" option.' 'It must be the test version,' concludes another. Their comments highlight the unevenness of a global capitalism that dictates who migrates to work and who does not, who can afford to buy useable software and who cannot.

Ergin Cavusoglu's Silent Glide, 2008-09, considers labour as a source of poetic inspiration as well as income. A writer has moved into a room overlooking a factory and a cargo port with the intention of completing his book in two weeks. …

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