How to approach the architectural landscape with subjective geological metaphors? How can we experience the meshwork or arrangement of the Earth’s layers with a dynamic analysis of social and geological strata?
These questions will certainly lead us to spatial imaginations and experiences that would redefine our relation to “form”.
Istanbul-based artist Emre Hüner consistently focuses his practice on the imagination of spatial, architectural entities, possible settlements, and uncommon arrangements between subjectivities and objects. “Aeolian”, Hüner’s recent exhibition in parallel galleries Rodeo and the Nesrin Esirtgen Collection, featured a series of exhibiting structures in which the audience could follow the artist’s arrangements of forms. These materialised into ceramic sculptures, images, drawings and video works, based on two of Hüner’s spatial and architectural experiences: a visit to “Fordlandia”, the industrial ruins of a settlement built by Henry Ford in 1928 in the Amazon rainforest, in order to produce rubber for Ford company; and a stay in Hawaii, in Doris Duke’s “Shangri-La” villas.
These spatial experiences lead Hüner to question two landscapes where the capitalist modernity descends to exotic physical environments, reminiscent of the evolution of artifacts. Deciphering Hüner’s ceramic forms and drawings of the layers of “form” sediments, a question appears in my mind: how can I experience other possible, lived or unlived “time” and “spaces”, and what could be the representation of their form… artifacts.
It is possible to imagine and read the metaphors of spatial landscape within the self-organization of human life. Manuel De Landa’s “geological approach” to human history offers a — maybe known, but not common — procedure to understand material culture. De Landa points out how “human culture and society are not different from the self-organized processes that inhabit the atmosphere and hydrosphere (win, circuits, hurricanes), or, for that matter, no different from lavas and magmas, which as self-assembled conveyor belts drive plate tectonics and over millennia have created all the geological features that have influenced human history”.
Hüner’s exhibition title — “Aeolian” — refers to the wind’s ability to shape the surface of the Earth and other planets. Using this metaphor, Hüner acknowledges his aim is “to create an abstraction of the utopian or imaginary architecture, planetary landscapes and possible settlements on planets, idea of fight and remains of civilizations, while keeping my focus on materiality and texture of ceramic and the other materials”. The artist’s sensitivity to the surface of the materials and their transforming forms can be seen in two 16mm video films (Aveolian Processes #1, #2). The process and details of materials as an expanding “still life”, observed by Hüner in his studio, convey a series of parallels to the history of the formation of artifacts that are often found in the Earth’s strata. It could be interesting to follow such a transformation in the deep dune of the landscape of Anatolia.
Can architectural models be understood as the “artifact of the artifact”? Realised and unrealised models, as well as the building and project they represent, are often detached from each other. The model, the prototype remains either useless or merely a representation. Hüner chooses to ignore these aspects of an architectural model. Instead, he searches for traces of a material that could have been realised through other real-life possibilities in his third 16mm film, where we can see the first proposed model of the “Shangri-La” house, which harks back to the 1920s. Hüner found this model which, despite containing perfectly well worked details, is dated within its own time and space. This places it into an embodiment of an artifact that separates itself from the meaning of the built villa. The model is a representation of “ruin”, with his own labyrinthine time, such as the Fordlandia settling.
The experience of Hüner’s forms could be also approached in the context of a “new materialism”, an affirmative philosophical approach of materialization that thinkers such as Manuel De Landa or Quention Meillassoux introduced in their writings. Perhaps we can approach Hüner’s metaphorical spatial forms as an “arche–fossil” that Meillassoux describes as “not just materials indicating the traces of past life… but materials indicating the existence of an ancestral reality or event…”. This begs a further question: how can such a contextualized “art form” switch from a metaphorical affirmative experience to a discursive realm?