Rodeo, Tütün Deposu, Lüleci Hendek, Caddesi No 12 Tophane,34425, Istanbul

  • Iman Issa, Can Altay, Installation Shot
    Title : Iman Issa, Can Altay, Installation Shot
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    Title : Iman Issa, Can Altay, Installation Shot 1
  • Iman Issa, Installation Shot I
    Title : Iman Issa, Installation Shot I
  • Iman Issa, Triptych 2, 2009
    Title : Iman Issa, Triptych 2, 2009
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    Title : Iman Issa, Triptych 2, 2009 1
  • Imanissa
    Title : Imanissa
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    Title : DSC0005(1) 1
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    Title : DSC0012 1
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    Title : DSC0022 1
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Review Maggie Gray

Istanbul may be capital of culture this year, but its Rodeo Gallery has other capitals and other cultures to explore in its latest show. Can Altay (born in Ankara) and Iman Issa (Cairo), are both city dwellers, and our relationship to the modern metropolis forms the crux of this joint exhibition. The works are not new and, tucked into one room, the exhibition is compact. But this unexpected, complicated pairing packs a lot of ideas and avenues into a small space.

Altay’s ‘Spring Deficit: After Dubai; After Hammons; and after the politics of white noise’ has a lengthy title, but a punchy, immediate, sensory impact. Placed in the centre of the room, the installation consists of a mirrored table, with a loud speaker sunk into it, on top of which lies a layer of sand. As you enter, the speaker is switched on and the white noise begins. Unexpectedly loud and reverberating, it fills the room and your head, making the sand leap and dance like a fountain. As a comment on the gulf cities it is concise and suggestive. The sand comes alive with the rumble of industry (the speaker’s clamour reminded me at intervals of aeroplanes, cars, drills). The mirror is the city’s flashy veneer, a shiny spectacle in which we - reflected as we peer down our noses at it - are implicated. This loud, confident installation is a mock-up of the new cities that the western world, as Altay puts it, loves to hate.

Issa’s work is reflective in a different way. Her series of six ‘Triptychs’ is inward-looking, personal, obscure. Each piece combines photos, video, sound, objects and texts - personal memories and impressions first collected and restaged in 2009 New York. The links between the triptych elements are often baffling, but evocative. One combination of an empty seating area, a chess set, metronome and lightbulb might signify dead time and lonely company. A shallow theatre-shaped set of steps, musical instrument, Egyptian flag and stepped wooden block with a red taped path through its centre seem to suggest ceremony.

But beyond these general themes, Issa’s places remain acutely personal, and inaccessible. Cairo features, but not in any form familiar to most of us. No landmarks appear; in fact most images are unpeopled still lifes. These are reconstructed images, their neatness and exactitude creating a nostalgic, altered air which Issa acknowledges. We cannot fully grasp the meaning of these snapshots that the artist professes not to recognise completely herself.

These are very different installations. At first, their combination is bewildering. The exhibition, constructed as a dialogue, sometimes seems more of a fight. Altay’s sand rumbles over Issa’s quieter installations, but they in turn assert themselves enigmatically and effectively by their still suggestiveness. Whether the end effect appalls or thrills you, it echoes city life. Out of a city’s cacophony of noise and images, each of us extracts threads of personal experience that both pin down and transform the place. Altay and Issa’s pieces work together in contradiction.

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