Halil Altındere developed the Space Refugee project for Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, which in the light of European defense against immigrants and at some ironic distance proposes to use the cosmic space as a haven for refugees. One of the exhibition’s key features is a film about the former Syrian cosmonaut Muhammed Ahmed Faris, who in 1987 with the Soviet spacecraft Soyuz TM-3 went on a seven-day journey to the space station Mir. Today the former hero of the USSR and supporter of the democratic opposition movement against Assad lives as a refugee in Istanbul.
The exhibition Space Refugee aesthetically borrows from the art of Socialist Realism and refers to the heroic depictions of Soviet cosmonauts. So there is a kind of hagiography about Muhammed Ahmed Faris in the form of painted portraits, a realistically crafted silicone bust and a documentary video. The vision of a life in space for the refugees is substantiated with specially designed spacesuits from a fictitious “Palmyra”-space mission, a planetary rover and a virtual reality video.
Halil Altındere belongs to a generation of artists, who substantially took part in Turkey’s cultural awakening in the 1990s—as an artist, curator and publisher. His artistic practice is directed at the socio-political remodeling of Turkey, the promotion of an emancipatory process and an opposition to repressive and nationalist developments within state and society. His works also receive great attention for their direct and open criticism of the military apparatus and the government policy as well as of the patriarchal and nationalist structures within Turkey. The expectable protest from the state authorities Altındere deliberately takes into account. Migration, identity and gender, but also questions about the influence of Western contemporary art trends within Turkey’s contemporary art scene characterize his work.