Under is an outdoor installation by artist Hale Tenger, curated by Mari Spirito of Protocinema, and the first guest curator appointed by Alserkal Programming.
Under, is a public intervention by artist Hale Tenger, guest curated by Mari Spirito, opened today in The Yard in Alserkal Avenue, during Art Week. The 18th commission by Alserkal Programming in three years, Under is a look at learned behaviour, on intimate and expanded levels. The commission is presented as a freestanding structure made from corrugated metal, mimicking Alserkal Avenue’s existing buildings.
The choice of Tenger’s materials means that there is a moment where Under blends in with its surroundings. From the outside it looks like everything else in The Yard—an ordinary building among many in the warehouse district. This is not by chance. The external aspect of this work brings up considerations of systems and power structures that are in place now and have been in place for generations. Since these systems are so deeply ingrained in our societies, in our regions, and in our world, they are undetectable, permeating everything, working silently.
The physical and psychological experience of Hale Tenger’s installation touches on many aspects of human behaviour and systems of control, social as well as civic. Under is about the feeling of being pushed down and coerced, and the normalisation of those feelings. The installation’s experiential nature brings up associations via sensations—what it feels like to be in Tenger’s closed-in structure; what it feels like to have the sensation of birds flying low around your head; what it feels like to have a net separate you from the sky. Human beings are highly adaptable; it is a survival mechanism. The processes of behaviour modification are slow; they take advantage of this adaptability through reinforcement of specific actions, to condition people into seeing and interacting with the world in a specific way. This work expresses a feeling that is shared from Tenger’s home in Istanbul, to its site in Dubai, as well as across global contemporary societies.
In order for any change in long-standing systems or structures to occur, first the act of recognising them as such needs to be acknowledged. Even to the smallest degree. This will shift perspective, allowing alternate ideas to co-exist. Hale Tenger’s installation asks, “How have we adapted to the conditions of our time?” and “If birds can forget to fly high in the sky, what have we humans forgotten?”
“Public interventions such as Under, not only spark critical dialogue, but they serve as a stepping stone in evolutionary thinking. It was a natural progression to open up our programme for established and respected curators, such as Mari Spirito, considering her experience in curating site-aware installations globally, her work in the region, and her work with not-for-profit initiatives,” says Vilma Jurkute, Director of Alserkal Avenue, elaborating on the decision to work with a guest curator.
Tenger is an Istanbul-based, multi-disciplinary artist, who most recently showed Balloons on the Sea, 2011, at the 57th Venice Biennale. Under, is her first major commission in the UAE and her first outdoor intervention in almost a decade. Mari Spirito is Founder and Curator of Protocinema, a non-profit organisation based between Istanbul and New York.