What if you could rediscover the past? Ahmet Öğüt’s ‘History Otherwise’ does exactly that as it challenges our ways of understanding the world. This exhibition unveils history through the realities that we often overlook, or consider to be invisible.
Currently showcased in Wei-Ling Contemporary in The Gardens Mall, the Turkish artist’s works of four different mediums – tapestry, mail art, drawings, and video – unfolds stories that shape our current times seen through the lenses of various personages and societies.
Ahmet Öğüt: The nomadic artist breathing life to our past and present
Öğüt, who trained as a painter for many years, realised the type of art he wanted to create didn’t exist in his childhood. From wanting to be a Renaissance painter with a modernist education to doing contemporary art, Öğüt decided to create a nomadic institution out of himself, moving from city to city, creating artworks that breathe life to our past, while responding to today’s issues.
Taking on the same concept, Öğüt’s recent work entitled ‘History Otherwise: Ottoman Socialist Hilmi and Ottoman Women’s Rights Defender Nuriye’, enables us to discover two invisible aspects of late the 19th-century Ottoman era; the Socialist heritage and the women’s liberation movement.
The work features two central figures set in an Ottoman-style living room – Hüseyin Hilmi Bey, founder of the Ottoman Socialist Party and the Ottoman Socialist magazine İştirak as well as Nuriye Ulviye Mevlan Civelek, one of the founders of the Ottoman Society for the Defense of Women’s Rights.
This was chosen as the main concept as the Ottoman society had a small yet powerful circle of women who played significant roles in the public debates surrounding women’s rights, notably through several issues of a feminist Ottoman magazine. Additionally, the painting was done on a pedestrian street in the heart of Romania’s Timișoara, creating an illusion of an archaeology dig, depicting a symbol of forgotten history.
Exploring untold stories from one place to another
Consulting local historians and visiting remnants are Öğüt’s approach in investigating the untold stories that have formed our society. “For me it’s part of the social communication and part of expressing myself and the issues of the people around me, because they are the ones who would eventually decide if my work should be a part of public heritage,” he added.
Öğüt’s projects heavily revolve around unconsciously collecting local stories and looking for similar ones elsewhere. This is illustrated in the short animation ‘United’ and the pencil-drawn ‘Fantasized Fantastic Corporeal World’.
The former was created in memory of Lee Han-Yeol, a South Korean protester who passed away in Seoul in 1987, as well as Enes Ata, a six-year-old Kurdish boy who lost his life during protests in Diyarbakır, Turkey, in 2006. Meanwhile, the latter features a series of pencil drawings on paper, each highlighting issues like racial segregation and border control.
Another extension the untold stories theme is also seen in the Silent University. The self-initiated school in collaboration with NGOs and institutions, paves the way for migrant academics who are unable to practice professionally due to the lack of legal documentation, to develop lectures, discussions, events, resource archives and publications.
The next chapter of Öğüt’s thought-provoking work takes him to Baku, Azerbaijan, as well as Amsterdam and the United States of America. But for those looking to catch his current project, head to the Wei-Ling Contemporary in The Gardens Mall between now and 24 April 2020.