Imagine that you stand in a small pocket cruiser. The waves hit and the floor rocks under your feet. The cold wind blows into your face. Imagine crossing the Atlantic in such a boat. Dutch artist Bas Jan Ader attempted this in 1975 using the Guppy 13 model he named Ocean Wave, and he disappeared in the attempt.
Ahmet Öğüt’s installation “Guppy 13 vs Ocean Wave; A Bas Jan Ader Experience” is part of the Blackwood Gallery’s latest exhibition, Ahmet Öğüt: Strategies for Radical Democracy. The wall on the left side of the gallery is painted the same shade of yellow as the boat and showcases photos of Ocean Wave, videos of police statements from when it was stolen, and a documentary film of Öğüt’s Ocean Wave as passengers ride in it.
“Guppy 13 vs Ocean Wave; a Bas Jan Ader Experience” is one of seven key works in Öğüt’s first solo exhibition in Canada. Öğüt said that he wanted to give passengers the chance to experience the fragility of riding in the small boat, and to understand the impossibility of crossing the Atlantic.
In the centre of the Blackwood gallery is Öğüt’s “Strategic Diagram for Non-hierarchical Participatory Radical Democracy”, a black raised platform that illustrates the artist’s theories. It’s equipped with chalk for viewers to add to the diagram, and, in Öğüt’s words, “improve” it with their contributions. Öğüt wanted a diagram that showed how hegemonic structures are close to the centre, influencing reality, while other people, such as activists, artists, and academics, are at the sides and could use the gaps in the diagram to challenge the structures and change reality.
The theme of art as an accessible means to change the world is present in Öğüt’s other installations. On display is a video documenting Öğüt’s writing the URL “www.eyewriter.org/diy” on dollar bills that he gave out at various weddings in Diyarbakir, Turkey. The EyeWriter is a low-cost open-source device that allows paralyzed people to communicate with their eyes. Öğüt wanted to raise awareness of the EyeWriter through his project and won the special prize of the Future Generation Art Prize 2012, which he donated to the EyeWriter team.
The exhibition continues in the e-gallery, located in the CCT Building. “Fahrenheit 451: Reprinted” is one of two films that document the instant mobile printing and distribution of a collection of banned books by the Espoo Fire department. As the film plays, text scrolls up the screen, listing the chosen books and the unexpected reasons for which they were banned. Some of the books are Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Anne Sewell’s Black Beauty, and Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights.
“It all starts as a narrative in my mind,” says Öğüt, describing his process. “Then it takes on a life of its own as it becomes a reality and other people interact with the art.”
“Ahmet Öğüt: Strategies for Radical Democracy” is curated by Rhonda Corvese and runs at the Blackwood Gallery until March 2.