Halil Vurucuoglu, Bamboo, Dirimart, Eng

Shadow of the Bat*
Borga Kantürk

Halil Vurucoğlu, 2008

It is said that the children who were born in the 1980s found themselves in an informatic, visual chaos and that they suffered from a permanent confusion in their visual perception. Thus, they are regarded as the representatives of a generation of which members are unable to concentrate easily on anything clearly and definitively, confused, and always on the move. The roots of this distraction in attention may be traced back to the color television, magazines, pop music, MTV, soap operas, and later on, cable TV, video games, and the internet, and the list goes on...

I suggest that the works of Halil Vurucuoğlu (Izmir, 1984) are viewed in light of the characteristics that make up the identity of the generation.

Two things from the 1980s cross my mind, which I believe constitute the roots of Vurucuoğlu's method of production.

First is the "handicraft classes," which appear as an activity related to the multi-disciplinary approach to education in the 1980s. If done properly, this class, which this generation came across in its elementary and junior high school years, offered an experimental field that strengthened artistic and personal skills. The four images I remember from those handicraft classes: Construction papers, scissors, paints, and glues. We should not forget about the potato print in terms of learning how to make blocks and a printing technique. Furthermore, in more advanced classes, processes such as weaving a small carpet or engaging the kids in the adaptations of cutouts could also be encountered in a dynamic that feeds on the kat’ı art. With all this anonymity and the ink smeared on own clothes with scissors by some mischievous back row students with aptitude for art, the class helped many love that activity and directed them to also taking it up outside the school.

And the second is closely related to the video rental stores and the movie theaters offering double feature programs, which we used to frequent in the 1980s. Also deserving a mention are the low-budget and rapidly produced movie genre that focuses on the cliches, the b-movies, which was a gift of this environment. To take this genre seriously, it is enough alone that one of the most idolized directors of our age, Quentin Tarantino entered among the founders of a popular language unique to our time by watching again and again the "b-movies" which were foul, rotten, and at times repulsive. Here, the language feeds on a subculture, clichés, mediocrities, and a macho fetishism. By gravitating towards this genre, Tarantino had pried out of the retro-culture, out of this forgotten, marginalized genre the stories and figures he placed in the center of his works. Tarantino who managed to introduce the anonymous clichés, insignificant and mediocre dialogues of b-movies to high-budget Hollywood industry and attribute an importance on them, points to the perspective of a culture that is new to our age yet also retro. This perspective continues to trigger a vision focused on the "Generic" and "Fetishization" not only in movies and fashion but also in artistic production.

In short, Vurucuoğlu produces works over certain styles and trends imposed upon us by the world of popular images. These are works in which he portrays his social environment in a simple and stylized manner.

While drawing a profile of his works, Halil Vurucuoğlu frequently mentions the "urban life" and the "complex ebbs and flows" in this environment. However, there is both an interior and an exterior of this urban life mentioned here. Let us try to expand a little bit:

Interior (face to face): Daily life, different classes, and different groups. The very area you pace.

Exterior (face to virtual face) (or from mailbox to mailbox): The internet culture, virtual friendships, fake personalities, imitation of the self to others, trendy photographs, MSN and Facebook avatars (1). The second area where all replace a cool (2) image. The persons here are intense, high, cool characters who seem as if they popped out of the television or a movie.

If you asked which one these two was real to the children of the 1960s who were born before the 1980s and spent their childhood on the streets, they would naturally have opted for the first one. Today's generation, however, seems to have no clear preference. It is as if embracing these two fields from the beginning and traveling back and forth in between is the most pleasurable for them. All this tumult emerges in the interdisciplinary structure of the art world of the time, and in the productions of the artists of the generation. It has become highly acceptable in the strategies of our time to jump from one field to another in the hit-and-run guerilla tactics rather than being a staunch defender of anything.

We may assess Halil Vurucuoğlu's works within these processes.

The artist: First takes or selects a photograph. Processes / modifies this visual material digitally and then exposes to handcraftsmanship the visual result which becomes anonymous. That is, transferring onto the paper, integrating by the cut-out method. While the process is left at this point in his gallery works, in his outdoors works, after the pattern is meticulously formed, the paint is again rendered anonymous and placed on the street, on the surface in a way that could be sprayed by anybody.

If you are not unfamiliar to the photoshop application, then you will know that this photograph modification program allows its users to create a digital and anonymous image with the action of slicing, fragmenting the image with certain available effects it offers. Such image processing programs provide a service, which brings a digital standard to the visual simplification process made by man, and can easily be applied by all users to create almost a uniform effect. Thanks to the program, the color blocks, which constitute the photographic image may be clearly parsed in different layers. In a sense, it resembles creating overlapping color fields through traditional printing techniques. Clear-cut, sharp transitions between the layers and a simple result.

What is it that Halil Vurucuoğlu does here? He first manually reproduces the anonymous digital data obtained from photoshop. The paper carving process, applied by Vurucuoğlu, points to a physical process which is produced by the digital application as an artificial image and the art-patience-concentration relationship which came from past to present. From this perspective, we might find references to the kat’ı art (3) in his works. In other words, we can observe the reinterpretation of a traditional technique close to the comic book art. We may also call it the exposure of kat’ı to some sort of Warholization process.

The consequent images we encounter transform into identities, which are rendered cool, alienated from their environment. In this state, what is anonymous or does not bear awareness is turned into a poster and presented as if famous. By referring to some sort of an ascent into a higher class, substituting what is envied, Vurucuoğlu shifts his characters in this direction. Here the act of turning into a poster is a two-way process. The iconized reproducible cliché image of the anonymous hero is transformed into the posterized single copy image of someone from ordinary life and enters the gallery space. In a sense, it becomes the Madonna. Here, Madonnaization may also be seen as a two-way process. Both the iconological holy image that enters the gallery, the museum in art history: Madonna (Remember the values such as inviolability, supremacy, and unreachability attributed to her form that was the subject of masterpieces, creator, artist.) and Madonna the strong female image of popular culture. (The efforts by the fans to look like her and fan clubs, make-ups, hair cuts... The effort to pretend they are Her.)

On the other hand, there is also a series of spraying activities brought out on the street by Vurucuoğlu. These works are created each as a pattern and without signature: Therefore, they become anonymous. Works produced for this area work in contrast to the gallery exhibitions of the artist. While paper works, a product of the "cut-out" activity enter the gallery (we can also call these single copy patterns), outside the gallery are spray paintings, "shadows" added on those patterns. In Akira Kurosawa's Kagemusha (4), it is said that the shadow is an integral part of the body and that the relationship between the two is very important. It speaks of the necessity to follow to the end the owner of a shadow. In Halil Vurucuoğlu's productions, the duality created by the relationship between these two parts (object: pattern, shadow-sign: paint, spraying) and indoors (gallery venue) and outdoors (street) seems to be a balancing element. When viewed in this way, the concept of "shadow" gains considerable importance in Halil Vurucuoğlu's works. The mise en scenes of the artist, which harbor the effects of film noirs (5), utility poles, dark alleys; portraits which are reminiscent of characters that pop out of comic books may be given as examples.

Vurucuoğlu's works refer to the patternistic language produced with the printing and casting techniques of comic book art, rather than the canvas painting tradition produced with brush. Meticulously carved, treated paper casts are transfixed on the street this time with a closed-down act to leave a mark. The emphasis by the artist on handicraft in the casts changes places with a role of intermediary such as leaving a paint mark so anonymous that anybody could have sprayed it and to circulate these marks in the city. We can compare the change of roles here to the position of the super heroes with dual personalities, which the 1980s generation witnessed frequently. Let us remember the face of the Bruce Wayne character attending elegant parties with all his wealth and elitism as opposed to his role in the "Batman" sub-identity who serves the public at night on the street, undercover and uncanny. On the one hand is an elegant man in suit located in the center of capital and power relations and a mysterious personality who wanders in darkness as a shadow on the other.

The title selected by the artist for the exhibition is "Bamboo." The emphasis here is made on the botanic characteristic of the plant here; a reference to a material hollow on the inside, yet strong on the outside. Since the bamboo cannot be found among the visual images of the exhibition, the audience may at first see it as an irrelevant image. This is also a rather conscious preference by the artist. This material is preferred particularly for its pleasantness and elegance in decorative use. Here, a reference is made to the transformation of bamboo into a fetish object as a design object and to its being a hollow and cheap material. However, we should also note that bamboo is also seen in the Far Eastern culture as an easy-to-carry, strong weapon. Examples to this would be the weapons prepared by the Samurai and the Vietcong with bamboos and the traditional sports of "Kendo," where this material has a central role. Although we witness today that philosophical activities of the East such as Kendo and Yoga have now turned into hobbies as a popular trend and continued in ad-hoc courses in conformist environments, we should not forget the roots of these activities.

In short, bamboo is a both elegant and dangerous material that may be described with its extreme practicality and transitivity. The structure in Halil Vurucuoğlu's works that binds both indoors and outdoors, in addition to the image that becomes fetish inside the gallery, his stencil applications, which he continues outdoors and the use of this language as if a speedy weapon, converges to the use of bamboo by the Vietcong in their hit-and-runs. The uncanny character and relationship with the venue of both are aimed at moving silently and rapidly.

What is important at this point is how the audience would view the bamboo:
As part of a commodity continued because it is fashionable in a stylized and trendy culture?
Or as in the Far East, with a conscious and unbiased approach that tries to submerge into the soul of that material and focuses on its meaning and utility?

(*) Shadow of the Bat: The last issue of the comic book series that presented the Batman adventures, published in 2000. The series, published by DC Comics featured 96 issues.


1- Avatar: According to the Indian mythology, the shapes gods took when they descended on earth. Avatars, which took names such as
Balarama, Sri, Varaha were subject of stories. Msn Avatar: The name of the user photograph offered by the MSN program for the user.

2- Cool: Means relatively low temperature in English. Although it is a wrong behavior displayed by the consumption society which emerged as a result of the misinterpretation by the customers of the cold and lifeless (eye-catching and hot) poses of models in the textiles, style magazines and catalogues mostly in the fashion industry, it is accepted as a fashion trend. From a sociological perspective, it is interpreted by many sociologists as the rise of individualism in the society and contraction of the social perspective.

3- Kat’ı: Made by carving a plain paper or hides. Gluing the carved portion on another place is called "male carving" while leaving the carved part empty is called "female carving." It is frequently seen on book covers, kıt'as and manuscripts. Those who engage in this art, which reached its apex during the time of Suleiman the Magnificient, are called the "Katı'an".

4- Kagemusha: is a 1980 film by Akira Kurosawa. The title (which means "Shadow Warrior" in Japanese) is a term used for an impersonator. It is set in the Warring States era of Japanese history and tells the story of a lower-class criminal who is taught to impersonate a dying warlord in order to dissuade opposing lords from attacking the newly vulnerable clan. The warlord whom the kagemusha impersonates is based on daimyo Takeda Shingen (1521–1573) and the climactic 1575 Battle of Nagashino.

5- Film-Noir: A
cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize moral ambiguity and sexual motivation.

Explanations obtained from

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