Bert Theis

14.09.2018 — 29.10.2018

The first survey in Turkey of artist and activist Bert Theis is presented at AVTO Istanbul. The exhibition is curated by Angelo Castucci in collaboration with Isola Utopia from Milan, Italy. Theis was a prominent figure who fought against the growing neoliberal economies in various geopolitical contexts within the contemporary art scene.

Bert Theis (1952–2016) was part of a generation of artists from the 1990s who articulated operative strategies in the public space. He drew attention to artworks’ usefulness and sought their contribution to daily life. Defying hierarchies in all aspects of life, Theis strived to reconfigure the artist-viewer relationship to a peer to peer context. Be it in art, education, or activism, he  gave equal importance to all parties with an adamant recognition of different roles and statuses as “components” in horizontality. He maintained his curiosity to explore modes of usefulness in artistic practice alongside countless organizational community projects during his lifetime.

Provisional Green Space is named after the description of Isola neighbourhood. The term was coined by the municipality of Milan before the commercialization of the area. A large complex of buildings named “Fashion and Design Project” was set in motion to gentrify the Isola area in Milan in 2001. For years, Isola Art Project resisted with no budget or support and held its position as a call for citizens to take control of the city development at this location.

The exhibition presents works and documentation about Isola Art Project’s struggle over the years. A site specific installation of Aggloville from the Agglomerations series shows that the city, which has now become our essential Umwelt, is just as well our distorted hell. Some of the photomontages show cities invaded by the jungle: the artist here upturns the modern metaphor of the urban jungle. The Aggloville Sound allows the visitor to take a journey through such a redesigned city. Art as a “political plastic” aims at eliciting individual or collective situations capable of making contemporary life and cities more livable. A selection of books and texts from Isola Utopia’s research will be available for consultation alongside the publication FIGHT SPECIFIC ISOLA (published by Archive Books) and the screening of the documentary Isola Nostra by Mariette Schiltz. Schiltz’s documentary tells the story of Isola Art Center, starting from the now demolished building Stecca degli Artigiani ‑first home of the Milanese resistance against gentrification-  which demanded the right to participate to decisions regarding urban developments in the city.