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.