Awaiting the onset of the sense of life
by Pınar Ogrenci

“Mourning: not a crushing oppression, a jamming (which would suppose a 'refill'), but a painful availability: I am vigilant, expectant, awaiting the onset of the 'sense of life'. 8 December”
Roland Barthes, Mourning Diary

“The union of soul and body is not an amalgamation between two mutually external terms…
We connect with other beings only and only through our body.”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Phenomenology of Perception

After a two-year break, MARS reopens with a solo exhibition by Pinar Ögrenci, titled Awaiting the onset of the sense of life. Conceived in two parts, the exhibition includes an eponymous two-channel video and an installation titled The Light in the first section— the first works Ögrenci produced after a long waiting period. For the artist, the beginning of her artistic production evokes the idea of electricity, something like a lightning. In her words, “I felt like a cloud full of electricity on a cloudy day—somber and ready to explode!”

In the first part, Ögrenci explores the use of electricity and sensor technology in public and private spaces, and questions their relationship to body and space. The video series Awaiting the onset of the sense of life shows the bathrooms of two different places: a bar and the Pinakothek der Moderne Museum in Munich. In the videos, people who walk right outside of the bathroom—decorated with mirrors and stainless steel elements—activate the electrical sensor, and so does her body that moves in the tiny, claustrophobic bathroom of the bar. The electricity and the light in the videos become part of the body, similar to cell phones that grow into an extension of our hands. The position of the body makes the electricity and the space visible, while activating its components at the same time. The elements of anxiety, repetition, light and darkness reflect the artist’s state of mind in her “dark” days—that “waiting” period. They also reveal her perception of architecture: The cold surfaces of modern buildings are deprived of the human scale and a sense of life, and the artist’s body that nervously moves around fights against an invisible entity. The museum—a recurring element in Ogrenci’s works—becomes the spatial equivalent of the idea of modern institutions, and the bathroom relates to the need for purification. Designated as semi-public spaces, museum bathrooms retain a sense of intimacy, and identify a space between inside and outside.

Another work on display is The Light, an installation that departs from her own home in Osmanbey neighborhood in Istanbul. The work consists of a pair of used men’s shoes and a stack of electricity bills that belong to the previous tenant of the apartment—the renowned filmmaker Metin Erksan. Ögrenci starts collecting all of his electricity bills when she moves into the apartment, doesn't change the name in the contract, and the public utility cuts her power off after three years. The installation takes its name from the most basic element of photography and cinema, and takes electricity as inspiration rather than simple a source of energy. The monthly bills then turn into a calendar that implies a process of waiting. In contrast to the rational and functional modern set-up in Awaiting the onset of the sense of life, The Light signals the second part of the exhibition as well as the direction of the artist’s ongoing production.

Pınar Öğrenci (1973, Van) is an artist and a writer with a background in architecture based in Istanbul. Öğrenci uses various media in her artistic practice, including photography, video, film, performance and installation. Her works address subjects such as migration, war, collective movements, nationalism, cultural assimilation, stories of heroism and urban transformation. Using the video as a tool to record her daily life practices, she benefits from her personal video archive and ready-made footages. Her works have been exhibited widely at museums and art institutions including at Kunst Haus Vienna - Hundertwasser Museum (2017), WKV Stuttgart (2017), Academy of Applied Arts, Vienna (2016), MAXXI Museum, Rome (2015-6), SALT Galata, Istanbul (2015-6), De Las Fronteras Biennial, Tamaulipas (2015), Sinop Biennial (2014), Çanakkale Biennial (2014) and Depo (İstanbul, 2012). The artist had her first exhibition at MARSistanbul in 2015, “Awaiting the Onset of the Sense of Life”. Her first solo exhibition abroad was realized at Kunst Haus-Hundertwasser Museum in Vienna, “A Gentle Breeze Passed Over Us” in 2017.

She is the founder of MARSistanbul, an art initiative launched in 2010. Since the late 1990s, Öğrenci has extensively written on contemporary art and architecture in magazines, including Agos, Radikal, ArtUnlimited, m-est, SALT Online, Arkitera, Arredamento Mimarlık, XXI, İstanbul, among others. She has participated in residency programs and conferences; in HIAP (Helsinki, 2017), Henie Onstad Kunstcenter (Oslo, 2016), R.A.T. (Mexico City, 2015), Willa Waldberta (Munich, 2010), Public Calling Conference (National Theatre Oslo, 2016), Middle East Festival (Henie Onstad Kunstcenter, Oslo, 2016), Plataforma Editable, Desplazamientos Curatoriales: Santiago, Valparaiso, Antofagasta, Tarabaca (Chile, 2015), New Dynamics in Museums, CIMAM (Rio de Janerio, 2013).