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İz & Ra, Uf [Boo Boo], 2022, video still.
Courtesy of the artists and Zilberman


Online Screening: January 11-21, 2024
Free / $5 suggested donation

In-person Screening: Saturday, January 13 at 3:00pm
Katarina Otto-Bernstein Screening Room, Lenfest Center for the Arts
615 West 129th Street, NY NY 10027

To register for the in-person screening please use the link:

SELF-ORIENTATIONS brings together artists from Turkey and Lebanon whose moving image works incorporate queer & feminist self-makings using, manipulating, and correcting the orientalist gaze, voluptuous fantasies, and perennial expectations from the oriental other. Curated by Alper Turan and conceived within the Partisans of the Nude: An Arab Art Genre in an Era of Contest, 1920 -1960 exhibition, SELF-ORIENTATIONS includes artists’ video, documentary, essay film, performance documentation, and desktop film by İz Öztat & Ra, Deniz Pasha, Şükran Moral, Nadir Sönmez, Ardıl Yalınkılıç and Akram Zaatari. This screening program flips the oriental lens reduced to passive imagery and objectification, bringing forth fervent narratives of libidinal energies, feminist audacities, queer storytelling and black revisionism of orients and orientations. Through the scenes from photography studios, Ottoman harem, İstanbul brothel to Amed streets, selected works vibrate the positions of the viewer and the viewed, exposed, and exposer, the urge to show and the need to hide the bodies.

The exhibition, Partisans of the Nude: An Arab Art Genre in an Era of Contest, 1920–1960, offers a unique perspective on the significance of nude art in former Ottoman territories transitioning into Arab identity. The exhibition defies both nationalist and Orientalist narratives by emphasizing the nude genre, often considered taboo and practically absent from Arab art production, and its role in shaping post-Ottoman societies and modern Islamic identity, during pivotal political shifts. On a parallel trajectory, diving deeper into the fringes of the nude genre and complementing the exhibition temporally and geographically, SELF-ORIENTATIONS brings forth contemporary artists from post-Ottoman Turkey who boldly employ their bodies and intimate moments as instruments of expression and critique.

Through these works, whether emanating from a sexual and racial critique, of queer desire, a daring semi-nude public appearance, or the sharing of deeply personal moments, the screening program introduces naked bodies, albeit not fully unclad but bald and exposed. Just as the nude genre in the Partisans of the Nude exhibition presents a narrative alternate to both nationalist and Orientalist discourses, the artists featured in SELF-ORIENTATIONS use moving images to reimagine self-representation and self/other dichotomies in the making of orients and orientations.

Central to this screening program’s discourse is the fascinating confluence of recreated or fictional photography studio scenes by Akram Zaatari and İz Öztat & Ra’s, both of whom employ the powerful setting of a photography studio as a locus of memory and self-representation. Akram Zaatari’s Her + Him bridges the realms of timeless photography and dynamic video, foregrounding a woman’s audacious embrace of her sensuality within the transformative socio-cultural milieu of Egypt and elegantly traversing between the stillness of photography and the fluid motion of video. Echoing this, İz Öztat and Ra’s Boo Boo offers an improvisational glance into queer desire, orientalist aesthetics, and the power of representation in forming selves. While Armenian-İstanbulite Zişan and British-expat Vita Sackville-West’s love story blossoms amidst the camera flashes, it also holds a mirror to the orientalist embellishments present in the photographic studios of early 20th-century Istanbul. In her 1997 performance Bordello, Şükran Moral boldly confronts the commodification of the female body by exposing herself in an Istanbul brothel, a site dating back to the Ottoman Empire.   Through this act, she not only critiques societal views on women’s bodies but also challenges the art world’s tendencies. Her reclamation of the brothel as a modern art museum further merges the artist’s body with the broader narrative of female objectification.

Deniz Pasha’s Orientation provides a poignant revision in the form of a desktop film. Sudanese Turkish artist Pasha reclaims narratives, spotlighting the oft-overlooked black figures in art made in the Orientalist genre and connecting their silenced pasts to their vibrant, contemporary identities. She extracts black figures from the shadows of orientalist artworks and juxtaposes them with today’s Afro-Turks, thereby breaking the chains of racial degradation. Ardıl Yalınkılıç’s The Gaze brings us to contemporary European perceptions of Oriental stereotypes, exemplified in his interview video for which he asked his fellow art school students in the Netherlands to put themselves in his shoes, speculating, ‘‘Who is he?’’ as someone coming from Turkey. Unraveling the complexities of perception and inherent biases, Yalınkılıç highlights the vast chasm of understanding even amidst seemingly empathetic terrain. Concluding the program, Nadir Sönmez’s Boran unravels a complex triangle of desire, identity, and race distinctions from a queer lived experience. Part of a lecture performance by Sönmez, the essay video follows him as a Turkish artist from Istanbul in his research trip to Amed, Kurdish capital (Diyarbakır in Turkish), exposing the enduring power interplays of self and other, occident/orient, even within ultra-nationalist Turkey.

SELF-ORIENTATIONS is presented by ArteEast in collaboration with the Wallach Art Gallery as part of the legacy program Unpacking the ArteArchive, which preserves and presents 20 years of film and video programming by ArteEast. The film screening is curated by Alper Turan in conjunction with the Wallach Art Gallery exhibition, Partisans of the Nude: An Arab Art Genre in an Era of Contest, 1920-1960 curated by Kirsten Scheid.