Call or Text Us: (646) 851-0939

Halil Altındere’s ‘Wonderland’ Purchased by MoMA

Halil Altındere, one of the most prominent of a generation of 1990s contemporary artists, had a solo show at MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York last month featuring his latest video piece “Wonderland.”

Following the exhibition, his work was added to the museum’s collection, making him the fourth artist from Turkey included in the MoMA collection following Hüseyin Bahri Alptekin, Murat Morova and Cengiz Çekil.

Wonderland” features a hip-hop group “Tahribad-ı İsyan” (Destruction Following Revolt) from İstanbul’s Sulukule neighborhood, which has been home to a large community of Roma people for the last six centuries and which has been the center of heated discussion in recent years in Turkey since a majority of the historic area was demolished due to “urban renewal projects” of the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality.

Altındere’s work is something in between video art and a video clip for one of the group’s songs, which includes harsh lyrics such as “We pissed on the foundations of the newly built blocks. … My town will be torn down. Soon Sulukule will be home to the bourgeoisie.

The work includes many scenes directed in the remains of the gentrified Sulukule in collaboration with famous rap singer Fuat Ergin. Housing blocks built on the old area, seen from the perspective of a helicopter, stand in perfect contrast with the poorly constructed parts of the neighborhood, which have serious infrastructure problems. The hypocrisies in social, economic and political life are a recurrent theme in Altındere’s work, and are the main issues of “Wonderland.

The feeling of uneasiness both in terms of the subject matter and the ways in which he represents these subjects through topics such as crime and challenging authority are again central to this work like many others in his oeuvre.

89plus Marathon: Halil Altindere’s Wonderland from Serpentine Galleries on Vimeo.

As an attentive, sensitive and precise observer with a keen sense for grievances of any kind, Altındere [observed] the developments in the contemporary art and Turkish society, interfered and provided a provocative front not just for creating conflict, bur primarily for setting out a discussion,” writes curator Barbara Heinrich in the catalogue for Altındere’s latest solo show, “If I can’t dance, it is not my revolution.

An important stylistic device of Altındere is his light-hearted, ironic and laconic humor, which is translated into strong and meaningful images and puts standards of value at stake. His anarchic and subversive critique of the state and its ideology and his skepticism of mainstream institutions have set new standards in progressive contemporary Turkish art. His works are political and yet so subtle that they cannot be reduced to political statements. Especially in his later works, Altındere finds poetic and lamenting images and demonstrates that art can be a response to authoritarian structures and deadlock conditions,” Heinrich said in her article.


In parallel with his artistic endeavors, Altındere has also curated many exhibitions exploring the line between crime and freedom of expression such as “I am Bad and I am Proud” (2002), “I am Too Sad to Kill You” (2003), “Free Kick” (2005), “Be A Realist, Demand the Impossible” (2007) and “When Ideas Become Crime” (2010)

Apart from MoMA PS1 in New York, “Wonderland” has also been shown at CA2M (Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo) in Spain, the 13th İstanbul Biennial last year, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Vojvodina and the TANAS gallery in Germany, including many others.

Halil Altindere: Wonderland
Was On view May 3 – September 7, 2015

Since the mid-1990s, Halil Altindere (Turkish, b. 1971) has emerged as one of the most prominent contemporary artists in Turkey with a multifaceted practice that ranges from video, sculpture, photography, installation, and performance to collaborative editorial and curatorial projects. Altindere’s film Wonderland, which is in the MoMA collection, documents the anger and frustration of a group of youths from the historic Sulukule neighborhood of Istanbul, home to Romani communities since the Byzantine Empire that has been increasingly demolished since 2006 as part of an “urban renewal” development project. Presented in the style of a music video, Wonderland captures the young men of the hip-hop group Tahribad-ı isyan rapping about inequality and gentrification as they are simultaneously confronted by the police.

In May 2013, protests were held in Istanbul’s Taksim Square in reaction to plans to replace the park with a shopping mall and high end residences. The protests developed into riots when a group began occupying Taksim Square in an effort to highlight issues such as freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, as well as more broadly defending the secularism of Turkey. The following year, in response to the widespread use of social media during the protests, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan passed a law which enabled him to shut down websites without a court order and to collect Web browsing data on individuals. In addition, he blocked Twitter for two weeks and temporarily banned the use of YouTube. Such restrictions highlight the systems of power deeply embedded in Turkish culture.

Halil Altindere: Wonderland is organized by Klaus Biesenbach, Director MoMA PS1, and Chief Curator at Large, The Museum of Modern Art, with Margaret Aldredge, Curatorial Assistant, MoMA PS1.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2 other subscribers

February 2018
« Oct