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In Spring 2015 PROTOCINEMA brought HALE TENGER’S Installation to New York

In 1995, Turkish multimedia artist Hale Tenger created We didn’t go outside; we were always on the outside/We didn’t go inside; we were always on the inside, an installation piece consisting of a dilapidated wooden guardhouse encircled by a fence of barbed wire.

The work was presented at the 4th Istanbul Biennial and is now exhibited in New York for the second time with Protocinema. The work was designed to invite the viewer, like a child, into a microcosmic representation of the isolated world of Turkish people.

Since the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923 through 1994, the country’s government severely restricted access to all radio and TV broadcasting, a censorship of press which has flared up again in the years since We didn’t go outside debuted. Now, twenty years later, Tenger has recreated the piece in collaboration with Protocinema, an Istanbul- and New York-based arts organization, and displayed it in the basement of the Westbeth Building during Frieze Week in New York. (In contrast to Turkey’s technological reclusion, the Westbeth building was the home of Bell Laboratories from 1868-1966, and the birthplace of the first talking movie, the condenser microphone, the first TV broadcast, and the first binary computer.)

The New York version emphasized both the stagnant state of human rights in Turkey and the growing violation of human rights around the world.

The installation features an old wooden guardhouse surrounded by a barbed wire fence. The guardhouse represents the “isolation zone.” A small, empty seat inside is meant to create the feeling of a stage for the viewer, as though they entered the security guard’s booth without permission. A tiny radio plays popular Turkish folk songs from the 1990s that were on air most of the time during state-sanctioned radio and television days—from the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923, up until 1994, the government had complete control of all radio and television broadcasting; 1995 was only the first year after Turkish radio was released from state control.

Visitors are invited to enter the ‘isolation zone’ fenced in area as well as the guardhouse. The inside of the guardhouse is filled with printed images of nature from around the world: fields, waterfalls, bays, and other idyllic scenery. “The printed images of sceneries of nature are in contrast with what is seen to be outside, and since they are only reproductions of nature, they are only replacements of nature in very confined space,” Tenger says.01-Hale_Tenger_Portrait-copy-2 “However, compared with the reality of what is surrounding the guardhouse, they [are] isolating in a positive sense. They help to enhance the atmosphere of safety created in the confined limits of the guardhouse. The images in the guardhouse are a metaphor for the positive inner nature of human beings, as well as being symbolic of the great beauty of the interior of the country.” When asked if she feels hopeful about Turkey’s future, Tenger responded frankly, “Not much for its near future, but I’m hopeful about the future.”

Given the current situation in Turkey, and elsewhere, in relationship to freedom of press and government intervention in disbursement and tracking of information, Tenger’s work is as relevant now as it was in 1995. The importance of re-creating a work from the mid-90’s, a reaction to those times, by the same artist now, a reflection on the recent-past, gives perspective on the rapid increase in the violation of human rights across the globe.

About the Artist:

Hale Tenger, 1960, lives and works in Istanbul. Tenger has had selected one-person exhibitions at: Galeri Nev, Istanbul, 2013; Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, 2011; Green Art Gallery, Dubai, 2011; Mannheimer Kuntsverein, Mannheim, 2001; ArtPace, San Antonio, 1997. Her work has been included in selected group exhibitions at: Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, 2014; Istanbul Modern, Istanbul, 2014; Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Berlin, 2013; ARTER, Istanbul, 2013; Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 2012; Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna, 2010; Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, 2009; Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul, 2009; Palais des Beaux Arts de Lille, Lille, 2009; Carré d’Art-Nimes Museum of Contemporary Art, Nimes, 2008; Museum voor Moderne Kunst Arnhem, 2006; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, 2005; ZKM, Karlsruhe, 2004; Kunstmuseum Bonn, Bonn, 2002; Nikolaj Contemporary Art Center, Copenhagen, 2000; Museum Fridericianum, Kassel, 2003, 2000; Centre d’art Contemporain Geneve, Geneva, 1999; Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art,1996; The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, 1996; Kunst-Werke, Berlin,1994.

Special Thanks: Alex Smith, SAHA, Istanbul; Steve Neil, Galeri Nev, Istanbul; Green Art Gallery, Dubai; IKSV, Istanbul Foundation For Culture & Arts, Istanbul; René Block, Elizabeth Baribeau, Eda Ozdoyuran, Çağla Köseoğulları, Ahmet Demirel/Esat Demirel.

About the Organization:

Protocinema ( is a mission driven, art organization based in Istanbul and New York realizing Site-Aware exhibitions around the world. The organization is itinerant and free of ‘brick and mortar’. Collaborations, interventions and exhibitions are presented in spaces specific to each artist, while being responsive to context. Protocinema exhibits artists in cities where their work has yet to have been exhibited extensively.

Protocinema was founded in 2011 by Mari Spirito. You can reach her at, call her in New York at (917) 660 7332 or in Turkey at +90 541 468 0214

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