Sumac Space

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Fatih Aydoğdu–Transversal: Commons Tense & Antihegemonial Tactics

In “Transversal: Commons Tense & Antihegemonial Tactics,” Fatih Aydoğdu examines how art, media, and activism intersect to influence contemporary socio-political conditions. He argues that art’s visual language is deeply connotative, embedding cultural semantics that extend beyond mere representation. Digital arts, distinct from traditional forms, engage audiences actively, transforming art into a platform for socio-political critique. Aydoğdu highlights mass media’s role in shaping public opinion and emphasizes networked societies as new public spaces for communication. He situates art within broader socio-economic changes, advocating for its role in challenging hegemonic structures and fostering alternative social visions.

The limits of my language…, the limits of my world …” 1

An art practice, which operates by means of individual criteria and frame conditions, does not necessarily establish lasting (museal) merits, but creates a proper aesthetics of communication. Categories of analysis, tactical media, activist interventions react upon and/or influence the current social conditions. Via its pragmatics, swift or uncomplicated media produces a modality, which embraces the implementation of different procedures – aesthetical, activist or partly theoretical ones.

The connotative level of the visual, from the point of view of its contextual reference and positioning in different discursive meaning and association realms, denotes the point where al- ready coded signs meet the depth of the semantic code of a culture and adopt additional, more active dimensions. Here, there exists no pure objective (denotative) – and least of all natural – representation. Each visual sign (in a specific language) connotates a characteristic – a value or a conclusion – which is present depending on its connotating position as implication or implicated meaning.

The fields of preferred concepts hold social structures in the form of meanings, practices and opinions: the popular knowledge of social structures, of how all practical concerns function within this culture, of the ranking of power and interest and of the structures of legitimating, limitations and determinations. Thus, the chosen signs have to be related by means of codes to the order of the social life, to the economic, political power and the ideology, in order to make them readable. The term “reading” does not merely point at the capability to identify and decode a special number of signs, but it also addresses a subjective ability to relate these to other signs in a creative approach: a skill that is a precondition for conscious acting within an environment.

As long we can reflect upon ourselves through the world of art and reflect upon art through our world, the meaning of art can take on various forms and purposes, such as counter-balancing political conditions in the form of an upside-down-pissoir. Digital arts, takes the network society as its plane of resonance. Different than traditional/modern art, digital arts invites the audience to actively take part in the art work rather than merely provoking them. This quality is, of course, contained in the very nature of art. In a way, art functions to re-invent itself, time, and environment by responding and commenting on the socio-cultural and political contexts. By so doing, it creates other alternate visions while incorporating various available medium and technologies in order to achieve this goal. Here, politicization is not just an attitude operating through practices of production but it is an essential component of a concrete structural positioning. Art consists of a platform, which blends its field of interaction with creative, technical, and social energies by which it resolves and redefines such forces. It functions to pinpoint and question the contradictions and inconsistencies that operate within such forces that falls in its scope of analysis.

The strategies used or described in art are not limited to innovation or tradition. In this sense, each artwork may function as a ‘shifter’ among other artworks, meaning, it comments on the world on the basis of its differentiation to other artworks. From a societal perspective, this differentiation does not only function to ‘label’ the work of art according to its form (such as ‘revolutionary’, ‘innovative’, ‘epigonal’). Rather, art attains its meaning on the basis of its positioning within a certain social context, which entails artworks that are not as strongly related to the public domain such as Art in Public spaces, Street Art, mobile- applications or participatory art. Top- down-art is art that we obtain one way or another, bottom-up-art is art that we need to obtain one way or another. Each artwork is a question addressed at society at large.

Despite the common association of network society with omnipresent control and surveillance (which could perhaps explain why traditional arts tend to lean towards individualization and a-socialization), social media, network structures, and the Internet are perhaps the final “public space” that we possess as individuals today.

Massmedia (as a passive consumption device), which have rapidly influenced our everyday life since the second half of the 19th century, play a strong role in determining our agenda at present. Since the decrease in the political and social connotations of “public space” in a modernist, transparent, and cognitive society, “massmedia” has taken on a central role in the creation and dissemination of meaning, taking public opinion under its hegemony and replacing “knowledge” -so important to cognitive society- with metaphors of “meaning” and “opinions”.

Here, “public” denotes a passive monitoring formula. On the one hand, “public” designates the impossibility of going beyond the internal operations of the system; on the other hand, it points to the possibility of new types of communication with other external systems. Hence, the meaning and ideas produced by the media do not actually represent the opinion of the public.

The rapid rise of the turbocapitalist system resulting from the fall of the iron curtain in 1989 and the cold war, the loss of public commons as a result of the privatization necessary for “economic growth”, the crises of participatory democracy, the dilemma between transnationalism and nationalisms, the decrease of individual rights after 9/11 under the banner of protection from terror, religion wars, our irresponsible consumption of world resources, financial crises, bankruptcies emerging from the management of democratic states as private companies released from social responsibilities, the diminishment of working rights and essential social structures of a society, moving towards (social, political, and economic) erosion as a result of the growing gap between different classes, in society: although we may have become accustomed and insensitive to the daily catastrophic images imposed on us by massmedia, we believe that this description of our current situation is not exaggerated.

1 Ludwig Wittgenstein: Tractatus logico-philosophicus

This text is published before, in the catalogue of the Exhibition “Commons Tense/Müşterekler Zamanı” (amberTXT/BIS), Curated by Fatih Aydoğdu and Ekmel Ertan, Den Haag/NED 2012
In frame of the Todays Art Festival 2012 

By connecting social media with discussions on ecology, society, and participatory democracy from a social organizational perspective, “Commons Tense/ Müşterekler Zamanı” establishes an alternative platform for re-constructing urgent societal questions, to search for solutions to existing and future crises, to advocate the need for self-organization within the hegemony of market economy, which privatizes all aspects of everyday life.

Digital Commons are platforms offering tools, information, theory, art, and culture that are open for public and are free. Commons are what we share with others. Commons/ Müşterekler is a new form of expression that goes beyond the hegemony of the market and centralized modes of control and, therefore, it is a kind of language.

“Commons Tense / Müşterekler Zamanı” designates a hypothetical language that goes beyond local and national data to discuss certain problems, and to produce alternative options within the current social, economic, and political systems in which we live in.

It establishes a foresight to think beyond borders physically and intellectually, within and without the system.

Fatih AYDOĞDU (b. 1963 | Turkey) lives and works in Vienna and Istanbul. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Istanbul and graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. Aydoğdu is a conceptual visual artist, designer, curator, writer, and sound artist, focusing on concepts of media aesthetics, migration & identity politics, and linguistic issues. He participated in numerous exhibitions throughout Europe, Asia, and the USA. He was the publisher of Turkey’s first media art magazine, “hat” (1998). He worked a.o. as a member of the Curatorial Board of ‘amberPlatform,’ an art & technology platform based in Istanbul, between 2011 and 2019.


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