Born 1977 in Istanbul, Turkey Lives and works in Vienna, Austria and Istanbul
Multidisciplinary Turkish artist Nilbar Güreş works across the mediums of performance, collage, video, drawing, found objects and photography to explore the construction of gender identity, sexual politics, religious traditions and societal customs. Giving careful consideration to the geographical setting of her work, Güreş uses humour and provocation to draw attention to the cultural history and practices framing what appear to be commonplace incidents and activities, shifting the boundaries between the comical and the tragic, the real and the absurd.
In her three-channel video installation Open Phone Booth, 2011, Güreş examines the politics of the uneven distribution of technology and infrastructure in a globally connected world. The locus of the work is a small village in the Eastern Anatolian region of Bingöl, Turkey, birthplace of the artist’s father; a contested area between Kurdistan and the Republic of Turkey that has been continually plagued by conflict. Residents of the remote mountain village belong to an ethnic Kurdish and Alevi religious minority who, by reason of ideology, identity and an isolated location, suffer systematic discrimination by the state through the deprivation of basic infrastructural amenities, such as access to electricity and running water, and the use of a functional telecommunications network.
This lack of a means to communicate with the outside world forms the basis for Güreş’s investigation. The antiquated switchboard that once connected the village landlines to the outside world was disabled in the 1980s following clashes between the Turkish military and Kurdish rebels. To this day, the connection has not been reestablished. Many of the residents have mobile phones, but as their homes are not within a good reception area they are unable to use them unless they trek out of the valley to a high point in the surrounding mountains. In Open Phone Booth, Güreş provides the viewer with a series of vignettes through which they are able to experience the everyday reality of the villagers, sharing moments of happiness, frustration, sadness and yearning as they try to connect with friends, relatives and loved ones who have moved far away. Through close observation and poignant documentation Güreş exposes some of the effects of discrimination and isolation while simultaneously emphasising the importance of communication as a basic human requirement.
Nilbar Güreş has held numerous solo exhibitions, including ‘Otto Mauer Award’, JesuitenFoyer, Vienna (2014); ‘FO.KU.S’, Foto Kunst Stadtforum, Innsbruck (2014–15); and ‘Pink is the New Black’, Osmos Address, New York (2013–14). Selected group exhibitions that have featured the artist’s work include ‘Überschönheit’, Salzburger Kunstverein, Salzburg (2015); ‘On the moment of change there is always a new threshold of imagination’, Artspace, Auckland (2014–15); and ‘How to (…) things that don’t exist’, 31st Bienal de São Paulo (2014).