Turkish artist Halil Altındere explores political, social and cultural codes in works that often focus on resistance against marginalisation and power. In recent years, he has used elements from Istanbul sub-cultures in his works and has boldly commented on the actions of the government of Turkey. Wonderland was completed in February 2013, only few months before the wave of demonstrations that swept Turkey that year. When the police tried to suppress demonstrations against plans to replace a park with a shopping mall at Taksim Square in Istanbul, the demonstrations turned into riots and protests against the government. The ever tightening political situation in Turkey ensures that Altındere’s work remains topical.
Wonderland gives voice to angry and frustrated youths living in the Sulukule district in Istanbul, which has been inhabited by Romani communities since the Byzantine Empire. When the district became the first target of the Turkish government’s urban renewal programme for Istanbul in 2006, the inhabitants had to make way for development projects of TOKI, the government’s housing agency. Adapting the conventions of music videos and hip-hop culture with an ironic twist, Altındere’s work uses police sirens and a catchy bassline as soundtrack for a chase through garbage, graffiti and run-down city blocks towards a gentrified cityscape beyond the means of the Romani. The political rhymes of the Romani hip-hop group Tahribad-ı isyan (‘Rebellion of Destruction’) comment on inequality, resistance and hope. In the struggle for the preservation of their own neighbourhood, art and music are the group’s main weapons.
Halil Altındere (born 1971) lives and works in Istanbul. He has been a central figure in the Turkish contemporary art scene since the mid-1990s. His multi-disciplinary practice includes video, sculpture, installation, photography and performance. He has also worked as publisher of the art-ist Magazine and as a curator. Altındere’s works have been included in exhibitions at the Dokumenta, the Manifesta, the biennales of Istanbul, São Paulo and Berlin, and at MoMa PS1. Wonderland is part of the MoMa collection.