smoothing (lines into circles)

A Tale Of A Tub, Rotterdam

Curated by ALPER TURAN

drawing by Merey Şenocak


Letter to N

27.08.2022, 16:00
Reading of artist's zines

smoothing lines into circles


Axiom 1:
People are different from each other.
Things are also different from each other.
There are no two same letters in one alphabet, for example.
Actions are also nonidentical. Each gesture is different.

    Exercise 1: Let’s try to approximate two registrative actions:                 reading and viewing.

Postulation 1: A line is a straight one-dimensional figure consisting of a set of points extending infinitely to either side. A circle is a closed figure made of a set of points.

Question 1: The body has no corners, why is a life full of squares?

Axiom 2:
A line becomes a letter
A letter becomes a sentence
A sentence becomes a line
A line becomes a poem

Postulation 2: You cannot square a circle. It’s impossible.

    Exercise 2: Pervert the straight line. Stray him. Give him a good         nice curve. Take his two hands extending to infinity and force              them to hold each other. Make a circle out of a straight line.

Question 2: if we all agree that language precedes us, we are born into a language that shapes and structures us, what does the materiality of language do to us? what does a letter do to us?

Axiom 3:
A form is always a body
a form = a body
a letter is also a form
a language = a body

Postulation 3: To draw a perfect circle, you would need to measure an infinite number of points around the circle's circumference.

    Exercise 3: View a text and read a form. View a foreign language and read a stranger.

    View until you speak the language, and read until the last page.

Question 3: What happens on the way of a line becoming a letter, a letter becoming a sentence, a sentence becoming a line, a line becoming a poem? What turns some poetries into chaos and others into more poems? 

Axiom 4:
Bodies are poetries.
Not ideas.

Postulation 4: You can circle the square.

        Exercise 4: Read an artwork, read a body.
        Don’t fill in gaps. Don’t gloss them over. Don’t elide. Do not form an opinion.

Axiom 5:
The body is made out of circles.

Postulation 5:
When a part of a circle is infinitely magnified, it will end up looking flat. Flat can mean that it looks just like a line, but it’s not.

            Exercise 5: Smooth the lines. Make an imperfect circle.


smoothing (lines into circles) is an exhibition that seeks to grind down stark corners, flat bluntness, vertical systems, and short-cut assumptions through gestural explorations. Curling around textual and corporeal abstractions, and meandering along poetic and geometric condensations, the exhibition follows the journey of straight lines as they transform into poetic ones. The artworks are looking after the materialities of the language, of the body, and of the form simultaneously to create new languages to view, new bodies to read, and new forms of being together. Embodying new, existing, or re-visited drawings, installations, and sculptures by Maria Barnas, Sepideh Behruzian, Annabelle Binnerts, Sabrina Chou, Maike Hemmers, José Quintanar, Merey Şenocak, and Baha Görkem Yalım, smoothing (lines into circles), proposes a circle as an unbreakable line of elasticity, an antidote to stiff edges. Through the ambiguity of poetry, the exhibition aims to defeat the rigidity of the idea and to give poetry a form and a body. Instead of mono-entities with a monovalence, the artworks in the exhibition are composed of multi-pieces in collectivity; each dismembered element serves as an utterance, a letter, a page of a book, a member of a body, a disjointed architectural unit, this time coming together in a different constellation, in a new order, and in a foreign alphabet. By way of repeating the same form to have a new gesture, iterating the same gesture to create a new form; or by fracturing a single entity into pieces, or scattering pieces to mold a unity; the works form cycles, circulating in circles.

smoothing (lines into circles) takes its inspiration from the curious letter O and its graphic form, which is also the pronoun for the third person singular in the Turkish language, a gender-neutral language. This queer and posthuman O in Turkish (which can be translated as he, she and it at the same time) blurs the distinction between male/female, animate/inanimate, and human/inhuman and makes those binary assumptions redundant. By combining this linguistic characteristic with the formal connotations of a circle, a zero, and a hole, O suggests a generative point of departure to revise the practices of seeing, identifying, and pronouncing the other, the third-person, non-interlocutor, the foreign, the non-conforming. Taking the linguistic ambiguity of the pronoun O synchronously with its formal quality, the exhibition puts forward ambivalences, holes, and gaps. Resisting depictional, representational, digestible images and running against legible bodies, fixed positions, easy judgments, and quick glances; Smoothing (lines into circles) provides an alphabet of gestures-in-forms that can be translated into various conditions under which one has to fight against the politics of flatlands in search for multi-dimensions.

Final Exercise:
Let’s think about a novel whose main character is always called O, with no gender, no sex, no human attribution or action, and no information pre-coded onto the surface of the flesh is given. How would you picture O? Which parallels and diverging lines can be drawn between picturing a fictional character while reading a novel and forming an opinion about a body? By replacing the immediacy of the image with the posteriority of the text and interchanging our acts of reading and viewing (a body, a text, an artwork), can we alter our experience of art, of a poem, of an (other) body? Can we read two sentences simultaneously just as we do with bodies and artworks?

The works that circulate through A Tale of A Tub, sketch the space as a page without margins. Instead of filling the entire space with a huge dot that ends all conversations, smoothing (lines into circles) invites reading between the lines instead, to consider the lines themselves as they chase each other and sometimes intertwine to form spatial poetics or break apart at other times.

Final Assignment: Smooth your gaze. Smooth your attitude.    

Annabelle Binnerts’ wall drawings establish a dialogue with the three floors of Tale of A Tub, either because they seem to carry the space by using words as pillars, by dissecting it vertically, or by deploying the space as a horizontal page. The murals are located within the physicality of a text, the corporeality of reading and writing, in cross-transference to the texts, its writers, readers, and its characters’ bodies. Ghost Poem expands the sphere of influence of text by revealing latent parts of stories that locate the body not in words themselves, but rather in the act of reading or writing. These are moments when “the translation of the body of the texts takes place inside the readers’ body”, a shifting that allows one to become temporarily immersed in another body. What’s the political potential of being immersed into another body through a mere word? And, can we take refuge in another’s word before – or even without – comprehending it? By interpreting reading and writing as transcendental activities across three bodies, Ghost Poem draws attention to that which goes beyond written words by narrating sounds made and heard while reading and writing, the emotions emitted and felt, and the way a reader/viewer is trapped between the pages/walls and moves between the world/body of the story/exhibition and the world of one’s own. Marking the whole exhibition with lines made out of words, Annabelle suggests, invites, and introduces a whole corporal experience to the exhibition: viewing the words, reading the forms, and immersing in bodies.

Sabrina Chou’s installation of the body abstracted in text and dismembered through space cohabits the ground and mezzanine floors, where it merges and clashes with the bodily haunted texts of Annabelle. In contrast to the primacy of ‘‘reading’’, the text/body here is not legible as a whole, but rather it engenders a fragmented and resistant process of reading. It requires a moving, laboring body. The work, suspended from the top floor with pulleys and chains as a structuring device, alludes to the labor of fragmented bodies and the impossible boundaries between bodies. Through the work, we follow the body from its division into anatomy and parts, to its governance and dismembering under systems of power and bodies of knowledge, and then to its recomposition, which ultimately fails and disintegrates, to be reabsorbed into surrounding structures. To attend to a bodily dimension of relating to others is a way to decompose/recompose ourselves in relation to what and who is around us. The body is thus leaked through the work, transmitted to the viewers’/readers’ bodies through text, as the knowledge of the cosmos is a circulating body that circles back with/through other bodies. To recuperate our corporeal dismemberment and decomposition, LIMB TO LIMB TO LIMB propagates modes of relationality through dispersal: language creates space for relating and becomes a transmitter between bodies, a curved mirrored surface reflects and disperses the texts and the viewers/readers' bodies, creating another space for viewing, echoing infrastructure, work, and bodies.

In her installation A Picture of O,  Merey Şenocak reproduces a series of pictograms from the book O Anlar (can be translated as He/She/It/They Understand or Those Moments) (2018) that she made in intimate collaboration with the Turkish poet, philosopher, and translator Oruç Aruoba (1948-2020). The artist-poet relationship began when Oruç gave Merey a signed copy of his book Benlik (can be translated as self, personality, or ego) which begins by addressing an "O" (gender-neutral pronoun for third-person singular in Turkish language), to the othered subject. Upon Merey’s invitation to reflect together upon the geometric and linguistic form of the curious “O”, they embarked on a five-month-long collaboration. Oruç gave her his own unfinished translation of Wittgenstein’s Geheime Tagebücher (Secret Notebooks) and asked her to study the manuscript using a detective’s glass. Merey dove into typewritten and handwritten pages, paying attention to the little notes written in the margins, scrutinized some parts, followed his adventure, and found different paths between lines. This process gave way to O Anlar: a book within a book, that also includes Merey’s reflections on O. We can see this work in part on the mezzanine floor. Lined up in space as disassembled pages of a book, asking the viewer/reader to navigate in-between spaces of those pages, Merey’s work offers a diagrammatic story of an O. Borrowing schemas from Einstein, Heidegger, and Hölderlin and adding her own, Merey sketches the geometric propositions that separate and bring together the self and the other, center and periphery, interior and exterior. Within the abstraction of arrows, dots, lines, circles, and letters, dichotomies blur and dualities cease. Merey transfers the tracing papers of the original book onto the solid glass but preserves the transparency of the pages layered on top of each other. In the space, one can see-through all pictograms of O along a line, which reduces the resolutions of all images and makes all propositions into a single image of O.

Sepideh Behruzian’s multi-pieced sculptural work, Circling the square: The transitional zone between repetition and difference, curls on the floor, and tries to smooth the corners and pillars on the opening of the mezzanine. The work dissects, rearranges, and re-positions muqarnas, a vaulting form in Islamic architecture. Muqarnas is more than ornamental or foundational architectural elements, but rather marks the zone of transition between the square of a chamber to the circle of a vault or dome. They are formed by an individual cell or small niche resting over another niche, each tier projected and extended farther out from the course below. For Sepideh, muqarnas offer a geometric order distinct from mass production processes that employed the egalitarian properties of geometry to enable repetitive production and liberal accessibility. While geometry not only orders the visual elements on a representational plane, it also disciplines social and political orientations (as long as “drawing a line creates a formless outside where monsters live”). The geometry of muqarnas – in Sepideh’s proposition– is calculated only in relation to itself, opposing it to calculations that aim to represent the world as normative and binding. Sepideh’s sculptural installation considers muqarnas as a social form, modalities for forging ties, as a collaboration between theory and practice, and individualizes the triangular elements that enable muqarnas to circle an imaginary square. Here, these elements are placed on the ground instead of the ceiling, on a horizontally curved line instead of a vertical one.

José Quintanar’s Landscapes are installed on four nooks in the basement. As an artist working in drawing and books, José explores the possibilities of drawing as a game, and the way processes or protocols of rudimentary rules are often represented by drawing. For the arbitrary series presented here, he breaks his self-imposed constrictions to combine three new landscapes tailored for each site with a version of an existing project, A Dutch landscape of 26 days. The project was built from an initial landscape drawn with 26 lines and gives rise to a process in which José dedicated himself for 26 days to make a new drawing in the same space, using the same 26 lines from the original drawing. Through this process, José erases the link between the lines and the original drawing and attempts to give each line its own identity and intrinsic value. While these 26 drawings have hidden or encrypted the first drawing and the original landscape, each drawing – as a cluster of lines – is the ruin of something that was their absolute abstraction. José’s research on the landscape is influenced by Gertrude Stein's landscape theory which asserts landscapes as static images composed of independent entities, events, and facts that have nothing in common except sharing the same space. While Stein uses landscape as an alternative to narration to create her theatre play, José creates drawing plays with lines as formats of sequentiality. Amplified by numbering the lines on the drawing, the fact that each line is an independent fact, a concrete action, or a certain form with a dimension is pronounced. With numbers, drawings become maps of actions, markers for memories of those actions. Line, the shortest distance between two ideas, is an answer to a question that you ask yourself. You draw a line, then another, then you reflect.

O is a line that marks, embraces, and incorporates emptiness. Its body only comes into being when its inherent nothingness is marked. Maike Hemmers’ drawings, scattered around A Tale of A Tub, create entry points into such a body. The drawings abstract the visceral image of the body and languages that come to being with the operations of tuning into one’s own body and translating its stories into colors and forms. For Maike, every work starts by mentally scanning her body in search of colors that emerge from associations she has with specific body parts. In doing so, she relates colors to subjectively felt sensations. Once these scans have resulted in a bodily-determined color palette, Maike sets out to expand one specific color and its meaning and speculates on the specific location where this color physically takes place and what stories can arise from it. The drawing processes start with somatic therapy, Processwork, led by Savannah Theis. Processwork, originating in the 1970s within the field of Jungian psychology, is a comprehensive and evolving therapeutic model that attempts to facilitate awareness by describing the body and its symptoms as a process that must run through a cycle for symptoms to resolve. The drawings on the upper floors reflect other parts and nodes of the body, but as the reader/viewer ascends the stairs to enter the basement, they zoom into the body and encounter a large-scale drawing of a death point. While each color body scan contains such a dark brown death point, for An endless thread, the new work on the basement, Maike has specifically explored nothingness, and how to describe nothingness housed inside the body as an ever-evolving death. Located in the lower belly and coming with the associations, the death point is like a thread, a node with a multitude of connections.

The glazed porcelain objects Things I should have said by Maria Barnas are installed directly across Maike’s large drawing. Having gestural and aesthetic affinity to Maike’s corporal abstractions on paper, these things that couldn't have been said otherwise are the results of an experiment on the body’s materiality, and the urge to translate the body’s inner language into something tangible. Where are words being formed? What language does the unsaid speak? Maria sculpts words by filling her mouth with clay and then speaking words into it. These muffled utterances take form without being heard, the clay holds the shape and porcelain solidifies it. By giving form to words with her body, she tests the capacity of words to create new images in her practice as a poet and an artist. Unconcealed and exhibited with its full presence, what was unsaid becomes a new language in multi-dimension. Separated inside the cave on individual pedestals with height variable to different heights of different mouths, sculptures are made for other mouths to see, and words become something to taste and touch. Using the language of the unsaid to further develop images and languages alternative to the ones that dominate our thinking, Maria continues by registering the shadows of each unsaid thing and painting them on paper to generate shadowscapes. These eclipse-like shadows accompany the unsaid things to prove further their presences, to testify their volume, to announce their weights.

Lined up diagonally inside another cave are Baha Görkem Yalım’s Inclinations, a series of wooden sticks, held by microphone stands, like fingers suspended in air failing to point out. Standing up with their disturbed straightness, these are other forms of a test. Tests of force against containment and control. As a gesture of disturbing the linearity or in search of smoothing lines into circles, Görkem breaks each prefabricated straight wooden stick. Upon their breakage, he treats the sticks carefully to recover them from their trauma and make them whole, yet never complete, again. Some parts disappear inside the healed wound or spread around, not to be found again. Yet, the sticks become slightly longer than their original length. Critiquing the uprightness, progress, and verticality, the lines got perverted, became inclinations, and then slippery slopes. As a recurring concern and material element in their practice, Görkem integrates the support structures into the assemblage of the work again, this time by using microphone stands to present their gestures in form and to question the pressure applied by such structures of support. The microphone stands support the broken lines, amplifying the silence of the wooden sticks and the critique of modernist linearity, but also keep applying pressure while holding, creating tension in anticipation of another break. Disturbed and hurt, then taken care of and healed, almost stilled lines are still beholding the hope of inclining more and more to finally gain elasticity, to overcome the risk of being broken again, to bend over to form a circle, losing stiffness.