Can we consider Gizem Karakaş’ “Attention! Attention!” art?


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“Today’s treasure may be tomorrow’s trash”

Gizem Karakaş, the creator of the audio-visual art ‘ATTENTION! ATTENTION!’, provides an understanding of the dips and troughs of being an artist in the 21st century by cynically emphasising an artist’s concerns, struggles, and motivations. In this video art, Gizem addresses the “general” problems of artists within cultural industries. 

Gizem’s two-dimensional work refers to a space where the age of images makes relationships superficial and pluralizes online identities. Her work, re-screened by art initiatives during the pandemic, marks the beginning of a new era in the relationship between art and audience in a post-pandemic internet era, although it was first published in 2014. The fact that algorithms, one of the basic elements of our daily lives, are the building blocks of this work of art, draws attention to dilemmas such as virtual and real, here and there, now and then.

Gizem simulates a dialogue (more precisely dialogues) in a monologue through a form of digital communication. She stays still right in front of the camera without a word. There is only one non-diegetic voice in the video that appeals to the audience which could be viewed as Gizem’s voice. Gizem has questions, statements, orders, suggestions and answers; she does not promise anything while promising something. 

Gizem’s video and the concept of artistic value

Gizem’s approach to her work may cause you to ask the following question: does this work have an artistic value? I believe that it does for two reasons: 

Firstly, above all, Gizem invites you to explore the world of thought on a particular subject – what is art and its agencies? The video consists of an aesthetic concern – the way she moves, behaves, talks, her gestures. In this sense, Gizem’s movements appear as a performance. The video later showcases a form of rhetoric counted as an art form by Aristotle. Aristotle speaks of three persuasion methods in his book, Rhetoric: (1) character of the commentator, (2) the feelings the commentator’s words arouse in the audience, (3) the “real” or “lifelike” ways of persuading the conversation. Gizem appeals to her particular audiences in specific ways to attract their attention more effectively; therefore it is possible to reference a strategy of persuasion in her video. Although I personally thought of stopping the video, I couldn’t due to the effectiveness of this strategy. However, the video didn’t attract my sister in the same way. I guess this is another reason why we can call this work art as each viewer possesses a different response to the video.

Ray Billington asks in his book, Living Philosophy, ‘[a]re the public…to be accepted as arbiters of artistic merit, with popularity the supreme test?’ What is the standard here that makes an artistic creation a socially accepted form of art? As the concept of aesthetic is highly complex, fluid, and changeable over time, Billington says ‘public tastes vary, and change: today’s treasure may be tomorrow’s trash, and vice versa.’ I see a similar approach in Gizem’s project; the definition of art changes over time, depending on the context and the audience.

Questions that Gizem made me ask

How should artists talk to art lovers, their collectors, the press and their gallerists? Fundamentally, what is contemporary art? What is art in the digital age? Is there a fixed way to see art? What should a spectator look like? How are the spectators evaluated? Do gazes establish a hierarchy above each other? What do we understand from art? Is there subtext? If yes, what is it? Will someone “tell [me] what to understand”? How should I feel? Should I think or feel? What does political work represent and consist of? What does an artist do? What is the role of social media in contemporary art? 

Undoubtedly, it is important to be more critical of the concepts and ideologies that dominate our identities, tastes, and lifestyles. Art is one of the most useful tools to allow us to look at things differently by alienating the things we accept in our daily lives without question. As we move through our daily routines, it’s hard to break the cycle and see things holistically. However, the diverse expressions in art and the ways they serve global circulation through digital communication are enabling more and more people to represent their own views and lives. This paves the way for a better understanding of each other and encourages more people to contribute to it.

Gizem’s project impressed me in the behind-the-scenes creative process, which I hadn’t thought much about. The sarcastic language of the project made me question the parts of the artworks that are invisible to large audiences. I hope this project makes you question things that seem unfamiliar to you as well. Enjoy!

The Instagram account of Gizem Karakaş  @gizemkarakas_

The blog of Gizem Karakaş 

To watch the videos:

  1. ‘To The Art Lover’
  2. ‘To My Collector’
  3. ‘To The Press Member’
  4. ‘To My Gallerist’