Yokus Mahaleller

Tekst: Cathrine Somzé

Motive Gallery is pleased to present Yokus Mahalleler, a new solo exhibition by German photographer, Dorothée Meyer (Cologne, 1973).

Imagine you have reached the top of a hill, which allows you to contemplate a suburb lying at your feet. From this vantage point, what will you notice? What will most capture your attention? Will you try to decipher the secret language encrypted in the way buildings are organized and in the way they look alike? Since she graduated from Post-St. Joost in Breda, Dorothée Meyer has been producing photographic works that constitute poetic reflections on the relationship between identity formation and the perceptions of specific environments. In her latest series, Yokus Mahalleler or ‘steep neighborhoods,’ Meyer’s photographs feature suburbs and street details from the city of Istanbul in a way that transcends the documentary and reaches the metaphoric.

From reading town planning, urban designs and architectures one may derive the norms and values of the community that lives in and makes use of them. When Meyer photographs them, she attempts to perform such a reading and presents sublimated portraits of different collectivities. In Discipline and Punish (1975), the French historian Michel Foucault studies the design of Jeremy Bentham’s utopian carceral design, the Panopticon, in order to understand the specific modes of control characteristic of modernity. Buildings are part of the social devices that consecrate specific regimes of vision, which accordingly contribute to the distribution of knowledge and power. With her previous series of Psychiatric Clinics, Meyer poetically intimated the challenges and drawbacks presented by these institutions and their specific architectures. In her previous series Dutch Mountains, the relation between collective identity and the economy of seeing is dramatized by opposing images of a fictitious geography in order to construct a different Dutch national identity based on a non-existent topological specificity –the presence of mountains in the Netherlands.

With her newest series, Yokus Mahalleler, Meyer has again been busy with the questions of architectures, perception and identity. In fact, Yokus Mahalleler features Istanbul in an unusual way. The photographs from this series indeed transcend the purely iconic. When staying in the Turkish city, Meyer became increasingly interested in the relation between the demographic explosion that has been going on over the past few decades, the reorganization of the territory and the anarchic outgrowth of suburbs. As an extreme example of savage urban expansion, Istanbul captured Meyer’s imagination. In YOKUS MAHALLELER, large diptych works featuring sweeping high-angle views of building blocks contrast with small images displaying details of streets furniture. Yet, in both types of works, the iconic subjects of the photographs point towards another kind of inquiry.

With her new series Yokus Mahalleler, Meyer engineers yet another way to challenge our viewing habits. These works indeed do not, strictly speaking, constitute simulations. They are rather devices thanks to which viewers are invited to think about the way they look at things, the way they perceive. Peering at the diptychs, for instance, one comes to realize that both photographs, which constitute each of them, do not exactly prolong one another. They overlap in almost seamless ways and invite viewers to become aware of the manner in which they look at them. The same way goes for the small format works in which seemingly insignificant street furniture pieces are featured in a way that claims special attention to them. Ultimately, as Meyer decodes the secret dialect of objects and architectures, it seems that they happen to be speaking about us. It is our choice to listen to what they have to say.