ALBERTO ORTEGA-TREJO


Mexican artist and architectural designer based in Chicago, US and Pachuca, Mex. Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow (Anti Racism and Global Architecture History).

His work uses architectural design, writing, video, public programs and performance to address histories of social struggles, racialization and class dynamics in the Americas. He has been a grantee of the New Artists Society of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Jumex Foundation for Contemporary Art, the John W. Kurtich Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. He is a member of the Global Architecture History Teaching Collaborative of the Department of Architecture at MIT. His work has been shown in venues as the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale, the Chicago Design Museum, Extase, SITE Galleries, SpaceP11 and the Centro de Arte y Filosofia.



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Review
On Domesticity and Cunning

Faysal Altunbozar’s Interior Irruptions
Reviewed by Alberto Ortega


It was as if the strange bed where I’d been spending my nights of late
had become a kind of medium,
dispatching warning signals to me across unseen wires from the realm of exile and homeless wandering.
Ghada Samman

With these color blocks I can build an altar and a house
and a tower and a tunnel, and then I can knock them down.
Salvador Novo


The Promise and the City

There is, in the relatively old idea of the city as a space of possibility for the construction of different modes of association, a nostalgic form of utopianism that luckily refuses to die. The chance for concealment, camouflage, lavishness, excess and liberation have long been attached to a spatial grammar that mixes futurity with urbanity, as if the former was only possible through the accumulation (of affects and bodies) implied by the latter. In such tension, there is the possibility to refine our search for detours, tactics and references that might allow us to relocate and revitalize our conceptual undertakings in the search for another kind of life and most urgently, for another kind of self.

Forefront: Carnal Instincts, 2019 - Carbon steel, soap, jasmine oil.Back: Interioir Irruptions (after Canan), 2019 - Smartphones, c-stand, custom phone mount.All Images shot by Jessee Meredith

Faysal Altunbozar’s solo exhibition Interior Irruptions, took place on the 33rd floor of an apartment turned gallery by Amazigh Contemporary. At the end of the room we encounter the piece that gives the exhibition it’s title. Located facing the floor-to-ceiling window that frames Chicago’s skyline, “Interior Irruptions (after Canan)”, consists of two iPhones turned into a billboard. The devices slowly reveal the message “Soon, I’ll be in you”, a sort of personal promise, a wink to digital forms of cruising and to Canan Senol’s early aughts public intervention in Istanbul where a shop sign Senol installed in the façade of a building, reading “…finally you are in me” was forced to be removed as it was deemed offensive by neighbors of the building -the work would later be exhibited again on the balcony of a gallery, hidden from the public and protected by the private space hosting it.

Through this billboard, Altunbozar points at the tension between the visitor and the collective outside, while the content broadcasted by the smartphones becomes one of the hinges from where to articulate the shapeshifting nature of the scales of desire embodied in the rest of the show. Acting as a signal holder, Interior Irruptions (after Canan), is also an invitation to participate in the game of the coded interactions of physical and digital cruising.

In this promise of possession and/as intrusion, Altunbozar’s work allows us to think of ways in which futurity can be located elsewhere by means of urbanity and not precisely in the urban as such. By broadcasting a somewhat disembodied, free-floating intimate account in this billboard, the limits of the economies of privacy allows us to find in our participation in the making of the public realm a liberating and nonetheless confusing position. And it is in the shifts in scale and the invocation of a queer temporality through the work where we find that there is more of the systems that oppress us within us than of us in them, and that is precisely what the promise seeks to sabotage. In the broadcasting of a lustful yet to be realized encounter, there is a call to arms for the obliteration of the statistical soul and the appeal to the reshaping of our-selves through the hijacking of infrastructural elements.


The body and the limits of the limit

In the middle of the room, two veiny ceramic protein-shake urns sit atop a blue wooden locker room bench, while a third rests on the floor. Romantically titled Ashes to Ashes, Altunbozar captures an Edelmanian death-drive, disjoints it, and exposes a productive nihilism towards the frailty implied in the making of masculinity. Invoking a phantasmagoria of public sex, a space of possibility for the definition of self in the circulation of one’s own wants and needs with and through strangers, manifests itself. These ceramic urns are turned into life-affirming vessels and act as a reminder of the forms of agency latent in the meaning-making of our own bodily finitude. And, in a time where pessimist politics and commiserating aesthetics abound, this feels like a truly radical stance.


Ashes to Ashes, 2019 - Glazed Ceramics


While, the reminder is clear and oddly comforting, the challenges posed by Altunbozar’s syntax are even more relevant in the current climate of collective uncertainty faced by the advent of fascism and reactionary politics trying to push back queer life into the domestic space while still making visible the privileges granted to masculinity in the public domain.

In, Limits, two sets of prints of forearms are tied together by nuts and bolts with a lubricant bar between them -one is an anthropometric diagram and the other, a photograph. The suggestion of fisting performed by the images allows us to dig deeper in the folded nature between the standardization of bodies and the politics of regulation of practices between them. And, with this gesture, the work proposes to unravel the possibilities of lustful interactions (in a material and conceptual sense) as the refusal to merely exist as an index of measurement.

Plasticity and shifts in scale, are key elements for the material exchanges in the environment produced by Altunbozar. The body and its limits (of representation and interaction) are not bound to the individual fleshy self, but articulates a body that is in its circulation and assembly with others in different shapes and directions. So we are compelled to push this slipperiness into different scales of sociality, where being and being-in-one-another, becomes a politics of lusting for togetherness beyond measure.


Limits, 2019 - Wood frame, archival print, resin, paper, wing nuts.

And soon,
you’ll be
In me.

Across the room from Limits, Carnal Instincts is a urinal divider made of soap with an inner and supporting structure of carbon steel wire in the shape of a dog’s leg. In the exhibition text, Altunbozar mentions the urine marking tactic used by small domestic dogs pissing higher as an action to exaggerate their social standing in order to deceit potential mates and competitors. The presence and emphasis on strategies of deception by other species, makes evident the normalization of camouflage for the preservation of queer life, but most importantly, the claim to build a queer understanding of cunning as a necessary tactic for radical politics.

Hostings, is a pair of soap holder sculptures made also of soap, standing subtly next to the kitchen space of the apartment. Blending into the domestic space, each of the sculptures holds respectively two razor blades and a golden necklace suggesting the code of a risky, nostalgic presence, or memory, of a stranger, a lover, in the shower. The use of scented soap for Carnal Instincts and Hostings is not gratuitous. Such material quality performs as a demand for technologies of care to be central to the public realm, not as a commodity but as a fundamental quality in the domain of the commons. In these precise material operations, the artist invites us to reclaim the right for pleasure not as a marking of privilege but as the cornerstone for a promiscuous society to come.


Hostings, 2019 - Soap, chain necklace, medallion, razor blades.

And it precisely the image of promiscuity that becomes the locus for notions of preservation and endurance that in Chest are articulated. A gorgeous still life with seasonal flowers, resting in glass and metal pitchers feeding off Gatorade inside an open fridge. Aside from the orgiastic reference signaled by the energy drink, the piece asserts in pleasure a mode of a seasonal becoming of the self. Sexuality as spring as revolution (although again, our metaphors should also be refreshed). And, in the rhythms of sexuality and its modalities of perpetuation we find the possibility that in the production of pleasure, a kind of affiliation without filiation emerges as a generative arena for a new form of ethics.

Chest, 2019 - Seasonal flowers in fridge, Gatorade, glass and metal pitchers.

Intrusion

We close the door of the apartment to leave, and we find, in it, the final or initial piece of the show (the order is irrelevant at this and any point). Intrusion is the key to the apartment, stuck in the door handle, tied by a three-meter-long keychain to a pendant with two silver shells that rest around the corner of the corridor that led us to the space. This gesture of territorial marking signals the artists tactics of inter-species learning and adaptation through a keen understanding of the history of ornamentation, precisely as an artifact of territoriality, a subtle excess of presence. And in the stretching of the keychain, the invitation is not about entering a domestic queer space, but of queering the very idea of domesticity itself. The affective-perceptual trick between the distance and proximity of the experience awaiting inside this new kind of interiority, reveals that the access to such space relies on a wide array of points of convergence and departure that are completely autonomous from our subjectivities. Every time we open this door, the outside we encounter will be entirely different.


Intrusion, 2019 - Keys, key-chain, stainless steel pendants.