© 2009 by Osman Akan
"All Rights Reserved"
Fiber optic sculpture and mannequins
The figures in Millet’s “Gleaners” have postures that are instantly recognizable as forms that repeated themselves in many other artworks. Here, peasant women are picking the fallen grains after a harvest. They are anonymous workers, portrayed as nothing out of the ordinary. They represent the poor of the society of their time, when segregation between poor workers and rich landowners was very pronounced. The Barbizon school, which was also founded by Millet, was very influential in the revolutions of 1830-1848 by making farmers the subject of paintings, launching the “realist” movement in an era of “romanticism.” It is striking that this realist movement of depicting life as it is, and especially Millet’s paintings, later influenced Dali so much in forming his paranoiac-critical method for surrealism, that was also an inspiration to Brecht’s epic theater.
I am interested in the theme of food production and its reoccurrence throughout art history. In Jules Breton we see the working class again, as farmers during the harvest. From Van Gogh’s Hayfields to Monet’s haystacks, the production of crops and the ceremonial aspects of this production (gathering for harvesting, etc.) were closely tied to human life and were the subject of many masterpieces.
Today the connection to food production in our urban reality is an image of a bale of hay on the internet at best. In a world of trade markets and stock exchanges controlling the pricing of food (therefore access), a trader only sees the results of his/her actions as bits of information displayed on a computer monitor. On the contrary to the notion of close proximity suggested by the term “global village,” the more removed the production of food from our daily lives, the more removed our access and control over it are.
Influenced by Millet, I form an installation where the figures depict the well known gestures of the “Gleaners.” In order to broaden the scope of the work, I also incorporate a few forms from Breton’s paintings on the same themes. The figures are altered mannequins, strengthening the obvious connection to “surrealism” and staging (props) of a theater. The crops are formed with fiber optic cables, for their ability to carry light and their use in forming the network structures of the internet. The work calls into question the “paranoia” caused by the dyslexic relationships of human life and technology.