Nature and the economy had constituted the foundation of Elmas Deniz’s solo exhibition at Maçka Art Gallery in 2012. In this exhibition, the issue of poverty that she tackles through an individual lens is opened up to discussion side by side the questioning of a global system of values with a focus on money as an instrument of exchange and the act of monetary valuation itself. The commodification of nature and the normalization of this process, as well as the human perception and consumption of nature (and even natural beauties) are among the issues explored in the exhibition.
A series of works that Deniz developed around... a five centuries old oak tree in Stockholm constitute the basis of the exhibition. Deniz’s symbolic gesture of wanting to buy a tree regardless of her own economic situation comprises both the starting point of the work and the key concern of her video. Alluding to that which was formerly not for sale and/or inconceivable as a commodity, the work also contemplates buying land and (being able to) buy everything on the land alongside it. Human beings wanting to buy things they love and consider useful reinforces their conception of ownership as the only way to reach happiness. In this absurd position she puts herself in, Deniz questions where nature, wedged between private property and commercial goods, is.
The exhibition consists of videos, writings and drawings. The value system –especially monetary valuation of something- is scrutinized through a series of drawings based on certain parameters the artist speculates. These calculations, which at first glance seem to be logical, in effect remain inadequate in terms of naming the price for nature.
What does it mean to want to buy a tree?
The consumer society developed along the axis of neo-liberal capitalist habits, perception the nature as a consumable product that can be shaped not only by purchasing with money, but also through clean air, scenery, or touristic attraction, since now, for the urban human being nature means “humanless” spaces. The installation is composed of photographs taken in such spaces underscoring this state of consumerism, and tackling our callousness to images of nature. Looking at how dearth and abundance affect value systems, the installation highlights our growing insensitivity to images of nature, just like our insensitivity to war or other such images. Trying to buy a tree with banknotes made of trees cannot coalesce in our minds. Elmas Deniz also frames banknotes in other artwork and makes them invisible.
Everything pertaining to the necessity of preserving nature is bound to a paradox. Since the sustainability of the capitalist system depends upon constant growth, the depletion of natural resources also falls within the sphere of consumption with a capitalist approach. The preservation of nature reduced to saving symbols in turn leads to excess of information and the rapidly growing invisibility of images of nature. The image of a small found object –a framed image- depicts a black panther on black background, which also lends its name to the exhibition. This time, the artist uses this found object in her installation as means to render the invisible visible.
The exhibition aims to open up to discussion a values system through the questions of nature, money, and purchasing.[Text from the press release with small edits.] Photo Credits: Rıdvan Bayrakoğlu