Interview: Selen Ansen

Jbid Boyacıyan speaks with Selen Ansen, curator of the group show Not All That Falls Has Wings, about the permanence of individual, social and material collapse as well as her attempt to put a positive spin on the idea of falling
Selen Ansen

How did you decide to put together an exhibition devoted to the idea of falling?
“It was a topic I thought and wrote about a great deal, something I considered from a philosophical point of view. I pondered about the linguistic role that ‘falling’ plays as well as both its meaning in our lives and the worthlessness it signifies. Turkish isn’t my native language, so I approached the concept of falling by concentrating on French expressions in which it has a negative connotation. By contrast, ‘falling’ sometimes has a positive meaning in English, as in the phrase ‘falling in love’ – yet even here we’re talking about a fall that’s acceptable so long as you don’t ‘lose your mind.’”

To whom or what does the title of the exhibition refer with the phrase “all that fall”?
“We approach the acts of rising and falling as polar opposites that indicate up and down. According to the anthropocentric point of view, civilization is built on verticality. I wanted to challenge this issue of verticality by playing with pre-established boundaries and incorporating horizontality. I, too, have fallen and continue to fall; it is thanks to those experiences that I put together this show. I wanted to tackle ‘falling’ not as a phenomenon that only involves the body or material things but in a setting where intangible things also fall.”

In the show you touch upon a desire of falling. Is falling something that can be craved?
“According to Bas Jan Ader – whose works are shown in the exhibition – ‘falling’ is a tool of composition. He transforms ‘falling’ into something desirable: to him, what really matters is that momentary loss of control right before falling. The desire to fall is something that very much goes against the concept of civilization. In order to fall, you have to stand upright – yet this vertical setup also implies its own fall and failure. In this sense, ‘falling’ could be seen as the desire to fail.”

The title of the exhibition suggests a certain degree of fragility.
“That’s great! I was inspired by Samuel Beckett and Ingeborg Bachmann. There’s a one-act radio play by Beckett called All That Fall, whose name brings to mind the idea of falling in a state of timelessness and continuity. Bachmann, on the other hand, is a poet I love: there’s a line in his poem ‘The Game is Over’ that reads, ‘Each one that falls has wings.’ I purposefully avoided a human-centric point of view, so when we say, ‘Not all that falls has wings,’ we’re in a very fragile place between humanity and non-humanity. There’s also a hint of confusion in the name of the exhibition. If we want, we can take an Aristotelian approach and ask, ‘If not all that falls has wings, does that mean some do?’”

The show features both those who fall predictably and those who remain suspended in air. What was your process in bringing together these different outcomes?
“I created the conceptual framework first. There were a few names I came across in my research, and VOID was one of them. It was very important to me to ensure that the exhibition was multidisciplinary, that it wasn’t focused only on sculpture, sound or film. I wanted to create a platform where I could bring together different and sometimes contrasting perspectives. Of course this is a setup: the building is a venue that combines the vertical and the horizontal. Instead of forming connections between artists and works that share a single floor, I wanted to create an echo between floors.”

Cyprien Gaillard’s Pruitt-Igoe Falls and Mikhail Karikis & Uriel Orlow’s Sounds from Beneath bring to mind Turkey’s endless urban transformation projects and the Soma mine disaster. How do these works deal with the concept of falling?
“Mikhail Karikis & Uriel Orlow’s video installation depicts the emergence and fadeout of an echo caused by a community of miners underground. Everything will disappear the moment the noises fade out. Gaillard’s work, on the other hand, is destroyed by those who create it, and its demolition comes to be known as ‘the day modern architecture died.’ The video also critiques the fact that the demolition has become a show in itself. In other words, it’s got more to do with capitalism making a show out of everything than it does with the desire to fall.”


A group show that aims to change our negative perception of the idea of “falling.”


Instead of trying to erase all memories of “falling” or failure, you might find yourself learning valuable lessons from your mistakes after this exhibition.

Not All That Falls Has Wings is at ARTER until Sep 18.


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