Yeşim Akdeniz's work is concerned with Orientalism, gender and queer studies as well as cultural appropriation. Primarily focused on painting, her work is infused with symbolic narratives that can be read as signs of cultural production, negotiation and appropriation. Akdeniz juxtaposes modernist objects such as designer furniture and architectural fragments as well as art-historical references and through this juxtaposition questions the attitudes and notions represented by modernism. Her new series Selfportrait as an Orientalist Carpet consists of three textile pieces with upholstery and clothing appliqués sewn onto them.The artist has stitched the fabric elements together in a lengthy process of manual labor. Quilted, superimposed fragments create a compositional fabric relief with protruding pockets, eyes, cubes and pumpkins. With connecting elements found on clothing, such as buttons, zippers and buckle straps, Akdeniz creates a symmetrical arrangement of geometric forms.The addition of the adjective orientalist is a reference to orientalism. Edward Said describes it as knowledge about the part of the world, designated as the East, that is produced by the west and used for the purpose of control and oppression.Set in this context, the artist addresses certain readings of her works and formulates them as a contestation of identity politics and power relations.Of particular interest here are the incorporated sleeves of men's suits - a uniformly conservative garment symbolic of privilege and capitalist relations of production and domination - as well as the fringes and borders that contrast directly with the invitingly soft, cushioned surface that promising softness and intimacy. Selfportrait as an Orientalist Carpet combines autobiographical moments with (art)- historical narratives that position questions of identity along with ascriptions and self-attributions as carriers of political structures.
From the exhibition 'MIRRORS AND WINDOWS' , Sammlung Philara 2021
“Penelope’s famous web covers a female world that constantly closes in on itself. There are but few woman’s stories that are as tragic as the one of the woman who weaves the same web each day and undoes it each night to avoid her suitors .What is tragic is not the tears that are shed nor the misfortunes but the inactivity peculiar to a woman who constantly does the same action to delay what can happen to her in a world of men. Weaving,sewing, embroidering are precisely actions peculiar to this inactivity and are literally female tasks.In principle this specificity pertaining to the female world does not stem from a feminine characteristic rooted in the nature of the task.On the contrary, at issue here is the question of time and its concomitant space.Embroidering something on fabric without ultimately producing any surplus value; sewing is a pastime. And leisure time fits perfectly the woman who does not take part in production, and insofar as she does not take part in itshuts herself up at home with hidden desire.Inside and outside these are the surface signs of a greater split deeper within.This divide is somewhere between an extended present that occurs with inactivity, with seclusion, and a time in which progress and hopes and plans for the future strike roots. The steamships and men’s hats which Yesim Akdeniz has sewn out of fabric and on which are embroidered the first letter of “FORTSCHRITT” sail on these dangerous waters in terms of both technique and content. ( and indeed we will be questioning the possibilities of differentiation between content and form in Yesim Akdeniz ).The aforementioned danger lies in the inflation of meanings in the cultural and gender discourses that enfold our actions.”……”However , borrowing visual dogmas that culture imposes and attributes to women, Yesim has made ships and hats that are not in the least masculine.The ships with pink smoke coming out of their stacks and the hats with embroideries and the fabric selected in their background are like part of a vaudeville show.Far from carrying the masculine power they promise, they sway as transexual images.Thus the phallic discourse the objects point to is disrupted.Do objects to which we attribute masculine meanings have meanings that are overblown and that, actually ,could deliquesce at any moment? Imposing on us through monstrous erotic politics the codes, it has conceived for its own continuity; is that what the discourse is doing? Is that what we have been trying to sustain as sexual subjects a constructed false subjectivity? Are these subjectivities doomed to be inverted by the artist , to be deprived of their meaning? It becomes impossible for the “F” of “FORTSCHRITT” to echo progress on such a transexual plane .In Yesim Akdeniz’s work, the fierce momentum caused by the invention of the steam engine does not bring to mind positive associations as could be imagined.The artist approaches all humanity with an attitude that is ironical and aloof from positive progress, which is thought to serve universal and humanistic purposes.And truly, is progress something that acts for us without discrimination? Or has there not been any such progress from the outset?
catalogue text “weaving the image, touching the image” by Isiltan Ataman for the exhibition “THE MAN” 2006
-“Yesim Akdeniz proposes a new anthropomorphic still-life through this body of work…” “…..Yesim’s repeated movements of making these works and the final works themselves are similarly charged with social and cultural undercurrents that are at once familiar and violently, vehemently twisted.”
catalogue text by Merve Ünsal for the exhibition “those opposing and those sympathising” 2014
…..“There is an understanding without words. I also see connections that are not meant to be in the spotlight. For example, three of the artists in the exhibition are originally from Turkey; they have a history and active relationship with Istanbul,
a city that in recent years has lost many of its artists, looking for better times elsewhere. One of the sculptures Yesim made for the show is called Submission, the other is called Europe (both 2018). We are looking at imaginative objects, with
their own range of expression. But as a pair with these titles, they seem to present an existential dilemma, from Istanbul’s perspective: two modes for further development. In Yesim’s work, we are looking, through objects, at possibilities for
transformation. Or, at things that hold and hide a collective rather than individual memory”…..
catalogue text “meeting the universe halfway” by Jurriaan Benschop for the exhibition “meeting the universe halfway” 2018
“……..track-suits, eggplants, green peppers, plastic chairs and slippers, prayer beads, unicorn balloons, and even Shéhérazade makes an appearance. All of the objects float, disembodied and weighted with signification. In fact, since 2002, starting with her ‘Bauhaus Series,’ Akdeniz has been investigating the belief systems and ontologies of and around objects as artifacts…….. Akdeniz’s new works are about the unnatural and ironic, the non-place, floating feeling of being an immigrant…..”
exhibition text by Nicole O’rouke for the exhibition “insituwo” 2019
….“By associating various cultural vocabularies within a cinematographic dramaturgy, Akdeniz grasps the transformative and tangible state of many current belief systems and worldviews, their clashes and possible downfalls.”….
review in Flash Art by Andrea Wiarda for the exhibition “visiona teorema” 2005
“Most of my paintings in recent years have focused on modern architecture and its decline in different geographies, as well as the altered fate of these buildings due to social, political or economic factors. Though no longer relevant, Taksim Belediye
Gazinosu was once the symbol of early- Republican-era policies in Turkey. The same goes for Ankara Çubuk Barajı Gazinosu and the Ankara Exhibition Hall. The show is partially about the similar fates of buildings from this era.”
from the interview with the artist by Jbid Boyaciyan , 2016