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The Unmarked Categories / İşaretlenmemiş Kategoriler

The Unmarked Categories / İşaretlenmemiş Kategoriler
for the blog readers...

Preliminarily information:

11 September / 11 October 2007

K2 Contemporary Art Centre / Izmir

Exhibition + Art and Knowledge production +and such

Project Initiator:

Elmas Deniz

Confirmed Participants:

Morten Goll
Kristina Ask
Mahmoud Khaled
Gökçe Suvari
Mehmet Dere


The Unmarked Categories exhibition has strong relation with “The Heavy Issues- Critical knowledge production platform”* Istanbul meeting. As initiator of both projects, I have to note that these are not only ordinary art events for K2. Both tries to indicate “a path” by the rightful perspective and formed by desire of utopian democracy and justice.

The UC documentation will take part in the publication a project book -which will be published after realization of Heavy Issues- beside a separate (image+ text) poster will be printed for the Unmarked Categories exhibition in K2.

Also all participant artists are welcomed with their text contributions. Since I haven’t planned to set the exhibition in unusual methods it could only work out with your entries and responds to the theory Unmarked Categories. I would also like to learn what is in your mind and I am totally open to your proposals, comments or criticism on what I wrote here.
Thanks in advance.


The starting point of the exhibition and (also Heavy Issues) comes from an assertive idea: “Closing the Gallery”, a sharp cut in the routine of K2. First aim was, cancelling to display any artwork in gallery space to be able to use space “criticising art system”, due to perceived corruption of its functions that recognised while operating into it and also investigating the idea of “exhibition” itself and its limitations. The reason of this sort of decision has shaped in the years that I derived from the practical experiences in K2, even though K2 offers quite alternative structure to making exhibitions and becoming a space for any kind of artistic practices, there was something missing, inadequate and uncompleted, a kind of fatal error. All affords to maintain to space was effective and satisfactory but there was a need of critical discursive path and getting rid of problems of visibility. There are miscellaneous reasons why K2 Gallery was not enough to determine its aims by only functioning as a physical space for contemporary arts. Also realities oppressed by the system and hierarchies in global world in different scales.

Then it brought me trough rebellious point that I convinced to clarity of the current situation. As an individual artist and a member of K2, as simple human, I experienced many negative effects of power relations, injustice, and hierarchies as well as reading theories about those issues and as a conclusion, this crucial need occurred. Taking the initiative and making projects on ” the obvious but mostly unrecognised/ignored facts”. It is an urgency of liberation and need for an exodus from the all dominant systems and probably the best way to make it happen is just a simple start.

In short, if there is an obvious problem on the ground itself, how it can be possible to keep up doing things on the same ground! Then, probably, the best think is to choose autonomously start to think on what has to be done?

That was the main reason why K2 gallery needs to be closed for a while. But, than I shifted into another idea, like a restart, making an exhibition under consideration of this awareness and taking up seriously this position.


I called it as a rebellious plan, deliberately cancelling events in K2 and declaration of it was a reflection against unequal setting of entire art world “possession on knowledge production in contemporary art” and “hierarchies”. It is going to be basic objection of Heavy Issues Istanbul meeting but as a very linked project; Unmarked Categories is addressing rather on daily life and current representational errors of democracy . It opens a platform via exploring it with artistic production and text. It is about all take-for-granted elements in social reality, which increases discrimination and makes people voiceless and excluded.

This exhibition also would like to highlighted “the right of making failure”, “the right of freedom of speech to the powerless” as one of the ignored position of human. The theory is on power comprises; Identity politics, gender, patriarchy, rank, class, religion, minorities, cultural differences, euro-centrism, and normalization…Rethinking democracy.

The theory examines how we mark and generalise the things according to the dominant- unmarked.
it is also linked to the normalization processes and such. The matrix of value systems that has generated the current global situation, how artistic practices could response on that uneven development and negative effects of neat categorization of people. Artists are not invited to illustrate the concept but exploring possible ways to go beyond those classifications.

What we are capable to do?


The theory: Unmarked Categories

"The idea of unmarked categories originated in feminism. The theory analyses the culture of the powerful. The powerful comprise those people in society with easy access to resources, those who can exercise power without considering their actions. For the powerful, their culture seems obvious; for the powerless, on the other hand, it remains out of reach, elite and expensive.
The unmarked category can form the identifying mark of the powerful. The unmarked category becomes the standard against which to measure everything else. For most Western readers, it is posited that if a protagonist's race is not indicated, it will be assumed by the reader that the protagonist is Caucasian; if a sexual identity is not indicated, it will be assumed by the reader that the protagonist is heterosexual; if the gender of a body is not indicated, will be assumed by the reader that it is male; if a disability is not indicated, it will be assumed by the reader that the protagonist is able bodied, just as a set of examples.
One can often overlook unmarked categories. Whiteness forms an unmarked category not commonly visible to the powerful, as they often fall within this category. The unmarked category becomes the norm, with the other categories relegated to deviant status. Social groups can apply this view of power to race, gender, and disability without modification: the able body is the neutral body; the man is the normal status.
Unmarked categories, the default value in a system of social or cultural categories, in contrast to the marked category."

New Internationalist 360September 2003
Reinventing power / THEORIES OF POWER
Illustration: Hugh Davidson
The unmarked category
Feminists have analysed the powerless extensively. There are theories about discrimination on the basis of sex, race, class and religion as well as sexuality, disability, age and culture. What often remains unexamined is the culture of the powerful, since it is difficult for the purveyors of culture – the powerful – to see the mechanisms of their own structures. And it is difficult for the powerless to get access to the resources and education necessary to enable such a critique. Everything is ranged against it.

The powerful are those members of a society who can gain ready access to power and who also are able to exercise it without thinking particularly about what they are doing. For the powerful the culture is obvious, accessible and cut out for them. For the powerless it is unreachable, impenetrable, high, elite, expensive and it would take an act of violence or self-violation to get in.

The ‘unmarked category’ is the identifying mark of the powerful. He is the standard by which everything else is measured: for example Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, or medical wall charts. In the informational address structures of the Internet, US addresses are the unmarked category. These ideas connect with the work of feminists such as Luce Irigaray and Gyatri Spivak.

Whiteness is not visible to the powerful, because they themselves are white. They notice black, brown, ‘other’ bodies and the difference of those imaginations. But whiteness, to the white, is the norm. It has a normative status in the same way that ‘man’ has a normative status. The able body is the neutral body. The marked body is outside what is regarded as the norm: it is too thin; it is too fat, it is crippled, it is mad, it is unpredictable.

The unremarked, the unmarked is always the clue.
unmarked category

The default value in a system of social or cultural categories, in contrast to the marked category… Thus the unmarked pronoun is "he", persons are assumed to be straight, if you say "I saw this guy on TV" without further detail, he will most often be pictured as white, heterosexual, man.


First of all I am totally incompetent on those theories but I believe being at this level is very creative.

I am quite aware of the fact that the concept of the show could easily divided into very specific issues that each could be a concept for separate exhibitions but this could also sabotage the purpose of the exhibition itself, the main objections of Unmarked Categories. However participating artists could choose very specific and precise concept under the umbrella of the theory “unmarked categories”, for instance it could be only about gender, normalisation, generalizations, discrimination, inequality, class clash or language system, this is very wide range of navigation possibility. Any kind of discipline, medium and production methods are welcome. Artists could prefer to produce non-artistic projects as well.

The invited artists are not together for only their artistic approaches but because of their special sensitiveness on democratization, liberation and such processes. All participants are almost like-minded artists and writers who is currently working differently.

Regarding the concept of the exhibition, non-representational position of artists-writers has great importance, so, no one become a subject of any representational status in this event. Any considered identity, geographical, gender etc.

The same dates with the UC there is going to be a wide exhibition in Izmir called Port 2007 and the title of the exhibition is “mirage and desire.” The Unmarked Categories will situate itself more politically, responsive, criticality based position and take place as a parallel project of this event.


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