Gülşah Ayla Bayrak
The Start of Something

How do you convey the experience of Orientalism through images? How is it represented in our daily lives? In the exhibitionThe Start of Something, Gülşah Ayla Bayrak aims to answer these questions by translating Orientalism's experience, emotion, and ideas into pictures, performances, and objects.

About the exhibition

On a school trip to the Louvre Museum, Belgian artist Gülşah Ayla Bayrak encountered the famous oil painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, La Grande Odalisque. Bayrak immediately recognised the references to Turkish culture present in the painting through the textiles, the jewellery and the sensuous figure of an Ottoman court lady. This sexualised and stereotypical representation of her Turkish ancestry made the artist feel uncomfortable. Even more so considering that this painting is part of the classic canon of Western art history. The friction created by this encounter fuelled her creativity and wish to create works that deal with the interplay between East and West.

The Start of Something explores this friction through the concept of Orientalism. The term refers to the way cultures of the East are perceived or imagined by Western writers and artists. It comes from the idea that the West is perceived as the norm or the standard to which the rest of the world is compared. Bayrak draws inspiration from paintings and uses collage or staging to add unexpected layers to her images. A new visual language is created by combining pop and internet culture with cultural symbols. Her work invites the viewer to explore a place where East and West meet as equals: Eurasia.

Oriental landscape © Gülşah Ayla Bayrak.

In-person workshop:
Bloody Hamam - the beginning of the action

Part of the exhibition are two workshops. The first workshop is based on Bayrak's research. Consisting of text, video and images, it combines a playful, critical visual language with fundamental questions about migration, identity, and questioning. The result will be displayed in the exhibition space. The collective sculpture will allow the audience of MAQAM to be part of this journey and share thoughts on themes such as Orientalism, representation, human rights.

Dates and registration for this workshop will come soon.

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Yallah Habibi © Gülşah Ayla Bayrak.

Online workshop:
Al Kiz - a change in direction or reversal

The second workshop is inspired by the topic of reinvention. Fire is the element of passion and creativity. Through the act of burning something, it is believed that negative energy leaves the body and change is possible, as well as transformation pointing at a new beginning. To conclude her project, Bayrak wanted to let go and reinvent herself, so she followed this quite literally and set herself on fire. How can reinventing oneself be visualised in images or video? The workshop Al Kiz invites others to help answer this question. In this online collaboration between the artist and the audience, she challenges participants to make 1-minute videos where one reinvents themselves.

Dates and registration for this workshop will come soon.

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Techno Odalsique © Gülşah Ayla Bayrak.

About the artist

Gülşah Ayla Bayrak (1997) is a multidisciplinary artist from Belgium. She studied Visual arts at Luca School of Arts and did an exchange in South Korea at the Korea National University of Arts as a Fine arts student. Bayrak has roots in Turkey and Georgia, which has strongly influenced her work. The artist creates connections between East and West and tries to overcome the imaginary border between the two continents. The artist focuses on individual experience, cultural diaspora, and society's role in her life.

Gulsah Bayrak The start of Something is part of Kısmet, a multi-year project organised by Studio Polat and Foam with a focus on Turkish visual culture through research, outreach, and exhibitions. Kısmet aims to visualise what it means to be Turkish.

The exhibition is made possible by Kleurgamma Fine-Art Photolab.

Foam is supported by de VriendenLoterij, Foam Members, De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek, the VandenEnde Foundation and Gemeente Amsterdam.

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Gülşah Ayla Bayrak
The Start of Something