TODAY'S ZAMAN, April 14, 2015

İstanbul-based artist duo :mentalKLINIK, composed of Yasemin Baydar and Birol Demir who have been working together since 1998, are currently presenting their first-ever exhibition in the United States, at the Savannah College of Art and Design's (SCAD) Museum of Art in Georgia.

Titled “Co-operation will be highly appreciated,” :mentalKLINIK's installation reflects the spirit of the present day through the use of technology. For the exhibition, the artists used robotic moving lights seen in nightclubs and concerts that are programmed into an endless, looping choreography mimicking human interaction.

“The attempt to replicate body language, sensations and feelings results in a dynamic set of movements, reminiscent of [being at] play, and is in contrast to human interaction and interpersonal communication that is increasingly mediated by technology. A soundscape … places the spectator into that stand-by mode of attention that we all maintain in relation to our gadgets,” according to a recent press release about the exhibition.

Using colorful reflective surfaces, billboard-style signs and rhetoric to explore new languages and alternative textures in their work, :mentalKLINIK steers away from the regular, normal and rational as, according to the press release, the artists “attempt to reveal what our new order looks like -- an altered, through-the-looking-glass reality.”

Storm Janse van Rensburg, head curator of the exhibitions in the museum, explained in an interview with Today's Zaman that the show explored current capitalistic trends where exercising free will is arguably being eroded.

“The title of the installation refers to living in an age when we think we are individuals but continue to consume and socialize in a choreographed and restrictive existence. The phrase is a polite instruction to conform, behave and toe the line,” he said.

Having been familiar with :mentalKLINIK for several years, Rensburg was interested in the translation of their ideas into a very public and visible aspect of the SCAD Museum of Art facade. “Their approach convinced me that they could realize a project which engaged the iconic architecture of the museum in a refreshing way, but also catch the passersby using the busy pedestrian and street corridor. Their work draws on several senses, pulling in viewers,” he said, adding that he loved the concept from the first moment.

According to Rensburg, :mentalKLINIK's interests are issues dominating our time and, in many cases, things we take for granted. “Our lives are entangled with the digital world and there continues to be less distinction between what's real and what's virtual. Our social lives are mediated through mobile devices. We talk, meet and date online. This change is radically shifting how we relate to each other and the world. This is the ‘through the looking-glass' reality [we] refer to,” he notes.

As to the usage of technology in their works, the curator explains that it is a tool the artists adopt and employ in carefully considered choreographies. “These elements are familiar to us, but the artists use them in new and unexpected ways. For example, moving headlights feature prominently in the installation and are a technology we know from concerts or advertising events. But the artists create a conversation between two lights in close proximity to each other giving them a human quality,” he said.

He further underlined that an important aspect of working with :mentalKLINIK was the opportunity it provided to students at SCAD to contemplate important present-day issues. “Their novel approach to materials offers a language that's accessible and thought-provoking. :mentalKLINIK [touches upon] various disciplines including art history, visual art and design,” he added.

The exhibition, which will run until May 3 at SCAD Museum of Art, is part of deFINE ART -- the university's annual fine art showcase designed to bring together artists, curators and professionals actively shaping and giving rise to new artistic expression, dialogue and innovation.