LOST SHADOWS (AND MUSEUM), 2015, installation of photographs mounted between plexiglass and concrete blocks. Dimensions variable.

Vahap Avşar’s “Lost Shadows” takes postcard-style imagery to another level in its large-scale display at the entrance of SALT’s Beyoğlu gallery. Enlarged and placed on cement blocks, à la Lina Bo Bardi, these images are made to tell another story. Rather than keeping a record of a personal autobiography via the messages scribbled on the images’ backs, they present a collective memory via faded images of odd vistas, old cars, historical and cultural landmarks, and unremarkable landscapes as well.

The fifty images chosen for this particular series span the late 1970s and post ’80s coup era in Anatolia. The vagueness of their content and meaning, and the logic of their selection and curation, leave the viewer wondering: What are we looking at? How do these arbitrarily frozen frames capture a historical geography and why?

These never-before-printed images are reminiscent of Avşar’s earlier work Cancel, 2010, which consisted of reprinted postcards with the word ipdal (cancel) written across the images depicting outings of a soldier with a woman against different pastoral backdrops. The continuity of these works is no coincidence; both are the fruit of Avşar’s attempt to categorize and unearth the image archive of AND, a publishing company that commissioned photographers to document Anatolia during those decades, much like the FSA program in post-Depression-era America. The artist procured the rights to this corpus of images in 2010 after realizing that the company had gone out of business and the archive was abandoned in a half-flooded basement. As such, Avşar’s gesture is a small attempt at picking up the pieces of what Walter Benjamin would call the wreckage of history.

Lara Fresko