Sarp Kerem Yavuz | Anna Laudel Istanbul
Through film-based, digital, and AI-generated photographs of the male form, Yavuz’s 'Glorious Century' explores themes of Orientalism, homoerotica, politics, religion, and violence. The exhibition contains the artist Sarp Kerem Yavuz's works from 2010 to the present, spanning 14 years of his life.
The title of the exhibition is a nod to his Curse of the Forever Sultan series. Within this imaginative realm, in 1917, the Sultan strikes a pact with a Djinn, acquiring an immortal army. This ushers in a new, glorious era of the Ottoman Empire that ultimately reshapes the course of the 20th century. 'Glorious Century' is also a reference to the renowned Turkish TV series 'Magnificent Century', which portrays the Ottoman Empire during the reign of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.
Spanning two stories of the Anna Laudel Gallery, visitors can anticipate encountering the artist’s newest body of AI-generated photographs, which were created with a custom AI engine that references his decade-long photography practice, titled WET_DREAMS on the ground floor.
Sarp Kerem Yavuz presents his cutting-edge photographic collection, WET_DREAMS, created using the generative AI engine Layer.ai. Simultaneously, the exhibition offers a retrospective insight into the artist’s decade-long photographic journey. WET_DREAMS offers a striking, sensual exploration of damp male forms that blend into architectural details of Turkish bath interiors, whilst flames, steam, and wisps of smoke defy the rules of physics to complete the beautiful and surreal portraits.
Following a year-long exploration of different AI engines, Yavuz was invited by Layer.ai to create without any censorship mechanisms. He used Layer.ai to build a dataset composed of his own traditional photographs, and AI-generated images previously crafted with assistance of Midjourney. Incorporating a handful of reference images by Peter Hujar, Ara Güler, Robert Mapplethorpe, along with screenshots of gay porn, the artist constructed his ideal dataset to generate from. Instead of relying on web search terms defining the image content, he was able to associate his choice of words with his images, which resulted in the ultimate linguistic experiment.
In WET_DREAMS, Yavuz explores the rich liminal space between the language he uses to describe his own works, and the language machines use to reference them. His AI works serve as an experiment in language design and auto-orientalism within the realm of machine-learning. As the images produced are predominantly rooted in his own artworks, the series becomes a tribute to his photographic history and digital future.
PHOTOGRAPHIC RETROSPECTIVE OF YAVUZ
The second part of the exhibition, displayed on the second floor of the gallery, is a survey of photographs taken by Yavuz since 2010. The images present Yavuz’s ever-changing relationship with masculinity, sexual orientation, religion, and politics.
Since they serve as the foundational content used by Layer.ai to create the artworks presented in the exhibition’s other segment, the exhibition as a whole provides a unique opportunity to witness the production process of AI-driven imagery, with two distinct yet interconnected collections.
Sarp Kerem Yavuz’s solo exhibition 'Glorious Century' delves into the profound interplay between artistry, identity, and the boundless potential of the digital realm. Blurring the lines between self-expression and technological interpretation, the exhibition can be visited from September 22 until November 5, 2023 at Anna Laudel Istanbul.