Cengiz Çekil, Obsession (detail), 1974 [2013]. Photo Barış Özçetin
Cengiz Çekil / I Am Still Alive
Feb 9 – Sep 24, 2023
Istanbul, Turkey

One of the pioneering figures of conceptual art in Turkey, Cengiz Çekil (1945–2015) used everyday materials in his works starting from the 1970s. The artist recontextualised, serialized and transformed daily objects, familiar phrases and forms into multi-layered works that provoke the collective imagination and transcend the established definitions and classifications of art.

Çekil’s practice reflects on the socio-political circumstances of the period in which he created his body of work, focusing on the effects of modernization, urbanization, globalization, political violence and consumer culture. Bringing together local and current affairs with universal and abstract forms, the artist’s works contemplate existential questions about death, energy, time and faith. His recurrent use of clocks, newspapers and calendars divulges contemporary issues, current tendencies and dominant mindsets of the period while also pondering the very definition and representation of time. The forms that relate to mausoleums, altars, sacrificial offerings and amulets, which dominate Çekil’s oeuvre especially after the 1980s, denote not only a perilous social environment that aims to oppress the individual through violence and fear, but also the human need to leave a mark and give meaning to life despite its fragility and ephemerality.

I Am Still Alive, the most comprehensive exhibition of the artist to date, derives its title from Çekil’s work titled Diary (1976). In order to create this work, the artist stamped each day’s date, followed by the sentence “I am still alive,” on every page of a notebook for a period of approximately two months, except the last one bearing the stamp “I am going for my military service.” The retrospective exhibition I Am Still Alive aims to highlight Çekil’s artistic practice as a daily ritual celebrating life despite all its difficulties and to emphasize its relevance today.