Who Throws Whom Overboard? Oliver Ressler

Oliver Ressler

SALT Galata
Who Throws Whom Overboard? is a major presentation of Oliver Ressler's works
dating from 2004 - 2016, and his  rst in Istanbul since the exhibition An Ideal Society
Creates Itself at Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center in 2005.
Who Throws Whom Overboard? brings together photographic works, wall texts,  lms
and installations addressing migration, borders, citizenship, capital and alternative
economics. The exhibition does not suggest that these “issues” are related in terms
of policy, but rather that they can be read as the conjoined faces of an ongoing, global
Ressler’s works make present the disembodied voices and visible archives of crisis
and its nemesis. He describes the nemesis as “the social invention directed against
the status quo with which the stateless and propertyless confound competitiveness,
bury barbed-wire checkpoints or turn factories inside-out. This is the least that's
required if planetary survival and a form-of-life worth living are ever to be salvaged
from the shipwreck known as The Economy .”
In the -1 gallery, the exhibition is composed around a newly commissioned  lm that
was produced by Ressler in Istanbul during the summer of 2016. After a period of
research around self-organized activities in the city and the local refugee situation
Ressler focused his attention on Syrian individuals who have declined to beg for
“asylum” from institutional Europe, choosing instead to continue their lives in
Istanbul. In the  lm There are no Syrian refugees in Turkey (2016) recorded
conversations with Syrian refugees describe a “guest” life in the continent's largest
metropolis. The orators talk about the dif culty of making a living here, and the
reluctance of the EU to admit more than a pitiful number of refugees. The
conversations were recorded in Arabic in the weeks following the 15th July coup
attempt in Turkey; in the midst of a crisis that threatened Turkey’s stability and
governance, the refugees felt the fragility of their own situation acutely. Quietly
reversing the whole perspective of the western “refugee debate,” the  lm develops a
political analysis of Turkish and European politics from the standpoint of the Syrian
Appearing alongside There are no Syrian refugees in Turkey is Ressler’s previous film,
Emergency Turned Upside-Down (2016). Here the artist confronts the cynical and
inhuman discourse that calls the presence of refugees in Europe an “emergency”: a
word better suited to descriptions of war, terror and economic strangulation that
force people to move. The film counterposes the vast imaginative potential of a
borderless world to the petty prison of nationality and the external, internal and social
borders it imposes. The narrating voice is shadowed by drawn animations in black
and white. Overlapping lines form an abstract pattern, evoking – among other things
– borderlines, migration routes, outlines of states, life-lines and human heart rates.
While Turkey has opened its borders to nearly three million refugees – more than the
number accepted by all European states combined – the EU border regime is
responsible for the drowning of tens of thousands in the Mediterranean Sea. A
large-format photograph in the exhibition space alludes to this new genre of images
of dead bodies on beaches, yet the men in the photographic series Stranded (2015)
wear business suits, the standardized clothing of politicians and managers. Stranded
imagines what might happen if the managers of today's economy – those for whom
there is no alternative to corporate profit and human loss – were themselves sacked
and thrown overboard. Other works from the same series are displayed throughout
the SALT Galata building.
Stranded is directly linked to another large-format digital print, The economy is
wounded – let it die! (2016), in which a sea crowded with sinking container ships and
other vessels evokes an economic system that depends on global trade, a daily
cause of ecological and social disasters. This artwork joins the critical debate that
starts with the recognition that nothing but systemic economic transformation –
including radical curtailment of worldwide trade and shipping – can counteract
climate change and associated global threats.
The 3-channel video installation Occupy, Resist, Produce (2014/2015; with Dario
Azzellini) focuses on economic models that seem more viable for the future. It shows
three factories in Milan, Rome and Thessaloniki where the purpose of factory
occupations was to bring production under workers’ control. The workers take the
initiative and become protagonists, building horizontal social relations on the
production sites and adopting mechanisms of direct democracy and collective
decision-making. The recuperated workplaces often reinvent themselves, building
links with local communities and social movements.
On the first floor of the building is the film The Right of Passage (2013; with Zanny
Begg). It focuses on struggles to obtain citizenship, while also questioning the
inherently exclusive nature of citizenship. Interviews with Sandro Mezzadra, Antonio
Negri and Ariella Azoulay open a discussion with a group of people living “without
papers” in Barcelona.
Additional works are presented throughout the building, such as Pierre-Joseph
Proudhon's anarchist slogan Property is Theft (2014-16), which has been applied to
the marble entrance-wall; a poster on institutional racism (2004; with Martin Krenn);
and the floor pieces Emergency Turned UpsideDown
(2016) featuring the
overlapping (and newly arranged) borderlines of the states from the socalled
Balkan route which was a central migration route used by refugees from Syria and the wider
warzone in their attempt to reach the European Union.
During the opening weeks of the exhibition the work Too big to fail (2011) is
presented in two city locations on advertising billboards. Too big to fail is how
politicians assess major banks during economic crises and why they claim that
banks should be bailed out through public money. Banks are regarded as essential to
the system; their poor performance can endanger the entire capitalist system.
Presented outside of SALT, and hence outside the physical architectures owned by
Garanti Bank, Too big to fail proposes an image of the desire that the global
movement for a democratic transformation becomes system-relevant, no longer
ignored by those in power.

Thanks to Matthew Hyland for the exhibition title idea.




Arap Cami Mahallesi | Bankalar Caddesi No:11 | 34420 Beyoğlu/İstanbul