Speculative Social Fantasies is not so much a survey as a selective panorama of the work of Ahmet Öğüt for the artist’s first major presentation in Australia, bringing together a range of recent experiments in paradox and tragedy. The notion of a speculative fantasy is itself tragic—as speculation it is pure fantasy, which is to say that of all possible futures, it is the one that won’t eventuate; while as fantasy, its speculative character implies that it will never escape the space of the real. Perhaps this paradox, cast back onto realm of the social, defines the limits of possibility of the world in which we live, the very world whose absurd logic and occasional wonders the artist’s work so frequently exposes through its subtle perceptual shifts and keenly observed re-framings.
It is this charismatically subversive sensibility, at once darkly humorous and profoundly empathetic, that characterises Öğüt’s wry artistic propositions for daily life. How would you feel, for example, if your car were suddenly transformed into a taxi, or even a police cruiser? What would it be like to complete Bas Jan Ader’s historic, tragic journey across the Atlantic, thirty-five years after the fact? Can you play football on a busy road? In the dark? How many decommissioned military aircraft hulks can you count—and in how many languages? Power is everywhere, Öğüt has observed, but not without its gaps and slippages. If speculative fantasy can accomplish anything, it will be to locate them and, with a little prodding, make them that tiny bit wider.
Speculative Social Fantasies was presented in association with SCAPE: Christchurch Biennial of Art in Public Space and supported by the Mondriaan Foundation.