27 AUGUST – 12 SEPTEMBER, 2012
Historical Sinop Prison, Historical Sinop Library
website of the event

Francis Alÿs | Alpin Arda Bağcık | Francesco Bertele & Eddie Spanier | Brigitta Bodenauer | Amélie Brisson-Darveau | Evelina Domnitch & Dmitry Gelfand | Quynh Dong | Monika Drożyńska | Karen Geyer | Shilpa Gupta | Andreas (muk) Haider | Berglind Hlynsdottir | Ashley Hunt | İnsel İnal | Volkan Kaplan & A. Erdem Şentürk | Petra Elena Köhle & Nicolas Vermot Petit-Outhenin | Cat Tuong Nguyen | Bernd Oppl | Sümer Sayın | Liddy Scheffknecht | Özlem Sulak | Riikka Tauriainen | Hande Varsat | Stefanie Wuschitz
Film Screenings:
Mareike Bernien & Kerstin Schroedinger | Pauline Boudry & Renate Lorenz | Brice Dellsperger | Köken Ergün | Harun Farocki | Minna Hint | Ana Hoffner | Eléonore de Montesquiou | Chris Oakley | Elodie Pong | Monika Rechsteiner | Reinigungsgesellschaft | David Rych | Lina Selander | Rebecca Ann Tess

Aslı ÇetinkayaElke FalatIşın ÖnolDimitrina Sevova | Janet Kaplan | Beral Madra | Sean Kelly
Isin Önol

Wisdom of Shadow: Art in the Era of Corrupted Information

Once, while Diogenes was sunning himself, Alexander The Great came up to him and offered to grant him any request. Diogenes told him to “Stand less between the sun and me.[1]

There is a visible in-visible, an invisible order of the visible that I can keep secret by keeping out of sight. This invisible can be artificially kept from sight while remaining within what one can call exteriority”[2]


The era, which we live in besides its many other attributions, is often cited as the Information Age.  Probably this name is meant to announce the probability of faster and easier access to information. Ironically enough, as the quantity and the speed of information increase we seem to lose our confidence in it. This is an era that each arriving data immediately destructs the previous one; following to the new data, their controversial rhetoric, conspiracy theories, contradictory oppositions are as well spread rapidly. As a distinctive characteristic of the age, attention is continuously being called upon the next informative update, before one relates to the newly received information. The thought that, any piece of information is prone to all sorts of manipulation and hence corruption during its trajectory from the source to the individual seems to be highly internalised that the concept of ‘true’ is almost always accompanied by a huge question mark.

Diogenes (c. 404-323 B.C.E.) is accepted as the most illustrious of the Cynic philosophers whose name is still widely known and frequently mentioned in our time. It is disputed whether Diogenes left anything in writing. If he did, the texts he composed have since been lost. He is mostly known through stories told and retold, which relay his rather controversial utterance and eccentric way of living. Although the majority of the stories comprising his philosophical biography occur in Athens, he is known as originally from Sinop (Diogenes of Sinope, Diogenēs ho Sinōpeus). Contrary to many Cynic philosophers, Diogenes did not only advocate the thesis that human beings could reach the utmost peace and happiness by simplifying their lives so that they could live in perfect accord with nature just like animals and claimed that as long as human beings build their culture upon money and desire for status they would never attain such plainness. The philosopher further went out to practice these principles in his own life. Diogenes kept himself off all sorts of luxury and became known as a thinker who ridiculed the civilised way of living on all occasions.  It has been told that, opposite to his contemporary philosophers who often traded knowledge in exchange of money and paid generously by the state, Diogenes deliberately decided and lived his life in poverty. [3]

The correlation between light and knowledge which has provided the foundational theme for the Enlightenment Philosophy and long been one of the established anchors of the western ideology, is made popular through the saying attributed to Diogenes ‘…just do not cast your shadow upon me!’.  However if the story is reread as a whole it is seen that Diogenes who chose to pursue a simplified and ‘poor’ life is approached by Alexander the Great who wished to reward his philosophical endeavour and replied with a cynical utterance ‘Stand less between the sun and me!’. From this perspective it is also possible to read the sentence as ‘do not hinder my connection with the nature and sun, offering me the luxury of everyday life which I do not desire and need’. In an often-told different anecdote Diogenes is reported to have “lit a lamp in broad daylight and said, as he went about, ‘I am searching for a human being’”. Perhaps this was another critical and cynical act against the light and knowledge metaphor entertained by his contemporary Plato who is known to have lived and produced his philosophical work in much better circumstances.

Shadow and darkness have negative connotations in the Western Philosophy; it is thought as a state where light, truth, knowledge and wisdom do not exist. It has to be illuminated urgently and then illuminated further. Still today the ways in which knowledge is transferred are based on this metaphor. The truths hidden by darkness are brought into light. However the fact that the truth is brought into light does not necessarily mean that it cannot be lit further. Truth can be brought into light more and more by increasing the luminosity. Everyday we are being announced through all kinds of possible communication channels, that the things we have been informed until now were not true and the information to be revealed now is about to ‘illuminate’ the ‘real’ truth. We often hear that the information we had up to now, were designed to fool us and ‘real’ truth is now coming to light. Hence all that new information which previously put us into surprise is quickly absorbed in a process of normalisation. On the other hand amid such bombardment of information and consequent numbness, it is no coincidence that shadow and darkness against all established metaphorical uses, are embraced by contemporary art and philosophy; shadow stands for the other, the unwanted, the loser, the minority, the dangerous…

Eastern philosophies, which advocate staying away from ostentation, living a simple life, admitting that one is only some tiny part of nature and overcoming the desire to dominate and possess, seem to be closer to Diogenes’s teachings. Known as one of the most prominent authors from Japan, Junichiro Tanizaki, in his book In Praise of Shadows, considers the notion of shadow as a reference to distinguish the Western and Eastern perceptions of beauty and taste:

 “… we Orientals tend to seek our satisfactions in whatever surroundings we happen to find ourselves, to content ourselves with things as they are; and so darkness causes us no discontent, we resign ourselves to it as inevitable. If light is scarce then light is scarce; we will immerse ourselves in the darkness and there discover its own particular beauty. But the progressive Westerner is determined always to better his lot. From candle to oil lamp, oil lamp to gaslight, gaslight to electric light—his quest for a brighter light never ceases, he spares no pains to eradicate even the minutest shadow.” [4]

Tanizaki’s book dated 1933, was published in English in 1977 and by that time,  years after the brightest light has hit Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear power was already being widely used to produce electrical energy. Furthermore, it would be ridiculous to claim that the East (if it is still possible to speak about such a definitive concept) stood by its philosophies and managed to avoid ambitions of possession and progress, especially after the Fukushima disasters of 2011, which are about to be forgotten all together.

Sinop known as the home to Diogenes, the philosopher who defended and practiced the principles of living in simplicity and in accord with nature, is now subject to the ‘philosophy’ of demanding and consuming more and is one of many places for implementation of corresponding global politics in the micro scale. Wisdom of Shadow: Art in the Era of Corrupted Information tries to remind the need to question the sustainability of resources which we exhaust irresponsibly in the name of progress, enlightenment and access to information. It plans to open up a field of interaction by giving a space for the dark image rather than ‘casting light’ on darkness. This is an invitation to experience the shadow and through the metaphorical possibilities it suggest reconsider the ways and means of our existence in the world.

Işın Önol

Vienna, 2011

[1] Anonymous. Written in each source with slight differences.
[2] Jacques Derrida, Gift of Death, p. 90
[3] Compiled from Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy http://www.iep.utm.edu/diogsino/

[4] Jun’ichiro Tanizaki. In Praise of Shadows, Stone Creek, CT: Leete’s Island Books, Inc., 1977, p.31




TRT Video:

Skia in Sinopale, by Muk Andreas Haider:

27 August 2012 – TODAYS ZAMAN: Sinopale – Keeping Collective Memory Alive through Art, Rumeysa Kiger
24 August 2012 – HURRIYET DAILY NEWS:  Sinopale Discovers Art Creation
24 August 2012 – RADIKAL: Cezaevi bir kez daha sanat mekani
3 September 2012 – AKSIYON: Sinoplu Bienali Sevdi

work info


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photographs by Emre Yalcin