September 13 - October 15, 2022
PILEVNELI | Dolapdere
An expression generally used in nature to describe a large number of honey bees that leave a hive collectively in order to establish a new colony, swarm is pivotal to Serkan Sarier's first solo exhibition in Turkey.
To articulate his concerns, Sarıer, uses the male honey bee, the drone, as a queer*, allegorical metaphor for his work. Drones do not have stingers, nor do they gather nectar or pollen. They cannot feed without the assistance from worker bees, underlining their dependency on their colony. A drone's only purpose in life is to mate with an unfertilized queen. If the drone cannot accomplish his community-given obligations, he is no use to his colony and will be ostracized. The worker bees will starve the drones to weaken them, escort them to the hive entrance, and throw them out of the hive. The drones die from hypothermia or starvation.
Sarıer, puts this kind of ostracization equal to what may happen to queer people within conservative social structures where they do not meet the requirements expected from their community.
The artist implements from his personal experience growing up as a queer teenager in Hanau, Germany. Heavily populated by a conservative Turkish working-class community
(worker bees), he needed to adapt and "perform" as a part of his community to avoid harm, injury, or rejection by family and friends.
Using mythological depiction, Sarıer draws parallels between the development stages of male honeybees and young queer men. He compares the physical and emotional transformation in young queer men to the 'complete metamorphosis (holometabolism) of male honey bees where the immature form of a bee (larvae) is always markedly different in shape to that of the adult (Imago).
Even though all bees go through the same stages of change, the drone is the bee that will be rejected from the colony once it cannot perform its duties. The artist recalls the moment of understanding his otherness to the point of coming to his true self outside his native community, feeling like “complete metamorphosis”.
In his exhibition, Sarıer shifts our eyes to notice that this kind of transformation is happening to the male figures represented in his works. The audience is witnessing a single moment of a transformation sequence. It is left guessing what these figures may evolve into, have developed from, or what state of transformation they might be in.
Like drones which might seem indistinguishable to the bare eye yet different, the figures seem to be the same person except for the degree of their transformation. Unlike what meets the eye, all figures represent a variety of individuals.
In traditional communities, otherness is an unwelcoming quality in a person and, therefore, frequently rejected by the status quo. The swarm of men is placed isolated from other figures inside metallic and colorful quasi landscapes, evoking a space seemingly surreal and hallucinatory.
"Swarm" raises questions about the responsibility of our society for the happiness and well-being of other individuals around us.
*Queer: “Historically, ‘queer’ was the slur used against those who were perceived to be or made to feel abnormal. Beginning in the 1980s, this negative speech act was reappropriated and embraced as a badge of honour. While queer draws its politics and affective force from the history of nonnormative, gay, lesbian and bisexual communities, it is not equivalent to these categories nor is it an identity. Artists who identify their practices as queer today call forth utopian and dystopian alternatives to the ordinary.” (Getsy, David. J, 2016. Queer (Documents of Contemporary Art), Whitechapel Gallery)