Hussein Chalayan’s new Istanbul exhibition: disembodiment meets postcolonialism

Hussein Chalayan explores identity and the postcolonial body in a new exhibition, ‘Souffleur’, taking place at Istanbul’s Sakıp Sabancı Museum

Six illuminated items against a dark backdrop.
Pre-tension.
(Image credit: Courtesy Hussein Chalayan)

‘Disembodiment and migration are all themes I'm always concerned with,’ says Hussein Chalayan, who submits them to an anthropological dissection in a new exhibition, ‘Souffleur’.

Now on view at Istanbul’s Sakıp Sabancı Museum and coinciding with the 17th Istanbul Biennial (opens in new tab), the exhibition is composed of three series and a video installation that considers both identity and the changing role of the body in the digital sphere.

A red latex recliner

Post-Colonial Body.

(Image credit: Courtesy Hussein Chalayan)

‘For me, all the parts are connected – that’s why I call them prompters,’ says Chalayan of the objects in the installations. ‘I felt they were filling gaps in these subject matters; it’s a way of looking at these subjects, as reactions to some of these issues. But they’re also proposals [for] how you can look at it, so the whole thing becomes in some way an anthropological reaction.’

In Chalayan’s world, nothing is as it seems. In the first series, Pre-tension, the duplicity of popular culture is imbued with a sinister tangibility, bringing a clownish contortion to the traditional form of a mask. In Fake Celebrations, sculptures and garments become interchangeable, bodies frozen in movement, in a reflection of the synonymous relationship between Chalayan’s own career in art and fashion. 

A garment sculpture

Fake Celebrations.

(Image credit: Courtesy Hussein Chalayan)

It is a transposability carried through to Post-Colonial Body, where furniture takes on anthropomorphic qualities; drapes of material becoming body parts dangling out of a day bed, investing furniture with a sense of movement. ‘The postcolonial representation of the body is merged with fetish elements,’ Chalayan adds of the shiny material that forms the base of the pieces. ‘It’s about that submission, and I quite like the connection.’

The film Gravity Fatigue, designed and directed by Chalayan, encompasses this intersection between the garments and their surrounding space. ‘It took me three years to develop, it was very intense,’ he says. ‘The idea of digital isolation, and the postcolonial project which I have been working on for three years now, are themes I also use in my fashion work. They're very current concerns for me, both because of the digital world we’re living in and how we’ve become digital beings in a way. On one side I think there's a postcolonial backlash, and I wanted to look at how it could affect the demeanour of the body. I’ve been working with these themes for a couple of years, but this is a new medium for me in a way.’

A t-shirt silhouette against a dark background

Fake Celebrations.

(Image credit: Courtesy Hussein Chalayan)

Two hands resting against an object.

Pre-tension.

(Image credit: Courtesy Hussein Chalayan)

A green chair

Post-colonial body.

(Image credit: Courtesy Hussein Chalayan)

INFORMATION

'Souffleur', a collaboration between the Sakıp Sabancı Museum and Pilevneli, will be on view at the Sakıp Sabancı Museum until 8 January 2023

Hannah Silver joined Wallpaper* in 2019 to work on watches and jewellery. Now, as well as her role as watches and jewellery editor, she writes widely across all areas including on art, architecture, fashion and design. As well as offbeat design trends and in-depth profiles, Hannah is interested in the quirks of what makes for a digital success story.