Known for their multifaceted and playful installation practice, :mentalKLINIK is a Brussels-based Turkish artist duo composed of Yasemin Baydar and Birol Demir. Their broad body of work examines the nature of our contemporary world from a neutral perspective.Read More
Born five years apart, Baydar and Demir joined forces and founded :mentalKLINIK in 1998. Baydar was just beginning her studies in Fine Arts at Istanbul's Mimar Sinan University as Demir was completing his studies at the same institution in 1990. Prior to their partnership, the two had only a few solo and group exhibitions between them.
:MentalKLINIK was conceived as an experimental laboratory in which the pair could explore various ideas and processes. Describing the duo's developing working process, Demir stated, 'Every time we get up, that day starts anew. We try to find a road again, as if we never worked together before.' In the early 2000s, the pair ran and presented work in their own Istanbul exhibition space, :mentalKLINIK Space. They have since moved to working predominantly in Brussels.
:MentalKLINIK's diverse array of mixed-media installations, performances, sculptures, and unique art objects shift between emotional and robotic sensibilities. In their work, seductive glamour crosses with dark humour and other oxymorons in a hyper-stimulating atmosphere of bright neon, mirrored disco balls, projected light, and glitter.
In 2009, :mentalKLINIK made their international debut, presenting their seminal installation PuFF at Art Basel 40. Three launchers shot clouds of glitter into the air before settling on the stage to be vacuumed up by cleaning robots following pre-programmed paths in an unending ballet. The project marked the first use of these commercially available vacuum robots by the artists. In the years since, the artists have revisited this combination of robots and glitter several times.
In the early 2010s, the duo began making a body of abstracted wall-based works that hover between two-dimensional image and three-dimensional sculpture. These continue to be a staple of :mentalKLINIK's practice, alongside more text-based works such as happy enough (2015) and its derivatives.
Beginning with works like Slider-1109 (2011), the duo use materials such as tempered glass, polyester films, anodised aluminium, coated steel, and liquid polymer resin to create a 21st-century aesthetic. These intricate minimalist works, in which the viewer faces their own reflection, capture traces of excess and human anxiety. The hexagonal 'Cheater' works break free of the traditionally minimalist compositions of the 'Sliders' and 'Slivers', while the 'Lovers' works and others like them take on a traditional round mirror form, evoking the self-interested nature of contemporary internet culture.
Furthering :mentalKLINIK's transdisciplinary scope, in 2013 the duo organised a performative dinner at Istanbul Modern. Examining banqueting, food culture, and their associated social activities, 50 guests were invited to sit around tables decorated with a wax-covered motorcycle helmet. Under cinematic lighting and accompanied by music, they indulged in five different 'tastes' made by chef İskender Erocak according to a prescribed list of adjectives under the headings of smell, colour, texture, feeling, sound, and style.
Playing with child-like perceptions, as seen earlier in the 'Airless' sculpture series (2015), the duo's 'Some Time' series (2017) sees Time Magazine covers whimsically decorated with stickers. Appearing like something that could conceivably be found in the desk of a pre-teen, 'Some Time' consumes the serious world of politics contained within the magazine under a lens of colourful cartoon characters and emoji stickers.
In Bitter Medicine, a 2020 exhibition shown consecutively at Istanbul's Borusan Contemporary and the Museum Of Contemporary Art in Belgrade, :mentalKLINIK offered a bitter pill to swallow in the void of museum spaces, shuttered and empty due to the Covid-19 pandemic. :MentalKLINIK's active installation PUFF OUT, live-streamed online 24/7, saw six robotic vacuum cleaners pre-programmed to detect dust moving about across a floor caked in colourful glitter.
As the robots moved, they created drawings and patterns, spreading the glitter around the empty museum space. These movements created a party atmosphere live on screen at a time when partying was ill-advised, if not outlawed, for the sake of public health.
:MentalKLINIK has been the subject of both solo and group exhibitions internationally.
Solo exhibitions include Bitter Medicine #01, Museum Of Contemporary Art, Belgrade (2020); Obnoxiously Happy, La Patinoire Royale, Brussels (2018); Co-Operation Would Be Highly Appreciated, SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah (2015); Freshcut, Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna (2013); tagcloud, :MentalKLINIK Space, Istanbul (2008); Self01, Musee d'Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean (MUDAM), Luxembourg (2004); (SLEEP), :MentalKLINIK Space, Istanbul (2000).
Group exhibitions include Ticker Tape, New International Cultural Centre (NICC), Antwerp (2021); Golden Room, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Lille (2019); Time And Image, Greek Film Archive Museum, Athens (2015); Encounter, The Royal Academy in The Middle East, Doha (2012); Dreams Of Art Spaces Collected, Internationale Gesellschaft der Bildenden Künste (IGBK), Berlin (2011); TOMORROW NOW: When Design Meets Science Fiction, MUDAM, Luxembourg (2007).
Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2022