Detour: Color Commentary by Eleanor LeBeau on Arzu Ozkal #1   05.07.10

Detour Round Table; Photograph by Brandon Juhasz courtesy of

Composed on May 7, 2010 about 10:09 a.m.



When French art critic and curator Nicolas Bourriard famously described a work of art as a dot on a line, what he meant was that a great deal of thought, research, planning and labor precedes the realization of a painting, document or performance. The public only gets to see the dot.  Most of the time, the critic only gets to see the dot. Detour is a rare but much-needed chance for the critic and the public to see the line"and then the dot.

6:20 p.m.

Arzu Ozkal and I were the first participants to arrive at Detours meeting of five artists and five critics. Christopher Lynn, SPACES genial director, introduced us. Arzu had rushed from Oberlin College, where she teaches studio and new media art. I came from a nine-hour shift at my Day Job, headquartered somewhere in Ohio City, which shall remain unnamed for confidentiality reasons. Arzu grabs a beer from the spread of refreshments Chris has laid out for us. I grab an oatmeal cookie (bad girl) to go with the coffee I brought along. Behind us, multidisciplinary artist Bruce Edwards peels a tangerine. I comment on the refreshing smell. Bruce offers me a slice. I eat it, grateful for the gesture. Participants trickle in and soon the rooms abuzz.

8:15 p.m.-ish

Excited by the smart conversation, Im losing track of time. Using their websites as jumping-off points, the five artists brief us on their practices. Im intrigued by all, but most intrigued by Arzus work. The Turkish-born artist uses videos, websites, public interventions and performances to explore the concept of the body (as she puts it) and its relation to social and political discourses. Yes! Shes been reading Michel Foucault and probably the work of Amelia Jones, a prominent scholar of performance art. Yes! Chris asks the artists and writers to pair up. I immediately turn to Arzu. She nods. Im thrilled.

During a break I discover that Arzu has met the subject of my very long masters thesis: James Luna (Luiseño), a performance-installation artist whose body" and its relation to social and political discourses"is a main component of his work []. Arzus eyes brighten when I mention Luna. Hes one of my favorite artists, she says. Arzu met Luna when she was a graduate student at SUNY Buffalo. She had a studio visit with him and, inevitably, he was intrigued by her work.

9:30 p.m.-ish

Were still in the process of choosing the obstacles for each artist. The conversation is electric. Ideas are swirling around the room. Arzu is fairly quiet throughout the process, mainly sitting back and observing. The artists are struggling to impose obstacles on each other. Are we supposed to make each other miserable? someone asks. Well, I wouldnt rule out misery, as long as its not misery for miserys sake, Chris replies.

We come to Arzu. Theres talk about asking her to work in a gallery space, since shes never done that. Her artworks are performances on the streets of  Buffalo, Web sites like A Daily Media Diary of Turkey and videos posted on the Internet. Chris suggests we might ask her to become an insider, since many of her projects deal with her being an outsider. Earlier, Arzu told us that she came to the U.S. as a quasi-Middle-Easterner right after 9/11, and her work began to deal with this identity as a foreigner. Chris also notes that she tends to take a passive role in her public interventions/performances. In Unattended Body (no date available), Arzu sat silent and motionless on black-topped strip-mall parking lots and grassy patches next to bank buildings, her videographer waiting to capture a passerbys confused stare. Her venues are public spaces. Her audience"though often unwitting" is the public.

The group decides. She gets more obstructions than the other artists:

1) Be active

2) Stage something

3) Bring an audience

I feel confident that she can rise to the task. I also feel guilty because I suggested she try more than one. Will she later thank me or curse my name?

10 p.m.-ish
Excited but weary-eyed, Arzu and I agree to email the next day. Tomorrow we both work Day Jobs, but make plans to meet on Friday.

" Eleanor LeBeau

Author: Christopher Lynn, Executive Director
Category: General


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