Part of the
exhibition

In the Presence of Absence proposals for the museum collection

5 Sep 2020 until 31 Jan 2021

Artist Page — 2 Sep 2020

In the Presence of Absence, the bi-annual show of proposals for the museum collection, presents 23 artists (collectives). This artist page includes a text on the work and an artist contribution.

As Prussian troops prepared to crush the 1849 socialist uprising in Dresden, the anarchist thinker Mikhail Bakunin proposed placing paintings from the collection of the National Museum in front of the barricades, reasoning that the Prussian soldiers wouldn’t dare destroy these costly works of art. Inspired by Bakunin’s proposal (which was not carried out), Ahmet Öğüt created a barricade made of fencing, car wrecks, construction materials, and other objects that might be encountered in public space, and juxtaposed them with several artworks he selected from the Stedelijk collection. The contract displayed next to the installation is an integral part of the work. Drawn up by Öğüt himself in collaboration with a lawyer, it states that if an uprising take place in the future, citizens are permitted to make use of the barricade—including the works of art. Under the terms of the contract, it will only become valid if the museum signs the contract to purchase Öğüt’s work. 

Bakunin’s Barricade (2015) raises questions about the value of art in times of sociopolitical change. Should valuable artworks be used to defend democratic values? To whom do artworks in public collections belong? What cultural heritage should be preserved—and who decides?

Illustration by Haitham Haddad after Ahmet Öğüt’s “Bakunin’s Barricade,” 2015.
Illustration by Haitham Haddad after Ahmet Öğüt’s “Bakunin’s Barricade,” 2015.

As well as questioning the positions museums are willing to take on matters of social inequality or other injustices, Bakunin’s Barricade generates a field of tension, especially against the backdrop of current global protests. Where do the artwork and the role of the artist begin and end? At the center of Öğüt’s work is a conviction that art can help to raise questions about the world around us and the established order, and where necessary, disrupt it.

Ahmet Öğüt’s (b. 1981) work encompasses video, photography, and installation. His work is exhibited in both the public space and in museums. After studying fine arts at Hacettepe University in Ankara, Öğüt went on to obtain his MA in art and design at Yildiz Teknik University in Istanbul. From 2007 to 2008 he was a resident at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. His work has been exhibited at Kunstverein in Dresden, Kunsthal Charlottenborg in Copenhagen, and Centre Pompidou in Paris. Öğüt was one of the artists selected to represent Turkey at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009.

Carl Wilhelm Arldt, “Maiaufstand 1849 in Dresden, die große Barrikade am Eingang der Wilsdruffer Gasse,” ca. 1850. Lithograph, 13.1 × 20.3 cm. Photo: Ulrike Hübner-Grötzsch/Denise Görlich. Courtesy of Kupferstich-Kabinett, Dresden.
Carl Wilhelm Arldt, “Maiaufstand 1849 in Dresden, die große Barrikade am Eingang der Wilsdruffer Gasse,” ca. 1850. Lithograph, 13.1 × 20.3 cm. Photo: Ulrike Hübner-Grötzsch/Denise Görlich. Courtesy of Kupferstich-Kabinett, Dresden.
 Photo: Peter Cox, Eindhoven. Courtesy the artist and Van Abbemuseum archives, Eindhoven.
Photo: Peter Cox, Eindhoven. Courtesy the artist and Van Abbemuseum archives, Eindhoven.

In 1849 when Prussian troops tried to defeat the socialist insurgency in Dresden, revolutionary anarchist Mikhail Bakunin suggested placing paintings from the National Museum’s collection in front of the barricades, speculating Prussian soldiers wouldn’t dare destroy the works and therefore pass the barricade. His friends didn’t take his proposal serious, so it didn’t happen.

Bakunin’s Barricade installed in Eindhoven in 2015 with works from the Van Abbemuseum collection: Asger Jorn, Le monde Perdu, 1960; Oskar Kokoschka, Augustusbrücke Dresden, 1923; Fernand Léger, Une Chaise, un pot de fleurs, 2 bouteilles, 1951; Pablo Picasso, Nature morte à la bougie, 1945; René Daniëls, Grammofoon, 1978; Jan Vercruysse, Schöne Sentimenten, 1986 (1988); Marlene Dumas, The View, 1992; El Lissitzky, Proun P23, No. 6, 1919.

Photo: Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln, Britta Schlier, rba_d040646_005. Courtesy the artist and Museum Ludwig, Cologne.
Photo: Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln, Britta Schlier, rba_d040646_005. Courtesy the artist and Museum Ludwig, Cologne.
 Photo: Ahmet Öğüt. Courtesy the artist and Aslı and Ali Kerem Bilge.
Photo: Ahmet Öğüt. Courtesy the artist and Aslı and Ali Kerem Bilge.

Bakunin’s Barricade in Cologne in 2016 included works from Museum Ludwig: Oskar Kokoschka, Ansicht der Stadt Köln vom Messeturm aus, 1956; Karl Schmidt-Rotluff, Frau mit Mädchen, 1933; Marie Clémentine Valadon, Frauenbildnis, 1929; Endre Tót, Franz Marc, Rinder, 2000; Andy Warhol, Portrait of Peter Ludwig, 1980; Heinrich August Hussmann, Portrait Dr. Haubrich, 1949; Hans-Jörg Mayer, Ohne Titel, 1994; Aleksej Georgievic Javlensky, Märchenprinzessin mit Fächer, 1912.

Bakunin’s Barricade in Istanbul in 2016 included works from the Zeyno-Muhsin Bilge collection, bricks and other building materials, car tires, garbage containers, metal tubes, pieces of plywood, police fences, plastic tubes, scrap car parts, streetlights, and wooden stakes. Works included paintings by Aliye Berger, Şükriye Dikmen, Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu, Eren Eyüboğlu, Füreya Koral, Fikret Mualla, Wolf Vostell, and Fahrelnissa Zeid.

Photo: David Stjernholm. Courtesy the artist and Kunsthal Charlottenborg.
Photo: David Stjernholm. Courtesy the artist and Kunsthal Charlottenborg.
Photo: Ahmet Öğüt. Courtesy the artist.
Photo: Ahmet Öğüt. Courtesy the artist.

Bakunin’s Barricade in Copenhagen’s Kunsthal Charlottenborg in 2017. This version included works from the Royal Art Academy’s collection: Joan Miro, Mujer en el Espejo, 1956; Asger Jorn, Uden titel/No title, undated; Winnie Vöge, Uden titel/No title, 1982; Ulla Ljungkrantz, Uden title, 1980; Jens Ferdinand Willumsen, Uden titel, 1917; Palle Nielsen, Uden titel, 1955; Francisco Goya, Modo de volar, 1815–1823; Francisco Goya, Disparate pobre, 1815–1823; Yoko Ono, Clock Piece, 1963.

Bakunin’s Barricade in 2018 at Kunstverein Dresden. The works included from the collections of Kunstverein Dresden members are by Antje Blumenstein, Markus Draper, Slawomir Elsner, Leon Golub, Edmund Kesting, Thoralf Knobloch, Joep van Liefland, Cesare Pietroiusti, Nancy Spero, and Rembrandt van Rijn.

Installation view In the Presence of Absence. Proposals for the museum collection. Ahmet Öğüt, Bakunin’s Barricade, 2015–2020. With works from Else Berg, Timo Demollin, Marlene Dumas, Pieter Engels, Nan Goldin, Käthe Kollwitz, Jan Th. Kruseman, Kazimir Ma
Installation view In the Presence of Absence. Proposals for the museum collection. Ahmet Öğüt, Bakunin’s Barricade, 2015–2020. With works from Else Berg, Timo Demollin, Marlene Dumas, Pieter Engels, Nan Goldin, Käthe Kollwitz, Jan Th. Kruseman, Kazimir Ma

Bakunin’s Barricade in Amsterdam at the Stedelijk Museum in 2020. Artworks including Nan Goldin, Nan one month after being battered, 1984; Kazimir Malevich, Supremus nr. 50, 1915; Käthe Kollwitz, Ruht um Frieden seiner Hände, 1935; Else Berg, Twee vrouwen, 1935; PINK de Thierry, Tea-time I, 1986; Marlene Dumas, Martha – Sigmund’s Wife, 1984; Pieter Engels, Strike Project Visualization of an Inactivity Period of Pieter Engels March 1 1971-..... Pieter Engels ‘Death’, 1971; Jan Th. Kruseman, Buurtje te Brussel, date unknown; 4 out of 17 parts from Timo Demollin's work Visit (1883–2020), 2020.

Extreme economic, social, political, transformative moments and social movements:

Moments and social movements that are intended to express serious public concern about social or political problems and are intended to bring about changes in public institutions or social relationships. Recent examples of such movements include protests in Seattle during the Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization in 1999, the protests following the presidential elections in Iran in 2009, the various Occupy protests beginning with Occupy Wall Street in New York in the US in 2011 and the Gezi Park protests in Istanbul in Turkey in 2013.

Loan Obligation 

5.1 The Transferee agrees to loan the Barricade to third parties in order to be used as a barricade if these parties request this loan in the context of extreme economic, social, political, transformative moments and movements which engender high levels of public concern relating to fundamental human rights, including those defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
5.2 The Transferee agrees to negotiate with third parties on the inclusion of the Works of Art as part of the Barricade.