A theatre for soft protest and alternative communication

“It’s presenting a language and a manifesto”, says multidisciplinary Turkish artist and architect Melek Zeynep Bulut on her project ‘OpenWork I Açık Yapıt’. A conceptual and abstract work, Bulut is inviting visitors to discuss the threshold and shifting human position within which we are currently living. Physically created as an installation during LDF23, it’s a performative and theatrical exhibition of transitions, exploring the rigidity of the world through the metaphor of gates.

“Humans have always had symbolism with gates,” says Bulut. Throughout world history, gates have been representations of power, setting borders and social hierarchy. ‘OpenWork I Açık Yapıt’ questions how we can change that. Themes of displacement and exchange are explored via these ‘gates’, created by the resonating audible surfaces hanging within the installation. ‘OpenWork I Açık Yapıt’ debuted at London Design Biennale 2023, its eroding metal structure sitting in the courtyard of London’s Somerset House – an ancient edifice with contemporary messaging.

“London is a hub of cultures,” says Bulut of why she brought – and is bringing again – her ideas to the British capital. Her concept is that of global interactions and future speculation. “We might have a new type of communication in years to come,” she explains. This abstract communication is manifested in the structure that, “just like a musical instrument, turns into a game of ‘exchange’ with the touch of the visitor”. While Bulut has decided to create a structure to convey her ideas, she wants to fashion a multisensory experience within it. “Architecture is just one medium for articulating the message,” she explains.

Bulut’s main goal for the piece is to get people thinking. “I want to question our own conventional thinking and ask, ‘Can we think in a different way?’” she explains. Essentially, ‘OpenWork I Açık Yapıt’ is a theatre for performance, to encourage alternative thinking. “In the installation, the visitors become the exhibiting piece of the exhibition.”