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Sinema Amnesia's Ulysses: A Visual Epic of Ultra-Recent History

Mark Wallinger's "Sinema Amnesia" screens footage of the waters of the Dardanelles straight from the previous day, creating a visual memory loop.

Enter Mark Wallinger’s small theater on the shore of the Dardanelles, and you’ll see a live video feed of the straits outside. Kind of. Actually, the British artist’s installation, titled “Sinema Amnesia,” screens footage of the water from precisely 24 hours earlier: an endless parade of ships and ferries that’s exactly—and not at all—like the one flowing past at that moment. By carving out ultra-recent history (yesterday), the piece seems to point out what’s changed and what hasn’t at the ancient site. And it puts a welcome utilitarian burnish on the myths.

“The constant passage of the cargo ships is part of everyday life there now, but has been so for literally thousands of years,” notes David Codling, arts director for the British Council’s My City program, which commissioned the work. The temporary theater was even built from shipping containers of the same sort that float past. Naturally, Wallinger’s film is called Ulysses.

The “Sinema Amnesia” installation, which is located in the city of Çanakkale on the Asian side of the waterway, is part of an artists’ exchange run by My City and tied to Turkey’s bid to join the EU. The group has commissioned pieces by European artists in five Turkish cities; in turn, six Turkish artists receive residencies in five current EU countries. In Codling’s view, the program is a way to make a political discussion about something other than politics—at least for a little while. “This project is all about bringing culture to the heart of the conversation between Turkey and the rest of Europe,” he says. “Wherever people come from they can relate to a work of art in an outdoor urban setting.”

"Sinema Amnesia" by Mark Wallinger, 2010. Commisioned by British Council, Turkey for the city of the Canakkale. Photos by Murat Aksu.

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