Sylvain Levier: ‘Soothing skin’

Soothing skin

Back in 2019, when Debsaysyes proposed me to join its art foundation, I was experimenting with new materials and combinations between them. As is often the case in my work, nothing was premeditated when I found, in a drawer, a box of iron oxide powder that I had bought ten years ago.

I thought to myself, what is this? When I opened the box, I opened a world, a strange world.

I remember very well, I stared at this material for long minutes.

Getting a deep blackness was not my goal, but that’s what happened after a few tries. The depth of the blackness was not the most interesting thing to me. The iron oxide, once applied to the paper, formed a thin skin that changed its appearance depending on the light.

The works available on this website are among my very first achievements using this technique. I wanted to get something as simple as possible, direct, which leaves place for matter and intuition. The masking tape you see in the visual is all that remains of that moment. This fragment of a work tool was part of the actual process that led to the works available on Debsaysyes.

At the time I’m writing these few lines, the streets are empty, empty of human beings, everything has become calm again. Due to the Covid-19 epidemic, containment has been required in France for two weeks now.

Silence has recovered its place, and despite this invisible threat, it seems to me that things are getting more livable.

Do we have to face death to realize that our current lifestyles are getting us nowhere?

Slow down,

I’m listening to the birds.

Sylvain Levier,
Paris, France, March 2020


Çigdem Çaglayan: Solitude for Solidarity

Solitude for Solidarity

 The exhibition Zwischenräume at Rosalux Gallery in Berlin has been postponed because of the global crisis humankind is now facing. Perhaps the biggest crisis of our generation. We are all very sad. An exhibition without an audience would have, however, made the theme of Zwischenräume very literal: solitude and loneliness. When we decided to make the phenomenon of self-inflicted isolation the theoretical base of the exhibition, we had no idea that social distancing would be the dominant topic worldwide. We rather had the notion of retreating from a hectic urban life in mind – not the decision to stay alone in order to not infect each other and save the lives of vulnerable groups. The more we thought about what to do now, the more we realized: canceling is not an option. After all, we want to make art flow. We also did not want to wait indefinitely to stage the exhibition. So here is what we came up with: the show is going online as a digital exhibition and the physical exhibition at Rosalux is postponed to September. However, we are truly sad that we are not going to see each other in March. Even so, we are very much looking forward to our gathering and your arrival in September. Till then, we want you to experience this digital virtual version.

The the core idea of Zwischenräume overlaps with the current situation in our society. Solitude has become a necessity during the current pandemic – but how voluntary is it? The exhibition‘ s aim was (and is) to assemble artworks of a diverse group of creative artists from different backgrounds and generations. We want to compose them in a way that creates space for inner dialogues, we wanted to trigger a conversation with our souls, and urge our visitors to look deep inside. The artworks in this exhibition were chosen based on the notion of voluntary solitude, inspired by Olivier Remauds philosophical essay. When organizing a visual exhibition became impossible, we realized that maybe a digital setup could increase and strengthen the intention we had in mind: the often uncanny, yet dreamy artworks frame the experience of self-inflicted isolation.

Admittedly, the idea of solitude is not new. The notion of being voluntarily away, withdrawing into oneself has been examined and addressed by many famous authors, intellectuals, philosophers, spiritual leaders and artists. Maybe it is even an all-time-favorite topic that frames human existence. However literal and striking right now, the human condition of ultimate loneliness has never been neglected or disregarded. We thought we knew what the topic meant, but it is time to really experience, practice it rather than knowing by a theory. In the meantime, the component of voluntariness has gained another perspective: choosing loneliness to not harm others. In this sense, solitude becomes a moral must instead of a conscious free decision to step back from society.

Zwischenräume takes its inspiration from French philosopher Olivier Remaud‘s essay Voluntary Solitude, that is circling around the art of being alone. Through the artworks, the exhibition as a whole wants to invite visitors to ask questions like; What are we looking for in solitude? Can voluntary loneliness be a social life form that can be taken? What do we find in loneliness in urban life? What does it mean to be alone with yourself? What does it mean to be lonely in modern society? Nowadays, we may also ask; How will we be alone, how will we stay sane? The way we are living now is an incredible test. When the everyday rush is taken away, what is left? Are we happy with what is left? How long is a good period of voluntary solitude: an hour, a week, a month? And what should it be filled with: meditation, contemplation or also anxiety and paranoia? A huge uncertainty. Instead of producing scenarios that come close to a perceived conspiracy, we should try to understand and recognize that what we are really facing. We isolate ourselves from other people and the world in order to keep large parts of our herd healthy and alive. We are socializing, showing solidarity by leaving our society. Isn’t solitude what we need now for healing the society? It seems like we have to de-attach more to connect. We have to wait for the better and find new forms of social connection. Because as a matter of fact, solitude and loneliness have an educational function. They bring creativity, reveal hidden features. It reminds us that self-sufficiency might be the key to happiness in all wisdom. We should see it as we are in a giant retreat with the whole world. With the world we know turned upside down, we are confused, worried, we need each other more than ever – yet we are isolated.

Every discipline of art is essential to nourish our grieving souls. Let us give enough space for creativity, it’s an essential time for new ideas, for art. We will see that art can fill deficiency. In order to contribute to and prove that, we didn’t want to wait for September and use all the possibilities to make this exhibition happen, even in digital form.

In his book Catcher in the Rye Salinger talks about the invisible bonds between people. Those ties are our neurological ties. No matter how far we are physically away, there is a huge pattern that connects us. For instance, we can establish that bond in a paragraph in a book we read together, but separately. Another invisible link that connect us is internet. Work, love, friendship, kinship, all have a digital way of expression now. We can access many museums, libraries, exhibitions, concerts, and archives digitally. And now we can visit Zwischenräume´s virtual exhibition while keeping social distance. Art shows one more time that it has no boundaries. We are able to see, observe and we are not as remote as we thought.

Some traumas we encounter in life have a role. These things do not occur for a sacred purpose, but we should make them meaningful. And, we believe we will find meaning in it. We could die at any moment, and this has always been true. So let’s live now in solitude collectively and see the beauty. Let’s take it as a chance to create more. Let‘s observe more and search beauty and meaning. Art will be a main companion in that. Please enjoy Zwischenräume online now and we will meet each other in September at Rosalux Berlin.

From our living rooms to yours, with love. Stay safe, resilient and enjoy art in global solidarity.

March 28. 2020
Çigdem Çaglayan, Curator of Zwischenräume


Virtual expo Berlin

Group expo Zwischenraüme would have opened in Rosalux Berlin 27th March.
We chose to postpone to the last weekend of September as well as presenting part of the exhibition online during the three days of the original exhibition. With the Berlin line up and some new editions. Also curated by Cigdem Caglayan. And yes, the works are small: that is what non profit art foundation Debsaysyes is all about.

Big artists, small works. And for a maximum price of €500,-. Enjoy.

Click here for the expo.


Çigdem Çaglayan, curator of the Debsaysyes exhibition Zwischenräume, has written a blog on the exhibitions theme of selfinflicted solitude and it’s amazing relevance in these crazy and disturbing times.

You can read the article here