Ottomania Piotr Uklanski

Otoomania cover small.jpg
Otoomania cover small.jpg

Ottomania Piotr Uklanski



by Piotr Uklanski

Published by Bywater Bros. Editions, 2019

214 pages, hardcover with dust jacket

10.25 x 7.75 inches / 16 x 24.7 cm

ISBN 978-1-988469-13-6

Supervising editor: Myranda Gillies

Copy editing and proofreading: Brian Sholis

Design: Roger Bywater & Piotr Uklanski

Add To Cart


The celebrated Polish artist Piotr Uklanski established himself in the

mid 1990s for creating a diverse body of work that examines the

ever changing relationship between identity, history and culture.

Continuing this investigation Uklanski’s new book, Ottomania presents

a historical cross-section of Orientalist themed portraits from the

last 500 years. Prevalent within European society for centuries, the

appropriation of Eastern culture reached its apex within the 19th century

when European adaptation turned the signifiers of the East into

easily digested symbols of exotica for Western consumption—images

of men in turbans, the pageantry of theatrically embellished masculine

dress, richly decorated fabrics, the codification of facial hair and the

romantic settings of Ottoman or Persian court life.

Orientalist inspired culture has long been criticized as a prejudiced

outsider-interpretation of the Eastern world, inexorably modified by

the political attitudes of European imperialism. More recently however,

leading scholars have pushed back against this totalizing view

explaining that it oversimplifies the “complex processes by which societies

engaged, articulated and shaped each other, in multiple and

shifting alliances.” Ottomania attempts to highlight these exchanges

between East and West, prompted by the legacy of the Polish and

Ottoman cultural symbiosis Uklanski inherited as a Polish artist.

Appropriating centuries of cultural appropriation itself, Ottomania

presents not only an overview of Orientalist portraiture but the inherent

theatricality of its subjects, emphasizing details wherein white Europeans

deployed their Orientalist fetishes as a form of performative drag

in a coded ploy to deviate from the everyday restrictions of class, gender,

and sexual norms. Just as Uklanski’s work The Nazis (1998)—a group

of tightly cropped portraits of famous movie actors playing Third

Reich soldiers—excavated the seductive regalia of the Nazism, with

its pomp of militarized masculinity and its relationship to the nefarious

ideologies of fascism, so does Ottomania seek to interrogate the

interplay of meaning and ideology under the pageantry of this longstanding

romance between East and West.