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Slide projection and text work, 2009

The Signals of The Yellow Smile


In an Istanbul suburb a curios phenomena is observed. In these rather run down surroundings new refurbished buildings are appearing. They stand empty, cardboard signs proclaiming this emptiness in their windows, as if they were waiting for the neighborhood to change, to flourish in new prosperity. Their waiting is speculative; their function is yet-to-come - and still their presence undoubtedly changes the physical now of the area they have infiltrated. The observation of this phenomena is helped along by the fact that the buildings are all painted different shades of yellow. It is as if there is an internal color code ranging in the colorfield yellow, used as a signaling devise drawing attention to the future possibility of this area. But what does the signal contain?

The color yellow of these empty not-yet-living houses contradictory brightens up the feel of the neighborhood - on the surface that is. The warmth of the reflective shine from the yellow painted walls spreads through the neighborhood, giving it, in a first glance, the appearance of a joyful community bathed in the mediated shine of the sun, of gold, of flowering fields, of light.


There is an expression in french describing a false smile, it is called "Rire Jaune" - yellow smile. The color that warms us so gently is also the color you cannot trust.


The yellow signals attention; attention to this neighborhood, that will soon become new and refreshed. The yellow color that evokes attention is also used in the warnings against sulphuric acids, high voltage electricity, collapsible building structures, atomic radiation and poisonous substances.

The yellow signals a warning, that apparently for this area to rebloom the old must be driven out - the rats must be poisoned - the run down must be flushed out. So now the yellow buildings shine throughout the area projecting the possibility of the new to reawaken the neighborhood, cleansed from old nightmares - cleansed from anything relating to the past.

The yellow signals envy. A treacherous desire for the others possessions. The shine of gold will make us all delirious and capable of the most hideous actions. In "Pulp Fiction" the mysterious yellow shines from the crack of the opened briefcase and everybody subsequently dies like flies. The treasure mesmerizes us in its yellow glow and we willingly sink into the ocean with the ship, feverishly hugging the pieces of gold.

The yellow signals momentary joy. A fix of something good streaming through your veins. Well-being projected directly into the perceptual receptors of the brain. An ecstatic high without nuances. Let us not forget that all other colors seem to appear to us desaturated, in yellow light.

The yellow signals what the Ancient Greeks described as the second humor. It is called Yellow Bile, it's element is fire and it is medically connected to the gall bladder. Yellow Bile is the fluid of the Choleric, the idealist, the easily angered and bad tempered. It's season is summer, hence it is momentary, it is good but deviously short-lived. The Choleric rushes towards the near future, never glancing back and never directing her vision into the far distance. She does not digest; the yellow bile of stomach acids fills up her insides.

The yellow signals the obvious signs of a body giving into a viral disease. The skin turns yellowish, the yellow streams from the body in the material form of mucus, suppuration, pus, feces and spews of stomach fluids. Like Yellow Fever the illness spreads and must be contained by a thorough control of the virulent pattern. If the neighborhood is the body, the yellow gaping buildings are the sign of the disease taking hold of this body and the contamination must be challenged before the body deteriorates and dies.

The yellow signals cowardice. To be yellow is to be a coward. The vacant buildings incessantly smile their cowardly yellow smile, that hides all true intentions, in the fear of being exposed for what they truly foreshadow.


The most curios observation made within this phenomena of the yellow coats of paint, is the appearance of a second strain of yellow painted buildings. Here the paint job is visibly sloppy and the yellow color seems somehow to divert from the regular color code. A secondary yellow adapted by the residents themselves and transferred to the surface of old buildings. Perhaps it is to increase their value by simulating the prosperous yellow of the yet-to-live buildings or perhaps to camouflage these run down house in order for them not to be dissolved by the spreading yellow virus?


From a slide frame the yellow is projected onto the white wall, reflecting the yellow back into the room and from here it shines out into the outside surroundings of the art space. It projects a yellow smile to the local resident passing by and perhaps calls attention to the signals that might not always be received or intercepted.


Text by Soren Thilo Funder

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