Goldsmiths Curatorial Critique

Kutlug Ataman – Dictionary at Francesca Minini

Posted in Reviews by matteoconsonni on October 20, 2009
Dictionary, Installation View

Dictionary, Installation View

Milan is quite a strange place for contemporary art: its efforts to become more and more internationally renowed for something else from fashion are intermittent, and the presence of an interesting circuit of commercial galleries and of a challenging and ever-growing gathering of non-profit spaces under the common name of ViaFarini, contrasts with the absolute absence of an important art fair and, moreover, of an important institution, a contemporary art museum worth this name.

This situation may be one of the causes that brings more and more curators in the commercial galleries, being this only a marketing strategy or a responsible decision: Sara Cosulich Canarutto has taken over the entire program of the new and objectionable Cardi Black Box, Andrea Bruciati will  curate in November a show for the gallery 1000eventi, just to give two recent examples, and Maurizio Bortolotti is currently curating a series of shows called Insight Turkey for Francesca Minini.

Kutlug Ataman’s exhibition is the second of the series, and its title, Dictionary, reflects the interest of the artists in analyzing in this corpus of works the processes of translation, ideas-sharing, knowledge-transmission and, more in general, the struggle of every human being for communication and its relation to the globalized world.

As entering the space, what seems to be at a first glance one single installation is presented: in reality, the first room hosts two works: on the front wall, the animation Mesopotamian dramaturgies/The Complete Work of William Shakespeare transforms the entire transcription of the well-known English writer into a new, inaccessible code. The text is hand-written and shown at a high speed, making the viewer unable to read it, and to understand the big amount of work needed to write it down. The only possibility left is to experience it as a new, visual code, an abstract image. The relativity of language and its possibility of becoming an abstract presence are mirrored in the second work presented on both the side walls, English as a Second Language, where two young Turks are asked to read Edward Lear’s Nonsense Rhymes aloud. The nonsense content of the writing is not even approached by the two boys that, not knowing English, tend to transform the language in a succession of letters: a scattered singsong, where every letter from English is transformed into Turkish sounds. Language and visual habits are strong components of each one’s identity, and the artist’s aim is to play with them, to reveal the constant struggle between tradition and globalization. The universality of the English language is just based on a common need and a convenient habit but obviously lacks in being universal in the translation of everyone’s experience.

Language as a scheme then, a frame that keeps people together, with the use of different angles; the third work on show, Mesopotamian Dramaturgies/Frame tries to uncover the importance of different visual habits: the lightbox contains a photograph taken at the beginning of the 20th Century. The photograph was at the time a symbol for modernity, and it is evident how the malleability of the medium permits a certain visual tradition to take over; the group of soldiers is being portrayed in a very strong hierarchical configuration, and the camera shots the photograph from a very low angle, translating the byzantin visual tradition into a photograph. The lightbox itself plays with this idea, completing it with a gold layer.

In the second room, a very straightforward and, for this reason, not very interesting conclusion to the show is offered by the video installation Strange Space, where the artist is filmed walking in the desert, blindfolded. The press release of the show presents it as a metaphor for incommunicability and a “prophecy of what modern life will be in a globalized world”. A bit of an easy and negative conclusion, that doesn’t analyze in depth the interesting themes brought by the previous selection of works.

Is this result to be attributed to an excessive research for curatorial clarity, and a  strong adeherence to the main theme? Sometimes user-friendliness can be tempting but reductive.

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