• Nasan Tur / Nichts geht mehr

    22. January 2006 to 05. March 2006

    Opening: January 21, 2006, 5 to 8 pm

    curated by Katharina Klara Jung

  • Clattering. A small ball’s irregular back and forth, hopping into one of the roulette wheel’s numbered slots, only to resume, in the next instant, its erratic skipping over the black and red numerals. In its natural habitat of the casino, the sound attracts the eyes of the people whose wins or losses depend on the ball’s final resting place. Nasan Tur’s work “Nichts geht mehr” (“No more bets”, 2006) is based on this moment of decision, the game’s key situation. The ball’s movement does and does not cease, incessantly spinning and clattering, it annuls the very point of the game and stretches the instant of tension into something absurd, redundant.

    This condition of being outside time, with no beginning or end, is a recurrent motif in Nasan Tur’s mediatic language. Unlike a film narrative – whose tension thrives on close intervals of successive conditional changes, logically embedded in a causal and temporal setting – many of his works reveal a moment independent from the before and after, isolating it and thus rendering it fit for analysis.

    In the video “a place“ (2001), Nasan Tur attempts an expedition through all the details of a stagnating situation. Much and nothing happens at the same time: sounds change; the wind moves the leaves of trees and bushes, causing a barely detectable rustling beneath the nearby passing traffic’s noises; ghostly characters hidden behind the branches creep almost unnoticed through the so little paradisiacal green oasis. Time passes and seems to stand still, waiting for an incident to happen that simply never does. The strange behaviour is well-detected yet unexplained.

    From behind the camera, the eye’s watchful, curious regard of the scene is not judgmental but rather a sort of experiment, in the course of which emotions and demeanours are explored that the camera cannot capture. In the attempt to understand and categorize the events, the viewer enters into an interaction with the presented work, but is unable to extract “neither questions nor answers” (Nasan Tur) besides what they extrapolate with their own intellect. It is not the artist’s notion that is predominant, but rather how his work is dealt with, what is seen in and construed by the viewer.

    The installation „Was ich euch schon immer sagen wollte“ (“What I’ve always wanted to tell you“, 2006), for instance, offers the visitor an opportunity for action that can or cannot be used as desired: Consisting of no more than a microphone on the Kunstverein’s balcony, which is directed towards the street and therefore to the public domain, the technical equipment constitutes the mere option for a work that is activated only through the presence of a person. The immediate connection between the equipment and the visitor starts the installation’s functioning mechanism and it is the visitor who decides either to abandon the scene or to participate, for a short time, in the possibility of suspending the spatial separation between inside and outside, private and public, art world and real world, by interfering with everyday life on the street through the art context. The inescapable decision of whether to or not is automatically imposed on the visitor, intruding into his private sphere and so reflecting an examination back onto his own self.

    The personal moment of communication that emerges from the contact point of what is private and what is public is also examined in Nasan Tur’s performance “the puddle and the blue sky” (2001). The work captures a truck park next to the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, alongside which, at its middle point, there has collected a large puddle. With his eyes closed and arms gently undulating the water, a man lies floating there as though the incidental depression in the ground filled with rainwater were his bath tub. The scene’s intimacy forms a harsh contrast to the stark and factual surroundings that he remains entirely unaffected by, even when a car happens to drive through his puddle, his self-declared habitat that has become a sort of public private sphere. Even though the idea of a puddle as bath tub does not spare a certain degree of absurdity, the car’s - as well as the viewer’s - intrusion into a condition so personal as this state of entire relaxation is communicated on the very level of emotional engagement so important to many of Nasan Tur’s works.

    The whole dimension of the emphasis put on personal communication is revealed in his project “Master Yang” (2002), a project with a character somewhere between exhibition and happening that bears a sense for and effect on only those who are immediately involved: In the staircase of a Frankfurt office building temporarily turned into an exhibition space, Nasan Tur asked the people working there to anonymously hand in private photos of high personal value and placarded them to the walls along the stairs. Now confronted with their memories every day, the participant’s personal attitudes changed just as did their attitudes towards each other: the anonymity that had been predominant before the project gave way to – more or less extensive – communication between the single parties. Pinning on natural curiosity, Nasan Tur achieves his aim to playfully leave traces in the participants, not to change their perception fundamentally but still shift it a bit, to affect not in general but in privacy.

    Traces in a much more literal sense of the word leaves the installation “behind the sun” (2004) which indeed subjects the visitor to a physical change and dismisses him differently from the exhibition space than he first entered: The solarium lamp installed at the ceiling whose rays automatically affect the visitor fits itself, silently smirking, into the modern tradition of “art about art”, turning the impact of art from the figurative sense into a manifest modification of the visitor’s appearance, leaving him branded by art.

    These effects to the physical aspect are symbolic and thus minimal. To more thoroughly examine the impact of changes on perception, Nasan Tur conducts an experiment on himself: Paltering with the notion to grade people into stereotypes, he grows a “Turkish moustache” (Nasan Tur), with long facial hair hanging down the sides of his mouth in short, thick strands. With this rather slight change in appearance, he pigeonholed himself willingly into a very stereotypical category and, from this new perspective, observed how his surroundings reacted to his altered appearance, with the context of his life, his identity and social affiliation now redefined. A generally greater wariness demonstrated by Germans went hand-in-hand with a shoulder-slapping appreciation from the Turkish community. He so personally experienced the intangible prejudice between “them” and “us” that is so frequently and happily argued away for the sake of the best, humanistic intentions.

    From this project there evolved the “self-portrait” (2002), which again closely connected artistic practice with everyday life. Here Nasan Tur produced a photograph for his ID card – an item that, once again, lies on the border of private and public, individual and government – that shows him still sporting the facial hair. He thus captured on his passport the whole experience of how interpretations about his person varied due to what was only an apparently blatant socio-cultural and partisan affiliation.

    Comparing Turkish and German cultures and their basic precepts, Nasan Tur examines the subject of identity and its social implications. Searching for points of contact between art and viewer not only on the conceptual or intellectual level but also on the emotional, he directs his attention to religion, which, even if rejected or denied, is a significant constituent of emotional identity and plays an important role in relation to the viewer, offering a screen for either identification or attack.

    Negative or empathetic, the effect and, more importantly, the provocation of an acknowledged or unconscious stance concerning foreign faith and spirituality (for the greater part of the Western world) are the basic elements of the video installation “ritual” (2005), whose intensive close-ups show a devout Muslim performing his ritual ablutions before the prayer. The immediacy of the trivial – but in the religious context of many persuasions symbolic – washing is foreign and familiar at the same time, reveals in aesthetic simplicity both parallels and differences between Islamic and Christian cultures.

    In one of the first projects of his career, the “larve project” (1998), Nasan Tur already deals with this theme of the peaceful confrontation of different religions. Over ten days, five times a day, following the Islamic prayer times, from the spire of a Protestant church in Offenbach he sang a song dealing with the emotions underlying the very concept of faith, such as love and hope, comfort and safety, in a different language each time. The singing as a means of expression common to any religion, merged the different traditions into an entity in which the single persuasions blended together, communicating the pan-cultural desire for faith on an emotional level, even without an exact understanding of the lyrics.

    Nasan Tur’s interest in socio-cultural inter-communities appears more humorously in the piece “somersaulting man” (work-in-progress since 2001), which, conceived as a form of continuous culture study, shows a man somersaulting through different cities: Presumed to be a universal of unspecific culture and always foreign way of moving, the passers-by – confronted with the rapid somersaults of a grown man – react similarly in each of the cities: amused and bewildered, apprehensive and inquisitive, as well as sceptical looks that doubt the metal stability of the tumbling man, follow the protagonist on his way through the streets and squares of Paris or Istanbul, Frankfurt or Tokyo.

    The enjoyable absurdity of the childlike, playful somersaults, passing in front of the stationary camera and set against a functioning metropolis, can flip easily into a questionable action at the thought of the physical strain and the feeling of the rough tarmac on his back and shoulders. The “somersaulting man” is an only partially ironic symbol for anything considered different, with which Nasan Tur explores the boundaries between the normal and abnormal, offering a positive approach to the ways of dealing with alleged non-functioning in society.

    The search for universals as the starting point for an analysis or comparison of reactions to external circumstances is a frequently-applied method in cultural studies and one that Nasan Tur exploits in one of his latest works. The photographic series “arms” shows arms in varying positions. Nothing indicates that the depicted gestures of fists and hands raised into the air are taken from press photographs and actually belong to politicians emphasizing the content of their speeches. Nasan Tur chooses to crop from the selected material, detaching the gesture – a means of communication known to any culture – from its original context of political fomentation and hiding its essential affiliation: the who, why, what and when of the scene. The detail shows a gesture that, in spite of the lack of context, works as a definite though ambiguous signifier, challenging the viewer’s perceptive skills; is the clenched fist expressing threat, victory, or anger?

    This manner of offering a variety of equal but, for lack of evidence, never entirely satisfying solutions to the examination of a detail that has been freed from its context is translated into a temporal dimension in the work “Hauptwache” (2001). While in the “somersaulting man” the reason for the apprehensive looks on the faces of the passers-by becomes quite evident, here, with the suppression of the earlier events, the motive for a collective staring at the woman on the right side of the landing remains obscure. The strange attitude common to all the people captured in the picture can only be explained by a key event that had already passed at the moment the shot was taken and whose catalyst was therefore already dissipated into the everyday situation defined as normality, but not her environment. “Hauptwache” was actually produced in the setting of an intervention that took place in Frankfurt when the actress – to whom everyone’s eyes are drawn to – let out an unprovoked scream. In the aftermath of this apparently groundless alarm, what incited it is withheld and there emerges a sharp dividing line between the “normal” and the “abnormal” – but the sorting of the individual persons’ behaviour into these categories is left open, while the entanglement of the concepts continues.

    The element of the unexplainable antagonizing a mathematical-rational understanding due to a plurality of options is reflected to its full extent in Nasan Tur’s project “Bar” (2003). A symmetrically constructed bar is separated by a wall through its middle into two mirrored but otherwise identical rooms, each with its own entrance. A camera in each of the rooms records the events in the bar, which are simultaneously projected onto the separating wall of the other room respectively. To visitors, the bartenders appear to be the same on the screen as in reality, yet they are unable to find themselves in the projection, nor any other person in the bar. The ambiguity concerning this image, of a familiar but inaccessible situation, causes them to question why this scene is being shown – a special occasion, maybe a famous person, or just any familiar face.

    The absurdity of the situation only becomes obvious when moving from one bar into the other. It is an identical space with matching features and the same bartenders as in the former bar (actually, pairs of twins) and, once again, a projection that seems to reflect a different reality. This exceptional parallelism, effectively designed to evoke curiousness, intensifies the perception of the surroundings towards all those details that usually go unnoticed until finally the visitor becomes aware of his double role as observer and observed alike. This twofold duplication has a direct influence on the behaviour that, willingly or not, changes with the notion and knowledge of someone watching and so establishes a means of communication, overriding the spatial disjunction of the two bars.

    The great variety of possible interpretations and perceptions inherent in the conceptuality of Nasan Tur’s practice, aiming at comprehension not through the eyes of the artist but through one’s own, are a silent and open invitation to question oneself, following one’s own reactions and – at least once in a while – considering a different point of view: Place your bets, please!

    © Katharina Klara Jung, 2006

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