Through his practice Nasan Tur explores political ideologies, subconscious messages and the future of our society. He often creates work in the form of an art platform where the viewers can take an active role, like his “Backpacks”, a piece featured in the 10th Istanbul Biennial, where visitors were invited to borrow specially composed backpacks. On leaving the exhibition space and entering the public realm the participants could use the items they found in their chosen bag for acts such as forming a demonstration, making a public announcement, cooking on the side-walk etc. In “FUNKTIONIEREN”, his solo exhibition at Blain|Southern Gallery in Berlin, Nasan Tur presents a powerful new body of work about action and reaction, and has transformed the ground floor of the gallery space into an installation of a live printmaking studio, making reference to the history of the building that formerly housed Berlin’s daily newspaper, “Tagesspiegel”.
By Efi Michalarou
Photo: Blain|Southern Archive
The presentation of work on the first floor of the gallery at Blain|Southern depicts seascapes which seem idyllic, but are they in fact hiding something?
These works are large panoramas of sea views which I found on mass media and in newspaper articles. They look beautiful, but key parts of the pictures are missing. I have focused on the background and removed the images of boats filled with refugees who are desperately trying to reach safety. I cut out the cruel reality so that beauty you see is superficial, but the ugliness and evil beneath the surface is still present.
In contrast your aquarelles are symbolic and depict numbers…
My attention was drawn to these numbers every day via news reports; they are amount of deaths which have occurred in various incidents. Like many people, when reading the news stories I spend maybe a second digesting the figures before continuing to the next story. I realised that after a while their impact seemed to lessen, it didn’t make any difference if the number was 5, 55, or 505. They became abstract to me. What I wanted to do with this series of watercolours was to prolong the amount of attention I gave to these numbers and the stories behind them. I wanted to spend more time on them. So I decided to reproduce the numbers as paintings. It became a ritual for me.
Looking at your work, we note that there are elements that are repeated between them, like the aphorisms that you are printing in Printmaking Studio and other elements that are alternating like in the photos of the series “Histories of Maras / Varosha”, which necessity impels you in these associations?
These are two quite different works. “Histories of Maras / Varosha” is a video installation which doesn’t focus on repetition but shows two different stories about the same place. Each of them claiming to be the truth. For guides from Northern Cyprus it is strictly forbidden to tell their story to tourists from the south. So tourists who spend their holidays in the north get only their version of the story. The different stories are a result of vested interests. The installation deals with the issue of political influence on history and culture and the resulting problem of what constitutes the ‘truth’.
Why did you decide in the era of internet and the rapid information, to create a printmaking studio, to design and print a series of aphorisms and philosophical statements?
Using the oldest and slowest printing technique in an era where the news cycle and social media has such a rapid turnover is a deliberate statement. What I’m doing with the printmaking is the opposite of how social media sound-bites and fake news operates. It’s an attempt to demand that as a society we take more time to reflect. We live in a time where a lot of people simply read the headline and think they have the whole story, and of course it’s much more complicated than that. By using the oldest printing reproduction technique to produce statements we are familiar with seeing in the context of social media, I’m questioning our perceptions and how we form opinions.
On 10th Istanbul Biennial (8/9-4/11/07), you had presented “Backpacks”, an interactive work that was giving the viewer a number of different option and absolute freedom, on the other hand through your aphorisms and philosophical statements we feel that you are creating the mirror of an Orwellian society. Do you feel that our society is transforming in a dystopia?
As an artist I feel the responsibility to disturb and to be demanding in my works. Especially in today’s turbulent times. I think dystopia was always a part of our reality. It is all about the actions you are willing to take to oppose it.
First Publication: www.dreamideamachine.com
© Interview-Efi Michalarou
Info: Blain|Southern Gallery, Potsdamer Straße 77–87, Berlin, Duration: 2/11/16-27/1/17, Days & Hours: Tue-Sat 11:00-18:00, www.blainsouthern.com