Kutlug Ataman: Mesopotamian Dramaturgies / Niru Ratnam Gallery, London

In this video we have a look at the exhibition “Kutlug Ataman: Mesopotamian Dramaturgies” at Niru Ratnam Gallery in London. The show is part of an ongoing series that reflects on the history and present of the region centered on Eastern Turkey where Ataman is now based, as well as the cultural and geopolitical forces at play there. The central work is a twenty-screen television installation called ‘The Stream’ (2022) which is the first major new work shown by Ataman since ‘The Portrait of Sakip Sabanci’ (exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 2015 and The Royal Academy, London in 2016). The exhibition runs until May 21, 2022.

Kutlug Ataman: Mesopotamian Dramaturgies / Niru Ratnam Gallery, 23 Ganton Stree, London. London Gallery Weekend, London, May 12, 2022.

> Right-click (Mac: ctrl-click) this link to download Quicktime video file.

Official description (excerpt): In ‘The Stream’, eight films play across twenty televisions that are suspended on a worn wooden structure. The screens point at various angles, mostly upended, forming a rough pyramid. Across the eight different films the viewer sees a hand-held hoe digging an irrigation stream. Each of the films is a close-up, sometimes right up to the soil, sometimes slightly pulled back so that the viewer can occasionally see the hand of the digger on the hoe. The televisions are positioned so that the stream that is being dug runs upwards from the ground to the ceiling of the gallery. It is possible to hear the sound of the digger’s breathing but the main sound is the hoe scraping against the hard ground. It makes a cacophonous chorus across the installation that recalls Ataman’s earlier installations, except instead of the human voices of earlier works, we now hear the sound of activity, of re-making and renewal. Ataman says of ‘The Stream’: ” To me it is about reconstructing, rethinking and starting from scratch. I feel it is also about soil and water meeting and creating life, and the struggle that involves such a task. When I was making it though, I was only digging the soil and let the dry soil meet with water so I could turn the barren land into a green garden for myself. It was an attempt to heal myself.”

‘The Stream’ is exhibited with six works from ‘Journey To The Moon’ (2009), a series set in Erzinean in Anatolia, near to where ‘The Stream’ was filmed. The series tells the story of four villagers who in make an attempt at space travel in a vehicle fashioned from a minaret. As with much of ‘Mesopotamian Dramaturgies’ the tension between modernization and tradition is at the heart of these works. The series deliberately blurs the form of the documentary with fiction and speaks of what the curator Nick Aitken described as an “act of both absurdist escape and one of defiant self-empowerment.” (Frieze, May 2013). Here, six of the series of 11 photographic works are displayed. The first edition of this series is in the Tate collection.

PS: Special guest appearance: Pablo.

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