Kutluğ Ataman: Mesopotamian Dramaturgies
Kutluğ Ataman
Mesopotamian Dramaturgies

Curator: Emre Baykal

15 September-
11 December 2011
"Mayhem" (2011)
Installation view: Arter, 2011
Commissioned by the Brighton Festival (UK) and the Vehbi Koç Foundation (Turkey).
Produced by The Institute for the Readjustment of Clocks, Istanbul
Vehbi Koç Foundation Contemporary Art Collection
Photo: Ozan Yavuz - Burcu Böcekler
"Strange Space" (2009)
Installation view: Arter, 2011
Commissioned by The Abraaj Capital, Dubai (UAE).
Produced by The Institute for the Readjustment of Clocks, Istanbul
Courtesy of Thomas Dane Gallery (London) and the artist
Photo: Ozan Yavuz - Burcu Böcekler
"Column" (2009)
Installation view: Arter, 2011
Commissioned by The British School at Rome (Italy); Francesca Minini (Italy); The Henry Moore Foundation (UK); MAXXI - National Museum of the 21st Century Arts (Italy) ve UniCredit Group (Italy).
Produced by The Institute for the Readjustment of Clocks, Istanbul
Courtesy of Thomas Dane Gallery (London) and the artist
Photo: Ozan Yavuz - Burcu Böcekler
Kutluğ Ataman's works constitute a unique contemporary collection of "talking portraits", often of marginalised characters who constantly tell about themselves and construct their realities and identities through fictions. This repertoire is shaped by the testimony of a gaze from inside the artistic field, directed towards the histories of its subjects as well as that of the artist and of the geography he inhabits.

At the beginning of his production, Ataman's work was at times evaluated within documentary genres. His work does borrow some of the strategies common to documentary making, but he departs radically from what gives a film its documentary value: he is not concerned with the presentation of reality or the re-telling of facts and he avoids direct messages. He thinks of his subjects who often share his problems and obsessions as extensions of himself and he sets out to explore his own identity through them. He excavates the structure of identity, which is continually staged, masked and re-constructed—either on the part of the individual himself or by others—as if he is working on a construction site and he raises his work upon this ground. Masterfully designing the architecture of his work, Ataman makes his subjects talk not just from moving pictures but from inside sculptures installed in space; in other words, he transforms the narrative into sculpture.

With the series "Mesopotamian Dramaturgies" which he initiated in 2008, Ataman adds a new layer to his oeuvre. In this recent phase on the path of reflection he follows, Ataman points out that not only are individuals and communities constructs, but geography and history are as well. They are all fabricated, re-shaped and reincarnated from within themselves.

Exhibited in Turkey for the first time at Arter and curated by Emre Baykal, "Mesopotamian Dramaturgies" revisits the recent history of this geography—the "cradle of civilizations" that has witnessed the birth of many cultures and nations—to focus on Turkey's adventure in modernization and the dichotomies between the Orient and the Occident, modernity and tradition, global and local. "Mesopotamian Dramaturgies" explores the difficulties in creating spaces for negotiation and transcending these dualities particularly in a geography where relationship with modernity is infused with tension. Ataman defines Mesopotamia as a gray zone where the formulas developed in the so-called "centres" are constantly transformed and blurred and he revisits the highly charged history of the region through his own artistic language that intertwines reality and fiction in a unique way.

The first cycle of the series, which was supported by The Vehbi Koç Foundation through the co-production of three works ("Dome", "Pursuit of Happiness" and "English as a Second Language"), was previously exhibited at Lentos Art Museum within the scope of Linz European Capital of Culture (2009) and during the inaugural exhibition of MAXXI - National Museum of the 21st Century Arts in Rome (2010). Besides the works belonging to the first cycle of "Mesopotamian Dramaturgies", the exhibition also includes Ataman's latest video installation. Co-produced by The Vehbi Koç Foundation, "Mayhem" initiates the second cycle of the series.