Kutlug Ataman. Mesopotamian Dramaturgies

Kutlug Ataman.
Mesopotamian Dramaturgies.
From 30 May to 12 September 2010 

curated by Cristiana Perrella

Internationally renowned for his intense video-installations featuring multiple screens and suspended between fiction and document, Kutlug Ataman (Istanbul, 1961, lives and works in Istanbul and London) and his art explores the complex nature of personal and collective identity, giving rise to portraits of great intimacy while at the same time also tackling broader social themes.

In Mesopotamian Dramaturgies, Ataman’s most ambitious project to date and presented in its entirety for the first time at MAXXI, the theme of the construction of identity invests an entire geographical area, that middle ground between East and West that Turkey represents particularly well. The eight works – films, video installations and photographs – that constitute the cycle reveal the tension, the effort, the contradiction and the results of the meeting of two worlds, from the thrust towards modernity to the persistence of tradition. Realised in what is today one of the most archaic areas of Turkey, the South-East, on the border with Iraq, as is customary with Ataman’s works they give voice to “marginal” figures, those who have remained on the edges of the impetuous development underway elsewhere in the country.

The exhibition at MAXXI has been produced with the support of:

British Council Istambul 2010 Turchia Turkish Airlines

Thanks to:
Turkish Embassy, Rome
Part of the furnishings was provided by Ikea




Mesopotamian Dramaturgies / Dome, 2009
Video installation, variable dimensions, 14’ 40”

Dome is a large-scale ceiling projection referencing the painted ceilings of Catholic churches. Suspended in the sky like modern-day angels, winking young provincial Turks in their everyday clothes exhibit cell phones and other symbols of progress.

Kutlug Ataman, Column e Dome, 2009
View of the installation
Photo: Simone Cecchetti, 2010
Kutlug Ataman, Dome, 2009
Still video
Courtesy: the artist


Mesopotamian Dramaturgies / Column, 2009
Video installation, variable dimensions 

Inspired by Trajan’s Column in Rome, Column is a work composed of old televisions installed in an ascending spiral alluding to the reliefs following one another on the Roman monument to the imperial victories in Dacia.

However, rather than the victors, Column speaks of the defeated as represented by the citizens of the most remote area of Turkey looking mutely towards the video camera, unable to make their voices heard, to express their stories.

View of the installation
Photo: Simone Cecchetti, 2010



Mesopotamian Dramaturgies / English As A Second Language, 2009
Dual channel video installation, variable dimensions, 54’ 48” (left) 59’ 10” (right)
English as a Second Language refers to the use of English as the lingua franca of modernity that rather than increasing the possibilities of reciprocal comprehension, frequently leads to a loss of the sense of communication.

In the video, two young Turks read aloud without understanding the nonsense verses of the English poet Edward Lear. The incomprehensibility of the text, difficult to interpret even for a mother tongue English speaker, renders the illusory universality of globalization even more evident.

Kutlug Ataman, Still video
from English as a Second Language, 2009
Courtesy the artist
View of the installation
Photo: Simone Cecchetti, 2010




Mesopotamian Dramaturgies / Strange Space, 2009
Video projection in wooden box, 150 x 400 x 258 cm, 20’ 15’’ 

Strange Space is the recording of a performance in which the artist crosses a vast and desolate desert plain barefoot and blindfolded Inspired by Layla and Majnun.

A legend known throughout the Islamic world in which the hero, blinded by love, wanders through the desert in search of his beloved, the work uses the ancient narrative theme as a metaphor for the unresolved relationship between the “archaic” and “modern” worlds, of their reciprocal attraction and the trauma caused by the meeting.

Kutlug Ataman
Still video from Strange Space, 2009
Courtesy the artist





Guarda l’intervista alla curatrice Cristiana Perrella e all’artista Kutlug Ataman, realizzata durante l’allestimento della mostra Mesopotamian Dramaturgies