Nevin Aladağ at Rampa Istanbul
|April 24, 2012|
|Nevin Aladağ, Beş Taş Oyunu /
Five Stones Games, 2009–12.
38 fine art prints, 40 x 30 cm (each).
19 April–26 May 2012
T +90 212 327 0800
Rampa hosts the Nevin Aladağ exhibition from April 19 through May 26, 2012. The exhibition brings together works of Aladağ that has not yet been shown in Turkey. Trained as a sculptor at the Fine Arts Academy in Munich, Aladağ adopts differing media in her works varying from performance to video, photography to sculptures and objects, as well as public interventions and site specific installations. She is interested in how cultural and social signs are used and interpreted while employing these signs within her practice, and places them in a context where they no longer belong to a specific territory, thus becoming images and ideas that are equipped with visual rhetoric.
The video work in the exhibition, titled Significant Other (2011), takes its queue from the famous Milli Vanilli song. Two actors, man and woman, stand on a small podium performing the chorus of the song: “Girl you know it’s true, oooooooh, I love you.” Is there anything more faithful, more emotional, more beautiful than a man singing a love song to the woman he adores? In 1989, Milli Vanilli hit the charts worldwide with this single and only a year later, their success turned to infamy when it was revealed that the lead vocals on the record were not the actual voices of the singers. Milli Vanilli had cheated a worldwide public by using playback recordings: astonishingly one of the biggest frauds in the history of pop music relied on the confession of true love.
But let us not fall for easy conclusions here: this work does not simply set “fake” against “real.” Pop music’s magic lies in the fact that it promises to address the individual (“you”) as well as the whole planet: We all know this is a lie, but one we believe in. Aladag’s strategy is far more refined, as she takes pop music’s promise to be a universal language literally. After the opening song of Significant Other, we hear different people reflect on the topics of love and relationship—all of which lip-synched by the two protagonists: We see the lips of the male actor move—but we hear a woman’s voice. We see the female actor—but we hear a child’s voice, a foreigner’s voice, etc. The effect is irritating: Who is talking here?
Significant Other, as many of Nevin Aladağ’s works, blurs the lines between authentic expression and role-play, turning identity from something categorized by sex, age, and origin into something negotiable. The simplest and at the same time most complex questions lay at the centre of this oeuvre: Who are we? How do we want to live? Where do we come from? Searching for answers, Aladağ investigates what may be called our cultural DNA: the point where the inner and the outer, self and society, determination, and freedom collide.
In Makramé (2012), an object made out of wire, the knotting patterns are visualizations of the pattern inherent in the cable. Again, Aladağ is contrasting the surface (the ornamental) and what’s behind it (the inner structure), this time around not in the universal realm of pop culture but in the more personal folklore. Tradition, and memories, also plays a role in Five Stones Game (2009–12), a photo-series that documents this ancient, central-Asian game. Nevin Aladağ, who was born in Van in East-Turkey, grew up in Southern Germany and lives in Berlin today, learned this game from her mother. It is a culture inherited, a set of rules, but with countless numbers of variations.
The biggest work in the show, which is exhibited at Rampa for the first time, pushes this constellation to yet another level. The work consists of imprints of body parts cast in ceramic. The pieces spread along the wall of the gallery like a climbing wall, inviting viewers to lean on, to see how their own body fits into this assemblage, which may well represent the average of society. Each viewer will surely find shapes that match and others that are completely at odds with his own body. Maybe we can compare theses signs to the word “you” in the Milli Vanilli song: they oscillate between the individual and the universal; they show a pattern—and the freedom to break away from it.