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Works from Nasan Tur's series "Political Supporters" on view at Kunst Haus Wien
Installation view "Nasan Tur. Running Blind" © KUNST HAUS WIEN 2016, Photo: Thomas Meyer.

VIENNA.- Berlin-based artist Nasan Tur counts among the most exciting political artists of the younger generation. Dealing with political ideologies, messages and statements communicated in the public space, and with the appropriation and instrumentalisation of signs and terms, Nasan Tur’s works reflect the political and social conditions of our time. In his works the artist thematises symbols of power and affiliation, which are omnipresent both in the cityscape and the media. He investigates the individual options ranging between acting in public space and doing nothing, between distance and affiliation. Nasan Tur succeeds in articulating his close observation of social phenomena and concrete social conditions both incisively and poetically in installations, photographs, objects and participatory projects. At the Garage and the Galerie of Kunst Haus Wien he presents photographs from his latest series as well a new video for the first time.

Political Supporters
Works from Nasan Tur’s series “Political Supporters” (2016) aree on view for the first time at the Galerie of Kunst Haus Wien. Ten selected photographs show close-ups of human faces. What all the persons portrayed in the photos have in common is their strong, almost exalted facial expression. The photographs show people who support political ideas or campaigning politicians to an almost extreme extent, people who strongly identify with the leading political figure or ideology.

The current political situation in Austria – the repeated postponement of the election of the Federal President – provides a suited background for this work. Due to the exceptionally long election campaign period the political followers and supporters of the two candidates for presidency are put to the test as to their steadfastness and stamina – who is more perseverant, fights with more fierceness and tenacity? It is not only about political beliefs and objectives but about individual careers. The very moment election results are announced people show intense emotions or even lose control of their emotions – we see both bitter tears and ecstatic jubilation. It is these extreme situations of politically motivated emotions that Nasan Tur elaborates on in his works. Emotions, as we can see, are a political resource. Emotions are “important preconditions of social bonding and are to be understood as motivation of social marginalisation . . . There is no action without emotion, and emotions are always symbolically coded and socially constructed.” (Ansgar Klein (ed.): Masse – Macht – Emotionen. Zu einer politischen Soziologie der Emotion. Wiesbaden 1999, p. 19.)

For his portrait series Nasan Tur used found footage from newspapers and magazines. From pictures published with reports on the outcome of elections the artist extracts single faces and focusses on the individual – larger than life. He shows people who feel to belong to a (political) group, who define themselves through their membership to a specific group and distance themselves from others. In his portraits, however, Nasan Tur eliminates the environment, the context, which are of no importance here. The dynamism of the mass, the collective experience of emotion that is generated and activated in political contexts, presents itself at the same time as a both universal and specific phenomenon.

The focus on situations originally captured for press purposes that Nasan Tur chooses, allows to study facial expressions and the physiognomic state of the portrayed persons. They remind of Franz Xaver Messerschmidt’s “Character Heads”, although Nasan Tur does not offer any artistic interpretations in this “studies”. The pictures present photographically captured moments of a real event, extracts from narratives, fractals of a collective emotion. They show eyes and mouths wide open as well as closed eyelids and tears, furrowed brows, a face covered by hands. We use our cognitive empathy to understand what the person feels and try to grasp the emotional state, the political passion of someone we do not know via his or her exalted facial expression. The size of the portraits and the close-up view eliminate any distance. The unknown strangers are exposed to our inquisitorial view; we can study the emotions they show in public.

Nasan Tur stages ten such portraits at the Galerie of Kunst Haus Wien. The portrayed persons are given much room – they stand alone, they are isolated and are thrown back upon themselves. The black and white faces are framed in cyan, magenta and yellow (CMYK is the standard colour model for four-colour printing) – the artist uses this as a means of abstraction in order to reduce any geographic or temporal references. All emotions portraits are dramatically lighted, which lends them an aura and demonstrates in an almost pushy and unpleasant way the emotional dimension of politics.

“For they seem to reappear, those irrational, ‘dangerous’, dictatorship-prone masses that have to be regarded with utmost suspicion.” (Ibid., p. 9.)

Beat Time
“Our languages have meaning. Beneath language, beneath all languages, universally so, music lives beneath meaning and before it, its pre-condition and its physical medium. Meaning presupposes music, and could not emerge without it. Music sounds the transcendental in language, the universals preceding meaning. It inhabits the sensible, it carries all possible senses.” (Michel Serres: The Five Senses. A Philosopy of Mingled Bodies. London 2008, p. 123.)

As to its content Nasan Tur’s new work created for the Garage of Kunst Haus Wien can be seen as a counterpart to the “Political Supporters” series, which will be on show at the same time at the Galerie of Kunst Haus Wien. Here the political supporters, there the political leaders; here the seduced ones, there the seducers; here the recipients, there the senders; here reaction, there action.

With “Beat Time” (2016) Nasan Tur explores one of the most important political vehicles: speeches. The artist analyses selected political speeches that have only recently shaped politics on the national and international level in view of their musical potential. He uses speeches of political players such as Angela Merkel, Hassan Rohani, Vladimir Putin or Juan Manuel Santos, heard, shared or commented by millions of people on the radio, on TV or in social media.

There is a basic, inherent connection between music and language, which the artist distils: with the help of a computer program he converts the spoken words into sheet music. The musically translated speeches are played by a professional pianist. This process of abstraction makes audible a framework liberated from any content. The simplification of the initial material opens up new room for interpretation of the speeches, which were originally elaborated in great detail. The thus generated compositions sound associative/experimental/improvisational. Some passages briefly sound harmonious, many are staccato-like.

By translating language into sound Nasan Tur examines the musical layer of the spoken word. He thus converges the different speeches and gives them a common denominator. At the same time he trivialises the content of the speeches and caricatures the speakers. The effect of political speeches on the listeners is not coincidental but carefully planned. The speeches are intentionally staged and dramaturgically structured, they follow the zeitgeist, satisfy the cultural and ideological preferences of the recipients. Similar to pieces of music they follow a certain rhythm, varying in speed and volume. If we understand music as a universal language (Franz Liszt), then the interpretation of these new political piano pieces is extremely interesting.

Nasan Tur was born in 1974 in Offenbach am Main. He first studied at the University of Art and Design (HfG) Offenbach, and subsequqently at Staatlichen Hochschule für Bildende Künste – Städelschule, Frankfurt am Main. His works have been presented on the international level at prominent festivals and in important exhibition venues including the Istanbul Biennial, Centre Pompidou, Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin, LENTOS Kunstmuseum Linz, Taipei Biennial, Städel Museum, Palais de Tokyo. The works presented at KUNST HAUS WIEN were created in 2016 and are on view for the first time. Nasan Tur lives and works in Berlin.

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