Category Archives: Middle East

Kutluğ Ataman, Mesopotamian Dramaturgies / Mayhem (2011)

Kutluğ Ataman has got into the spirit of the Brighton Festival with a carnivalesque metaphor for the recent turmoil in the Arab world: a waterfall which defies gravity.

(This reading of Mayhem needs its full context, a series named after a region encompassing Iraq, Iran and Syria. And nearby here is another piece (Su) in which Islam is a more explicit theme.)

But the relative safety of an art space in the West, gives us some distance from this drama. Like a television with the sound down, Ataman’s film cools off the spectacle of unrest.

Indeed water is used often in Islamic architecture for this very purpose: to keep occupants cool. Three of the channels are projected onto the floor like pools in a mosque.

In a visual sense, this is a monumental feat of plumbing. The work offers a strong contrast with the vast disused space of the Old Municipal Market and its dusty concrete floors.

And at the risk of wearing out his name, Duchamp did once say that plumbing was the difference between sculpture and architecture. His fountain and Ataman’s both play with that distinction.

But only a sculptural film installation could harness the power of the Iguazu Falls. This wild South American region is also called Mesopotamia. But which one is the newer world?

The Old Municipal Market is on Circus Street, Brighton, and the show runs until 29 May 2011. It’s organised by Lighthouse. See their website for more details.

The Refrain, Judy Price, 2008

It is quite something to come across an eye hospital in a gallery. Each one could be a metaphor for the other. In both you can expect some kind of operation on your field of vision.

But to come across St John’s Eye Hospital in East Jerusalem is stranger still. In this two-channel video installation, Lucy Price takes us inside a cutting edge medical facility which caters to Jews and Arabs alike, regardless of ability to pay.

So there is a blindness in the admissions policy and a deep faith in the patients of either religion as they put their eyeballs at the mercy of staff who, likewise, appear to come from both sides of the Israel/Palestine divide.

And the threat appears very real. Eyelids are forced open. Hypodermics are wielded. Scalpels are lined up. If you wanted to take an eye for an eye, this would be the place to do it.

The backing track by sound artist Maia Urstad is a comfort. Ambient noises from the hospital subsume birdsong, traffic and calls to prayer from the neighbouring streets. So what you see is not all you get.

The Refrain culminates with an operation performed in semi-darkness and two gloved hands sewing up, one presumes, an incision. Even the world’s most intractable geopolitical problems may respond to skilled treatment of this sort.

This installation can be seen as part of Over Where at University of Brighton Gallery, until 20 January. The show features more than 10 video pieces by Judy Price as well as paintings by Madeleine Strindberg. Call 01273 543010 for more details.