Mesopotamian Dramaturgies / Su

2009


Brighton Festival, UK, 2011

Commissioned by:
Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts, Istanbul

Su takes its name from the Turkish word for water.  It exists in two different series, one with text and the other without text.  The two versions are often shown together but this is not obligatory. Additionally, each segment has a left and a right channel, one being the reversed mirror image of the other.

This piece was filmed throughout a year illustrating the different moods of the Bosphorus, the narrow strait that separates Europe and Asia.

The version with the text contains a phrase written in Arabic letters and states la ilaha illallah, the key phrase of Islam that means "there is no god but Allah."  Its reverse screen tells the sentence in reverse, as it originally appears in some of Mimar Sinan's mosques in Turkey.  There is ongoing debate as to why this sentence is written in reverse in mosques.  Ataman proposes that the projected sentence in reverse finds its true order in the eyes of the beholder, reflecting on some of Plato's and Sufi scholars' philosophy, within the formal concept of the Bosphorus' waters, itself often used as a geographical mark that divides the two realms.  In Ataman's work, these two realms are united.

The version without the text is purely conceptual, reflecting on the language of modernism.  At times the two pieces are shown facing each other, commenting literally on two languages facing each other, the language of the classical and the language of the modern, as both shores of the Bosphorus face in each other not only simple geographical realities but also cultural readings assigned to geography by mankind.

Su is the first work by Ataman that comments directly on manufactured geography, as his earlier works dealt with notions of manufactured identities, both individual and communal, as well as manufactured history.