Wednesday, 10 June 2009
Identity between two cultures: Nasan Tur’s Selfportrait (2000) and Somersaulting man (work in progress since 2001)
Selfportrait has a long tradition in western culture. For his Selfportrait (2000) Nasan Tur produced a photograph for his Identity Card – an item that lies on the border of private and public, individual and government. The German Identity Card shows the photograph of a young man with moustache, apparently fitting to the Turkish name inscribed near it... But fact is that Nasan Tur , German artist of Turkish origin, constructed the whole making of the new photograph for his new official document: „When I applied for a German passport I grew a moustache for a few months which would better reflect the stereotype of the Turk in Germany. This small alteration on my face had a great impact on my daily life in Germany and the people´s reactions to my appearance changed completely. In the circles where I usally hung out I suddenly became unpopular, I was negatively judged and considered not sexy by the women, while on the contrary I was greeted with a kind "Salem Aleykum" when I passed by the Turkish and Arab cafes and gained enthusiastic compliments from my uncles and aunties.
With this Turkish moustache I had my photograph taken and I passed it on to the authorities for the issuing of the passport. Now I am the owner of a German passport with a picture that conforms to the cliché of the typical Turk but that in reality has nothing to do with me.“
Nasan Tur captured on his passport the whole experience of how interpretations about his person varied due to what was only an apparently blatant socio-cultural and partisan affiliation. Comparing presumed Turkish and German cultures and their basic precepts, Nasan Tur examines the subject of identity and its social implications.
According to Nasan Tur this work has obviously many facettes: it is (and intended to be) funny and ironic, but serious and critical at the same time.
He had much fun letting grow the „turkish moustache“, being also aware of a clear change and increasing process of exclusion from his own circles and friends. Now it is also very funny for him showing the passport to friends...but it makes him much less laugh when he has to use the same ID Card for border controls, as he is nearly always automatically judged as suspicious and asked to be inspected and frisked in specifical rooms...
By changing a small but distinctive physical detail, Nasan Tur experienced how other people’s perception of him became to change. The moustache, common feature amongst men in the Middle-East, becomes a distinctive mark in Europe. Inversely, the lack of moustache in Europe helps him to be easily integrated in Germany, while marginalizing him in the family circle. This slight change in the appearance of his face becomes an alteration for some and a sign of recognition for others.
The passport, indeniable official german document, shows the picture of a presumed „typical“ turkish man. And in this way Nasan Tur’s Selfportrait expresses the impact of stereotypes and traditions on different cultures. His German passport shows a face with a moustache, which is not really his, since this hair growht is merely anecdotic. A passport, tool of altered, heterogenic significance when we are abroad, is at the same time what defines identity in the eyes of a nation. In a very humorous way, Nasan Tur demonstrates well that identity depends mostly on other forms, namely contact with others and reception on their part of the signs we send out to them. It is others who decide whether we belong in their community or whether we are not worthy, regardless of the formality of documents.
Nasan Tur’s interest in socio-cultural inter-communities appears even more humourosly in the piece „Somersaulting man“(work in progress since 2001) which, conceived as a form of continuous culture study, shows a man somersaulting through different cities: Presumed to be a universal of unspecific culture and always foreign way of moving, the passers-by, confronted with the rapid somersualts of a grown man, react similarly in each of the citiies: amused and bewildered, apprehensive and inquisitive, as well as sceptical looks that doubt the metal stability of the tumbling man, follow the protagonist his way through the streets and squares of paris or Istanbul, Frankfurt or Tokyo.
The enjoyable absurdity of the childlike, playful somersaults, passing in front of the stationary camera and set against the functioning metropolis, can flip easily into a questionable action at the thought of the physical strain and the feeling of the rough tarmac on his back and shoulders. The somersaulting man is an only partially ironic symbol for anything considered different, with wich Nasan Tur explores the boundaries between the normal and abnormal, offering a positive approach to the ways of dealing with alleged non-functioning in society.
Nasan Tur. Nichts geht mehr, Exhibition Catalogue, Nassauischer Kunstverein Wiesbaden January – May 2006.
Crossings. A contemporary view, Exhibition Catalogue, Nicosia Municipal Art Centre & Pierides Foundation, March – May 2007
Nasan Tur. Komunismus Sozialismus Kapietalismus, Exhibition Catalogue, Tanas Berlin, November 2008 – January 2009.
Email correspondence with Nasan Tur, January 2009
Monday, 30 March 2009
Contribution from Marija
In 2004, the
The kung fu movie star Bruce Lee would have turned 65 in November, and a two-ring media circus descended on Mostar, Bosnia, for his birthday. It was then that the world's first public monument to Lee was unveiled. Building civil society never seemed so weird: Here was a life-sized bronze statue of a topless American immigrant paid for by the German government and christened by a Chinese diplomat, erected at the behest of a dysfunctional community of Croats, Serbs, and Muslims, in the city that saw intense warfare during the Bosnian war from 1992- 1995 that involved ethnic cleansing.
This initiative represents an attempt for the public spaces to regain their meaning, and at the same time to question the significance of monuments and symbols, old ones as well as new ones. By mixing up a "high" stylistic registry (monuments, grandeur, bronze) and a "low" one (mass-culture, kung fu, heroes of our childhood), a short circuit of reception is produced: the "high" stylistic registry is being deconstructed and the overwhelming mythomany is being ironized (Who are our heroes? Whom to and why do we build monuments?), but at the same time the "low" registry is being revalorized, for its power to evoke little ordinary things of everyday life that do not have anything to do with politics and ideologies, and that bring people and nations together instead of separating them. Bruce Lee was chosen by organisers as a symbol of the fight against ethnic divisions. Lee, who was an American of Chinese descent and famous martial arts actor, represented to the residents of Mostar a bridging of cultures. "One thing we all have in common is Bruce Lee.” In a city with a reputation for violence, the dynamic movie star was a symbol of "loyalty, skill, friendship and justice."
It may seem odd that a city trying to overcome its reputation for violence would choose as a symbol a man famous for artfully snapping vertebrae. But violence is relative, nowhere more so than
As with a Lee roundhouse kick, the post-political point seems to have been made with grace and power; the Lee statue elicited only smiles and shrugs from locals on every side of Mostar's tense three-way divide. "I'm very happy about it," one Muslim resident told Agence France-Presse. "For a moment it did not matter who is Muslim and who is Croat."
If Lee is an unlikely symbol for unity in
Sunday, 29 March 2009
Contemporary art using humor to break stereotypes
Contribution from Catherine
In 1997, six years after the end of the apartheid, a South-African artist, Wayne Barker, was invited in Nantes (France) with a group of South African musicians, artists, filmmakers and dancers to the exhibition "Fin de Siècle”. The festival was created as a platform for the exposure of South African culture in a post apartheid milieu.
The story told by the artist himself:
“But very many clichees like zulu dancers, shit actually, not contemporary South-African culture. So I was sitting in bar and it raises spontaneously. I was one of the guests, the artists. And there was this huge French black man, a bodyguard. And every night at the bar “zulu, zulu, zulu”. Plus a French artist says to me, why my work is political and I am not black? And then I thought “Fuck this, this is scheisse.” I had a girlfriend, and there were big balls of chocolate mousse for the guests and everybody. And I took off my shirt and she put the chocolate mousse on me and I went to the piano. It was completely unplanned, then I did it and when I started to play, the bodyguard came to arrest me, but it was in a cultural center. Then I said “No, I am one of the performing artists.” That’s how it started.»
“This festival was portraying South Africa as a country a few centuries behind the main stream of art and music practice. It was geared toward the ethnic representation of S.A, seeming to forget the fact that as a nation we were, and still are, dealing with a huge amount of issues from the recently dismantled apartheid system, which comes with its own baggage. (…) And there it was, my action: to be covered in French chocolate mousse while playing a piano composition I had composed, “The African Basket” and then licked clean by a French woman. I saw this as a protest against how South Africa, how Africa in fact, was being represented and has been since the conquerors landed on the shores to enforce their gods and ways of seeing onto those savages. My being a White South African, meant to them that I was part of that charade and being no longer with them, as easily cast aside as a shipwrecked European; an extra in the peepshow of contemporary African art.”
“The piece dealt with how people are stereotyped and cast into identities. The music compositions are manifestations of loss. The idea of the sweetness of chocolate, the body painting and the licking, represents how we would like to see Africa. For me it was a cathartic initiation to humiliate myself by exposing my nakedness; the coating of this cute substance on my body a fantasy of colour. And then! to have the chocolate licked off, to the point of nausea, and there! back again to that same human being, without color or prejudice.“
To see a naked guy recovered with chocolate mousse licked by a woman while it is even not in the program of the event must have been a disquieting situation for the audience. Many people must have found it very shocking; some others hopefully may have understood immediately the message of the artist, others also must have found in it some food for thought. It’s the situation which makes this performance humoristic, the idea he had suddenly to take the bowl of chocolate mousse to paint his body and the whole meaning of this action in this particular place.
What is sure is that it has provoked new thought, changed the look of the French audience about South Africa.
About Wayne barker:
Tuesday, 17 March 2009
I am sending quite in retard my contribution of a spanish experience and I am preparing the introduction and sum up of the contributions, i have by now, as soon as I have all I send to you.
Interculturality, Humor and Immigration: university research meets public services and society through humor
Considering the use of humour as an instrument of communication and mediation, that could contribute to the intercultural dialogue. I would like to point up the work of the Carmen Valero Garces team at the Deparment of Modern Philology in the University of Alcala de Henares that have a Humour cathedra, it organizes the I Conference Interculturality, humor and immigration and the exhibition Graphic humors, humor and tolerance and also coordinates the Programme Traduction and interpretation in the Public Services (Valero 2004)[i]. This group is also member of the International Society for Humor Studies. (http://www.uni-duesseldorf.de/WWW/MathNat/Ruch/SecretaryPage.html). Holding in Alcalá de Henares in 2008 the last Conference o the ISHS. The words of the famous Spanish humorist Forges that participated in the Interculturality Conference could be also a particular definition of humour:
“Humour in reality, as in the Greek theater, and as the northern oriental humors, is in reality the group of attitudes that the spirit has or the way the heart of the soul has to beat. Because humour can make smile, make laugh, make think, can make to be tender, sing, can make to be excited, can make to be sad, and all of this is humors. And many times we think that it is the referred to the smile what visionaries!” (24)
The objectives of this Conference were two: firstly, to create a forum of discussion and Exchange for the professional and academic community who work with the different areas of interculturality, the translation, the humor and the immigration and secondly to attract the public attention in general who is interested in the multilingual and multicultural reality from a different perspective. During that two days conference there was an opportunity to talk about the humor form different countries and cultures, to exchange “views”, and to laugh with others, to debate about questions related to humor and to analyze communication and the culturally specific of humor.
The 2008 Conference Humor between cultures: with a smile tastes better… III conference about Intercultural communication, translation and interpretation in the Public Services was held the 20th june 2008 in the University of Alcalá de Henares. The conference counts with the participation of the humorist Pepe Garamendy with his show “inmigrandes”[ii]
The idea shared by this research team is that in their daily work with translation and interpretation especially with the public services humor is a need to continue. Considering the perspective of a five years trajectory, 2003-2008, they have perceived that crises is coming, that people frowns, the pessimism grows, but as there has been more time living together, knowing each other better, they have leaned on optimism, humor and a “take it easy” way.
This team uses humor in a productive, positive and creative way, as a part of their research and in their conferences. As they say humor is one more opportunity to debate about the bridges between languages and cultures and how to reduce the language, cultural, ideological and social barriers that prevent integration… with a smile.
[i] Valero Garcés, C. (2004) Interculturalidad. Traducción, humor e inmigración. Alcalá de Henares. Fundación Universidad de Alcalá de Henares. [CD, text]
[ii] “Inmigrandes” its a pun that mixes two words “inmigrantes” immigrants and “grandes” bigs.
Wednesday, 25 February 2009
I just bumped into this and thought it could be interesting for all of us...regarding "cultural diversity"...(and racists jokes we say knowing that is it not so, but we tell them...)
I guess we will all rather be busy with some kind of report until Sunday, but after March 1st, the thematic seminar will hopefully come back to our minds ;-)
Hope you're all fine and wish you all the best for your reports!
Forza! Hugs from Rome,
Zizek contends that today's racism is just as reflexive as every other part of postmodern life. It is not the product of ignorance in the way it used to be. So, whereas racism used to involve a claim that another ethnic group is inherently inferior to our own, racism is now articulated in terms of a respect for another's culture. Instead of "My culture is better than yours", postmodern or reflexive racism will argue that "My culture is different from yours". As an example of this Zizek asks "was not the official argument for apartheid in the old South Africa that black culture should be preserved in its uniqueness, not dissipated in the Western melting-pot? (The Fragile Absolute, or Why the Christian Legacy is Worth Fighting For) For him, what is at stake here is the fethishistic disawoval of cynicism: "I know very well that all ethnic cultures are equal in value, yet, nevertheless, I will act as if mine is superior". The split here between the subject of enunciated ("I know very well...") and the subject of the enunciation ("...nevertheless I act as if I didn't") is even preserved when racists are asked to explain the reasons for their behavior. A racist will blame his socio-economic environment, poor childhood, peer group pressure, and so on, in such a way as to suggest to Zizek that he cannot help being racist, but is merely a victim of circumstances. Thus postmodern racists are fully able to rationalize their behavior in a way that belies the traditional image of racism as the vocation of the ignorant.
Saturday, 3 January 2009
Graffiti on the Bethlehem's wall
How the humour of a British artist, painted on the west bank wall, is interpreted by local Palestinians
Banksy is a well-known British graffiti artist. His artworks, painted in cities around the world, are often-satirical pieces of art on topics such as politics, culture, and ethics. Described by some as "vandalism" and by others as "brilliant and funny", He's images are a subject for a whole article by itself.
In August 2005, Banksy painted nine images on the Israeli West Bank barrier, including an image of a ladder going up and over the wall and an image of children digging a hole through the wall. Magazines wrote that "they drew the world’s attention to the barrier in ways that protest and op-ed pieces could not". Banksy himself records on his website how an old Palestinian man said his painting made the wall look beautiful. Banksy thanked him, only to be told: "We don't want it to be beautiful, we hate this wall. Go home". Banksy returned to the West Bank in December 2007, leaving six new drawings on the wall near Bethlehem (see attached photos of those drawings from 2007).
Shepard Fairey, in an interview with Banksy, wrote that "His works are filled with imagery tweaked into metaphors that cross all language barriers", but the following article from SPIEGEL shows that language and cultural barriers exist in all forms of communication, and brings a challenge to the visual one too.
If you are not familiar with Banksy's work- take a minuet to look at the attached photographs of his work before reading the following article.
TOURISM IN THE HOLY LAND
Taking a 'Banksy Tour' in Bethlehem
By Michael Scott Moore in Jerusalem
Paintings by the West's favorite graffiti artist, Banksy, are part of everyday life for Palestinians around Bethlehem. Some images have been erased, others protected -- but some inspire an odd local lore.
In the West Bank, Israel's security barrier has started to resemble the western side of the Berlin Wall. The Israeli side is bleak and clean, but on the Palestinian side graffiti can flourish.
I knew the British painter Banksy had tagged the wall a few years ago, but I had no idea where his stencils were. At first I didn't care -- I was just here to see Bethlehem -- but my taxi passed a stencil I had seen in news reports, a dove wearing a bulletproof vest. So I snapped a picture.
My driver got excited. "You like Banksy?" he said. "You want a tour? I can show you all the pictures."
I had stumbled on one of Bethlehem's new tourist attractions: the unofficial Banksy tour. In the year since he tagged buildings around Bethlehem -- and the three years or so since he painted famous trompe l'oeil stencils of holes in the massive wall around the West Bank -- Banksy's images have become part of the landscape. They even help bring a little money into Bethlehem's tourist economy, which was crushed when Israel built the security wall in 2002. Israel argues that the wall has stopped suicide bombings, which have largely been replaced by regular missiles from Gaza. But Palestinians say their livelihood has been squeezed, and now "Banksy tours" are a moneymaking venture for some taxi drivers.
Ahmed was lean, close to 50 years old, with a crevassed face and a thin salt-and-pepper mustache. He said he'd helped drive "colors" across the border -- paints -- for Banksy when he and a few other artists mounted a project to stencil wall surfaces and buildings around Bethlehem late last year.
"The people on our side like his pictures," he said, "because they can see what he mean" -- and because the artist raised money last Christmas for Palestinian kids through a temporary gallery called "Santa's Ghetto" on Bethlehem's Manger Square.
"Except for two pictures," Ahmed went on, "-- two they washed away. Because they didn't know what it meant. One was a donkey being checked by an Israeli soldier for passport. They didn't know if that meant donkeys also should have papers. They thought this is no good for the Palestinian people, so they clean it off."
In fact, last year a story went over the news wires that locals had painted over the donkey mural because they had felt offended. Irony doesn't always translate into Arabic, and instead of a jab at the Israeli regime of border controls, Palestinians worried it was a joke against them. "We're humans here, not donkeys," restaurant owner Nasri Canavati had told a Reuters reporter. "This is insulting. I'm glad it was painted over."
The punch line is that a BBC correspondent has been riding a donkey across the Holy Land this month, following the route taken by Mary and Joseph according to the Gospel of Luke. He had to replace his animal after Israeli soldiers at a West Bank checkpoint refused to let it through. "They informed us," reported the correspondent, Aleem Maqbool, "that our donkey did not have the correct paperwork."
The unofficial Banksy tour has no set itinerary, and no set script. A total of twelve images went up around Bethlehem last year; Ahmed showed me four.
One was a painting of two donkeys bearing cities on their backs, by two artists who had worked with Banksy, Sam 3 and Erica il Cane ("Eric the Dog"). There was also the armored peace dove, which we saw first, and a now-famous image of a girl patting down an Israeli soldier. "The meaning of this picture," said Ahmed, "is that kids stop the soldiers and take their guns. So if you're strong today, not all the time you're strong."
Sometimes his explanations were trenchant; sometimes they were bizarre. Well outside the town we stopped in front of a huge stencil of the "Flower Chucker," one of Banksy's best-known images, on the side of a building that was being demolished. It showed a masked Palestinian hurling a colorful bouquet of flowers. Ahmed said locals had agitated to keep the one wall intact because this image is the best-loved Banksy stencil in Bethlehem. It reminded locals of a bronze angel on a church nearby, he said, at Shepherd's Field. In fact, they called this stencil "The Angel."
"They understand what Banksy is saying," Ahmed said, "because this picture is also in front of the church."
"What, the same picture?"
"The same, yes."
"I can show you."
We drove to a small church outside the village of Beit Sahour, in Shepherd's Field. It's one of two rival locations where a host of angels is said to have sung to shepherds on the occasion of Jesus' birth. It's therefore a destination for pilgrimages and Catholic bus tours. An angel cast in bronze over the church entrance, with its arms raised in a certain posture, seems to have reminded locals — or at least local taxi drivers — of the Flower Chucker.
Ahmed insisted that Banksy knew about this statue and was quoting it in the "Flower Chucker" painting, and because of this connection to local art and lore, the concrete wall had been saved.
But the statue and painting looked nothing alike.
"Do people really call that Banksy picture 'The Angel'?" I asked. "Is that really the title?"
"Yes. It's a picture of this angel."
"But it's not an angel."
I wanted him to admit that it was a picture of a Palestinian militant. I also wanted to suggest that a picture of a militant throwing a bouquet of flowers was so absurd it worked as an ironic comment on violence in the West Bank.
Ahmed shrugged. "I don't know. People just like the picture."
On our way back toward Bethlehem we passed the towering security wall. Ahmed waved dissuasively at the jumble of graffiti. "Kids," he said.
So Banksy's stencils have taken up residence in the West Bank, and the people revere him as an artist — but on their terms, not his. Arab culture is not ironic, and his humor can be confusing. But even rough stencils and splatters of paint are better than a plain ugly wall. On the Israeli side, the only bit of color to relieve the unrelenting concrete at the crossing was a monumental work of propaganda, a banner rich with unintended irony, since no one in the West Bank sees the security barrier as anything but a prison wall.
"Peace Be With You," it says in three languages. "Israel Ministry of Tourism."
* SWINDLE Magazine interview with BANKSY By Shepard Fairey:
* Banksy on Wikipedia:
* Banksy's Website:
* SPIEGEL ONLINE, article: "TOURISM IN THE HOLY LAND: Taking a 'Banksy Tour' in Bethlehem" By Michael Scott Moore in Jerusalem:
December 24, 2008
Monday, 1 December 2008
Look Up! Look Up!, 2000
Wang Qingsong, arguably China's leading conceptual photographer, supplies a wicked impression of life in contemporary China through his personal observations on modern culture. His computer-manipulated photographs richly reflect a playful but serious opinion on the rapid changes within China's society. As China's developing economy continues to create an environment conducive to economic, cultural, and artistic change, areas such as consumer culture have been affected, challenging existing boundaries. Reactions to the economic development have greatly influenced that art produced in China within the past two decades. As a contemporary artist, Wang Qingsong looks to the immediate environment for inspiration, thus infusing his works with emotion generated by what is taking place around him.
«For China, with 1/5 of the population in the world, it has to resolve problems of clothing, food, housing and transportation. In housing, developers of real estate have created such terms as "Chinese Manhattan", "Oriental Versailles ", "Park Avenue Apartments", "Palm Beach Springs", "Roman Garden", "Modern SOHO", and "European Classics". In food, it is well known that McDonald's and Pizza Hut are just fast-food stores in Europe and America, nothing more than convenience. However, when they came into China, they became the top cuisine and hot rendezvous for people to have parties, invite friends, celebrate birthdays and meet lovers. On the surface, this phenomenon of going after what is western style represents an ideal for Euro-American materialistic life. But in such an era of globalization, does this ideal also represent worship that can create a lot of ridiculous contradictions? With this thinking, I created many photographic works including "Thinker" (1998), "Prisoner" (1998), "Catcher" (1998), "Requesting Buddha series" (1999), "Can I Cooperate with You? " (2000), "Look Up! Look Up!" (2000), "Bath House" (2000), "Forum" (2001), and "Beggar" (2001)» says Wang Qingsong.
In Requesting Buddha No.1, he converts traditional Buddhist imagery into a contemporary pop image.
As the quintessence of Chinese traditional culture, Buddhism has accompanied Chinese civilization for thousands of years. It brings comfort and fortune to the people, inspires their soul and enlightens a responsibility for having good relations with the others. This Buddha used to set its goal to save the suffering through self-devotion. However, in the current commercial society, the respectable Buddha has also been changed. It reaches out its hands insatiably for money and material goods towards every troubled person. The "Requesting Buddha" Series is the faithful representation of such a phenomenon, overflowing with desires, hypocrisy and exaggeration.
By portraying himself as a thousand-armed Bodhisattva holding familiar modern products, Wang Qingsong enforces the coexistence of past and present, art and culture, traditional and colloquial.
Requesting Buddha No.1, 1999
Wang Qingsong again portrays himself as a Buddhist figure in The Thinker, this time in an aura of meditative emptiness. The irony is blatant in the McDonald's logo emblazoned on his chest. Here, Wang Qingsong skillfully juxtaposes China's religious past and cultural icons with popular western commercial names. The philosophical ideas of Buddhism combined with the recognizable McDonald's motif. He chooses to highlight commercialization in a less than serious manner by referencing product names with Buddhist motifs to effect a satirical comment on society past and present. His works demonstrate the rapid growth of consumer society, as well as the influence of western aesthetic and material culture, which can be seen to be increasingly dominant in China since the 1980s.
Can I cooperate with you? ,2000 Imperior Sedan, Yan Liben, Tang Dynasty*
With a strong awareness of the social changes China is experiencing, Wang Qingsong and his contemporaries confront these ideas and blend them with popular culture, producing works that force the viewer to consider what is going on in present-day society. China's push for modernization has not only affected the economy, but also cultural identity and art. The concerns facing artists today are inevitably influenced by this phenomenon. Wang Qingsong's works offer a social commentary with personal views on change, encompassing the judgment and critique of an emerging, global culture in an intelligible and at times amusing way.
* This painting talked about a historical event in 641 A.D. when the Chief of Tufan Minority Song Zan Gan Bu sought for marriage with the daughter of Tai Zong, Wencheng Princess. Tai Zong sat straight on the sedan chair carried by the court girls. The envoys from Tufan Minority and Tang officials sat in front of Tai Zong in deep respect. "Sedan Chair" is a documentary and historic figure painting that recorded friendship and communication of the central power with its minorities over 1000 years ago.