The Kutlug Ataman Exhibit and Social Space

I thought it was interesting to read about social space in the Slack and Wise Primer after attending the Kutlug Ataman exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery (http://www.vanartgallery.bc.ca/the_exhibitions/exhibit_kutlug_ataman.html). The Ataman exhibit had two sides to it; Kuba, a collection of video clips of interviews of people from a small community outside of Istanbul, and Paradise, which involved 24 Californians giving their views on Paradise. The gallery space was actually used to divide the two Ataman projects, so to see one you had to cross physical space to get from one to another. The Kuba side was made to feel dirtier, more used, as the chairs you sat in while you watched them were all old and sort of falling apart, and the televisions were old and dilapidated as well. It was dimly lit. The Paradise exhibit was clean and bright, with plastic cubes to sit on, far more modern and what you would expect in a gallery. After reading about social space, I thought it was interesting how these changes between how the two pieces were presented effectively changed and enhanced the way a person felt about what we were watching. They were both in the same gallery, the same spaces, but the mood and feeling I got from both were completely different, and it added to the entire experience. The gallery had effectively though artificially created two completely different social spaces. The Primer is correct in pointing out that space has meaning put upon it the people using it; I had never thought about it that way.

I felt slightly conflicted by the whole show and the way the space was organized. If I had seen the two shows separately, at different galleries or different times, I would have liked them more. At the Kuba exhibit I saw some very sad stories; these men and women had been affected by brutality and poverty. When I went over to watch the Paradise exhibit, it was difficult to watch the wealthy Californians discuss their ideas about Paradise, their dreams and ideals, after watching the Kuba pieces. I wanted to listen to what the Californians had to say but found it too difficult to take them seriously as their interviews now seemed trivial. I don’t think this was Ataman’s original intention. I think he was genuinely interested in what the Californians had to say, but the outcome of showing the two exhibits at once was the portrayal of the Californians as vapid and shallow. Generally I thought that the manipulation of the two spaces, by making them feel so different, was what made it feel like a cheap comparison. The gallery did not need to rough up the Kuba side, as the people’s stories were powerful enough, and the Paradise exhibit did not need to feel as cold as it was. I like to form my own opinions based on the art itself, and I left feeling a little manipulated.

Overall, I thought these were very thought provoking exhibits and I found myself thinking about them quite a bit. I would highly recommend that people see it.

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