Artist Nasan Tur Addresses Political Turmoil through Magic at West Den Haag
Redirection may be the most powerful tool for a magician—and for the Berlin-based artist Nasan Tur. In a new show at West Den Haag, Tur addresses political turmoil and socioeconomic disparities through politically incisive and skeptical works in a variety of media.
Titled “Magic,” the artist’s new exhibition includes videos that capture sleight of hand, people firing guns in slow motion, and an installation that plays with materials made for political protest. Tur considers magicians or illusionists to be present in our daily lives; for example, politicians who influence the public, earn their trust, and persuade them to take positions. In the exhibition’s title video piece, Magic (2013), a series of vignettes depict a magician’s hands as they manipulate objects in a darkened space. Some of the tricks are recognizable, but charged by the use of symbolically loaded objects: kerchiefs decorated with Palestinian and Israeli flags are made to change from one into the other; a coin magically passes through a copy of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital; and news photographs of armed conflict are made to disappear through mysterious gestures.
Other works, such as First shot (2014), In my pants (2015), and Preparation #1 (2010), also focus on gestures. First shot uses slow motion in a manner similar to video artist Bill Viola, capturing the subtleties of movements and facial expressions, as subjects one by one fire a revolver for the first time in their life, within a black, empty space. In Preparation #1, we see a montage, split between six channels, of a person preparing to attend a political rally. He readies a bullhorn, makes banners, maps a route, sharpens a knife, and so on. His actions all relate to the idea of protest, but each one represents a radically different approach or ideology, ranging from pacifism to revolt. Tur toys with what to show and what to hide, encouraging the audience to consider the scene, beyond what can actually be seen in the work itself.
Activist’s banners reappear in Demo-kits de luxe (2009), a set of protest banners presented as kits to be used at political demonstrations. Presented side by side as an installation, each kit is a different color, comprised of a spray paint can and a blank furled banner. Each is made from expensive materials such as fine hardwoods and precious metals. Presented in this way these objects are boiled down to their visual and material qualities, no longer recognizable as tools to instigate change.
In all of his works, Tur examines deeper ideas and ideologies. His cultural commentary on action, explored coolly and thoughtfully, makes for engaging contradictions and ponderous art.
“Magic by Nasan Tur” is on view at West Den Haag, Netherlands, May 9—Jun. 20, 2015.