Deep Sounding – History as Multiple Narratives is a group exhibition centered on the subjectivity and magnitude (or lack thereof) of historical narrative. In German, the word geschichte represents both ‘history’ and ‘story,’ the point on which the exhibition text is focused.
There’s a push and pull here between works that are driven aesthetically and those that are driven narratively, some unfortunately appearing rather one-noted despite the rich contexts within which they are situated. For example, Depositum by Gülsün Karamustafa. On an ordinary bookshelf, an aged collection of 20, paper-bound books with simple, text-based bindings (in Turkish) sit bundled together in clear clingfilm, about five to each bale. They are haphazardly placed on the shelves, I am uninspired to seek out any greater meaning. Despite this, I leaf through the exhibition booklet and learn that this collection was given to the artists’ father to celebrate her birth. This particular edition of classic literature is emblematic of a political landscape that no longer exists in Turkey, transforming these volumes into precious reminders of a different time. A poignant story suffocated by the gesture of turning it into art.
Conversely, in an exhibition heavy with video and two-dimensional works, two of the most striking pieces were also sculptural. Both floor pieces, the first made of recycled lead from the Ignalina nuclear power plant in Lithuania is Title One: The Tasks of the Community by Rossella Biscotti, taking its name from the 1957 treaty that established the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). Just next to this piece were two works by Mariana Castillo Deball, Mathematical distortions No. 19, No. 21., No. 34, which combine stucco modeling techniques with 20th century mathematical models developed by Felix Klein. These works are elegant and subtle, with their very structure guiding us through a deeper, more complex narrative.
‘Deep sounding’ quite literally refers to measuring depth. There is no question of the profundity of the various stories, interpretations, and manipulations present in the works. But what is less convincing is the dynamic between subject and object, viewer in a gallery and exploited worker in a video, or the objectified body replaced by the artists’ body. I find myself asking what it does to turn these situations and experiences into works of art? By contextualizing these issues within the value systems of the art world, are we not simply reifying the power structures that created these one-sided, exclusionary histories in the first place?
Deep Sounding – History As Multiple Narratives: 20 Jun 2019 – 11 Aug 2019 daadgalerie, Berlin