About the Artists
Born in Turkey and based in Berlin, artist Nevin Aladağ addresses the social fabric and structures of global society through her work. By transforming distinctive yet universal objects, patterns, and scenes into interconnected and evolving narratives, Aladağ visualizes the limitations and the fusion of cultural influence informed by geography.
In her Social Fabric works (2017), Aladağ explores such topics as transgressing borders, the individual and the collective, and identity formation by reimagining the patterns of everyday life into new topographies. Each panel contains carpet pieces of various generations and styles from different parts of the world that are interlocked to form a “landscape.” This new terrain suggests geography that defies traditional borders and has been reshaped to suggest a multiplicity of cultural connections that make up our perspectives. These works are hung in a portrait orientation, suggesting an impression or abstracted depiction of a social network and confronting our own place within this framework.
This exploration of pattern is found throughout Aladağ’s work, as in Session (2013), a video triptych shot in the urban areas and desert of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. In the musical composition, Arabic, African, and Indian percussion instruments are played by the elements: the sand, the sea, and the wind. The resulting tonal inflections form an audio-visual portrait of the United Arab Emirates. Through the use of formal aspects of line, shape, and pattern, Aladağ’s imagery evokes shifts and movement that upend imposed boundaries and consider new patterns and possibilities in how we compose our social and economic structures.1
1WENTRUP Gallery, “Session,” news release, 2013. www.wentrupgallery.com/press/nevin-aladag-session-2/, accessed May 5, 2018.
Korean artist Kimsooja lives and works in New York, Seoul, and Paris, and is known for her work’s connections to healing as a response to violence and inhumanity. In Worlds Otherwise Hidden she presents a new chapter in her To Breathe series with the installation To Breathe—Zone of Nowhere (2017), in which iconic imagery from 246 national flags morphs into one another, dissolving in a multiplicity of patterns. By intermixing and layering colors and designs from varying countries’ flags, the artist visually and symbolically compresses and dissolves hierarchies between different countries.
In a canopy fanning across the gallery, the flags both confront and comfort: their blending of cultural insignia challenges the force of nationalism, while their gentle swaying—as if in open air—creates a calming, contemplative effect. Kimsooja creates a place of intimacy amid an array of global displacement, a site that encourages self-awareness as a link to building the possibility of extension to and embrace with others.
The first iteration of this work was a video for the 2012 London Olympic Games in which the artist layered the flags of all the participating countries in a reflection of the unifying spirit of the games. In its current form, the project expands to include many more of the world’s national flags as an immersive installation. Without hierarchy or political prejudice, Kimsooja’s work encourages the hope of creating a visual experience whereby national differences and conflicts can be merged and harmonized. To Breathe—Zone of Nowhere is a wish for coexistence, for an ideal world in which individuals can unite in celebration of our distinctions and of our common humanity.
Jamaican-born, New York-based artist Nari Ward responds to sites, building upon their labor histories by imbuing found objects, patterns, and materials with new innovations and personal interpretations. Through historical analysis, biography, and reimagined narrative, Ward nurtures the complexities of combining labor, memory, and history in the present in his video, sculpture, and two-dimensional works featured in Worlds Otherwise Hidden.
Ward states that the challenge for him is in “translating the mental stream, which is rich in reflection and visual undertow, into physical reality,” which becomes what he refers to as “metaphors of transformation.”1 Through the guise of metaphor, Ward’s unique yet recognizable patterns, forms, and materials facilitate exchanges between personal and universal cultural histories.
As site, labor, and metaphor coalesce in this selection of works, Ward is also mindful of leaving enough room for the viewer’s engagement. While Ward’s works are complex and inventive, they remain recognizable and accessible. For example, in his use of shoelaces as text, bricks to suggest quilt patterns, and strips of foam, electrical parts, and mangos to resemble snowmen-like forms, viewers are provided entrées into a broader dialogue about communication, history, and narrative that Ward’s work illuminates.
1“Interview: Nari Ward Speaks with MASS MoCA Director Joseph Thompson,” in the Nari Ward: Sub Mirage Lignum catalog published in conjunction with the exhibition Sub Mirage Lignum at MASS Moca, Apr. 4, 2011–Mar. 4, 2012.