Nevin Aladag


at Arter and Rampa


Nevin AladaË?g is of Turkish parentage but grew up in Germany, so it makes sense that her work is preoccupied with the differences between being and seeming, between who we are and how we present ourselves. At Arter, a series of alcoves were draped with approximately 10-foot lengths of artificial hair, acquired in uncut states from Chinese manufacturers. The hair in each alcove was arranged into one of several “hairdos,” each titled Stage (2012) and resembling a parted theater curtain as much as Robert Morris’s hanging felt works, which themselves often resemble flowing locks.

In 1967, Michael Fried criticized Minimalism for its theatricality, meaning its submissiveness to a viewer’s perceptual interaction. AladaË?g functionalizes Morris’s conceit, and willingly owns the trope as theater. Converted into art, the hair is shorn of its usual purpose. Each Stage suggests a portrait: the platinum pigtails, an Alpen Heidi; the turquoise bob, a Japanese vamp. A graying brunette, a henna-ed hippy and a braided goth girl are also part of the cast of characters. Strung between pillars, the curtains become decor. If you were to place one in a large apartment, it could serve as a fringed partition. Interaction (visitors could walk through the curtains onto the “stage”) implies use value, which divests a work of its art aura. The effect of AladaË?g’s installation spans an axis from the former to the latter. The dramatic shadows cast by the curtains onto the back wall of each alcove suggest a Platonic metaphor, in which each subsequent role assigned to the material is a projection from its previous incarnation: the sculptural curtains were hairdressing tools and could become elements of interior design. The installation sets up a perpetual oscillation between what we are and how we would like to appear. The void of the wall onto which the hair parts is where a face would be, but we are left to imagine it. Has the cultural sign-the haircut-by exploding in scale, overwhelmed the personality it qualifies, or is the wall a blank space provided, if only symbolically, for AladaË?g’s performance of her repertory of pop-cultural stereotypes?

At Rampa, hair became wire. Columns were hung with decoratively knotted steel threads, resembling traditional macramé (Macramé I, II, III, 2012)-a textile in which plant pots, for example, can be hung. As it cascaded, the wire unraveled chaotically, relinquishing the image and disabling the function. And yet the artist has based the pattern itself on the microscopic structure of the wire, so the appearance of purpose proves to be merely a guise for self-reflexivity. Hung along the main wall, 84 glazed, pastel-colored ceramics showed the imprint of various body parts (Leaning Wall, 2012). In pinks, sky blues and primrose yellows, the ceramics were interactive lures, inviting us to see if our fists or knees would correspond to the trace left by the model. The mimetic configurations of the ceramics suggested the attempt to assume an identity-to become the person one would like to be-as their gleaming surfaces signaled the artificiality of such strivings. At the show’s opening, performers emerged from the crowd and began dancing to inaudible music, eliding the distinction between viewer and artwork. And indeed, it seems that some in the opening crowd were soon dancing along.

Photo: View of Nevin AladaË?g’s exhibition “Stage,” 2012; at Arter.