2009 Text by Thomas Köllhofer (ENG)


The beauty of images can be seductive. The world is beautiful!
Occasionally, however, fear and horror lurk behind great beauty. Scenes, a
photographic work by Özlem Günyol & Mustafa Kunt, for instance, features
blue sky, mountains and a lake. These are landscapes that invite the viewer
to step into them. Their spaciousness elicits a relaxing calm. The titles of
the photographs, on the other hand, report that these landscapes were the
settings for atrocities. They are photographs of the borders between Kosovo
and Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia and Albania. Border zones in which fierce
fighting took place. Nothing is visible of their history, of the armed combat and
the fates of the people associated with them. However, no sooner have
recollections and images been evoked by the titles than these landscapes
lose their innocence.

A pivotal theme with Günyol & Kunt is a preoccupation with the identity of
individuals, ethnic communities and countries. They deal searchingly with the
vulnerability of the individual, personal destinies subjected to the violence of
institutional power as well as collective identity, the different forms it assumes
and the consequences of different identity groups interacting. They are also
concerned with querying and subverting the sources of identity: nationality,
ethnicity, language, political ideology, religion, gender and even age.

Günyol & Kunt make a point of playing with a wide variety of symbols of
national identity. On occasion, they may even use mere fragments of
those symbols so that their origins are not always immediately recognisable.
Thus they, too, may also turn into mirages. For State Paintings, Günyol &
Kunt enlarged details of linear patterns from various passports. These graphic
structures do not at first reveal that their decorative ornamentation in fact
stems from sophisticated security strategies adopted for the prevention of
counterfeiting. The possession of a passport is a precondition for travelling
across national borders. However, persons in possession of a passport that is
valid but not ‘right’ are likely to experience limits to their freedom of movement.

The video work Untitled (borders from 1804 to 2006) shows areas of colour
that are continually being reconfigured. These seemingly abstract colour fields,
however, actually document the boundaries of European nation states between
1804 and 2006. Underlying this playfully changing carpet of images are,
therefore, political conflicts, which are usually of a warlike kind.

Much the same holds for Ceaseless Doodle. The seemingly aimless scribbling is
reminiscent of the doodles done by people while on the telephone. However,
these are the precisely drawn, overlapping outlines of all the earth’s countries,
woven into the form of a fragile globe. Here a light and arbitrary hand seems
to have toyed with national configurations, the establishment of whose
boundaries has in fact been repeatedly accompanied by tragic blows of fate.

Whereas here the delicate outlines of national boundaries seem to create a
fragile likeness of the earth, flag-s creates a black rectangle by superimposing
the flags of all countries in the printing process. The black, however, looks
more like the result of subtraction than addition, more like the internal
dissolution of those national symbols and, concomitantly, the nationalities
belonging to them. A black flag stands for mourning and death as well as
anarchy and chaos. Chaos also signifies the lack of boundaries. What
boundaries does a person need? Do boundaries imply protection? Or does
drawing boundaries in itself constitute an aggressive act that restricts
others’ freedom?

There are two hundred and sixty-six countries that lay claim to a national
anthem. In Hullabaloo these national anthems are played in such a way
that, after half of one has been heard, all are collectively audible for a brief
interval.The national anthems are played according to a clearly planned
composition. Nevertheless, a jarringly loud texture of sound is produced,
with the individual melodies drowned out in cacophony. Chaos instead of
music or melodiousness. This Günyol & Kunt work recalls the Tower of Babel
and the punishment of man’s hubris with linguistic confusion. The viewer is
confronted with a wall of 266 loudspeakers like a bellowing being.
It represents global synchronicity, which leads to a loss of distinct identities.

In this work shown at the Kunsthalle Mannheim, Özlem Günyol and Mustafa
Kunt have again resorted to utilising commonplace images and symbols,
only to surreptitiously subvert them. The power inherent in the original is
invalidated by repetition and transformation.

Thomas Köllhofer


„Özlem Günyol & Mustafa Kunt, Sandra Kuhne, Regine Müller-Waldeck,
Martin Pfeifle, Martin Wöhrl“, Hrsg.: Ulrike Lorenz, Katalog zur Ausstellung
Hector Förderpreis 2009, Kunsthalle Mannheim, 78 Seiten, Verlag:
Wienand Verlag
ISBN: 978-3868320152