Özlem Altin – Untitled (Opression) from Glow in the dark installation (2014)

One thing folks who interact with me AFK know about me is that I’m rarely at a loss to explain my impression of something and to explain in excruciating detail why I had such a response.

I suspect this is something by which frequent readers will be less than surprised… however, the truth is while I generally do know whether I dig something or not, I’m not always correct in my initial classifications (for example: last year’s stand out funeral doom release Bell Witch’s Mirror Reaper was something I didn’t like until I suddenly did and then I was total enamored with it) and I’m not always able to offer as definitive of an explanation as to why I like something than I would prefer (that’s one of the reasons I’ve kept up this project–to force myself to do something that isn’t always easy or comfortable).

I like this. A lot. I’m not exactly sure how to explain that reaction though…

The harsh flash is definitely suited to this sort of scene. If you’ve got a good TTL setup that’ll do the flash math for you so you don’t have to think about it working in low/limited/difficult lighting situations in monochrome will generally always look appealing. (There is the fact that the flash is properly metered off of the subjects back instead of the floor–which makes the floor look even more dingy.)

I’m typically not fond of the inclusion of distracting detritus in a the frame either (the boxes in the upper portion of the frame and the chair leg protruding into the upper right corner are a touch distracting).

I think it’s the gloves resting on the subject’s shoulder that are what I keep tripping over. They seem flat–almost like patches or bandages. Then there’s the discoloration: you might think it’s some kind of pattern except that it doesn’t match between the gloves; suggesting the gloves are wet or otherwise soiled.

There’s also the configuration. It could be that there are two right hands pressing into her shoulder–two folks comforting? Or: two folks holding/trying to push her down?

Also: it could be one person–left hand palm up resting knuckles down on the skin while the right hand is palm down. (A configuration which suggests both intimacy and control–which feels to be especially in keeping with the duality of the specific absence of a title and a parenthetical contextual addendum.)

I’m not sure I know how to connect all the dots between this impression and what commentator Lieneke Hulshof has written about Altin’s work:

The installations of Özlem Altin are based on her extensive photographic
archives. She presents her own photographs alongside those of other
artists, her own drawings alongside objects she has found and her own
videos alongside photocopied pages. The collection exposes her
fascination for representations of the human body. ‘In fact I am always
searching for the moment at which a sort of transformation or change
takes place, for instance, when a body no longer represents an
individual, but has become more abstract, almost object-like.’ These are
images of people who cannot be recognised, who are hiding behind
something: an averted gaze, a body that has almost dissolved into its
environment or become one with its shadow. Altin’s work emphasises how
our perspective is never permanent, but always fluid, reproduced by
means of constantly repeated re-interpretations of past events. She
shows how all of us constantly re-interpret our own memories.

But it does feel like the mix of intimacy and oppression is actually very much what this piece is interrogating.

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