Compliments

me | you: Compliments
Two channel video installation, 01:00:00 / 2012

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Installation view: “Envy, Enmity, Embarrassment”, Arter, 2013. Photo: Cem Turgay

In this video installation you see us, Merve Ertufan and Johanna Adebäck, next to each other looking towards the visitor. For one hour, we give each other compliments, the recipient of the compliment may not comment on it. In the beginning, the compliments are honest and cordial but as time passes they become sarcastic and exaggerated. While a compliment is an act of kindness, it is also a testament to what one values, admires or envies. The one-hour-long session is documented on two separate HDV tapes and played in sync without any editing.

“As audience we have the chance to adopt several positions for thinking about and understanding the structure of compliments. We may stand as an observer in the middle of this one-hour-long, uninterrupted compliment tennis, and while enjoying watching several good sets of the game, we can get to know the artists personally; what they value, what they lack, what they envy and even their strengths and weaknesses. As we watch both of them in real time, one waiting for the other to finish her compliment, positioned next to each other in closeup, we are given the opportunity to catch their momentary emotional responses by watching their facial expressions closely. We witness how they struggle not to reveal their various feelings, depending on the content and the mood of the compliments, and how they suddenly change their mind about the next compliment they’ll make. 

Another position available for the viewer, while caught in this crossfire, is that of becoming the receiver of the compliments. Although they take turns making compliments; since they’re looking directly at the camera, we could easily intercept and start to accept the compliments for ourselves. After enjoying this position for a while, the work has the potential to bring us to a self-conscious state where we suddenly take stock of what we value, desire, or envy and also how ephemeral our values are, which we can instantly change depending on the other person we are interacting with, or the latent narcissism within us.”

Part of text by Basak Doga Temur, from exhibition catalogue Envy, Enmity, Embarrassment, 2013.

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