Christian Witt-Dörring

Vienna 2004


On the ceramic language of Canan Dagdelen

Canan Dagdelen has not withdrawn into the security of a post-postmodern world with her two most recent works. She has posed herself the question that every conscious life holds in wait for us. In order to express this she sounds out the possibilities predetermined by her material, her culture and her life circumstances. In doing so she allows us to participate in the process of achieving consciousness.

The theme of her exhibition in the MAK Study Collection is being at home, which she locates within the larger context of the term “heimat” (homeland) – a subject that, because of its ambiguity and historical encumbrances, is once again enormously explosive. At a time when the “last superpower” is beginning to close itself off from the outside world, makes an attempt to protect its “basic values” through a Department of Homeland Security, in which unity in the face of an external enemy is demanded and anything foreign seen as a potential threat, the emotionally emphasized dimension of the term homeland loses its positive, nurturing power and, for those standing outside, becomes a threat. Being different no longer means enriching diversity, but rather dangerous competition. A diversity of mentalities becomes a threat to economic globalization. The irrational power of the emotions is squeezed into a “rational” corset and withers away. Attempts to subsume the metaphysical into the rational are increasing in strength as the recent attempt to import God into a European constitution shows.

Born in Istanbul, trained as a ceramicist at the College of Applied Arts in Vienna and in possession of both Austrian and Turkish citizenship, Canan Dagdelen lives in the experience of two extremely different cultures. Emotionally she is Turkish; the centre of her daily life is Austria. The quotidian confrontation of her emotional world with the Austrian as well as the newly awakened consciousness of the Islamic world in relation to the West have sensitized her. As a person, the fixed location is her point of reference, and the vocabulary is culturally specific. As an artist she lives in a globalized world that has an international language. The question about homeland is a daily one, in both its rational and its emotional form. This requires a continuous reaction to possibilities of choosing. The precondition of being able to exercise that choice lies in defining one’s position. That is exactly what Canan Dagdelen does with her thematization of the term “being at home”.

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