Peter Noever

Vienna 2004


The works of Canan Dagdelen are intricate and multifaceted. Reference to the architecture of her cultural area can be found in her work time and again as she has a special liking for architecture, in particular that of the Near East and Central Asia. The forms she creates in a delicate balance between tradition and function have obtained a firm place in her creative repertoire.

But it is her particular approach to these forms that gives meaning to her work while making it so genuinely artistic. In its persistence and insistence her culturally poetic and architecturally ethnologic approach is certainly to be seen conceptually, as a methodical approach as well as an access to the modalities of the visible.

Forms are specific expressions of a society and its self-determination in the mirror of changing times. Hence, forms are both erection (construction) and decay (ruin) at the same time. In Dagdelen’s work this diachronic logic is fascinatingly synchronized by the concurrence – a literal dissolve – of these otherwise diametrically opposed conditions of development. Thus the forms feel familiar, but at the same time irritatingly strange, downright archeologically distant, ghostly in fact, as if they were an echo of earliest civilizations. We are not just dealing with a formal experiment here, but this is the expression of a sentiment that everyone must know who has ever felt a stranger to his surroundings, who has ever experienced being a stranger. This condition of estrangement inherent in the late capitalist societies returns – turned into image – as alienation. Dagdelen’s images are icons of this identity crisis. They tell of the ever-recurrent drama of search, finding, and loss. They have the inevitable urge to keep moving for a theme in all its possibilities and impossibilities.

With her reference to traditional, centuries-old ways of building and their elemental lexicon of construction, Dagdelen also accomplishes memory work. She reminds of the people who lived and dreamed under and within these forms. This memory work takes place in a crypt of understanding and mourning that we can only detect in the scattered traces, frail signs, and fragments of former entities. Dagdelen fills the void architectonic form that has been dismounted to mere shell with these contents and thus rehumanizes it, that way entering the line of tradition of important visionaries of space like Le Corbusier.

Her photographic work is transformative. It transforms everyday situations like the steps of a pedestrian into an ornamental ensemble: The microscopic pixels that make up a photograph are macroscopically enlarged, translated into ceramic reliefs and so transposed into crystalline reality.

This way of materializing and of giving a new dimension to the original pixels is an alienating procedure that reminds of the practice of pointillistic painting or of the enlarged cartoons of Roy Lichtenstein. The result is a form on the verge of dissolution.

Dagdelen’s works are not intended to surprise nor to impress. They are far from the logic of the spectacular and transitory pleasure. One can find one’s way to her work, if one is ready to venture on a temporal dimension opposite to everyday life, if one exposes oneself to the silence, proves to be patient and is ready to feel, to contemplate. Then, and only then, one can understand her concern: the survival of the forms.

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