Navid Nuur

Quotation, collaboration and dissemination; ice lollies, art magazines and floral foam

Navid Nuur’s recent solo exhibition, ‘THE VALUE OF VOID’, included provocations directed at the general public and an overture to critics. Amidst the usual press-pack blurbs for the show – which toured from S.M.A.K., Ghent, to Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel and De Hallen, Haarlem – was a text headed ‘Be part of the art’, inviting critics to participate in the making of a new collaborative work. This entailed inserting the title and caption, ‘Navid Nuur, Where You End and I Begin,’ 2008–2009, Pencil, this Article,’ at the end of a review of the show, as well as promising to send Nuur a copy of the publication. The artist plans to turn these reviews into drawings by joining up all of the full stops in the texts using a ruler and a pencil. Although I haven’t quoted the title and caption as requested, perhaps Nuur might still appropriate this text. Especially given that, in another work, ‘Untitled (Distant Relations Between Lovers Could Fail By the Lack of Your True Focus)’ (1986/2008), he got members of the public to tear pages out of a selection of the best-known art magazines (including this one) and turn them into darts destined for a roughly drawn target of diminishing rings, each assigned one word from the title of the piece. (In dating his work, Nuur includes the year in which it was conceived as well as that in which it was realized; the omnipresent inverted commas are intended to indicate that titles are a quote or an enunciation.)

Nuur’s work evidences a fascination with process, dissemination, dissipation and ephemeral components – light (the artist’s name translates as ‘light’ in Arabic), projections, ash and water. ‘These are the Days’ (2004–ongoing), for example, is a series of miniature models of spaces made from leftover studio materials, with spyglasses fitted into them so that viewers can ponder their inner workings. His work questions the fixed or static art object, exploring how it might extend beyond the physical and temporal conventions of an exhibition, and into the minds of viewers. Another example is Vein of Venus II (2008–9), which consists of a freezer full of ice lollies and an overhead projector, on top of which the lollies are placed one after another to melt, creating an ever-changing projection of sliding, sugary, psychedelic-hued liquid. Nuur has coined a quasi-technical sounding term for his works: ‘interimodules’. As the artist put it in an interview: ‘I see my works as modules that can build on from other works or locations. And as interim: a temporary form between the outside space and myself.’

5_encounter.gif

Navid Nuur, Encounter. All images courtesy: the artist.

Navid Nuur, Encounter. All images courtesy: the artist.

Text-based works – usually written in English, although the artist, who was born in Iran, lives and works in the Netherlands – are a regular feature of Nuur’s practice. In fact, he has confessed to having a love–hate relationship to the Latin alphabet, something that he attributes to his graffiti-artist past, dyslexia and a childhood spent learning Farsi. Texts partially dissolve or are washed away in some works, as in ‘Absence Of Evidence Is Not Evidence Of Absence’ (2006–7), in which words are sprayed onto the canvas in water. Or they communicate in the way a slogan on a wall might – ‘Untitled’ (2008) states: ‘The ink of this invitation smells so bad that no image of my art works could survive here.’

‘THE VALUE OF VOID’ included an as yet incomplete, and subsequently untitled, text-based work. Under a desk in the foyer of the Fridericianum, and not officially on display, lay a sandwich board declaring in roughly painted white letters: ‘I have damaged an art work by Navid Nuur: I have failed as a viewer.’ The board is to be donned by any gallery-goer who damages a work, and a photograph will be taken of them wearing it. Despite qualms about the element of public vilification, I realized it is rare to see a work of art that expresses an openly distrustful relationship to the audience.

Just as the tone of address of Nuur’s work oscillates between playful and ranting, so the artist either actively courts the public’s participation or rejects it out of hand. For instance, the hapless viewer might in one work be encouraged to drink and become part of the art (‘Let Us Meet Inside You’, 2007–9) and at the next turn be repelled by a piece like THRESHOLDER (2007–9) – a perversely tactile curved wall made entirely from the green foam oasis blocks used for floral arrangements. If you’ve ever held that material then you will know how hard it is to resist denting it – much like plastic bubble wrap, whose air cushions are a treat to pop. The blocks are covered with impressions of the artist’s thumbprints – but his alone. This work perhaps most directly expresses Nuur’s notion of art as something that ideally should compel but should also confront us with rules of engagement. 

Dominic Eichler is a Berlin-based writer, former contributing editor of frieze and now co-director of Silberkuppe, Berlin.

Issue 132

First published in Issue 132

Jun – Aug 2010

Most Read

From a tribute to Straub/Huillet to Valerie Massadian’s portrait of teenage motherhood, the turn to real situations and...
Japan’s growing number of art festivals tread a precarious path between state-sponsored leisure-culture and soft-power...
Fifty years after the term was coined, a show in Samos reflects on ‘the unlikely liaison between love and politics’
In the Rocky Mountains resort town, boutique facades hide the remnants of a surprising counterculture 
Pussy Riot members detained; Pope.L launches ‘Flint Water Project’; Ghetto Biennale participating artists announced
Arsenale and Giardini, Venice, Italy
SoundCloud has been invaluable to the new music community for both documentation and discovery – now the audio-...
The extraordinary life of the late, great, gallerist and collector Alexander Iolas
Various venues, New York, USA
At a time of instantaneous information and fetishized immersivity, artists are evoking scent as an alchemical, bodily...
With her current show at Gasworks, London, the Kuwaiti artist shares some influential images
20 years after Hong Kong’s handover to China, a new generation of artists dive into the city-state’s unknown futures...
‘Klassensprachen’ engaged artists, writers and publishers in soul-searching around the interlinking of class, language...
In lieu of institutional support, artists are working together to achieve a remarkable self-sufficiency
From being citizens to lovers, the most important things in life can’t be professionalized. Is it time for some...
From an inflatable anti-capitalist dragon to the shattered shadow of Robert Burns: highlights from this year’s...
The City of London’s annual sculpture park reveals the complex interplay between global corporations, urban space and ‘...
Romare Bearden, Pittsburgh Memory, 1964, mixed media collage and graphite on board, 22 x 30 cm. Courtesy: © Romare Bearden Foundation / DACS, London / VAGA, New York 2017
Successfully layering a broader socio-historical narrative onto a period of radical non-conformity, this is an...
Trump’s trashing of the Paris Climate Accord makes it clear: we can't be satisfied with art about the political, art...
With a strong surrealist strain, and including a welcome number of female artists, highlights from the 48th edition of...

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

April 2017

frieze magazine

May 2017

frieze magazine

June – August 2017