Kutlug Ataman. (Reviews)

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The show's title could have come from Bob Dylan's melancholy poetry: "A Rose Blooms in the Garden of Sorrows" is a phrase that sounds like scratched vinyl. The Turkish filmmaker and video artist Kutlug Ataman presented three recent works addressing social and sexual identities. A politically engaged artist, Ataman continually crosses the border between the cinema and the museum, the past and the present, the virtual and the politically relevant--and, finally, between reality and fiction.

Semiha B. Unplugged, 1997, a remarkable 465-minute video, is a portrait of the Turkish opera star Semiha Berksoy. At over eighty years old, she is as flamboyant as one could hope and performs for Ataman's handheld camera like there's no tomorrow--think Courtney Love, fifty years from now. Her lips are slathered in rouge vulgaire, her cheeks in radiant pink. In black underwear and a skin-tone body stocking, Berksoy is a primal force, created for the klieg lights of a trashy bedroom stage. The singer, who lived through the transition from Ottoman Empire to modern Turkey, performed in New York, Paris, and Berlin, and whose career ended when she was accused of being a Communist, is the embodiment of the rebellious woman, a diva who transgressed, with relish, the norms of society. In Ataman's film she displays for us the unfettered freedom that has informed her persona. As she speaks, real experiences and personal mythologies run together. Ataman has justified his refusal to differentiate the two: "The most import ant thing about documents is that they not be inventions. My films, though, are both inventions and documents. For me, the driving question is, how do you say the truth that is between quotation marks? …