Housed in a small room in the Modern and Contemporary gallery of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, salt 6: Emre Hüner plays an unlikely interlocutor to the immense retrospective, Nancy Holt: Sightlines, installed just one floor beneath it. If one of the central threads of Sightlines is to examine Holt’s works as a collection of framed perspectives, each responding to and visually delimiting their environment, salt 6: Emre Hüner offers a complementary (and contrasting) study of framing and perception with another set of tools altogether.
The final show organized by Jill Dawsey for the UMFA, salt 6: Emre Hüner is the latest installment of the museum’s ongoing semi-annual contemporary exhibition series. Born in Istanbul and now based in Berlin, Hüner works in a range of media including film, sculpture, installation, and drawing. Hüner has exhibited widely – in recent years his work has been shown in Manifesta 9 (2012); Paradise Lost at Istanbul Modern (2011); and Nobody’s Property: Art, Land, Space at the Princeton University Art Museum (2010), to name a few. The work shown in salt 6 stems from Hüner’s residency at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam, where he worked in the ceramics studio.
salt 6 offers a sampling of the many media in which Hüner works. The exhibition includes five ink drawings from the series Shrine of the Post Hypnotic as well as two new video installations titled “Aeolian Processes #1 and #2,” which feature a number of small sculptural objects of Hüner’s making. The videos are projected onto two free-standing wood and Plexiglas structures that simultaneously serve as projection screens, gallery partitions and sculptural entities in their own right.
Recycling many of the same forms from Hüner’s A Little Larger than the Entire Universe, his installation for Manifesta 9, the two video installations debuted in this exhibition offer a glimpse of that same universe -– but this time at a further remove, meticulously staged and heavily mediated. The contents of this universe -– an unnamable variety of found objects, alternately organic and machinic sculptural forms, and brightly colored propping devices –- are choreographed for display and filmed in 16 mm (transferred to DVD for the exhibition). Each of the “Aeolian Processes” offers an assembly of objects treated to different modes of presentation: #1, a sequence of still shots, each a filmic still life; and #2, its dynamic counterpart, a succession of sculptural objects rotating relentlessly on a potter’s wheel, the camera continuously shifting distance and focus. Standing at the fulcrum of these two screens, positioned adjacent to one another, the viewer is able to compare these methods concurrently, to evaluate the effects of each mode of display.
In the exhibition’s corresponding essay, Dawsey characterizes Hüner’s work as an “allusive universe” — his work pulls from an ever-expanding source bank of references, rooted in diverse fields of knowledge that reach indiscriminately to various moments in art historical, literary, and scientific domains. Hüner constructs topographies of disparate, and often incongruous, components staged in tense relationship to one another. Hüner’s works in salt 6 are fraught with suggestive gestures that are not only allusive, but also elusive. Never offering a complete citation, Hüner’s references are instead oblique and incomplete hints at another source, always pointing elsewhere but never exactly anywhere.
The effect of these indirect references is a certain sense of alienation. Assembled together under some unidentifiable category, the objects in Hüner’s scenes are in exile, dislocated apparently for purposes of display. An interrogation of practices of presentation (and their consequences) underwrites the exhibition in its entirety. Here the structures of mediation are not silent or supplementary, but rather vocal collaborators that bear weight on the work itself. We cannot ignore the constant flicker and flash of the film, nor the irregular and obtrusive constructions that house the screens. The framing devices are conspicuous and leave no work exempt — the series of drawings, mounted in a neat row on the wall in discrete white frames, are implicated as well by proximity. We become acutely aware of the layers of arbitration that delineate each of the works and the show itself.
The climatologic process that “Aeolian Processes” makes reference to in its title — the erosive power of wind in shaping the landscape — is echoed in the transformative force of display. The geologic landscape is malleable to the covert pursuits of wind, just as Hüner’s scenes are subject to the impact of their displacement and re-presentation. Hüner’s recursive technique of bearing new work from the seeds of the old allows us to trace the same forms through many of his works. As they resurface, the forms are largely unchanged; it is instead the variable framing methods that shift our perception and generate new meanings. The story changes every time it is told.