Devising the conceptual system that would underwrite his creative output, Australian Turkish Cypriot artist Mutlu Çerkez wrote that, “my work would not evolve, or at least the gradient of its evolution would be flat.” To each piece he produced he ascribed a date on which he would repeat the work in some way, perhaps in a new form, but faithful to the original content and moment. This system created a whorl of both foreclosure and infinitude; the work remained open and was never truly ‘done’, but the artist was tied to constant revision, to this demanding time capsule he constructed for himself.
Though Çerkez died in 2005, his life’s work reaches into 2065. Indentured to the past, he uncovered futurity. Auditions for an Unwritten Opera at Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden Baden, curated by former Artspace Director Misal Adnan Yıldız, brings together existing and new works from eighteen artists, including Aotearoa’s Juliet Carpenter and Julian Daspher, exploring the themes Çerkez’s work touched upon: rehearsal, biography, retrospection and introspection. Between 1992 and 2000, the artist developed a series of works including props and make-up tests towards an ‘Unwritten Opera’. The large curtain he made as part of this project is the centrepiece of the exhibition—A Design for the Overture Curtain of an Unwritten Opera, Untitled: 15 January 2028 (1999), again a beginning with no end—to which the other works serve obliquely as propositions for its completion, the auditionees. Situating these responses ‘around’ Çerkez, the exhibition eschews the authority of being ‘about’ a practice that was always tentative with prepositions. The flat gradient, it shows, can still be richly textured.
Auditions for an Unwritten Opera opened 14 July and is on view until 8 October.