Critics’ Picks

*View of “The Scar,” 2018.


Noor Afshan Mirza and Brad Butler

Delfina Foundation
29/31 Catherine Place London
September 27–December 1

Noor Afshan Mirza and Brad Butler’s five-screen narrative installation, The Scar, 2018, unfolds in three filmic chapters: “The State of the State,” “The Mouth of the Shark,” and “The Gossip”—the latter being a three-channel presentation. The artists began an early iteration of the project in 2015 during their residency here as part of a program titled “The Public Domain.” After the initial premiere of The Scar at HOME in Manchester earlier this year, the artists have brought the work back to where it first began, a homecoming of sorts which will involve an extended schedule of talks, performances, and workshops.

In the gallery, the lights are low, the room made darker by the burgundy wallpaper. An interruptive, sometimes violent white-noise soundscape hangs heavily. In lieu of gallery notes, the viewer is provided with four noirish archetypes: Kaptan, the chief of police; Ağa, the politician; Reis, a right-wing state assassin; and Yenge, the taken woman. The film, loosely premised around a car crash in Turkey in 1996, smudges true events with altered narratives and dreamlike sequences (hallucinatory visions often haunt our protagonists). In the first two chapters, our characters swerve through the night in a black Mercedes, the men partaking in misogynistic banter. After her silence in the first film, Yenge begins to interrupt the male dialogue in an internal voice-over in the second. Her soliloquy about the “Resistant Dead,” murdered by the state, and the violence enacted by her fellow passengers, feels like evidence or oral testimony. There’s a sense of history being authored, as well as its dissent. This chapter culminates with the introduction of the “The Gossip,” named for a chorus of female activists who, pursuing justice, devise a supernatural utopia where the constraints of language and time do not apply. For Mirza and Butler’s characters, the possibility of resistance is commensurate with the imagination. Despite its framing of emancipation and transcendence within a magical realist lens, the chapter suggests the potential for our own world’s revitalization—for wounds to close, and become scars.