Navid Nuur

“You don’t walk in the exhibition but you become part of it,” Navid Nuur declared in an interview in the newsletter Matter Materializing. This was also true of his show “The Value of Void” in Kassel, Nuur’s first show in Germany and his first large-scale exhibition. Born in Tehran in 1976, he studied art in the Netherlands and today lives in The Hague.

The show got started even before you reached the entrance to the museum. Between two columns of the Fridericianum’s Neoclassical portico hung a banner announcing the show, with an oval cut out of its center. The black cutout had been sent to the artist at his studio. What he did with it there could be seen in the entryway as well: A photograph showed the black oval hanging on the studio wall, with the artist walking “through” it, right leg and hand first, as if it were a hole. Another photo showed him standing in front of it, his right leg and arm painted black: a faked leap. Next to the photos was a black square of PVC material cut from the oval. And, finally, postcards of the photos together with a piece of the black oval constitute an edition, (A Piece of) Another Window in My Studio . . . , 2008–2009, here displayed in a vitrine.

In the museum’s foyer, Nuur had installed a faucet from his studio with ordinary Kassel tap water flowing from it. For the entire duration of the show, bottles were filled, labeled, sealed, and stacked in boxes in the exhibition space. And so Let Us Meet Inside You, 2007–2009, a sculpture made of 270 crates, gradually took shape. Individual bottles could be purchased for 5 euros—or 1 euro if the water was consumed on the spot and the empty bottle returned. Thus the encounter with the water suddenly became more than just a visual experience. You could experience it inside your own body. And this is precisely what is at stake for Nuur: transforming visual experience into something perceived in and with the body as a whole. “Looking is something you do with your entire body,” he told critic Martijn Verhoeven in an interview on the occasion of a show at Duplex/10m2 in Sarajevo, Bosnia, last year. This explains both the imaginary leap into the black hole and the drinking of the water. Again and again, Nuur looks for ways to make the visual physical.

Something similar happened in Vein of Venus II, 2008–2009. You were fascinated by the large colorful projection on a screen until you realized what you were looking at: ice cream melting on a glass plate and dripping into an aquarium on the floor—one ice pop per hour. It made quite a mess; the fascinating image combined with its physical grotesqueness tugged at your stomach. Nuur calls his exhibitions “interimodules,” because process plays such an important role in them and because his installations are set up less for their own sake than for the experiences they provoke. Even their reviews can become the basis for further works, as in the pencil drawing Where You End and I Begin, 2008–2009, part of an ongoing series. On the other hand, the artist prohibited viewers from touching Threshholder, 2007–2009, a wall of foam blocks normally used for floral arrangements. Indeed, anyone who violated this rule would be punished by being made to wear a sandwich board for thirty minutes reading AT THIS MUSEUM I DAMAGED NAVID NUUR’S ART I FAILED AS A VISITOR—another way of being something more than just a passive viewer.

Noemi Smolik

Translated from German by Oliver E. Dryfuss.