Installation review, GOOD NIGHT: Özgür Kar, Art Gallery of WA

A stark exploration of mortality and existentialism.

GOOD NIGHT, 2021 is a multi-screen audiovisual installation created by Özgür Kar during the global pandemic and now presented by the Simon Lee Foundation Institute of Contemporary Asian Art at The Art Gallery of Western Australia (AGWA).

Kar (born 1992, Ankara, Turkey) studied at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie and the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten and is based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. He works with voice actors and instrumentalists to assemble soundscapes and scripts for predominantly black-and-white animations. Kar creates theatrical scenes through layering video, sound, performance and installation, which become provocations for self-reflection.

GOOD NIGHT, 2021 is Kar’s first installation exhibition in Australia. Simon Lee Foundation Lead Creative, Rachel Cieśla, describes Kar’s work as an exploration of contemporary existentialism. The figure of a white skeleton lying supine on a black backdrop is trapped as a projection across four screens, a total length of almost eight metres. Eerily haunting sounds of a 10-minute score are looped – two speakers framing the video as motionless sentries. The work blends projection and sound as mesmeric sculptural installation. 

In an interview with Chiara Moioli for Mousse Kar said, ‘When you think of the experience of being on your phone, reading the news or scrolling Instagram, your body is almost completely inactive… The characters in my work mimic this inactivity. The gigantic screen they are confined within are almost like contemporary monoliths’ (2020). 

GOOD NIGHT is installed on the top floor of AGWA, adjacent to the rooftop garden. Access is via an elevator the interior of which is black with bold white text promoting the exhibition and inviting patrons to: ‘Lie flat and take a break from relentless living’, when encountering the work.

The exhibition space is large and devoid of colour. The walls are cream, the floor is cold. Frosted glass windows allow for natural light to wash through the space, the grey pallor residual evidence of the drift of rainclouds outside. The video projection of the cramped blanched bones dominates the space and, as the melodies swell, the mandible of the skeleton oscillates erratically. The vocal sounds are indistinct, wordless singing evocative and ghostly. The experience is reminiscent of the Danse Macabre of the Late Medieval Ages where dancing skeletons were depicted playing instruments during times of the plague: a reminder of the fragility of life and inevitability of death.

A security guard wanders in and out, an unwitting participant in an unfolding performance. Few patrons stay longer than a minute to experience the installation, most heading to the rooftop for the view and sculpture walk.

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GOOD NIGHT, 2021 presents as a non-linear theatre experience. The character of Death pulls attention, inviting reflexive responses through never-ending, seamlessly looping whisperings. Take a good friend as you visit the exhibition, and perhaps plan for a walk on the rooftop for conversation and reflection to discuss your experiences outside in the light.

GOOD NIGHT – Özgür Kar
Presented by the Simon Lee Foundation Institute of Contemporary Asian Art
The Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth

The exhibition is organised by Rachel Cieśla, Simon Lee Foundation Lead Creative, and Bahar Sayed, Curatorial Assistant at AGWA

Free to visit, though AGWA invites voluntary donation upon entry.

GOOD NIGHT will be exhibited until 22 October 2023.

Lucinda Coleman is an Adjunct Lecturer (Research) and sessional Lecturer in Performance at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Edith Cowan University.