Nora Turato – someone ought to tell you what it’s really all about
Nora Turato (Zagreb, 1991) returns to the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art after having presented last year, to the Portuguese institution and audience, the performance I’m happy to own my implicit biases, in the fourth edition of the programme O Museu como Performance [The Museum as Performance]. Now, the artist emerges with someone ought to tell you what it’s really all about. It’s a video recorded in Serralves, conceived for the event and related to its exhibition context. The title reflects the artist’s work: communicative, direct and assertive.
Until 19 January, it is possible to witness, on the museum’s first floor, the artist’s unique voice and effort, shown to the spectator by the always valuable curatorship of Ricardo Nicolau, the museum’s assistant director.
Nora Turato’s most recent work, exhibited at the Serralves Museum, is a 20-minute video. It distinguishes itself from her typical live performances. It can be said that video recording reduces the impact of the artist’s work, usually intensified by her physical energy and different looks, considered by many to be an Amazon warrior of haute couture. Nevertheless, the film is strong and vibrant, projecting itself in an echo that impacts the viewer. It provokes reflection and discussion, transgressing the museum’s physical limits.
In the black box-shaped room, with a loop projection, one feels the power of Turato’s disruptive expression, as if she stood before us. Again, this is the result of filming over a week in the museum’s auditorium, a space where the artist expressed herself intermittently, somewhere between the scream and the whisper. The monologue recited is her own, but with appropriations of countless sentences found in books, films, advertisements and, mainly, publications on social media. It is in these platforms that personal discourses and even confessions can be found. Online, they move from the private to the public realm, something that interests the artist. The very logic of appropriation is stimulated and exacerbated by the internet, a universe where, as Ricardo Nicolau states, the death of the author happens, something foreshadowed since the second half of the 20th century.
The various data collected are gathered in a text that translates a single research effort, whose empirical object is the theater. The space of the Serralves auditorium, with a stage and audience of considerable size, is ideal for this investigation and for the artistic and performative character of Turato. The artist had as a structural reference the great cinematographic work Opening Night (1977) by John Cassavetes, a film in which the states of mind and emotional crises of an actress played by the magnificent Gena Rowlands are brought together. The film also highlights the confrontation between various dualities – reality/fiction and actors/audience.
In her video, Turato depicts the figure of an actress through syncopated monologues. Although they provoke different states of mind, anger is the dominant feeling, close to hysteria. As mentioned by Ricardo Nicolau, the artist explores one of the main stigmas of the feminine gender: “what can an angry woman who is not afraid to be called hysterical mean?”. The curator explains that this crisis is reflected in the making of the film. It’s not described or illustrated, but, as in Cassavetes’ film, represented by formal operations and film construction. The result is a play that distinguishes itself from a simple theatrical performance. Turato intends to contradict the idea that theater consists only of the professional recitation of a pre-conceived text. For this, she builds a volatile performative space, commanded by herself.
That important work of American independent cinema was also pivotal to establish the bridge between the artist and the commissioner, with the latter confessing that it’s the “movie of my life”. Ricardo Nicolau tells us that, when they invited the artist to exhibit in Serralves, she said that she didn’t intend to do design-related performances or installations – her area of training and one that she has also been exploring artistically, because “I’m too well known for that”.
Through her artistic creation, Nora Turato deconstructs prejudices and presents current and open questions about other contexts and problematizations. She is known to be unpredictable, radical and transgressive, but effective. She affirms herself in a way that attracts all eyes, standing out not only in the performative moment, but also among her peers in the contemporary art scene.
In a decade marked by the struggle for equality of rights and gender, where movements such as #MeToo multiply, the artist’s work is even more important, and not just one more. It’s affirmed by its expressive, discursive, formal and visual quality. As Turato acknowledges, the world of art – and others – is not yet ready to accept a woman screaming. There is also a resistance to the use of certain vocabulary by women, something that the artist explores without limits in this recent video, but also without excesses – a balance difficult to achieve.
The Croatian artist lives and works in Amsterdam, a city where, for two years, she had an artistic residency at the renowned Rijksakademie. Since 2018, after her participation in the Palermo Manifesto and the Basel Liste art fair, she has been considered one of the most exciting young artists of today. She has already exhibited at some relevant institutions, such as the Beursschouwburg Art Centre (2019) in Brussels and the Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein (2019) in Vaduz.
This is the motto of Nora Turato: if you are going to take up 20 minutes of someone’s time, you better put on a show. That’s what happens in Serralves.