Theorists, 2008 (video still), video, 3:34 minutes, sound, courtesy of the artist and Chantal Crousel Gallery, Paris
Atay's camera follows a group of young men, pacing back and forth in a classroom. They are barefoot, and each holds a book from which they recite aloud, completely absorbed in themselves and in their own private worlds. Their murmurs flood the room and create the sense of an endless clamor. Occasionally, Atay lingers on a single detail in the room: bookshelves, a clock, a coat on a hanger. But he often shoots low, at foot level, thus the heads of the walkers are cut off. Are they really "theorists," as the name of the work suggests? Are they Intellectuals? Is it possible to see their walk - a repetitious memorizing walk - as a philosophic walk, a walk of learning, a walk that relates to figures such as Socrates?
Atay films most of his works in his hometown of Batman, a city located on the border of Turkey and Iraq, whose citizens are mostly Kurdish. He shoots with a hand-held camera and focuses on daily life in the city, a place which allegedly makes creating art impossible. The work Theorists represents the nature of his work: documentation that shows both the intimacy of closeness and criticism. Beyond the constant movement of the bare feet peeking out of black pants, the white, barren walls of the classroom can be seen. The space of the classroom, as it turns out, is not very different from the space of the white cube, and art, as it appears, can be created even in a remote country town.
Born in Turkey, 1976; lives and works in Batman