Crystal and Flame is a new video installation by artist Ergin Cavusolgu. It comprises three sets of imagery: the flame grill at a Turkish café; a gem-cutter handling precious stones; and a group of actors rehearsing in a theatre space. Shot on location across London, it continues a long line of videos by the artist in which everyday rituals or actions are prefigured by motifs from well-known literary sources.
The first of these is set in a small Turkish café in North London. The café is a home-from-home for its regular clientele, where the day-to-day sustenance of simple food is amplified by the warmth of human company and the heat of the flame grill. In another section of the work, shot in a jewel-cutting workshop, Cavusoglu contrasts the informal rhythms and interactions of the cafe with the cold, hard material form of a rare jewel that is being cut and polished. A symbol of the ineffable and the eternal, and an index of worldly wealth, the gem is also a reminder of the former diamond trade of the old East End.
These parallel scenes are further counterpointed by a third component that shows a group of actors rehearsing an adaptation of a short story by Chekhov. In the story, the Utopian political sentiments of its artist-narrator are examined against the harsh realities of peasant life and subsequently challenged from the perspective of memory. As the actors and director go back over their lines, adding extra nuance and emphasis, the naturalism of the language is itself polished and honed, in pursuit of a universalising art that both reflects and goes beyond the reality of the moment.
Crystal and Flame is commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella, as part of 'Free to Air', an ongoing project, funded by London Councils, which looks, each year, at the four fundamental freedoms: freedom of expression, freedom from want, freedom of religion and freedom from fear. Alongside Cavusoglu's commission, realised and presented in partnership with Peer and Better Bankside, the theme of 'freedom from want' will be reflected in a programme of associated screenings and artists' talks, Making the Cut. For further information please see www.freetoair.org.uk
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