Kutlug Ataman was born in Istanbul, Turkey in 1961 and graduated with a BA in film from the University of California, USA in 1985. Since the completion of his MFA in 1988, he has pursued a career as both a film-maker and an artist. He currently lives and works in Istanbul, London and Barcelona.
Kutlug Atamans work is poised on the boundary between documentary and fiction. It uses storytelling to explore the fragility of personal identity; his subjects are individuals who have become dislocated from conventional social categories and feel compelled to re-invent themselves.
Kutlug first rose to prominence with video-works such as Women Who Wear Wigs 1999, which shows the strategies adopted by four women who change their outward appearance as a defensive and assertive response to external oppression. Ataman believes that, Identity is not something that you possess, but something that you wear and this principle underlies much of his work. His films reveal the complex texture of memory and imagination, truth and fantasy, which composes our understanding of everyday life. They are deliberately modest in technique, retaining the immediacy of home movies despite being presented as multi-screen, multi-layered installations.
Atamans new work Twelve 2004 shows six individuals recounting their experience of reincarnation. It was filmed in south-east Turkey, near the border with Syria, in an Arab community trying to make sense of horrific loss. They accept as a fact that everyone is reborn, although only those who have suffered violent or untimely death remember their past lives.
Atamans films reveal that all documentary is a narrative and that all narratives are constructed:
All narratives, hence all lives, are in the end created as art by the subject. Twelve exposes the mechanisms of language and its limitations. As the storytellers talk about their past and present lives they move between then and now, and their narratives become confused. As language becomes insufficient, our notion of reality is modified or even made irrelevant because, Ataman believes, in a strange way that reality is in fact a fiction.
Kutlug Ataman has been shortlisted for his contribution to the Istanbul Biennial 2003 and to exhibitions at a number of European venues in 2003-4.