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Artist portraits (31): Gianni Motti
Frankfurter Rundschau | 03.07.2002
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++++ It can easily be overlooked, the tiny hut sitting on Main Island. There is no sign pointing it out. And the pub boat of the Water Sports’ Association also half obscures it, to say nothing of the fact that you cannot go on to the island because it is an area for protecting wildlife and therefore has to be kept at a distance.
But the idea is really quite attractive, to sit down beside the hut beneath the enormous trees and dip one's feet into the River Main. Or to withdraw into the coolness of the hut when it gets hot and look at the swans through the open door.
But no matter how idyllic the white concrete box with the turquoise coloured door and windows of the same colour seem to appear at first glance, something is not right. The openings for the windows and door are not only closed, they are also secured by rusty bars. Anybody who is inside cannot get out and also has little opportunity to enjoy the view.
What the Italian artist, Gianni Motti, who was born in 1958, has erected here on Main Island is an authentic copy of the prison cell in which the Kurd leader, Abdullah Ícalan, is being held in Turkey. Thirteen square metres including a wash basin and toilet; solitary confinement as the only occupant on the prison island Imrali, a death sentence which an army of lawyers is trying to have annulled – that is Ícalan's present situation.
In 1998, the PKK leader was caught making an attempt to illegally enter Italy. There the authorities, under international pressure, refused to allow him to be extradited to Turkey. In February 1999, he was arrested in Turkey anyway. In this connection people speak of him having been kidnapped by the Turkish secret service. Now Italy is again becoming involved with the matter in the shape of the artist, Gianni Motti.
Manifesta curator, StÚphanie Moisdon Trembley, writes in the short guide that Motti is giving Ícalan back "a piece of his landscape and his human dignity". But that's a bit too much. Motti has created an inconspicuous and perhaps therefore impressive memorial. It does not only recollect the Kurd leader and the inhuman conditions of his imprisonment, but also poses general questions concerning human rights and human dignity. And that is already a lot.
Main Island, until 25 August jdv

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