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Fondazione Merz opens the first major museum show in Italy of artist Fatma Bucak
Fatma Bucak, Damscus rose, 2016 – on going. Installation view, David Winton Bell Gallery, 2016. Damask rose cuttings from Damascus cultivated in rose plants. Installation. Photo: Jesse Banks III.

TURIN.- In collaboration with Fondazione Sardi per l’Arte, Fondazione Merz presents the first major museum show in Italy of artist Fatma Bucak.

Fatma Bucak’s work addresses themes such as political and gender identity, censorship, repression, expropriation, migration and state violence, that are of great contemporary pertinence, which the artist develops through installations, performances, photographs, videos and sound environments. Her belonging to the Kurdish minority is one of the elements that continues to inform her practice.

The exhibition, featuring site-specific installations, performance, sound, video, sculpture and photographs - many of which have been specially commissioned for the Fondazione Merz - continue the above themes.

Investigating the fragility, tension and irreversibility of history, the power of testimony and memory through a sequence of images, sound and performance, the artist creates a series of environments. These environments become the voice of forgotten stories, unexpressed thoughts of individuals excluded from history, of political and ethnic minorities, and socio-cultural structures in opposition to power.

The exhibition opens with a site-specific work, Enduring nature of thoughts. Dozens of enamelled basins are surrounded by the constant sound of falling water drops. Through these invisible yet audible leaks, the work plays on the tension between the real and the staged. Experiences and accounts of suffering, loss and marginalisation are at once materialised.

The obliteration of memory, stories and the rewriting of narratives are the central themes of the three installations; 342 names, Black ink and Fantasies of violence.

In 342 names the act of repeatedly etching, one above the other, the names on a lithographic stone reveals the untold stories of the victims of enforced disappearance in Turkey. The names are predominantly those of Kurds, still a disadvantaged minority in Turkey, who ‘disappeared’ after the 1980 military coup.

In Black ink, a moveable type is used to print a paragraph of text in ink made from the ashes of a burned book found in an independent Kurdish publishing house’s charred warehouse, which suggests other untold stories and the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage.

Fantasies of Violence comprises of 117 double-sided zinc printing plates, visible from the front and the rear. Each plate is etched with abstract markings derived from representations of violence. They are accompanied on the back of each plate by a narrative description of the violent act.

The images are removed from their original context, found in newspapers that the artist has collected, from Turkey, Europe and America. The abstraction of the markings breaks the images down into the basic compositional lines—as if to find the ‘bones’ of the image.

The fine lines of the anterior etchings are contrasted with the consumed raw metal on the back. These numerous plates are not actually being used to print onto paper, but instead become the focus of the work. The use of metal is an important aspect of the installation, being a cold and clinical material that can itself be used for weaponry.

Borders and insecurity are combined with themes of memory and excluded narratives in the installation Damascus Rose, in which approximately 100 Damascus roses (one of the oldest varieties of rose, but today are threatened with extinction as a result of the civil war) which the artist had transported from Syria to Turin, are grafted and planted in a flowerbed, in the hope that they will take root and grow. They are a metaphor for the dangerous journey and uncertainty of millions of Syrian refugees fleeing the war, whilst referencing notions of belonging and origin.

In the video Four Ages of Woman: Fall, the traditional story of the birth of the first man is re-imagined as the creation of the first woman. A female figure in a landscape of red earth frantically hurls stones at an invisible enemy, as though she has decided to re-emerge from hiding after a battle, thus beginning to tell and write her own story.

The themes of memory, exclusion and unspoken narratives are further explored in the audio work I must say a word about fear, in the videos Omne vivum ex ovo: nomologically possible anyhow and An empire of the imagination.

A catalogue will be published to accompany the exhibition.

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