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The Pavilion of Turkey to present 'Respiro' by Sarkis at the Venice Biennale
Sarkis, one of the 36 vitraille panes, stained glass, metal, led, 2012. Photo İAndré Morin. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Bruxelles.

ISTANBUL.- Respiro, an installation by the influential conceptual artist Sarkis, will be presented in the Pavilion of Turkey at the 56th International Art Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia. The installation will be on exhibit at the biennale to be held from 9 May through 22 November 2015. Organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV), the Pavilion of Turkey is curated by Defne Ayas and is located at Sale d’Armi, Arsenale, in the main venue of the biennale.

The artistic parameters of the Pavilion of Turkey at the 56th International Art Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia were announced at a press meeting on Tuesday, 10 February 2015 at Salon İKSV with the participation of artist Sarkis and curator Defne Ayas. İKSV General Director Görgün Taner and Corporate Communication Director of Tofaş Arzu Çolakoğlu on behalf of Fiat also participated in the meeting.

In his opening speech, İKSV General Director Görgün Taner stated “The International Art Exhibition of la Biennale di Venezia is a very important platform that brings artists from Turkey together with international audiences.

This year, the Pavilion of Turkey presents a new project by internationally renowned conceptual artist Sarkis.

Sarkis has been working in different mediums for over half a century and his works have been exhibited in the prominent art centres, exhibitions and museums all around the world. We are grateful and proud to be able to share his exciting project Respiro with the art world at the Pavilion of Turkey, which will be curated by Defne Ayas.”

The Corporate Communications Director of Tofaş Arzu Çolakoğlu delivered a speech on behalf of Fiat: “In addition to national economy, with the awareness of adding value, we are pleased to support various fields like sports or culture and arts, we are also glad to see Koç Group’s contribution and support to contemporary arts at la Biennale di Venezia. Hundreds of thousands of people visit la Biennale di Venezia, and every national pavilion, every artist and every artistic work take us to new dimensions, pushing the limits of our imagination. As the sponsor of the Pavilion of Turkey, this extraordinary effect is a source of pride for our country, for our brand Fiat and surely for our corporation, Tofaş. We believe that, under the curatorship of Defne Ayas, the works of Turkey’s esteemed contemporary artist Sarkis—whose successful works have met millions of art lovers around the world—will honour our country, by creating a tremendous impact at the Pavilion of Turkey at the 56th International Art Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia. As the Tofaş Family, we hereby thank İKSV and our invaluable artist Sarkis.”

A prominent figure of the global art world with a career spanning more than five decades, Sarkis has been renowned for his oeuvre that embraces culturally diverse genealogies of art and history, and their innate relationship to memory and space.

“In Respiro, I will be reaching out beyond geopolitics, to a more expansive context of a million plus years, going back to the creation of the universe and the beginning of time, back to the first-ever rainbow—the very first magical breaking point of light,” explained Sarkis during the press meeting, where he also detailed the exhibition plans using a whiteboard and markers. “Instead of binding ourselves to specific instances within the histories of politics, religion, philosophy, and the arts, we will be embracing contemporaneity of both the present and the distant past in our continued attempt to defy stagnation.”

Through the arrangements of objects, images, thoughts, and codes that are released from both personal and collective memories, Sarkis will use the site of the pavilion as a theatrical stage for the cast of his works to investigate the ideas of infinite dialogue and transformation that lie at the core of his practice. The exhibition titled Respiro, meaning breath in Italian, will present an installation of mirrors, stained-glass panes, and site-specific neon works, and will be complemented by a composition by Jacopo Baboni-Schilingi (b. 1971, Milan), based on the artist’s drawing of the rainbow’s seven colors as a system of partitions.

“Few artists have combined artistic ingenuity with such a subtle critique of history as deftly as Sarkis,” commented Defne Ayas. “This undertaking opens up a space in which the potential of art will be reanimated.

Against the current landscape of deep uncertainties, it is our intention to unfurl a proposition that reveals Sarkis’s profound concern for humanity. With and through his intense and perfectionist oeuvre—especially with his magnum opus in the making—and thanks to his rich arsenal of visual, architectural, and musical apparatus, we will be able to tune into hidden signals and frames encrypted in mediated images and visions; dig deeper into our contemporary lived experience; most likely hurt but also hopefully heal. The focus is the transformative power of art, as well as the timelessness and the timeliness of his oeuvre. I am grateful to him for not only accepting İKSV’s invitation this year but also inviting me to take on the project’s dramaturgy.”

A new publication will accompany Sarkis’s Respiro. Conceived as a cross-referencing of Sarkis’s installation through key essays and short image readings, the book will include contributions by Ruben Arevshatyan, Uwe Fleckner, David Kazanjian, Wendy Meryem Kural Shaw, W. J. T. Mitchell, Aaron Schuster, and Jalal Toufic, amongst others. The volume edited by Defne Ayas, published by İKSV and designed by A Practice for Every Day Life, London will be available at the launch of the Pavilion of Turkey at the biennale and will be sold at select bookstores.

Two simultaneous installations by Sarkis will be opening on 7 May, one in Istanbul and one in Geneva, as to create a continuous dialogue with wider audiences.

The 56th International Art Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia will run from 9 May through 22 November 2015, and will be curated by Okwui Enwezor.

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