10 Minutes with Hera Büyüktaşcıyan

Hera Büyüktaşcıyan (b.1984 Istanbul) Graduated from Marmara University, Faculty of Fine Arts, (2006). The artist uses the notion of absence and invisibility, in order to compose an imaginary connection between memory, space & time through unseen and forgotten aspects of history. She works as a storyteller, integrating metaphors from local myths, historic and iconographic elements of different geographies to open up new narrative scopes. Water is a recurring theme in her practice, referring to what the artist understands as the fluid, aquatic nature of memory. Her most recent works enquire into the meaning of ‘absence’ within architectural memory through retracing fragments of time and space connected to ruptures of history. At this point the artist dives into the terrestrial imagination by unearthing patterns of selected narratives and timelines that unfold the material memory of unstable spaces.

Selected exhibitions : Lahore Biennial, Lahore (2020) ;Singapore Biennial, Singapore (2019); Toronto Biennial, Canada (2019) ; Gigantisme, FRAC, Dunkirk (2019);Neither on the Ground, nor in the Sky, ifa-Galerie berlin, Berlin (2019);From there we can and saw the stars, Underneath the Arches, Napoli (2018); Dhaka Art Summit, Dhaka, Bangladesh (2018); Homeland , Kunsthalle Osnabrück (2017)Write Injuries on Sand and Kindness in Marble, Green Art Gallery, Dubai, UAE (2017);  Freundschaftsspiel Istanbul: Freiburg, Museum für Neue Kunst, Germany (2016); A Particular Scenario, Scenario II, The Optometry Room, Corridor Project Space, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2016); EVA International Ireland’s Biennale, Limerick (2016);  Once There was a Country, Heidelberger Kunstverein, Germany (2015); Istanbul: Passion, Joy, Fury, MAXXI, Rome, Italy (2015);  Saltwater, 14th Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul, Turkey (2015); Armenity, Armenian Pavilion, 56th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy (2015); A Century of Centuries, SALT Beyoğlu, Turkey (2015);Fishbone, State of Concept, Athens, Greece (2015); The Jerusalem Show, Jerusalem (2014); The Land Across the Blind, Galeri Mana, Istanbul, Turkey (2014); In Situ, PiST///, Istanbul, Turkey (2013); Envy, Enmity, Embarrassment, ARTER, Istanbul, Turkey (2013)

Awards: Toronto Biennial Emerging Artist Prize (2019) & Golden Lion with National Pavilion of Armenia at 56th Venice Biennial.

For this edition of the 10 Minute Interviews the founding director Huma interviews Hera about her artistic interests and practice, her day to day life, about what she is currently reading and more.

Your artistic interest and practice encapsulates metaphors from local myths, historic and iconographic geographies – how do these elements have a role in your daily life?

We are all surrounded with spaces / geographies that bare traces of the ones who have existed the day before as well as the remnants of their spoken or unspoken narratives. We either choose to be blind towards these fragments or somehow learn to coexist with them. In my case, living in a city like Istanbul that is as old as the countless layers it imbibes within itself… a city who herself has become a hybrid organism by carrying the present, dipped within it’s past fragments, one begins to undertake a similar understanding or state of being. The city becomes a mirror to one self…gazing at it, you begin to read your own self and history along with the ones that are unknown to you. I think this does not only happen mentally but also on a physical basis where it shapes your movements, the way you situate yourself within and become one with it’s topography…synchronizing with its oeuvre. 

Growing up  listening to oral storytelling on family history and urban myths, has also shaped my way of connecting recollected fragments, timelines and reading places. 

Maybe through this I often find myself coexisting between several timelines and I think this has become a mental practice, a way of articulating things around me, in accordance to the hybrid nature of the city’s own language and its infinite recollections. Witnessing the tension and conflict between the present and the past fragments that both cover one another and unfold the hidden, influences my way of reading spaces and understanding how the notions of memory, history, construction and deconstruction operates and the cyclical movement of time. Being aware of these dynamics along with the underlying accumulated narratives as a whole, does reflect upon my engagement with form and material as well. I often envision hidden particles flowing from unexpected cracks, corners or holes…or unfold certain pieces that would reveal the surface laying underneath. I guess these gestures are all triggered with the way spaces, time and memory operates together. 

Would you say your preferred medium to work with is?

I think in general my major medium to work is space itself. I really enjoy engaging with architecture… playing, observing, learning and excavating from its curves, surfaces, layers, sound, light etc and engaging with the marks engraved on it’s fragments that often trigger the discovery of another unknown element. Encountering with a space almost feels like weaving a tapestry that allows you to draw and manifest various layers through form.

At this point I think I like to study the surface that creates a sense of tension while gathering various particles and activating them…like creating a tectonic movement between material poetics and the aspect of time . 

Exploring the various natures of the surface, also enables to link the imaginary with the physical by playing with material reality…such as transforming concrete particles into a more fluid one, or by petrifying softer substances. 

Reveries of an Underground Forest (2019)
Installation view
Toronto Biennale
Photo: The artist

What has been your biggest but nicest distraction during the pandemic and the ever-growing global socio-political, ecological upheaval?

I guess one was; the long walks and my rediscovery of the island I live in has been the nicest thing I experienced in this period. Although I have been living in Heybeliada for 18 years, I have been in a constant marathon between home and the city in the latest years and I noticed that I have been missing a lot from the actual flow of the island itself and how I became completely alien to it. Witnessing the growth of nature around me, the movement of the light during the different hours of the day…early morning and afternoon walks in the forest…working with the soil and discovering our garden has been the most rewarding things to me.

I think this forced introversion that came to our lives through this huge crisis gave us all a chance to learn to pause, learn how to ‘’see’’ and ‘’hear’’ again and I am really grateful for that. It helped me to reconsider things that matter to me and gave me a chance to empty my own untouched dump/pile of things that have been swept under the carpet for a long time.

Which five words would you choose to describe your artistic practice?

Fluid, Tectonic, Timeless, Poetic and Unfolding

What are you reading/ watching at the moment?

I often read couple of books at the same time and switch between one another. Currently I am reading ‘’The Wind Spirit’’ by Michel Tournier, ‘’Ritual, Power and the Body’’ by C.Nadia Seremetakis, ‘’The Labyrinth of Solitude’’ by Octavio Paz and ‘’The Hell / Divine Comedy’’ by Dante .

I also started to have this habit of listening to podcasts on poetry, literature and on several other topics. Especially whilst being busy with something, it feels good to have another voice flowing around me.

Foundations (2019)
Installation view
IFA Galerie Berlin
Photo: Viktoria Tomaschko

What would be the advice you give to your younger self?

Worry less and do not care about the opinions of others over the self. I think one aspect that I need to work on myself is about giving away the unnecessary baggage of tension and letting things flow. Another one would be the power of saying ‘’No’’.