A conversation on the Turkish-Armenian border, a performance in a minefield surrounding a refugee camp, a cultivation of flowers brought from Syria to the United States: Fatma Bucak’s video performances, photographs, and installations grapple with the poetics, pragmatics, and human consequences of borders. This exhibition presents a selection of Bucak’s recent video performances alongside new works addressing media censorship, state violence, and mass migration.
Often filmed as static shots in single takes, Bucak’s video performances appear as durational photographs, exploring the beauty and otherness of borderlands and the fluidity and contingency of borders themselves. In Obligatory togetherness (2016), she appears locked in a Sisyphean dance with the trunk of a felled palm tree. She struggles to keep the looming figure upright amidst a minefield surrounding the Dakhla refugee camp in Western Sahara, a remnant of the forty-year-long conflict between the government of Morocco and the Sahrawi people.
Bucak regularly collaborates with communities on her projects. Both I see the path (2015) and When I have to cross the bar (2015) result from her work with migrants in southern Texas who crossed the Mexican-U.S. border. Developing from conversations into shared actions, works such as these are efforts towards collaborative self-determination. In the artist's words, “this is where we create our own order.”
Bucak’s new works address the Kurdish conflict in Turkey and the Turkish-Syrian border near where she was born. In Details from violence (2016), frames containing painted glass obscure landscapes of destruction. Eighty-four photographs entitled Remains of what has not been said (2016) and a video performance entitled Scouring the press (2016) document the washing of twelve weeks of Turkish newspapers by Bucak and two other women. Black ink (2016)—a paragraph written in ink made from the ashes of a book—testifies to the burning of a Kurdish independent publisher’s warehouse; while a lithographic print entitled 342 names (2016) records the cumulative oblivion resulting from carving names of hundreds of victims of enforced disappearances—one over the next—on a broken lithography stone. Finally, in Damascus rose (2016), a bed of earth cultivates, hopefully, cuttings of Damask roses brought from Damascus, Syria to the United States. The flowers strive to survive and put down roots after a grueling journey and displacement.
The works included in And men turned their faces from there are at once both meticulous and perplexing invitations to reconsider how we negotiate borders—physically, ideologically, conceptually, ethically—and to question definitions and perceptions of nationalism, ethnicity, religion, and gender. Bucak’s new works, in particular, are prompts to reflect on shared experiences of political violence, oppression, and suppression throughout the world.
This exhibition has been made possible through the generous support of SAHA Association, Istanbul; Fondazione Sardi per l’Arte, Torino; and the Brown Arts Initiative.
About the artist
Born in Iskenderun, on the Turkish-Syrian border, Fatma Bucak studied Philosophy at Istanbul University and History of Art and Etching in Italy at the Albertina Academy of Fine Arts, before completing an MA in Photography at the Royal College of Art, London. Her works in performance, photography, sound, and video center on political identity, religious mythology, and landscape as a space of historical renegotiation.
Bucak has had solo exhibitions at Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art (Turin), Pori Art Museum (Finland), ARTER (Istanbul), Artpace (San Antonio), Alberto Peola Contemporary Art Gallery (Turin), and The Ryder Project (London). Her work has also been exhibited at the 54th Venice Biennale, The Jewish Museum (New York), International Festival of Non-fiction Film, MoMA (New York), SALT (Istanbul), ICA (London), Spike Island (Bristol), Contemporary Art Platform Gallery Space (Kuwait), Manifesta 9-Parallel events (Genk), La Permanente Museum (Milan), Fondazione Fotografia (Modena), and Art in General (New York). In 2013 she was the winner of the 13th Illy Present Future Prize, and was selected for the Bloomberg New Contemporaries in the same year. She was artist-in-residence at Townhouse, Cairo in 2014 and went on to win the Academy Now London award. She received the ARTER – Koc Foundation Contemporary Art Grant and UniCredit Project Grant in 2011.