Eyelids, two friends two foes
By Merve Unsal
Sevim Sancaktar’s solo exhibition, “Eyelids, two friends two foes,” brought together a group of works anchored in articulations of frame. Using “frame” both as a verb and a noun, Sancaktar liberates her works from the rubrics of representation, instead tackling image-making as an act of fluid forms of remembering. Sancaktar used the charged space of the Galata Greek Primary School—built at the turn of the 19th century for the oft-persecuted Greek minority and converted into a cultural venue in 2012—to her advantage, creating a dynamic installation that integrates the site’s fractured history to point to the fragmentation of memory. Parts of multiple works could be seen from different vantage points and works from the same series were occasionally lit and installed differently to further emphasize their excerption, a formal and conceptual tool that the artist uses throughout the exhibition.
The spine of the exhibition was the eponymous series of clinical still-life photographs featuring birds-eye views of empty, marked-up slide holders in tetris-like arrangements. Arrows, notes about light, circles, and rectangles scribbled on the clear plastic windows all refer to absent images. Creating a new vista from these voids, Sancaktar deals with the topography of memory, conceptualized
as a shifting landscape through these frames that no longer host images but rather function as referents. Here, Sancaktar highlights the tension between the freezing act of photography and the flickering, subjective nature of viewing these constructed, fragmentary images. Sancaktar’s various (re)configurations and
the recurrence of some of the slide holders across multiple photographs further point to the constant realigning and reshuffling of images to construct new forms. The magnified scale of the photographs—each measuring around two meters high—further removes the constellation of frames from the photography studio, evoking rather the realm of cartography.
The formal dynamics of the photographs are at odds with the inertness of the installation Let it sit so that you can remember (2019), composed of two lines of facing chairs in the foyer. For
this work, the artist had sanded down 50 wooden chairs before shortening a leg of each chair. Dramatically lit, the arrangement of chairs appears to propose a space of discussion and confrontation, yet the precarity of the lopsided chairs and one’s visceral sense of what it would feel like to sit on one of them evoke unease, situating the exhibition in an uncomfortable space of gathering. In provoking the viewer to imagine what it would be like to speak or think from that physically uncomfortable position, the work seems to comment on the unreliable nature of articulations, a self-critical reference to the photographs as well as to other objects in the exhibition that are positioned on thresholds of the familiar and the unfamiliar, the intimate and the distant.
Installed on the floor above as part of a separate project, The Dive (2019) serves as a microcosm of Sancaktar’s solo exhibition. Based on an archival image of the wall paintings at the Greek School before a renovation, Sancaktar traced and transferred an image of a fish poking its head out of the water onto a sheet of glass, which was propped up against the wall such that the lines cast skewed shadows. The archival image and its enlarged reproduction were displayed side by side. The repetition of the fish from the photograph to the transparent surface of the glass manifests the methodologies of the artist—tracing, appropriating, interpreting, and displacing. The artist’s creation of gaps, between the original and the copy, between the past image and its current reconfiguration, point to the inevitable fallibility of memory, but for Sancaktar, the act of removal and diminishing can nonetheless frame how we hold our tentative memories.
Sevim Sancaktar’s “Eyelids, two friends two foes” is on view at the Galata Greek Primary School, Istanbul, until June 15, 2019.
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