Vuslat: Emanet 20 June to October 20, 2023 Baksi Bayraktar Köyü Çayırlar Mevkii Bayburt
The Turkish artist and activist Vuslat announced her first solo museum exhibition, Emanet, which will take place at the Baksı Museum in Bayburt, Türkiye from 20 June to October 20, 2023. Vuslat introduced Emanet while in discussion with art historian and broadcaster Andrew Graham-Dixon to an esteemed audience at London’s Royal Academy of Arts. During the conversation, she elaborated more on the inspiration behind the exhibition.
The Emanet exhibition is anchored around the ancient concept of ‘emanet’. This broadly means passing something to somebody to take care of, preserve and protect, all underpinned by an unbreakable covenant built on trust. Curated by Spanish art historian and writer Chus Martínez, the exhibition creates an environment where “we can listen to ourselves and reflect on what our ancestors have passed onto us and what we can add to this heritage to produce a better future” After the Baksı Museum (European Museum of the Year 2014) invited Vuslat to hold her first museum show, she seized the opportunity to return to her roots in the region, a corner of northeastern Türkiye where her family have lived for generations. This was an essential part of Vuslat’s year-long process of creating the new body of work for this major exhibition.
The sense of ‘emanet’ can be felt most palpably in Vuslat’s powerful Umbilical Cord of Life, installation, which forms the centerpiece of the new exhibition. Suspended in an undulating chain from the ground to the sky, its spiraling loops are a powerful meditation on the cycle of life and death.
Umbilical Cord of Life originates from a gold necklace that was given to Vuslat by her grandmother; now the piece forms the spine of a new being. This homunculus vertebrae reminds us that ‘man’ is only a recent invention and that other human identities are also possible. The installation evokes the circular movement of the river and the wind, representing life, death and reunion.
Around this magnificent installation, is a captivating connection between all of her works, making them appear as one cohesive entity demonstrating how Vuslat fluidly shifts between different media and her well-informed and deeply researched exploration of the region, its customs, and traditions. Vuslat’s organic-material approach embodies her research in her practice, allowing her to manifest both present and past. The visual dialogue flows through the materials and form – clay sculptures, plants cast in metal, amulets, repurposed and reimagined pieces created to recall recovery and healing, dynamic drawings used from natural pigments from local rocks, and the use of cloth and sound.
This sense of life, stories and objects living on even when physical human beings die, is an integral part of Emanet. It can be felt in installations such as A Place Where We Meet II, a beautiful yet fragile work of art created from native Mullein plants. “These are 2,000-year-old plants that grow in mountainous areas, and they are true healing plants” Vuslat told Graham-Dixon in London. “Just like everything in nature, Mulleins symbolise the continuity of life and death, the continuity to infinity.” As visitors explore the extraordinary installations, they are reminded of their responsibility to take care of things (whether objects or natural wonders) given to us so that they can be passed onto future generations to enjoy. The current challenges of the climate crisis give Emanet an extra poignancy; indeed, a respect for the natural world has long been a motif of Vuslat’s work.
The Baksı Museum itself is in a stunning natural location, perched high on a remote hilltop on the Anatolian steppe. The nearby city of Bayburt was once an important centre on the ancient Silk Road which was visited by Marco Polo: the vicissitudes of mercantilism and trade over the centuries yet another reminder of the protean nature of life.
In 2021, at the Venice Biennale of Architecture, the Vuslat Foundation presented a monumental installation by leading Italian artist Giuseppe Penone, ‘the Listener,’ to highlight art’s role in meaningfully bringing people together to create spaces of listening. The following year, Vuslat’s debut solo exhibition, Silence, curated by Chus Martinez at Pi Artworks in London embodied Vuslat’s vision of creating a transformative experience for the viewer and challenging our perceptions of and interactions with art.
Before that, Vuslat had spent nearly two decades working privately in her Istanbul studio alongside a successful media career which included spells as Publisher and Chairwoman of Hürriyet, Türkiye’s largest independent newspaper.
She is also the founder of the Vuslat Foundation, a global initiative dedicated to ‘generous listening’ as a route to meaningful change. As Vuslat says, “Listening in a preventative medicine… If we can create a climate of listening in education, society, business and government then there is space for conflicts to play out before they turn into crises.” Emanet is one of many high-profile cultural events taking place in Türkiye during 2023, including the recent unveiling of the Renzo Piano-designed Istanbul Modern Museum and the transformation of Istanbul’s art nouveau Botter Apartment into a Cultural Centre. Further art museums are also planned in Istanbul for the former Yedikule gasworks and Halic Shipyard.
Emanet opens at the Baksı Museum, Bayburt, Republic of Türkiye on 20 June 2023.
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