Hera Büyüktaşcıyan often works in a site-specific manner, taking time to discover a territory through researching local histories and walking as a method of observing and drawing within space. At the Centre International d’Art et du Paysage (CIAPV), the artist explores dynamics of erasure and regeneration in relation to forestry plantations and the building of hydroelectric dams in the region. Water itself is considered as a powerful, generative force held in check by infrastructure or running freely from springs sought out over centuries for their healing properties. Featuring sculpture, installation, drawing and film, the works on view deconstruct these altered landscapes, surveying surfaces, bodies and foundations that lie between absence and presence, and giving voice to what was lost and what is gained. Hera Büyüktaşcıyan takes a sounding of the territory, revealing sedimented layers of history beyond our perception.
Resonant Grounds is conceived as an exhibition in four chapters. In “Defending Ancient Waters,” the artist evokes the transformative effects of water as it moves through a landscape. Cascading fabric flows within the art centre’s Nave, as if pouring into the space through its arched windows. Adorning the material in geometric compositions are fragments of wood and bark collected by the artist on her daily peregrinations around the shoreline of Vassivière Island. Akin to archaeological remnants or a musical score, the fragments suggest the foundations of hamlets engulfed in the construction of hydroelectric dams which, in the case of Vassivière, still lie beneath the surface of the lake. The installation recalls an aqueduct or dam that overflows, carrying debris like accumulated particles of time, and resurfacing what lies within its depths.
While the installation in the Nave addresses the industrialization of landscapes and the torrential force of water, “A Rehearsal for Changing Skin” explores the region’s spiritual and ancestral relationship to bodies of water. The Plateau de Millevaches, where the CIAPV is located, is known as the land of “one thousand springs.” Among these are bonnes fontaines (“good fountains”), ancient springs believed to possess miraculous or curative powers. Wooden structures built around these springs are draped with garments and strips of fabric, which are then believed to act as agents of recovery from illness or distress for their owners. The practice continues to this day, underlining the perpetual renewal of traditions that, conversely to dams, remain hidden and privilege water as a spiritual rather than an economic resource.
Büyüktaşcıyan creates a sculptural ensemble in the Salle des études inspired by bonnes fontaines, a linear structure of found wood from which amorphous forms made of felt and geotextiles are suspended. The artist burns the felt, engraving marks like the skin of a tree and rendering rigid forms on its malleable surface. These layered works, in gradients of earth tones, evoke topographic surfaces or geological strata, as well as the skin or shell of an organism. The use of felt is significant for the artist, as it finds its form through the use of water. It also resonates with the once ubiquitous presence of sheep and pastoralist traditions in the region, which have vastly diminished over the years as moorlands were planted with fir trees in the early 20th century.
A series of graphite frottage drawings entitled Wolves and Sheep (2023) accompanies the installation. Translucent, curved shapes overlap and merge with more angular textures, creating compositions that oscillate between organic and constructed forms. The drawings recall the texture of skin, fleece or bark, or the shadowed transparency of an x-ray. In this way, Büyüktaşcıyan retraces the imprint of time upon fragile, perishable bodies and territories, where the unseen carves its way through what is visible.
Taken together, the works weave connections between purification, healing and metamorphosis, in homage to what has been erased through the transformation of the Plateau de Millevaches.
In “Dendrologia,” mask-like anthropomorphic forms are suspended in the Lighthouse in a gentle arc. The forms are sections of bark collected from uprooted or diseased trees on the island, yet their furrowed, weathered surfaces convey an uncanny resemblance to human and non-human beings. Some of the bark pieces bear traces of paint applied by forestry workers to indicate their ailing condition. The artist felt a kinship with these marked trees, their skins discarded, which once stood as silent witnesses of the surrounding landscape and the many lifeforces within. Sound resonates through the space in a polyphony of voices, as if the forest itself becomes vocal.
“The World’s Fragile Skin,” the final chapter of the exhibition, is a stop-motion video presented at the Peyrat-le-Château cinema on February 9, 2024. Shards of pottery and weathered glass move across a surface in a flow of geometric patterns. The fragments were given to the artist by a CIAPV staff member, who collected them among the foundations of settlements on the muddy lakebed of Vassivière. Here, the movement and ephemeral configurations of the shards recall the quotidian rhythms of life in villages that once existed, setting into motion anew what was sedimented and lost beneath the water.
Resonant Grounds aligns visible and invisible histories, constructed environments and human intentions. The exhibition pieces together fragments, composing new constellations of voices that may sing anew out of the silence.
Resonant Grounds is curated by Alexandra McIntosh, director, CIAPV.
The exhibition is co-produced with the Centre de Création Contemporaine Olivier Debré (CCC OD), Tours, which presents a second iteration of the exhibition from March 29, 2024.