Rivers, wetlands and other salt and freshwater ecosystems feature in the 23rd Biennale of Sydney (2022), titled rīvus, as dynamic living systems with varying degrees of political agency. Indigenous knowledges have long understood non-human entities as living ancestral beings with a right to life that must be protected. But only recently have animals, plants, mountains and bodies of water been granted legal personhood. If we can recognise them as individual beings, what might they say?
In her multidisciplinary practice, Hera Büyüktaşcıyan uses the notion of absence and invisibility to anchor memory, space and time through unseen and forgotten aspects of history. As a storyteller, she integrates metaphors from local myths with historic and iconographic elements of different geographies to open up new narratives. Water is a recurring theme in her practice, referring to what the artist understands as the fluid, aquatic nature of memory. Through her site-specific interventions, sculptures, drawings and films, Büyüktaşcıyan dives into terrestrial imagination by unearthing patterns of selected narratives and timelines that unfold the material memory of unstable spaces.
… a shriek remains nailed in the dark corridor like a big fishbone in the throat of an unknown guest …
The Dead House, Yannis Ritsos, 1959
The latest in an ongoing sculptural series Fishbone (2015–22), this work draws on Hera Büyüktaşcıyan’s interest in deconstructing silence and invisibility connected to language, space and time as a way of reading history and collective traumas. As the artist writes:
A fishbone that is nailed in the dark corridors of the mind … could be a piece of land … a particle of history … a fragment of a language, or a remnant that refuses to come out, staying put as a petrified shriek deep within.
Fishbone VI explores the delicate relationship between sound and silence: a liminal space that conjures up the unspoken and subconscious elements concealed in the depths of memory. Suspended in the void in various frequencies, the fossil-like sculptures allude to what lies dormant or is silenced through contested histories. They stand as resurrected fragments of time in a cyclic composition, awakening one another with gentle touches or hard nudges. Through their movement these edgy, heavy forms turn into living organisms that act as reminders of sunken and unspoken reveries and histories, urging us to activate and emancipate the petrified particles that block the flow of our inner voices.