The second edition of Biennale Matter of Art in Prague explores what lies beyond the identity of Central and Eastern Europe as a space of in-betweenness, caught up between belonging to “Fortress Europe” and being Europe’s periphery—a postsocialist destination for capitalist adventures. Thus situated and aligning elsewhere, it seeks agency and collaboration while attempting to decode complicated relations between gender, race, social and economic status, sexuality, and geopolitics. The biennale will examine the lives of power in vulnerability and resilience. It will understand the violence of the present conditions in historical traumas and will offer languages from contemporary art and visual culture that process, narrate, or hold trauma in order to better understand how the past haunts us still. Biennale Matter of Art 2022 imagines alternative futures by grasping strength in relationships that may be intergenerational, transitional, incipient, or even weak. It will incorporate the “minor” perspectives of children, enthusiasts, kidults, and introverts as well as the “poor” experiences of the chronically ill, prematurely deceased, or monstrous as agents who act, create, and deliberate meanings.
In her site-specific interventions, sculptures, drawings and films, Hera Büyüktaşcıyan unearths the layered material memory of various unstable spaces and places through the notions of absence and (in)visibility. A recurring theme in her practice, including the newly commissioned film, is the aquatic nature of – the tension between solidity of the constructed environment and the fluid nature of memory, the tidal and meandering movements of remembering and forgetting through deconstructing surfaces, embodying visual elements incorporated from cultural imagery and distilled traces throughout a historical continuum.
In the film, referencing the allegorical work of the Czech philosopher, pedagogue and theologian John Amos Comenius, the underground world of the wastewater treatment plant in Bubeneč featuring prominently. Its main function – purifying the city’s wastewater – serves as a metaphor for the washing out or distilling of both historical narratives and orientalist representations of otherness, as well as a labyrinth where the artist anchors notions of image and representation, power and surface tension through fluid linear forms. In the stop motion animation sequences, tile-like glass beads flow from the cavities of the wastewater plant to other water architecture, such as public baths covered in glazed Rako tiles as well as various public buildings – spaces reverberating traces of cultural appropriation. It is under the smooth surface of the figurative and ornamental tiles, produced in Rakovník and found across Prague from the Bubeneč plant to the Hotel Imperial, that the artist is searching for the underlying tensions between the competing ideas of purity and cultural contamination, characteristic of Prague as a palimpsest of multiple temporalities and communal imaginaries.