'Day by day I float my paper boats one by one down the running stream.
In big black letters I write my name on them and the name of the village where I live.
I hope that someone in some strange land will find them’.
Rabindranath Tagore, 1913
Artists have historically forged friendships at critical crossroads in their lives. A Line of Foreign Verses weaves together cultural and political histories between the artists, Hera Büyüktaşcıyan and Seher Shah. Bound by shared experience, the importance of this unique dialogue speaks to the power of memory and to passageways across turbulent landscapes. Their work explores the geographies of paper and place, and the intimacy of threads that bind. Between the city and self, the artists navigate the historical, personal and political through the surfaces and sounds of fragments, with the act of writing and drawing.
In her film, The Labyrinth of the World, Paradise of the Heart (2021-2022), Hera Büyüktaşcıyan anchors the surface and underground through the water architecture of Prague, a city that is often referred to as a threshold. Using stop motion sequences, glass beads meander through the cavities of wastewater treatment plants and public baths covered with glazed Rako tiles. These ornamental tiles resurface an underlying tension between the body and the constructed environment in relation to the city’s colonial past that shaped notions of purity and cultural contamination. The title of the film references the allegorical work of Czech philosopher, Jan Amos Comenius. In his book, the world is portrayed as a city resembling a labyrinth, where a pilgrim is in search for his way in life while being misguided by Falsehood and Delusion.
Seher Shah’s Notes from a City Unknown is a portfolio of thirty-two screen-prints on paper, drawing on observations and reflections from New Delhi. Through poetic notations composed alongside architectural forms, the work explores the city through sites of fissure, complexity and contradiction. Shah looks to bind architectural, political and historical events, to the intimate and personal. Written between 2014 and 2021, the work is set against a backdrop of a brutal nationalism, pervasive surveillance and the mass mobilization of minority communities for their right to home and citizenship. At the core of her work is a question of home and belonging through the traces of those that came before her.
Made with finely ground graphite dust, Shah’s series of drawings, Grey to Silver and Weight and Measure, explore variations of the incomplete line. The drawings in between architectural abstraction and music notations, communicate neither language in their entirety. Grey to Silver, takes its title from studies in light and materiality; when graphite turns silver in the sunlight. Drawing through the language of music, Weight and Measure, are incomplete notations, erased and redrawn over several layers, through graphite and ink.
Büyüktaşcıyan’s collage series, Intervals for the Unreplaceable, combines photographs of architectural fragments and imprints of modernist tiles from Prague. The indented surface of the cast paper reveals the imprinted absence of the tiles, while simultaneously embodying the city’s colonial past. In these compositions, the dynamics between ornament/ power, departure/ distance and scale/ representation are explored through vocalized contours, flowing between bodies and spaces.