Armenian artist to represent Turkey at 2015 Venice Biennale

Turkish-Armenian artist Sarkis, a globally prominent figure in conceptual art, will be presenting a new installation that delves into the genealogies of cultures, beliefs and histories at this year’s Venice Biennale, the curator of the exhibition, Defne Ayas, announced Tuesday, Today’s Zaman reports.

Titled “Respiro,” the installation will be the sole work at the Pavilion of Turkey at the 56th International Art Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia, curated by Okwui Enwezor and scheduled for May 9 through Nov. 22.

Emphasizing the importance of 2015 at a news conference on Tuesday in Istanbul, Ayas stated that it is a great pleasure to work with Sarkis.

“He is designing the pavilion like a theater stage: objects, images, ideas and codes are coming together. We will be seeing how his perfectionist talisman is taking us through the intuition, irrational, supraliminal and post-logic in the architectural design as well,” Ayas, who is the director and curator at the Witte de With Center for contemporary art in Rotterdam, said.

“Few artists have combined artistic ingenuity with such a subtle critique of history as deftly as Sarkis. This undertaking opens up a space in which the potential of art will be reanimated. Against the current landscape of deep uncertainties, it is our intention to unfurl a proposition that reveals Sarkis’s profound concern for humanity. With and through his intense and perfectionist oeuvre — especially with his magnum opus in the making — and thanks to his rich arsenal of visual, architectural, and musical apparatus, we will be able to tune into hidden signals and frames encrypted in mediated images and visions; dig deeper into our contemporary lived experience; most likely hurt but also hopefully heal. The focus is the transformative power of art, as well as timelessness and the timeliness of his oeuvre,” Ayas added.

The exhibition’s title means “to breathe” in Italian and the artist gave a detailed account of his initial impulses to create it after his visit to the historic building in which the pavilion is located. He spoke about the installation of mirrors, stained glass panes, and two rainbows made out of neon lights –which he describes as a “moment of insanity” — the planets that will be created by seven children’s fingerprints and the musical piece specifically composed by Jacopo Baboni Schilingi with meticulous direction by Sarkis.

It is quite significant that the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) chose Sarkis to represent Turkey in Venice in 2015, the 100th anniversary of the atrocities committed against Armenians during the Ottoman Empire. “While asking myself with whom I can swim across the cultures, beliefs and histories best, I thought about Defne, who also has a similar relationship with Turkey; she lives abroad but is very connected to here [Turkey]. I’m like that too. I never considered myself in diaspora. Hrank Dink once said, ‘diaspora is a big town in Anatolia’ and I live in it too,” Sarkis said. Sarkis will also be joining artists at the Pavilion of Armenia at the Biennale to commemorate the centennial. He insists that “Respiro” is not about that topic, “it is something beyond history.”

The 56th Venice Biennale will take place between May 9-Nov. 22 and two simultaneous installations by Sarkis will also take place both in Istanbul and Genoa.

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