KRANK ART GALLERY
Le Meridien Istanbul Etiler, Cengiz Topel Caddesi No.39, Etiler
June 24–August 22, 2021
A photographer from Istanbul, Larissa Araz has built her artistic practice on texts, audio recordings, board games, maps, images, and natural elements that interweave fiction and documentary in a tone at once playful and serious. Her third solo show, “East & West,” comprises a set of black-and-white photographs that tease out similarities among Turkey’s statues and its citizens. In 1933, an official march celebrating the republic’s first decade had boasted of creating “an unprivileged, classless, united mass.” Araz encountered a different reality when she took trips to Turkey’s far west (Çanakkale) and east (Iğdır) between 2007 and 2017 to shoot state ceremonies. 23 April, 2007, captures a moment from a Children’s Day celebration: Three kids hold hands while wearing masks supposedly representing different nationalities, role-playing a racialist game behind an internationalist veneer. There is a spooky quality to the image’s juxtaposition of children, their masks and the folk dancers in the background. The Ceremony, 2007, has a more somber mood, featuring a band member who carries a Turkish flag as he wearily parades in a stadium while military officers eye youths from stalls. Seemingly tall and proud, this young man, in his rocklike posture, has been tamed by militarism.
Doğubeyazıt, 2007, ponders a similarly petrified subject: Şâfi Camii, a seventeenth-century mosque on Mount Ararat. The Islamic shrine casts an ominous shadow on the barren landscape, from which it appears inextricable. The eerie emptiness is echoed in The Front, 2017, which focuses on the figures of two commanders in a monument to the martyrs of Gallipoli, the setting of one of World War I’s bloodiest campaigns. These images, cloistered in time but existing in perpetuity, remind us how national myths self-reproduce by converting matter into stone in its citizenry as well as its statues.