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Steffanie Ling
Dilara Akay & Derya Akay at grunt gallery
January 24, 2018

On the occasion of their collaborative exhibition Ghost Spring at grunt gallery, mother and son artists Dilara Akay and Derya Akay present a cohort of sculptures that portray the iconography of mourning. Their assemblages take the shape of shrines or memorials that would be installed in homes, in graveyards, or at funerals. The works mounted on the wall have white cloth draped over personal effects and other talismans. The thresholds and windows of the gallery have been obscured by cloth as well, rendering the exhibition a definitively recoded space of contemplation. Flowers, fruits, and vegetables surround plots and caskets of various sizes and degrees of ornamentation populate the exhibition room.

Dilara Akay & Derya Akay, Ghost Spring, 2018 (photo: Mitra Kazemi)

When Derya told me he was making a graveyard, I asked, “For whom?”, and he responded, “Everyone.” By everyone, I don’t know if he meant anyone (though I am certain he would not discriminate) other than the many forcibly “disappeared” in Turkey as the political conflict between the Kurdish, the Turkish government, and the Islamic State persists. If you are not aware of this situation, the gallery provides a dossier of articles explaining context, the political motivations that inform these object-expressions and funeral practices, and that the offering of a graveyard attempts to defy the erasure of the unceremoniously missing and murdered.

In the public programs facet of Ghost Spring, the artists cite the Saturday Mothers. Every Saturday in the Galatasaray district of Istanbul, mothers and family members congregate in a silent protest-vigil for loved ones whose disappearance remains dismissed by the state as isolated incidents. Over the course of the exhibition, a few Saturdays have been scheduled to visit an Armenian Genocide memorial, host a Turkish game night, and have Dilara conduct Turkish coffee readings.

It would be too dour to refer to these works as memento mori, as visual prompts to check our mortality, because they do not inspire a self-centred notion of a slipping lifespan. In their sedate objecthood, the sculptures offer a site for projected mourning, for an expanded notion of lamentation that dissuades from crippling sorrow or individualistic existentialism. When a grave is for no one in particular, it supplies a gap in the narrative of martyrdom or hero worship that widens for collective actions taken in response to systemically erased fatalities.

Dilara Akay and Derya Akay: Ghost Spring continues until February 17.
grunt gallery:
The gallery is accessible.

Steffanie Ling's essays, criticism, and art writing have been published alongside exhibitions, in print, and online in Canada, the United States, and Europe. She is an editor of Charcuterie and co-curator at VIVO Media Arts Centre. Her books are Nascar (Blank Cheque, 2016) and Cuts of Thin Meat (Spare Room, 2015). She is Akimblog’s Vancouver correspondent and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram @steffbao.



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