Project Dedicated to Armenian Genocide to be Included at 14th Istanbul Biennial

Bones from Vakifli, the only remaining Armenian village in Turkey (Source: Michael Rakowitz)
Bones from Vakifli, the only remaining Armenian village in Turkey (Source: Michael Rakowitz)

Bones from Vakifli, the only remaining Armenian village in Turkey (Source: Michael Rakowitz)

YEREVAN (ARMENPRESS)—Often engaging with found objects and sculpture in his research-based practice, American artist Michael Rakowitz creates installations and participatory events to instantiate counter narratives to received histories in site-specific contexts.

Rakowitz’s newest project, The Flesh Is Yours, The Bones Are Ours, opens at the Galata Greek School in Istanbul on September 5, and will be on view through November 1, 2015. The work was commissioned for the Fourteenth Istanbul Biennial, which is curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev. Rakowitz’s project laterally approaches the subject of the 1915 Armenian genocide through the traditions of craft and architecture.

Commenting on the exhibit for artforum.com, Rakowitz says, “The title of this work comes from the parents of a young child who was given over to a master craftsman to become an apprentice. Kemal Cimbiz, a Turkish man now in his seventies, was the youth, and the craftsman was the Armenian plaster caster Garabet Cezayirliyan, who is responsible for many of the molds, friezes, and architectural flourishes one finds throughout Istanbul. It was very rare for a Turk to be given over to an Armenian master. The Armenians were the artistic and artisanal class. As in many places, they were looked down upon. Manual labor—which included being an architect or a builder—was seen as something for the minorities.”

“The poetic thing about these friezes, however, is that they show traces of Armenian hands and fingers, which bear silent witness to what happened during the Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire in 1915 and after,” Rakowitz says.

“The project also dwells in the intersection between Kemal Cimbiz’s craft and an old Greek school in the Galata neighborhood of Istanbul.”

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