Hera Büyüktaşcıyan

The Labyrinth of the Earth, Paradise of the Heart, 2022, single-channel video installation, 17 min 16 sec

📍 Venue → Hospital

In her site-specific interventions, sculptures, drawings, and films, Hera Büyüktaşcıyan unearths the layered material memory of various unstable spaces and places through the notions of absence and (in)visibility. A recurring theme in her practice, including the newly commissioned film, is the aquatic nature of architecture—the tension between the solidity of the constructed environment and the fluid nature of memory, the tidal and meandering movements of remembering and forgetting. In the film, referencing the allegorical work of the Czech philosopher, pedagogue, and theologian John Amos Comenius, the underground labyrinthic world of the wastewater treatment plant in Bubeneč features prominently. Its main function—purifying the city’s wastewater—serves as a metaphor for the washing out, or whitewashing, of both historical narratives and orientalist representations of otherness. In the stop-motion animation sequences, tile-like glass beads flow from the cavities of the wastewater plant to other buildings linked with water, such as public baths, or covered in glazed Rako tiles, such a hotel lobby. It is under the smooth surface of the figurative and ornamental tiles, produced in Rakovník and found across Prague from the Bubeneč plant to Hotel Imperial, that the artist is searching for the underlying tensions between the competing ideas of purity and cultural contamination characteristic of Prague as a palimpsest of multiple temporalities and communal imaginaries.

The production of the artwork was supported by a grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway (EEA Grants) as a part of the project “Centre and Periphery: Cultural Deserts in Eastern Europe”. Commissioned by Biennale Matter of Art.