Sibel Horada uses video installations and marbling printed on newsprint to express her relationship with the city of Istanbul, mixing traditional methods with contemporary ones.
“I know you,” is the first thing artist Sibel Horada says. “We used to be on the same school bus!” Horada works with memory, so it is no surprise that she would remember such a detail from decades earlier. In her solo exhibition at Versus Art Project in Istanbul’s Beyoglu district, titled “Interruption and Flow,” she establishes “relationships between urban, archaeological and ecological cultures” while referencing Taksim Square, and the flow of water.
Asked why she chose the frail material of newspaper print to create her marbling works, Horada says “I love newspapers, especially old ones.” She adds “I had worked with newspapers before, using them as compost for ‘An Internal Garden’ at Tutun Deposu at the end of 2018.”
“I wanted to observe the violence contained in those daily newspapers to rot within the compost and to transform into something productive, something good.” Horada says at the end of that show, people took home plants growing in the compost. “There was a blossoming of hope and an evolution towards the good.”
Horada tells TRT World that old newspapers are a staple of her studio. “They are part of the ultimate flow – you cannot find the newspapers of the day before, it’s impossible,” she says. She adds that when she needed copies of the newspapers she destroyed at Tutun Deposu, she was unable to acquire them.
“You can find newspapers from a few years ago in library archives, but not more recent editions from a few months back,” she laments.
She says she found the newspapers following the Istanbul Municipality elections quite interesting. “The city became visible as a natural source all of a sudden,” she says. “I collected many newspapers from that period, although some I used in my marbling projects, covering the entire newspaper in paint.”
By repurposing newspapers – that are generally used to clean the marbling container as a surface to print – Horada holds on to material that would otherwise be disposable. “I am monumentalising the fleeting newspaper,” she says.
Horada’s personal exhibition is also home to two installations. One is a two-channel video that finds her walking around in Taksim Square, dabbing her brush on surfaces she finds in Istanbul’s central hub as if to dust them off, collect their colours and feelings, and to splash on the marbling water in Taksim Republic Monument’s basins.
“Taksim Republic Monument was designed as a public fountain by the sculptor [Pietro] Canonica and it was approved by the authorities. You can find references to its future use as a monument/fountain in the newspapers of that era,” Horada explains. “Yet even as it was conceived, authorised and constructed as a fountain, there was never any water connected there.”
Horada says she doesn’t know why there was an “interruption,” but the basins are still present, filling up with still water every time it rains. “I wondered what could be done with still water, and I thought of marbling, an act of artistry made in still water,” Horada says.
“If you think about marbling, every drop of colour you add pushes the previous ones away, yet there is infinite space for new drops, I wanted to explore that,” Horada muses.
As for the second installation, it is about Taksim waterways, which were established in the 17th century, coming from Belgrad Forest in Istanbul via Maslak. “Maslak means ‘a pipe that never ceases to gush water’ whereas musluk (tap) is the mechanism that controls the flow of the water,” Horada says. ‘Musluk’ is an invention that came much later; there was no such thing in the past.”
There is a long corridor in the labyrinthine Versus Art space. Horada says she has created a reverse timeline there of the city’s waterways, leading up to images of dams. She says the sound of water, and the light coming through, beckon us to the area. The projection on a large sheet, with a baby bassinet and loudspeakers.
“What does it mean to think about all this in the era of ecological crisis and pandemic? What else can we do other than get used to contemporary landscapes of natural and urban destruction? How do we arrive at a clear present from a contaminated past and future imagination? Can we find the beautiful, the light to sustain our bond, even in what seems disgusting, miserable, or repulsive to us?” These are the questions tha İpek Ulusoy Akgül raises in Waterway: On Sibel Horada’s New Works, the exhibition text. The viewer is advised to seek and create their own answers in response to Horada’s intriguing art.
Sibel Horada’s exhibition at Versus Art Project can be visited between November 4 and December 11, 2021.