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Cansu Çakar

Venues: KW Institute for Contemporary Art, 11th Berlin Biennale c/o ExRotaprint

Cansu Çakar

Born 1988 in Istanbul, TR – lives and works in Izmir, TR

The struggles between the traditional and the modern that define contemporary Turkey underlie the stories that Cansu Çakar renders in delicate detail. In her series Labyrinth to Kybele (2020), Çakar creates a landscape of vignettes drawn from anecdotes in the Turkish press: A man murdered his daughter, after the look in her eye as she made breakfast convinced him that she was possessed by evil; a family tree shows the characters in this real-life drama. A watery setting refers to two treasure hunters who were granted governmental permission to lay a lake dry with explosives, making it into a black hole; nearby village officials comment that they are glad the lake is gone because its depths were a danger to local children. Another scene, featuring a maze-like architecture dotted with female figures, is inspired by a rape trial in which the defendant’s female lawyer interrogates the victim with the malicious logic: “I am also a woman. Why have I not been raped?”

A keen observer of the social fault lines in Turkey today, the artist works in miniature painting as a gesture synonymous with tradition. Reviving this ancient method of storytelling, Çakar’s practice reflects on how society deals with everyday violence and injustice—and how gender inequality impacts women. The labyrinth represents the enveloping silence of a culture of oppression, which for Çakar is passed on from generation to generation through the legitimization of tradition-dominated narratives, a process in which the mother plays a central role. At the heart of the labyrinth is Kybele, an ancient Anatolian mother goddess who embodies the unlearning of handed-down power structures and institutions—a symbol of nurturing and hope.

In ExRotaprint the artist has made a large-scale wall painting of one of the motifs in her miniatures: an inclusive sun, bored by its divine position, that touches everyone with its light.

Laura Schleussner

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