Critics’ Picks

Arda Asena, Marsyas, 2019, nylon, polyester stuffıng, rubber band, 144 x 30 x 19".

Istanbul

Arda Asena and Mia Dudek

GALERIST
Meşrutiyet Caddesi No:67 1st Floor
April 18–May 25, 2019

The Greek myth of Marsyas concerns a flute-playing Dionysian satyr’s challenge to Apollo in a music competition, his defeat, and his incommensurate punishment: Apollo nailed Marsyas to a pine tree and flayed him alive. Countless artists, from Titian to Anish Kapoor, have interpreted the story. Mia Dudek commemorates the mythological liberty symbol with “Marsyas,” 2018–19, a photography series of close-up body parts. Bruises, limbs, muscles, veins, and wounds appear in eroticized reincarnations, as in Casing III, 2017, or on screen prints that resemble body CT scans (Marsyas III and Marsyas VI, 2018–19). Her work recalls Ovid’s description of the satyr’s dying body as “a flaming wound, with nerves and veins and viscera exposed.” Dudek’s “Skin Studies” series, 2018–19, proves more daring formally. Some works in the series are prints, while others are latex works whose wrinkled surfaces suggest mottled epidermis.

Turkish artist Arda Asena’s fabric-based sculptures also reenact the flute-player’s decay. Flayed, 2019, presents dismembered body parts made of polyester stuffing on a pedestal; He, Who Got Defiled, 2019, hangs from the ceiling, slaughterhouse-style. Viscera, 2019, consists of pink stockings stuffed with fabric approximating the innards of the flayed satyr, while Abject Body I and Abject Body II, 2019, use rubber bands, presenting skin in the manner of Francis Bacon’s paintings.

Asena and Ömer Bil’s Music for Pride, Beauty and Cruelty, 2019, a sound installation in the gallery’s dark central room, reimagines the mythical music contest. In the wake of Marsyas’s death, his mourners’ tears formed the Büyük Menderes river in southwestern Turkey. The lyrical, meditative nineteen-minute soundscape, partly scored with flute, evokes the musician’s sorrows and his tragic legacy. The suffering of Marsyas is typically seen as an allegory of artistic hubris: In their formal defiance of photographic and sculptural norms, these works side with the fallen mortal who dared challenge a god of art.