Critics’ Picks

Fatma Bucak, Untitled, 2018, taxidermy and stone, 39 x 16 x 12".

Fatma Bucak, Untitled, 2018, taxidermy and stone, 39 x 16 x 12".


Fatma Bucak

Pi Artworks | Istanbul
Mumhane Caddesi No:48-50/3
September 26–November 10, 2018

In 2015, Fatma Bucak collaborated with a cameraman on a visit to a ranch in Texas where dozens of bodies of Mexican migrants are found every summer, returning home with video footage and ideas for a sculpture. The result, the exhibition “A World of Ten Thousand Things,” offers a characteristically perceptive look at an urgent issue.

A sentiment lurking at the edge of my conscious, 2018, is a sweeping seven-channel video installation that portrays Mexican migrants in two distinct landscapes along the Mexico-US border. One landscape features a river with reeds and a view of the horizon; the second, featuring granular soil, feels more bucolic, yet still invokes the perils of the journey ahead. Bucak’s treatment of the subjects evokes the films of Robert Bresson and his preference for models over actors: In these staged shots, the migrants’ faces turn back to the viewer, and feeling is invoked only through their postures and relationships to their surroundings. In place of dialogue, the laconic mood is heightened by birdsong.

For the sculptural piece Untitled, 2018, Bucak has laid a taxidermy fish—a symbol of transformation in Greek mythology and one of faith among Christians—on a stone altar. Here it is crushed beneath a stone: dead, washed to shore, exhibited to the public. The video Lavoyger: talking about “illegals”, 2018, documents Texan ranch manager and cowboy Lavoyger Durham recounting his discovery of dead bodies in three main migration routes. The detached tone with which Lavoyger recalls the tragedies is unnerving. Around him, several found objects—pullovers and jackets left by migrants—hang on tree branches, adding a chilling layer to his narrative. Bucak’s works depict the fragility of bodies and open a space for us to ponder the borders, both geographical and personal, that remain difficult to cross.