The function of the artist is very clear: he must open a studio,
and repair the world there, in fragments, as it comes to him.
Before resuming its original function as a bathhouse almost 500 years after its foundation, Zeyrek Çinili Hamam opened its doors with a contemporary art exhibition for the first and the last time set within the historic baths and Byzantine cisterns.
Curated by Anlam de Coster, Healing Ruins draws inspiration from the palimpsests of the past uncovered by the hammam’s 13-year-long restoration that became a meticulous archaeological excavation. Showcasing the works of 22 artists from Turkey and abroad, including new site-specific commissions, the exhibition was on view from 30 September through 30 November 2023.
Healing Ruins explores the possibilities of transformation at both individual and societal levels through the discovery and restoration of historical remnants and the layers revealed during the process.
The exhibition’s English title, Healing Ruins, carries a triple meaning. Instead of emphasizing that ruins are inherently healing, it focuses on how the act of repairing historical, societal, and spiritual ruins might have a transformative effect on us. The third interpretation, maybe not immediately apparent at first sight, where the word “ruin” is read as a verb instead of a noun, implies that purification, creation, and repair can only occur through arduous processes - just like the rituals of the hammam.
Amongst the artists participating in the exhibition, Francesco Albano, Adrian Geller, Alice Guittard, Başak Günak, Maryam Hoseini, Ahmet Doğu İpek, Lara Ögel, Zoë Paul, Daniel Silver, Panos Tsagaris, Ezgi Türksoy, and Elif Uras have created new site-specific works responding to the history, mythology, and architecture of Zeyrek Çinili Hamam. The exhibition also features works by Erol Akyavaş, Mehtap Baydu, Hera Büyüktaşcıyan, Dorothy Cross, Candeğer Furtun, Cecilia Granara, Renée Levi, Maude Maris, Ayça Telgeren, and Marion Verboom.
The artists, each unearthing remnants of individual and collective memory, transform Zeyrek Çinili Hamam into a psychic excavation site with references ranging from psychoanalysis to alchemy. Legends, echoes, whispers, poems, skins and bodies, rituals, tiles, spolia, architectural ornaments, symbols, secrets, love stories, celebrations, conversations, pains, hopes, and ghosts, which have been lost and forgotten over time, find new forms and perspectives within the exhibition through sculptures, paintings, drawings, photographs and installations.
The hammam is like a protective shell made of marble protecting our carnal envelope, shields our physical barrier from the outside world and allows it to reopen, renewed. It has served as a timeless portal for purification, cleansing, renewal, and even atonement rituals for thousands of years. While hammams are often initially associated with healing through only water, they harbor a deeper symbolism. Within this sanctuary, water converges with fire, air, and earth, and this convergence represents a profound, or even alchemical transformation. These elements can also serve as metaphors, reflecting the interplay of conscious and subconscious realms within the symbolic domain of baths. Passing through the threshold of this historic hammam, a multisensory experience shaped by the four elements (synesthesia) permeates the exhibition.
Just as there is a necessity to pass through darkness to reach the light, and confront agony to achieve healing, opposing notions are central to the mythologies of hammams. The works in the exhibition invite us to explore the ambiguous waters and drops of fire between dualities inherent to a hammam such as heaven and hell, purification and sin, intimacy and public space, spirit and body, heroism and cruelty, dream and nightmare, pain and pleasure, good and evil.
Curator: Anlam de Coster
Artists: Erol Akyavaş, Francesco Albano, Mehtap Baydu, Hera Büyüktaşcıyan, Dorothy Cross, Candeğer Furtun, Adrian Geller, Alice Guittard, Başak Günak, Cecilia Granara, Maryam Hoseini, Ahmet Doğu İpek, Renée Levi, Maude Maris, Lara Ögel, Zoë Paul, Daniel Silver, Ayça Telgeren, Panos Tsagaris, Ezgi Türksoy, Elif Uras, Marion Verboom
Closed on Mondays