Turkish-Armenian artist reveals works for Venice Biennial

ISTANBUL - Art crossed new frontiers in Istanbul today with news that an artist whose work will represent Armenia in an upcoming major international exhibition will also represent Turkey.

Internationally renowned conceptual artist Sarkis announced Tuesday that he would be representing Turkey at this year’s prestigious International Art Exhibition -- la Biennale di Venezia -- between May and November in Italy.

Talking to The Anadolu Agency, Istanbul-born Sarkis said that it was the first time in Turkish history than an Armenian-origin artist had been invited to the Venice Biennial to represent the country.

Sarkis, whose work will be included with 16 other Armenian contemporary artists at the event, said that he had questions in his mind when he was first invited to exhibit as 2015 is the centenary anniversary of Armenians’ deportation from Anatolia during WWI.

Speaking in Istanbul, Sarkis said most people were "stuck" in the debate over the 1915 events but added "I am trying to get over this jam."

"I am trying to open minds and sites continuously," he said.

A prominent figure in the global art world, Sarkis added that Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink -- assassinated by a Turkish teenager in 2007 -- was one of those who tried to open people’s minds.

"We have to go through an opening [on Turkish/Armenian relations]," Sarkis said.

The Turkish pavilion’s curator is Rotterdam-based Defne Ayas. She explained that Sarkis had doubts at first as he was unsure if he had been chosen for his previous works or for his Armenian background.

"Few artists have combined artistic ingenuity with such a subtle critique of history as deftly as Sarkis," according to Ayas: "This undertaking opens up a space in which the potential of art will be reanimated.”

Sarkis’ installation at the biennial -- called "Respiro" -- will be housed in a 12x48 meter area. In the middle of the venue he will use a two-way mirror.

"In Respiro [Italian for "breath"], I will be reaching out beyond geopolitics to a more expansive context of a million-plus years, going back to the creation of the universe and the beginning of time, back to the first-ever rainbow -- the very first magical breaking point of light," Sarkis states.

Sarkis’ work will also consist of stained-glass panes and neon. Music by Italian composer Jacopo Baboni-Schilingi, based on Sarkis’ drawing of a rainbow’s seven colors, will accompany the exhibit.

Turkish artists have been participating in the Venice Biennial since 1991 and Turkey as a country has been represented since 2003.

Organized by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts, the Turkish exhibition will be open in Venice between May 9 and Nov. 22.

Two separate installations by Sarkis will open May 7, one in Istanbul and one in Geneva.

Copyright © 2015 Anadolu Agency