Archeology of Loss—Leybishkis’s first solo exhibition—takes the form of an immersive installation incorporating sculpture, video, and sound, and poses crucial questions around history, migration, and image-making.
The works presented draw upon the artist’s research and work during both her 2020 residency at Baxter St and a 2018–19 Fulbright grant. Leybishkis traveled to Greece, visiting the Moria Reception, Kara Tepe, and Identification Centre on the island of Lesvos, at that time the largest refugee camp in Europe and home to thousands of migrants, many fleeing wars in Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq.
While the works were produced in relation to Leybishkis’s work with refugees, their bodies are hidden from view. Instead, landscape and artifacts embody their stories. A series of concrete sculptures incorporate scraps of fabric salvaged from life preservers strewn along Lesvos’s north shore. The migrants’ experiences are encased in larger narratives of conquest and cultural exchange, the refuse of their journey made visible even as the concrete’s weight threatens to pull their wearers out of sight. The sculptural forms echo those of cultural artifacts in museums across Europe, highlighting a contradiction in which countries display the riches of colonial conquest yet refuse people at their borders.
In dialogue with the sculptures is a looped video shot from the shore, depicting the water migrants cross between Turkey and Lesvos. A boat crosses the screen, patrolling the invisible border that draws the connection between Greece and Turkey. This tension, along with the absence of human subjects in the sculptures, points to the disappearance of international news coverage about the refugee crisis—the migrants’ stories, like the materials of their existence, slipping from view beneath the weight of the 24-hour news cycle.
The artist makes no argument or thesis about resolution or next steps; instead, she poses questions and captures contradictions, presenting the viewer with a haunting installation exploring time, memory, conquest, and cultural preservation.
Archaeology of Loss continues Baxter St’s commitment to supporting emerging artists. The Workspace Residency program, now in its thirteenth year, offers lens-based artists much-needed workspace in New York City. The program provides participating artists with three months of free access to darkrooms and digital workstations as well as to the Baxter St community and programs. The Baxter St at CCNY Workspace Residency Program is made possible by generous support from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; The Jerome Foundation; public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council; and Fujifilm.
Marina Leybishkis is a New York based multimedia interdisciplinary artist who was born and raised in Uzbekistan. She holds a BA in Justice and Humanities Studies from The City University of New York and MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She was a recipient of the Fulbright grant for artistic research in 2018-2019.