In her solo exhibition “Patchwork”, Aslı Çavuşoğlu prepares a jigsaw puzzle consisting of the fragments of three of her works. The first piece of this jigsaw puzzle in the gallery is a variation of her work Red / Red, realised during the 14th Istanbul Biennial. This work that presents a story through colour was created using a special red pigment that has been used since 7th century BC, obtained from an insect living on the banks of the Aras River. This insect, called “Ararat Cochineal”, is on the verge of extinction on the Armenian side of the Aras River. On the Turkish side, the technique of producing this dye, used mostly by Armenians living in Anatolia, ceased to exist after 1915. The insect that lives on the roots of a plant found on the banks of the Aras River, in a sense, serves as the border between Turkey and Armenia, and tries to cling to life on both sides. Red, as a colour, exists as a way of creating a “common space”. The colour red, produced by a centuries old technique, alludes both to vitality and to death. In the words of the artist, this special red is able to generate a certain energy on its own and draw us towards it.
In pursuit of the only person in the world still producing this dye, Çavuşoğlu found herself at the Institute of Ancient Manuscripts in Yerevan, and produced drawings and notebooks inspired by the manuscripts and traditional Armenian miniatures at the institute. While the work tells the story of the disappearance of this pigment on both sides of the river, it also initiates a new discussion about the contemporary use of tools of material culture through the way it shares the knowledge about the production of the pigment once again.
The second fragment of the jigsaw is composed of pieces from another work of the artist, called “The Stones Talk”. The starting point of “The Stones Talk” are archaeological artefacts found at various excavations in Turkey, deemed “not worthy” of being exhibited, and considered to be “study pieces” that are not valuable enough to be “museum pieces” as they were incomplete or insignificant. Making copies of a selection of study pieces of her choice, the artist created new “wholes” out of these copies reproduced in different materials. Discussing the selective nature of the writing of history in her works, in “The Stones Talk” Aslı Çavuşoğlu reflects on the value system based on classification that we see at archaeological museums, while pursuing the potentials of creating narratives with archaeological and historical information, and telling polyphonic stories through objects.
The third fragment that constitutes the jigsaw in the exhibition Patchwork are pieces of historical Ottoman jewellery. The increasing Ottoman nostalgia in recent years is manifested in the so-called “Ottoman lifestyle”, and its most prominent example is the popular appeal of the television series “Muhteşem Yüzyıl” (The Magnificent Century). The outfits of the characters and their jewellery have become popular as symbols of the Ottoman lifestyle, and have artificially recreated the Ottoman heritage. In this part of the jigsaw, we see photograms of these jewellery, the cheap imitations that swarm the retail stores and that have become even more artificial through mass production. These were produced by exposing imitation jewellery on photographic paper. The photograms of these modern reproduction sets are the same as the photographs of the jewels in Ottoman archives, but with one difference; this time the photograms create a gap in our minds that would make room for new interpretations.
A history that seems to start belonging to a realm of simulacrum emerges out of the intersection of the three different artistic works. The simulacra that are no longer models, now consist of pieces that function on their own and compose their own models in an artistic fashion, and as such, become pieces of original artwork. While the pieces exist in a world desired to be perceived as reality, the artworks meet the viewer in an arrangement of a jigsaw puzzle named “Patchwork” by Aslı Çavuşoğlu. So now, the story writes itself from scratch, in the way it wishes.