September 29 — December 15 2023
Suat Öğüt’s exhibition Birdir Bîr delves into the impacts of the Ilısu Dam on the region’s ecosystem and cultural heritage that submerged Hasankeyf. The works in the exhibition shed light on the recent changes in this region through the artist’s memory.
Birdir Bîr takes a souvenir photograph of the artist documenting his brief visit to Batman as a point of departure. When Öğüt was fifteen, he went there to build a model of Hasankeyf. The exhibition alludes to the devastation, displacement, and irreparable damage inflicted on the archeological site and the region due to the ongoing water dispute. By focusing on Hasankeyf, divided by the Tigris River, Öğüt reflects upon the water policies, daily life, agricultural activities, urban policies, and the function of borders in Upper Mesopotamia through materials associated with his childhood memories.
The exhibition comprises installations, videos, printed materials, and a scaled city model. The first work to encounter in the space is a three-channel video titled Nefes (Breath). It documents the destruction caused by the dam construction in the region from a subjective perspective. It pays tribute to the local population’s determination to continue living at home despite adversities. Another work in the exhibition, the Hasankeyf model titled Kaybolan Manzarayı Tamamlamak (Completing the Disappeared Landscape), offers a panoramic view of the district before the dam construction. It allows viewers to envision the abandoned settlements, archaeological sites, ancient canyons, and numerous caves that composed the geographical landscape before submersion.
In the same room as the model, the work Öngörülmeyen Ritimler (Unforeseen Rhythms) contains components that synthesize the artist’s research and production processes. It comprises a sculpture shaped as the outlines of a small-scale satellite image of the Tigris River, printed materials, and two videos. This work examines the water dispute in the geography where the river flows and its eco-political effects in the region. Using visuals from Google Maps, these videos probe around Diyarbakır and the Ilısu Dam in Mardin Dargeçit, which has been operational since 2020. This work also includes Environmental Impact Assessment (ÇED) reports as documentation of the environmental damage.
The last work in the exhibition is made from mosaics and is about the birds of the Upper Mesopotamia region. Situated in the apartment air shaft adjacent to the exhibition space, these panels feature twelve endangered bird species. They formally relate to mosaics found in the region’s archaeological sites, emphasizing the shared fate of regional biodiversity and submerged cultural heritage.
While bringing together works produced in the current climate of uncertainty surrounding Hasankeyf and the region, Birdir Bîr refrains from making historical claims. Instead, it positions the artist as a witness to a specific period through a modest autobiographical narrative. Inspired by the imaginative power of a child’s mind to reinterpret harsh realities, the exhibition focuses on preserving the natural and built environment and sharing memories.
Birdir Bîr is made possible by the support of Netherlands consulate-general, Mondriaan Fond, Sanatorium.