A Crack We Sprout Through

7 June - 20 July 2024
SANATORIUM presents “A Crack We Sprout Through”, a group show consisting of works by Leman Sevda Darıcıoğlu, Ndayé Kouagou, and Elif Saydam, curated by Melih Aydemir. The exhibition will run between June 7 - July 20, 2024. It focuses on co-opting and appropriation mechanisms within oppressive structures, aiming to reclaim the true intentions behind hollowed-out terms that have come to define practices of struggle. 
 
The title “A Crack We Sprout Through” directly references “They tried to bury us, they didn’t know we were seeds”; a widely used phrase in various protests and demonstrations across the globe, originating from a poem by Dinos Christianopoulos. This exhibition gathers attempts to cut through Western-defined values that are aggressively disseminated, disregarding and sidelining othered solidarity practices. It challenges concepts of visibility and coming out, which have become solid descriptions of the path to liberation. 
 
What was once the resilience, the creation of safe spaces, celebration of diversity, and affirmation of identities has been hijacked by oppressors, reducing these crucial concepts to mere buzzwords. Now, these terms are wielded against us to reinforce a binary worldview. The queer body has been commodified, strategically defined, and valued within the confines of a neoliberal system. Oppressive systems co-opt the disregarded definitions of marginalized communities to justify their destructive acts or to polarize society even further. We find ourselves trapped in vicious cycles under the mirroring practices of oppressors, compelling us to redefine how we produce art and nurture our struggle.
 
“A Crack We Sprout Through” features several disruptive ​​sub-headings that encompass artists’ works focusing on concepts like identity politics, safe spaces, reappropriation, and camp. With a public programming taking place during June, these concepts will also be challenged with localized perspectives. 
 
Ndayé Kouagou’s video work “Will you feel comfortable in my corner?” (2021), marks the beginning of the exhibition with a corner installation that invites visitors to engage in conversation. The video is centered around questions posed by the artist to initiate dialogue, leaving the viewer with a sense of uncertainty regarding the notion of finding a safe space. Kouagou poses the question “Where can I feel comfortable in this changing world?” with an ambiguous voice, remaining indefinable.  
 
Elif Saydam displays a see-through curtain installation, a curved security mirror adorned with a lattice screen showcasing their interest in reappropriating disregarded aesthetic categories. Exhibited for the first time in Istanbul, Saydam’s works provide insight into their humorous approach to ornamentation and camp as world-building strategies for both queer and diaspora communities. Saydam performatively takes on self-orientalism to tackle the authenticity of assigned cultural identities, where appropriation resurfaces queer possibilities within the ornaments by working both with and against traditions. Decoration turns into a transgressive and ambivalent tool, disrupting the ideologies ingrained in our perception of value, and thwarting internalized surveillance methods in relation to taste. 
 
Leman Sevda Darıcıoğlu’s video* installation focuses on the cemetery of the kimsesiz [Those Who Have No One] in Kilyos, Istanbul, alongside an installation reimagining the inclusive rainbow flag. The cemetery houses bodies located in numbered areas. Their names are withheld from the public, either because their consanguineous relatives could not be located or refused to acknowledge their existence, or because the state opts against returning the bodies to their families. Leman Sevda Darıcıoğlu visits the cemetery with their comrades Kübra Uzun and Onur Tayranoğlu, to honor the memory of the dozens interred there by holding a grieving ritual and an act of care. This cemetery is known as the final resting place for the underprivileged communities whose bodies (could) have not been claimed by their legal inheritors. In tending to these graves with the utmost care, Leman Sevda Darıcıoğlu exemplifies the potential for kinship across intersecting struggles, together with their deconstruction of symbolism they question the current state of queer politics. (*The video was created by Leman Sevda Darıcıoğlu in collaboration with Performistanbul and produced with the support of SANATORIUM.)
 
About the artists: 
 
Leman Sevda Darıcıoğlu (they/them)
Leman Sevda Darıcıoğlu (Berlin & Istanbul) is a multidisciplinary artist specializing in long-durational live performances, complemented by video, installation/sculpture, and public intervention works. With a focus on chronopolitics and necropolitics, Leman’s work centers on the vulnerability and resilience of marginalized bodies. Leman’s works have been showcased in international venues including Kunstverein Ludwigshafen, Ludwigshafen; YKY, Istanbul; Europride23 - Spazju Kreattiv, Valetta; Bärenzwinger, Berlin; Institute for Contemporary Art – ICA, London; Flora Chang, Los Angeles; Goethe Institute, Rome; SALT Beyoğlu, Istanbul; Schwules Museum, Berlin; Kunsthalle St Annen, Lübeck; Zentrum fur Kunst und Urbanistik, Berlin, Venice International Performance Art Week, Venice. They are currently pursuing a master’s degree in the “Live art forms'' program at AdBK Nuremberg under the mentorship of Johannes Paul Rather and Tamara Antonijevic [2022-2024]. Additionally, Leman has shared their expertise as a guest lecturer at UdK Berlin’s “Art in Context” master program. (For more information please visit the artist’s website.) 
 
Ndayé Kouagou (he/him)
Ndayé Kouagou (born 1992) is an artist and performer based in Paris. His practice always starts from texts of which he is the author. Voluntarily or involuntarily confused, he tries as best as he can to bring a reflection on these three topics: unease, power, and vulnerability. The result is… what it is. He describes his work as “quite interesting, but not that interesting or maybe not interesting at all”. He has presented his work, among others, at the Fondation Louis Vuitton (Paris), Wiels (Brussels), Frieze London curated section (London), Centrale Fies (Dro/Italy), Athens Biennale (Athens) and Centre George Pompidou (Paris). He is represented by Nir Altman (Munich) and Gathering (London).
 
Elif Saydam (they/them)
Through an expanded painting practice, Elif Saydam (1985, Canada) uses the language of ornamentation and decoration to rearrange systems of valuation and emphasis. Recent solo and group exhibitions include Sentiment (Zürich); Galerie Rüdiger Schöttle (Munich); Oakville Galleries (Canada); Kunstverein Harburger Bahnhof (Hamburg); Kunsthalle Bern; Tanya Leighton (Berlin) and Franz Kaka (Toronto). Saydam’s recent solo exhibition Eviction Notice was selected by Frieze Magazine as one of the ‘Top Ten Shows in the World in 2023’ and they are the recipient of the Hessisches Kulturstiftung Atelier Stipendium in New York City for 2024, where they will be researching Camp aesthetics as an emancipatory tool for diasporic survival and political imagination.
 
About the curator: 

Melih Aydemir (he/they) is a curator and art worker based in Berlin and Istanbul. His research mainly focuses on decolonization, labor, and internet-based communication between queer and SWANA communities. Aydemir worked with Protocinema between 2017 and 2020, was a part of the Çanakkale based artist initiative sub, and served as the Head of Exhibitions in SANATORIUM between 2018 and 2023.