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mezar ‎مزار place to visit plaats om te bezoeken (2022)

In his artistic practice, Cihad Caner frequently uses etymology and historical
sources to reflect on contemporary phenomena. His work ‘mezarمزار‎ place to
visit plaats om te bezoeken’ traces the Dutch symbol of the tulip in the
Ottoman Empire and, in a chain of associations, arrives at the floral
ornamentations on the tombstones in cemeteries of modern day Istanbul.
With an interest [circulating] in collective memory and cultural archives, Caner
revisited ‘the tulip’ in language, images, and objects across different
geographies. His work enlivens and traces the material residues of a symbol in
a disembodied Ottoman past.

Guided by the imagery on a barrel organ in Deventer, called ‘De Turk’, of a
sultan wearing a turban and tulip, he connects the abundance of the flower
and its symbolism as part of Dutch identity, to the material and cultural
exchange between The Ottoman and Dutch empire during the 17 th Century.
According to a legend, Dutch ambassadors were charmed by the tulips worn
on the sultan’s turban and keen to introduce this magnetic flower in the
Netherlands; it is said that the Dutch word ‘tulip’ is rooted in this imperial
history and etymologically relates to the word ‘turban’.
Referencing this past in a written composition, the artist follows the tulip’s
etymology and hints to lesser known stories and relations as well as the
processes of cultural amnesia and misidentification that followed from them.
In doing so, Caner links and surveys the visual and linguistic traces of
stereotypes of an imagined ‘Turk’ within the Dutch cultural archive and
metaphorically lays them to rest in cemeteries of Istanbul.

The skillful and elaborate floral designs seen on the tombstones from early 18th
century cemeteries in Istanbul are replicated and carved out in wood. They
remind us of a longstanding Islamic floral design tradition in the geographical
area of Turkey. In the exhibition, a collection of these tombstone floral
ornamentations is displayed in mobile shelving and resembles an archival
storage. Caner conveys a sense of urgency for archival reconsideration through
minimal, visual, and poetic means. The work on display is built from different
materials and techniques that has in common an ephemeral yet physical
quality. While the CNC cuttings in MDF wood recall the resting places for the dead and disembodied histories, his glass tulips’ shadows remind us of the
flower’s material memory in the Dutch cultural archive.

Katayoun Arian