“If the so-called form is to come from a personal place in art, my form should be a picture of my own mind, where I want to see how polyphonic, multi-part, and independent element who carry tensions in themselves, meet each other.”


Memory and remembrance played a major role in the formation of identity from John Locke, one of the thinkers of 17th century, to the present day. According to John Locke, the human mind is a tabula rasa without innate knowledge. While establishing his philosophy in this direction, Locke stated that memory forms individual identity, and is often seen as the first philosopher to develop the notion of individual memory. In modern times, the debate that time can only be perceived in pieces thanks to memory, together with opposition to the idea of continuity of time, has embodied the formation of a new memory literature.[1] The literature of the memory of the modern period is reconstructed today under new social conditions, including and renewing the previous one.The past is made sense by revisiting the present memory. The reflection of memory on contemporary art, rather than a holistic perception of identity in an autobiographical sense, causes memory to disintegrate today and emerge as a fragmented structure that blurs the boundaries between reality and fiction.[2] In this context, when the works produced meet the audience, they turn to self-existence by updating and reconstructing social memory roles not as they were in the past, but in the present.

By doing this, the artist focuses on how society or the individual feels, how they think, what they are, and empathizes with all this. Comprehending the present is a difficult task. Therefore, the efforts of contemporary art and the artist become meaningful in terms of the mobilization of memory. In this process, the presentation of individual or social memory or the diversity of daily life to the viewer as a work of art allows us to reread local/cultural codes, images, regional issues and in this respect it is a document.

Today, some artists associate their autobiographical and therefore geographical issues with all kinds of art. Leylâ Gediz, one of the artists who most successfully constructed this relationship, urges us to focus on the possibilities with the forms she uses in her works. By instilling a sense of both familiarity and alienation in the viewer, the artist draws attention to the processes that have changed our living spaces significantly.

Artist Leylâ Gediz, who left Turkey in 2018, opened the “Parabens” exhibition at Akıncı Gallery in the Netherlands in the same year, focusing largely on the reflections of an autobiographical story. As per this exhibition, The artist notes that she started painting the works on display in Parabens in Turkey and they constituted the very beginnings of the plot of this story. She continues  … There was a subtitle of the painting ‘Souvenir dIstanbul’, which emphasized that the objects on the table were independent of each other. ‘Divided We Stand’. This is actually the way I reversed the famous American phrase ‘United we stand, divided we fall’. Because it was a work I wanted to convey the pain of not being able to stand together in Turkey. But as an exercise, I started to place some things on my desk.” For Gediz, such placings gradually became more and more specific and she began looking intensely with the objects of displacement.

Parabens - Divided we stand (Souvenir d’Istanbul)
Parabens – Divided we stand (Souvenir d’Istanbul)

It is possible to see the multidisciplinary aspect of today’s art in the artist’s works by making space-specific installations. Highlights of her work on paper/canvas; it supports with placements with brown and white cube candy or everyday items, instant edits, found sculptures, an item picture and video images. We see that the compositions created by the artist on canvas exhibit support structures and carriers, as well as installation. Thus, it partially erodes the traditional authority and uniqueness of the picture by shifting the focus of the viewer away from the centrality of the picture. As the variety of materials increases, canvases can also be used to place themselves, cut into pieces and relocate, presence, absence, etc. in interactions. Therefore, the versatile, multilayered variety in Gediz’s works adds a hybrid character to the art of the richness of objects and materials. It presents us with allegory ideas of difference, the unconstited majority, and in this way invites us to look from the inside out.

Parabens - Assemblage II - Table, stools, canvas, drawings, sugar
Parabens – Assemblage II – Table, stools, canvas, drawings, sugar

With the exhibition “Parabens”, Leylâ Gediz presents the unhappiness and pains of Turkey’s hegemonic structure in its memory to the audience.

Gediz invites us to a time and place beyond the canvas with her interdisciplinary work as a painter. With her paintings, placements and videos, she reflects echoes of her individual memory, shifts of focus and moments of assimilation. When we look at the artist’s work in the exhibition; it does not give us certainty about which  was the first or last. It’s as if by showing us the intervening time, we see a connection between the object and the viewer and what is shown and what is proposed. Thus, we witness that the viewer brings together her own search for meaning and what passes through her own mind, enabling her to participate and question the work.

Denizens – General installation view of the exhibition
Denizens – General installation view of the exhibition

We can observe the African wooden statue of Leyla Gediz, which she believes remains from her former owners in her newly settled house in Lisbon, as a link between the Anagram and Denizens exhibitions that took place behind Parabens.  This connection to cooperation with Afro-Turkish singer Esmeray extends to a world surrounded by colonial and new colonial violence policies with its African diaspora and works, and how we are alienated in the middle of a ‘fault line’ that owns the pain but can pretend not to be affected by it and separates us. In order to understand the feeling of displacement, you do not necessarily have to physically leave a place, you can perceive this feeling of alienation, even if your head and thoughts no longer belong to the country in which you live. The artists who witnessed the disintegration of the ground on which they were accustomed to establishing themselves as a figure; In recent years, especially in Turkey, repression, censorship events, and the obstacles of libertarian thought have shaken deeply and removed them from their countries/grounds upon producing new discourses. This is where the decision of Leyla Gediz to be evacuated was revealed. Unable to stand the fact that it is “always dark” in Turkey, the artist decided to change her culture and the roots of her land after believing that she had no new words to say.

Anagram - Encounter I
Anagram – Encounter I

The sense of detachment affects one’s sense of place and belonging, and the consciousness of history, which leads us to the discovery of disbanded diaspora groups. In these 3 exhibitions, Leyla Gediz shows the audience how the diaspora affects itself by reviving African bodies and works. The African figures she used, also familiar figures from the family home in Istanbul, where she lived as a child. These figures, as the artist calls them, “… It was in the house where I grew up, they were tourist figurines that my father bought when she went to Nigeria. I never looked back at it at the time, I didn’t say, ‘What do they symbolize, what do they carry, what does they say? ‘Therefore, when I saw them in the house I had just moved to in Lisbon, it became much more familiar and valid for me.”

This close relationship of Leyla Gediz with African statues; It takes us on a journey of everyday objects from everywhere, such as chairs and tables, and a personal story, including the empty whiteness of half the canvas, inverted to its negative. The presentation of the background of the canvas in the form of a transparent png file with the intervention of the artist is like a reference to the revenue validity of the space. At the same time, the fact that all these objects come together at different times and in different places is reminiscent of the gathering of foreigners who do not belong in a fixed region. In the Parabens and Anagram exhibition, Leyla Gediz shouts the reflections of her own memory, saying goodbye to those she has lost, perhaps also embracing them, with Esmeray’s song ‘Don’t Forget Me’. The artist, who started some of her work while in Turkey, is like shouting her longing for her childhood in 1970s Turkey with Esmeray’s favorite song, which is a pop music icon.


“Accompanied by a well-known Turkish song of the time, Don’t Forget Me, the image was divided into a gray-and-white cube grid, the background of the image editing software.The abstract pixel grid grew and shrunk, images of a nostalgic past regressed against the expanding, piercing grid, and then again grew and continued to manifest itself as a moving image against this background.The figure of The African-Turkish singer-songwriter Esmeray appeared throughout the video, only her absence, her traces in the archive photos; the body is either blurred or shaded by the negative area of the software defined by the background image.” [3]

The melancholy feeling created by the artist in these 3 exhibitions focuses on utopian potentials by turning to decentralized community forms in the Denizens exhibition. Denizens takes its name from the term “denizen” (resident, resident of a place), which emerged in the mid-19th century due to the increasing international movement of people and objects.

It refers only to the person or beings that belong to a place because it lives there and sits there, regardless of the roots considered “natural”, such as bloodline and/or place of birth.[1]


Gediz focuses on a new concept of belonging through the diasporic entity, which is not compatible with the existing categories today, adapts to assimilation and also resists it. Diasporic existence is imagined as an aesthetic space based on equality of conditions beyond its legal and political unity. Denizens is interested in restructuring the world with the awareness that forms the support of a picture practice that is carried out in the event of displacement from the focal point of what is left out of the frame in a picture or an image. Leylâ Gediz is going to use this environment more in her works. Since 2016, Leylâ Gediz, who participated in the migration wave that has been going on in Turkey, which is not the first but felt very strongly this time, copes with the touch of self-discovery, perception, uncertainty and distance in a new place.  She also feeds on the challenges he faces and gives a glimpse of Turkey from there.


[1] For Henri Bergson, intelligence grasps reality as frozen and fragmented. For instance, it mechanizes time through dividing it into days and hours. In the same years, Wyndham Lewis, co-founder of the Vorticist movement in art, defended the view that time can only be comprehended fragmentarily through memory while opposing to the idea of continuity of time.

[2] Simon Malpas, The postmodern (USA: Routledge, 2005), 65

[3] SEVEN, Aslı. The Long-Lasting Intimacy of Strangers, 2019. https://www.leylâgediz.com/bibliography/

[4] https://bantmag.com/3-soruda-denizens-Leylâ-gediz/, 2019


Sinem Pehlivan

Sanat alanında çalışıyor, araştırıyor, yazıyor, üretiyor. Mustafa Kemal Üniversitesi Güzel Sanatlar Fakültesi Resim bölümünden mezun olduktan sonra, İstanbul Kemerburgaz (Altınbaş) Üniversitesinde Sanat ve Tasarım bölümünde yüksek lisansını bitirmiştir. ‘1980 Sonrası Türkiye’de sosyo kültürel - politik ortam ve Protest sanat incelemeleri’ üzerine çalışmalar yaparak tezini tamamlamıştır. Kamusal alanda sanat ve aktivist sanat, mekan ve bellek üzerine çalışırken, diğer yandan kültür-sanat alanında değerlendirme, eleştiri ve inceleme yazılarına devam etmektedir.