MELEK MAZICI: ”identi-tides” or the subtle rhythm of identities

I am meeting with Melek Mazici[i] at the Kiasma café to the occasion of ”Tidelines” [ii], an exhibition consisting of a unique joint installation she elaborated with Raija Malka (graphical work), Kaija Saariaho (music) and Amin Maalouf (texts) on the theme of identities.

The four artists involved in "Tidelines"

Raija Malka, Kaija Saariaho, Melek Mazici and Amin Maalouf: the four artists involved in "Tidelines"

At times when a fierce identity debate rages in many European countries, this exhibition centers the discussion on the plurality of our identities defined as a combination of belongings rather than on the prevailing uniqueness of any of them[iii]. Do we belong to the country we are born in or to the country we are living in and why should anyone have to choose between those two, three, and many more identities at any point in time? Melek’s work is non political but how not to wish that her technical and aesthetic sophistication could help those less receptive to words to understand the beauty hiding behind the acceptance of own and others’ multiple belongings…

Melek Mazici "My Garden"

Melek Mazici "My Garden"

– How did the idea of ”Tidelines” emerge and ended up involving such a variety of prominent artists – two visual artists (yourself and Raija Malka[iv]), a composer (Kaija Saariaho[v]) and a writer (Amin Maalouf[vi])?

–       Raija Malka and myself have neighbouring studios. We have gradually developed an artistic friendship and wanted to work together. Two years ago, when I started the reading of Amin Malouf’s book ”In the name of identity”, I thought we could do something tridimensional starting from his text. I wrote the synopsis of this idea taking some of Maalouf’s resonating paragraphs turned into ”objects”. Raija

Raija Malka's "Tidelines"

Raija Malka's "Tidelines"

(Malka)loved it and forwarded it to her friend Kaija (Saariaho) with whom she had collaborated before, and Kaija in turn submitted it to Amin (Maalouf) with whom she has always worked very closely[vii]. Amin Maalouf’s text on identities operated as an impulse creating an artistic chain.

–       Is the installation the result of a close collaboration all throughout these two years or did you rather work individually based on the initial idea once it was agreed upon?

We worked very closely on the sentences on identity that touched us but we continued to create as individual artists, with our own vocabulary, more independently, without sharing how we developed on our common theme.

My contribution to ”Tidelines” consists of plexi-boxes containing my waveforms” based on the view that our identities are jewels and a wall of silk embroideries called my garden”.



In the plexi-boxes (they resemble cases displaying a jewel), there is a series of blue waves in

waveforms (detail)

waveforms (detail)

watercolor and crystals. Waves come and bring the jewels that gradually constitute our identity and these additions enrich us all the time. The crystals too are like a mosaic of identities themselves.

On the wall, I have displayed a series of silk embroideries. I called it ”My garden” because to me, a garden is composed of different flowers, each fostering own beauty and identity. Individually, these flowers don’t mean anything, they mean something only as a whole. And so it goes with our cultural identities: we do not belong to one culture exclusively, it would be so narrow-minded! Throughout life, we embrace a plurality of cultural belongings and they constitute our richness on a personal level. The artists involved in this project are all marked by their multiple belongings. ”Tidelines” is referring to our bringing together of diversities.

–       In the past, you have worked with silk embroideries already (a stunning series called ”wings of eternity” which I adore) – has  textile a special importance in your art?

As a child I grew up with all the silks, laces, organza’s, etc. used in my three aunts’ clothes design atelier. I learnt how to appreciate beautiful textiles, silk in particular and its shininess. Besides, I have a lot of respect for the traditional handicraft activities of women out of which embroidering. ”My garden” is therefore also an ode to femininity.

– In your catalogue you say: ”in my installations, my memories are their most concrete (…) there is nothing symbolic about them”.  Could we talk about your ”black and white 1” where you look at yourself into a circular pool filled with water (2002). Who do you look at?

–       I wanted to see my reflection into the water, I wanted to see my inner side, how I am as a person. Setting the example of looking at my inner self was an invitation for other people to try and look at themselves in a similar way. In the Turkish culture, one would look at own features in the reflection to know about their good fortune, but I wanted people to look at themselves from the inside.

–       The theme of your own identity is also explored in your series called ”books”. Are they real books, can you turn their pages to discover something new on each page or is the book a simple support for a graphical art work?



–       They are real books that I covered, bundled like a real piece of handicraft. I started to produce

Books (detail)

Books (detail)

them while I was on a scholarship in Rome. I collected items during my walks and constituted a diary of feelings. The ”books” are intended for a reading without text, like a book of feelings.

–       You seem to be very comfortable exploring new techniques. This is particularly perceivable in your landscape series where you use image-on, carborundum, polymergravure…etc.

Blue landscape

Blue landcape

–        Yes, I like to constantly try and learn about new techniques to support my exploration of looking inside of me. In my ”landscapes” created with the techniques you mentioned, I start from a well-defined photo of a landscape to reach a level of inner scenery where you can’t recognize the place anymore. There is nothing still in landscapes: they have a rhythm, a perpetual motion and a sense of eternity.

–       You don’t want any of your identities to be singled out from the others, but you are born in Turkey where you regularly exhibit. Can you tell us more about the emerging Turkish contemporary art scene?

–       It is flourishing and very dynamic. It started 20 years ago with the Istanbul Biennale[viii] that offers a great window into Turkish contemporary art. There are also lots of very engaged galleries, among which mine, and they are reaching at a very young and open audience. There are also not one but two museums of modern art[ix] that are notably supported by private companies and not by the state. These facts all contribute to a tangible artistic effervescence[x]

Twin roses

Twin roses.

–       Is the Finnish contemporary art scene equally dynamic in comparison?

–       In Finland, we have many great artists and art education is paramount but we need to be more active internationally. These highly talented people need places where to show their work as well as the related international recognition. It seems to me that there were more galleries when I graduated thirty years ago than nowadays… we need more of them and more action! I love NY and its tradition of private openings: you have an apartment that’s an exhibition space provided you open your doors… This mentality is not present here in Finland but we will hopefully work something out!


"Tidelines" plexi-boxes
“Tidelines” plexi-boxes

[ii] Tidelines is visible at the Kiasma museum until 13th March 2011

[iii] The definition of identities is taken from Amin Maalouf’s ”Les identités meurtrières”, Grasset, 1998 translated into English (American) ”In the name of indentities: Violence and the need to belong  ”, NY, Arcade Publshing, 2000.

[iv] Raija sepaks about Tidelines on her blog

[v] 13th February 2011, Kaija Saariaho’s L‘Amour De Loin” recording was awarded a grammy –

"L'amour de loin" on stage

"L'amour de loin" on stage

Kent Nagano, conductor; Daniel Belcher, Ekaterina Lekhina & Marie-AngeTodorovitch; Martin Sauer, producer (Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin; Rundfunkchor Berlin) [Harmonia Mundi]

[vii] They have composed (Kaija Saariaho, music) and written (Amin Maalouf, libretto) three opera’s together: ”L’amour de loin” (première 2000),  ”Adriana Mater” (première 2006) and ”Emilie” (première 2010) as well as an oratorio: ”La passion de Simone” (première 2006).  All these pieces are stunning of beauty and intensity and I can only recommend to jump on the grammy award winning version of ”L’amour de loin”, especially to those who do not yet appreciate contemporary music: you might be surprised how deeply it can move you!

[viii] 12th Istanbul Biennal will take place in Istanbul 17th September-13rd November 2011

Take your seat to the Biennale's next edition

Take your seat to the Biennale's next edition . It is curated by Adriano Pedrosa, Jens Hoffmann and Bige Orer.

[x] An example among hundreds: Lehmann Maupin’s debut exhibition in Istanbul ”Five in Istanbul” at gallery Borusan Muzik Evi

2 Responses to “MELEK MAZICI: ”identi-tides” or the subtle rhythm of identities”
  1. Ruxandra says:

    I have just read a beautiful poem by Margaret Atwood that reminded me of Melek’s comments on her landscapes:

    “This is a Photograph of Me”

    It was taken some time ago
    At first it seems to be
    a smeared
    print: blurred lines and grey flecks
    blended with the paper;

    then, as you scan
    it, you can see something in the left-hand corner
    a thing that is like a branch: part of a tree
    (balsam or spruce) emerging
    and, to the right, halfway up
    what ought to be a gentle
    slope, a small frame house.

    In the background there is a lake,
    and beyond that, some low hills.

    (The photograph was taken
    the day after I drowned.

    I am in the lake, in the center
    of the picture, just under the surface.

    It is difficult to say where
    precisely, or to say
    how large or how small I am:
    the effect of water
    on light is a distortion.

    but if you look long enough
    you will see me.)

    Margaret Atwood (found on

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