valid causations from an elephant's memory

gulsah mursaloglu

soil, potatoes, clay, and mixed media
dimensions variable


artist website

artist statement

The experience of distance—smelling a thing inches away from my nose and then understanding it from afar with my eyes—is where my work begins. In making, I turn back, look far away, and remember. Then I turn forward and search within what is present around me. I find materials and objects and imagine their histories. Then I embed them within absurd and precarious systems that monumentalize them, giving them responsibility. These systems are non- functional and they are built on multiple dependencies. They are fragile and they operate on a strange sense of balance. It feels like the system can fall apart, collapse any minute, but it’s holding on. A pulley comes from the ceiling and gets connected to the water tank with a telephone cord, little jars of cinnamon move through cables and become popcorn.

Making my work is a very physical process; my hand is present in each piece. Surfaces, textures, and the sense of touch are all important elements. Touching is a big part of communication in certain cultures and it is a way of showing presence: it creates a sense of intimacy. The sense of intimacy is a substantial part of my practice in two ways. Firstly, my pieces invite the viewer to get intimate with them. By constantly shifting the scales within my sculptures and installations, I try to create intimate viewing environments for the viewer. I create small parts within the pieces that the viewer can see only by getting very close and moving their bodies physically around the piece. I use the element of smell through spices and oils to create an inviting sensory experience. Secondly, the use of ephemeral materials allow my pieces to take on a life of their own, which requires me to be intimate with them on a regular basis. This also brings in the element of time. Pieces change slowly; smells fade away; water levels go down. The work responds to its environment.

I build my work with a poetic sensibility and I aim to create a sense of unity within the multiple parts/materials of my pieces. I try to create an organic relationship within each piece in which parts feel essential to one another. In a certain sense, each piece becomes a microcosm with its own set of rules and relationships. Though this new context may give the materials and objects new aspirations, it does not rewrite their humble origins. Rather, viewing my work presents an opportunity to travel over these distances: from insignificant to astounding, from a child’s play to an adult’s observation, from near to far, and from the kitchen to the monument. 

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