Köker counts herself amongst this group. Her sprawling collages, some spanning over 13 feet, are built from hundreds, sometimes thousands, of photographs and found images of her surroundings. From afar, they resolve as unified images—politically charged landscapes and cityscapes, mostly. Upon closer inspection, though, it becomes clear that each photograph has been carefully cut into the shape of human figure or skull—a reference, perhaps, to vanitas,
a technique traditionally used in Flemish
paintings, where objects, like skulls and dead flowers, serve as harbingers of mortality.
Crescendo in the City (2013), for instance, is a daunting work that takes a much-circulated image of riot police in Istanbul and merges it with skulls in shades of pink and gray. “During the Gezi protests in 2013, a performance artist simply stood at the Taksim Square staring at the riot police,” explains Köker of the piece’s political underpinnings. “Without saying a word, he prompted others to imitate him. The repeating human figure in the collages might have emerged around that time, and it has stayed with me.”
Köker’s collages allude to global political constants: war, public protests and police brutality, environmental pollution and disasters, destruction of nature, and urbanization. Her sculptures, meanwhile, approach these charged subjects with a different tack—they are less fastidious, and more forthright, than her collages. In Rhizom (2015), the first piece you see upon entering the exhibition, the artist casts tree parts, then coats them in rusty gauze, as if dressing a wound or a fractured limb. Severed mid-trunk, the ghostly white, gnarled form hangs from the ceiling, its branches missing, and its roots hanging limp and exposed. Truncated and unanchored, the tree becomes a stand-in for the nomadic, rootless tendencies of contemporary culture.