TomTom Mahallesi in Istanbul is a quarter inhabited by local craftsman, garbage collectors and street sellers as well as hosting fancy designer shops and emerging art spaces. In former days it was the center of the Italian Levant including the historical Hotel Italya. Today the Consulate General of Italy remains beside lots of abandoned historical buildings. MAstudio is the working space of French-Turkish artist Mathilde Melek An. In that area it is a unique example regarding the implementation of artistic practice to the atmosphere and architecture of the urban environment.
MAstudio is located in a historical building that has always served as a location for local craftsman to produce and offer their goods in one tiny space. Small smart practical and tasteful interventions by artist Mathilde Melek An have transformed the narrow three floor roof terraced building to a functional studio and exhibition space in the past year. The artist is using fusions of materials, topics and spaces in all her artistic productions and presentations. The current show is part of “Open Performance Space”, a series of Performance events curated by Pınar Derin Gençer. Last summer Mathilde Melek An produced the performance Video “Golddess” in Cappadocia, an area full of caves and rock formations shaped by a vivid history and a rough environment.
The artist is performing in a golden armor with a headdress fusing forms of masks, crowns and helmets. Azure blue pigment powder on her skin is completing the orchestration of the birth of a goddess popping out of the blue to conquer a timeless unknown world full of secrets and oddities. The title “Golddess” is creating some of the humorous but well designed double layers within Mathilde Melek An’s works. The satirical touch implies all kind of serious abysses and ambiguities. The location is partly reminding Pasolini’s set up in the late 1960th orchestrating Medea at destinations like Aleppo in Syria, Göreme/Cappadocia and on a shore with the occasional appearance of an industrial tanker in the background of the scenery of the historical ancient play. An’s dress and performing style could be part of a current Music Video of the Formation “Empire of the Sun” famous for their elaborate stage sets and headdress, which reflects the duo’s background in visual art.
Mathilde Melek An is working on topics like gender and identity by using her multicultural background and playing with certain visual icons and patterns. Dressing in a shiny robe and posing as a blue angel on the set up of a poster bed with the face expression of a sphinx is dissolved in shots of a blue robed woman sinking in a swimming pool. The serial “blue angel” is quoting the movie that transformed Marlene Dietrich into an icon and is dissolving this in the production of several archetypical visuals orchestrated like film sets. The display of female poses is shifting between romantic motives and pop art esthetics leaving space for an internal discussion of the construction of femininity, gender roles and cultural differences. Or in the artist’s own words:
“In a continual voyage between the waters of occidental and oriental, I question cultural, sexual, and geographical identities, our memory which is both individual and collective, in an effort to bind our personal relationships to legacy’s transmission through generations.”
Mathilde Melek An is combining personal and anonymous photographs to create a fictional archive of the reconstruction of memory. Reenactments of herself in the historical set up of famous Turkish lifestyle magazines for example is merging times and the experiences of herself in comparison to her female relatives, who grew up in the Turkey of the 1950th and 1960th, when the magazines were reflecting the fashion and role models of the Turkish urban society.
Refreshingly these constructions are avoiding any kind of evaluations or preferences. The mixture of topics and motives create an impressive body of visualized contextualizations creating new forms and commentaries. In the series M.M. the artist is reenacting the esthetics of certain iconic pictures of the film star Marilyn Monroe. Wearing a blond wig and imitating the poses of the orchestration of a babyfaced sex bomb the performance reveals images that echoe and mirror archetypes of experiences by renaming and recontextualizing them. Like in the works of American artist Cindy Sherman the focus is not the individual motive but the orchestrated function and the archetypical radiation of the artwork.
Mathilde Melek An is connecting the more flexible and moving elements of performance, filming and photography with rigid objects out of ceramics, wood or resin. A series of ceramic legs are covered with colored glaze and drawings. They seem to be decorated with invisible shining stockings and calligraphic Tattoos. In fact they are carrying some of the themes implied in the moving, animated works of the artist. Appealing as attractive objects of femininity the tiny sizes of the sexy ceramic legs are transporting the uncomfortable subtext of a pedophile layer of content and for the glimpse of a thought adding a malicious texture to the beauty of the objects.