DriftingSeen BeyondTopography of Memory

Traces of Memento

Artist in Residence from Germany in the Footsteps of a Forgotten Time in Istanbul

Walking through the streets of Istanbul with artist Gisela Gräning gives an interesting insight into her workflow. Although the city tour feels a bit like a sally, it’s obvious that Gräning has an eye for details in architecture and their socio-political implementations. She doesn’t stop walking while examining the scene and taking the shot: her gathering of material seems to happen casually, in between two steps and a couple of glances. But those presumptively fleeting moments turn out to be based on a well thought-out idea – and result in a set of pictures that has some stories to tell.


Gisela Gräning was born 1951 in the north German city Kiel. For the last 16 years she’s been living in Eichwalde, close to Berlin, but currently changed her main dwelling place to Istanbul. As in case of Beret Hamann, she does her stay in the frame of an artist in residence program in Istanbul. It is financed by the state ministery for Science, Research and Culture of Brandenburg and initiated by Brandenburg’s Association of Fine Artists BVBK andwill allow her to fulfil a project she’s working on for a longer time period.

Gräning has been to Turkey a couple of times before, visiting and shooting antique buildings and ruins in the southeast and other regions. She quickly got interested in the variety of historical buildings and ruins, both for their architecture and their social context. The idea of a place that gave shelter to so many generations within decades and centuries fascinated her, as well as the outstanding aura of presence and power attached to the places in ruins for so long.

Now here in Istanbul, she’s conscious of her chance to combine the past with the here and now; aiming to capture the impermanence as well as the permanence within the shape of a city that offers new and old architectural elements as well as a variety of social structures.

Parallel, she set herself a daily task for her stay: Everyday, she picks an unknown word from a Turkish newspaper and creates a collage around it.



In her works, Gisela Gräning likes to experiment with photographs, graphics, drawings and sketches, as well as different kinds of paper, colors and X-rays – often not using just one but several materials and mediums in combination. In her collages, or more precisely, her composites, Gräning puts all pieces together to create an associative and reminiscent picture. As such, former works deal with architectural sketches, ancient buildings and in general human use of natural spaces and resources. Latter can be seen in projects like ‘’Abraum’’ – a work focusing on brown coal mining in Lusatia.

Another remarkable characteristic of Gräning’s work is her distinctive concern about miniature images and the work within the microscopy sphere. This chosen focus is somehow grounded on her early years: Having studied and earned her PhD in biology as well as having worked as a scientist in the sector of microscopy, this interest arises from her educational background and former work field. An interesting influence, that leads to conceptual art work as we can see it in her work pieces: telling us about Graening’s view on different topics but also offering a wide space of various interpretations – as each spectator sees things through different eyes.

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