Companion Plants, Entrusted Stones, 2023 - Autostrada Biennale

Companion Plants, Entrusted Stones, 2023

Artist: Gözde İlkİn

Venue: Along the Streets

The fabrics in our homes carry the imprints of our presence. Their fibers, made of plant, animal, or synthetic material, come into intimate contact with our daily lives. Gözde İlkin works with found domestic textiles as archives of lived history, as well as sites where vibrant figures of human-plant hybrids and more-than-human kinship can potentially emerge. For Refakatçi Bitkiler, Emanet Taşlar/Companion Plants, Entrusted Stones, she asked residents of Prizren to share their bedsheets, curtains, and tablecloths with her. She also researched regional flora and its use in motifs, seeing them as traces or agents of metamorphosis and collective memory. Using natural plant dyes, paint, and embroidery, she has transformed her source materials into a series of large-scale textile works hung on facades throughout the streets of Prizren. They connect the domestic, associated with women’s reproductive labor, to the public sphere, touching on questions of belonging, gender, migration, family, storytelling, and resistance as transformative care. Inspired by the cracks and weathering that indicate historical layers in the urban fabric, the works recall a local tradition of hanging cloth on building walls for protection. Is it across and within these cracks that new interconnections sprout? With İlkin’s transfigurative motifs, the face as a regime of central organization is abstracted away. A queer intermingling of bodies, limbs, plants, genders, and species emerge, making space for mourning and rebirth. Roots grow sideways. Bodies join each other, ever changing, never fully separate. And belonging turns out to be a non-static category.

Gözde İlkin (1981) was born in Kütahya and lives and works in Istanbul.


Supported by SAHA Foundation

Text by Andria Nyberg Forshage

Photo credits Tuğhan Anıt


With the stories I haven’t witnessed, seen or know, yet I have felt, the only thing I can do as an artist is to accompany them. The images I crafted on the textiles brought from Prizren and inherited from my family transmitted the interwovenness of the handmade laces recording memories of different lives, plants and scenes of nature. Made of three handcrafted textiles, this is how the project ‘Refakatçi Bitkiler, Emanet Taşlar,’ became alive.

The stories hidden in the buildings, architectural motifs, the cracks on the walls of houses in the city have conceptually aligned with the layered memories accumulated in the patterns and stains of the textiles that have been part of lived experiences. With the support of the biennale team and curators, we agreed on the idea of exposing the domestic memory within homes towards outside, on the streets. The meaning of this encounter -where buildings and textiles were interwoven- changed abruptly with the unexpected demolition of the particular heritage building together with the artwork seen above.

This work I crafted inspired by the common memories of natural forms, reciprocally transforming each other while filling into each other’s voids, was composed of the common memory of various nature forms, memories and corporealities. I worked on this piece with handmade laces, covers and stories borrowed from the families of the beloved Vatra and Leutrim. The poppies representing the martyrs of Kosovo, clovers accompanied aquatic forms of the Lumbardhi river and its stones. 

The symbols and signs I sewed onto the figures as the recorded memories of this place were carved into the stones were unearthed in the archaeological excavations in this geography; they referred to the unity of nature and human existence. The terrain of memories that we confided to each other in different forms collapsed with the demolition of the building.

I dedicate this collective memory -which now became part of Prizren’s soil- to the roots of my family that go all the way back to Yugoslavia, the unrecorded and unmourned pain and losses we all suffered, and to the spirit of my grandfather, Hüsnü İlkin.

I sincerely thank from the bottom of my heart the Autostrada Biennale team and curators with whom I worked together throughout this process, the artists, my family who have always stood beside me, the Saha Foundation team and the .artSümer gallery with whom I have been working for many years.

Gözde İlkin

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