During my two years living in Baltimore, Ive returned to Turkey four times, and over this period have learned that homicide of women is a significant social issue that is increasing globally. This is particularly true in Turkey, where domestic violence is increasing and too often ending in murder.
In response to this crisis, in Spring 2017, I initiated Toward the End of Femicide: A Living Memorial a project researching and expressing the trauma of femicide. I crocheted thirteen pouches, each one representing one year of Turkish femicides between 2004 and 2017. In order to show the increase in such murders, I have accelerated my crocheting so that I have now, as of April 2018, a total of 76 pouches. My desire is to continue making these crochets as long as femicide continues.
In my installation, visitors encounter these 76 white crochets, each approximately 6x 4, all pinned to different locations on a large map of Turkey, which I have drawn onto the wall. The placement of each pouch corresponds to the province in which a woman was murdered. The pouches are connected by long hand-knitted tubes, metaphorically connecting the unique voices of the deceased and also suggesting biophysical circuitry. The construction of these pouches and tubes is similar to Ernesto Netos crocheted sacks filled with various materials, ranging from sand and aromatic spices, to candies and Styrofoam balls, that he suspends from the ceiling of his installations. However, each of my pockets is filled with soil, out of which grasses are growing, an homage to the Turkish custom of planting grasses on top of tombs as a way of showing care for the deceased and providing a natural, nurturing way of remembering them. (A good example is the Canakkale Turkish Martyrs Memorial.) I intend the grass in my installation to function as a monument to women who have died from domestic violence, a monument that keeps memories of them alive and elicits respect for them, even as it recognizes that some are unknown. For those whose names are known, their initials appear on the pouches.
The configuration of the pouches on the wall specifically resembles fallopian tubes and ovaries, representing the biophysical element of female anatomy that potentially gives life but also can become the gendered stereotype to which men sometimes reduce women, making it easier to objectify, belittle, or even take their lives. To counter this tendency toward objectification and silencing, I have incorporated into the installation womens voices. When visitors get close to the pouches, they can hear these voices telling stories of femicide in Turkey. This portion of my installation has ties to Susan Hillers Channels (2013), in which video monitors play audio stories of peoples near-death experiences while showing intermittent images of medical flatlines and monochrome screens. My work, like Hillers, is about death and how to make numinous connections to the memories of dead people.
My continued knitting and crocheting constitute a symbol of my continued anger over femicide. The meditative process of these activities is cathartic, helping me get rid of my anger and manage my fear. As Louise Bourgeois has said: The act of sewing is an act of emotional repair. Before seeing the installation in my studio, audience could seemy video Knitting in the Public appears to show an ordinary woman (me) knitting in mundane contexts at the entrance of my studio. Whats unseen in her activity is that the more that women are being murdered in Turkey, the more her anxiety is displayed in the output of more and more crocheted pouches.
Violence Against Women Rises Sharply in Turkey, 409 Women Killed in 2017, Daily Sabah, January 2, 2018, accessed April 15, 2018, https://www.dailysabah.com/turkey/2018/01/02/violence-against-women-rises-sharply-in-turkey-409-women-killed-in-2017.
Annette Messager also uses knitting as a practice through which to take care of and pay tribute to the dead Messager by knitting tiny jackets for dead birds, and I by crocheting and knitting tiny tomb-like symbolic representations of dead women. I also appreciate Rebecca Harris fabric work representing womens body parts, and I especially admire and share her process, which she describes as very laborious and repetitive, requiring great patience.
The overall purpose of this project is to raise awareness of increasing femicide around the world by focusing on femicide in my own country, to which I consistently return and where I, too, could be affected by this crisis. I hope that this work fosters discussion, analysis, critique, and further research so that not only will the increase in femicide be reversed but, ideally, all homicide would end completely. Trying to engage viewers in this conversation, so that they might change their perspective on femicide, is my primary objective. Toward this end, I have incorporated an interactive element in the form of spray bottles, which visitors are encouraged to water the grasses.
Gago, Veronica. Is There a War on the Body of Women? Finance, Territory, and Violence, March 2018. https://www.viewpointmag.com/2018/03/07/war-body-women-finance-territory-violence/
Giustina, Jo-Ann Dell,a and Natalie J. Sokoloff. Why Women Are Beaten and Killed: Sociological Predictors of Femicide. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2010.
Mitchell, Robert. Bioart and the Vitality of Media. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2010.
Myers, William and Antonelli Paola. Bio Design: Nature, Science, Creativity. NY: Thames&Hudson, 2014.
Violence Against Women Rises Sharply in Turkey, 409 Women Killed in 2017. Daily Sabah, January 2, 2018. Accessed April 15, 2018. https://www.dailysabah.com/turkey/2018/01/02/violence-against-women-rises-sharply-in-turkey-409-women-killed-in-2017.
Yüksel-Kaptanoglu, Ilknur, and Alanur Çavlin, Banu Akadi Ergöçmen. Research on Domestic Violence against Women in Turkey. Ankara: Hacettepe University Publishing, 2015.