From There We Came Out and Saw the Stars. Hera Büyüktaşçıyan for Underneath the Arches

“The name of the work is From There We Came Out and Saw the Stars. It is the last quote from the Inferno by Dante Alighieri. We decided to translate it into English because we thought that having the title in Italian would have been a cliché for an exhibition that is held in Naples.”

Hera Büyüktaşçıyan, one of today’s youngest and most talented Armenian artists, explained to us her latest project, installed within the spaces of the archaeological site of Aqua Augusta, the Serino Aqueduct that was discovered by chance after the collapse of the basement of Palazzo Peschici Maresca in Naples, Italy.

Büyüktaşçıyan’s solo exhibition is the second project in the long term program Underneath the Archescurated by Chiara Pirozzi and Alessandra Troncone at the Roman aqueduct. Underneath the Arches is realized thanks to the support of the association VerginiSanità, that takes care of the archeological site.

The artist – whose practice is mostly related to site-specific works dealing with the historical background of the space they are installed in – was invited to come explore the city and the aqueduct in May.

“It was my very first time visiting Naples, and the very first thing that caught my attention was this relationship between the unseen and the visible. The city has all these layers beneath almost every house. But there is constantly a connection, somehow, with the invisible parts of the urban environment.”

During her research, the artist focused on this duality, which makes up the very essence of the city: past and present, appearance and disappearance, death and resurrection, destruction and reconstruction.

 

Hera Büyüktaşçıyan, Underneath The Arches

Hera Büyüktaşçıyan “From There We Came Out and Saw the Stars”, installation view. Underneath the Arches, Naples. ph: Maurizio Esposito.

05 HB_Underneath the Arches_Foto © Maurizio Esposito
06 HB_Underneath the Arches_Foto © Maurizio Esposito
Hera Buyuktasciyan, Underneath the Arches, Napoli

 

The installation opened to the public on December 1st, 2018 and will be visible until March 10th, 2019. The visitors of the archeological site are presented with a re-emerged water path which is “flowing” above their heads. This reveals not only the aforementioned dual viewpoint, but can also be seen as a blue sky full of stars. Hera Büyüktaşçıyan refers to Naples as an “aquatic” city: not only because of its underground water courses, but especially for its fluid structure, which hints at that of an organism with invisible and constant breath.

To realize this artwork, the artist used local materials that also present an extreme significance. The blue, plastic web is the one commonly used in building sites, mostly to prevent people who are walking on the street from being accidentally hit by wall pieces or other objects falling down during construction. Then there are two kind of tiles, representing the stars. Büyüktaşçıyan chose them from two different contexts: the lightest, cheapest ones are commonly used throghout the city as a sort of multi-purpose urban material; the oldest ones, made of terracotta, were found by the artist on site, and date back to when the Serino Aqueduct was used as a bunker and a landfill during and after the Second World War.

“I used this web because the space hosting the work is a historical site. When you install a site-specific work within a space like the one of Aqua Augusta, you have to be very careful… there should be a balance between the artwork and the space, because these kinds of spaces are extremely predominant in terms of presence, both in their physicality and in their historical layering. Sometimes the work can get lost when the space is overly dominant; vice versa, if the work is too loud, the space disappears and nobody understands what the space is about. The web I decided to use has a transparency which is incredibly beautiful: while walking underneath it, you can either be seeing a water stream or a sky, or both, but you are also completely plunged into this archeological Roman site.”

 

Acquedotto Augusteo del Serino. ph Antonio Picascia.

Acquedotto Augusteo del Serino. ph Antonio Picascia.

07 Acquedotto Augusteo del Serino_Foto © Antonio Picascia

 

“Then, as you noticed, there is a difference in the weight of the tiles. This can be perceived from the shape that the web takes by following these different weights: the cheapest tiles are the lightest, while the old ones are much heavier. I like to think about this movement, about this weight, linking it to the reverse weight in which we perceive the past from the present.”

The site-specific work also features a suggestive lighting: the tiles, displayed as if following both the shape of the arches above them and the way the ancient stones on the Neapolitan streets have been placed down, are illuminated from the bottom up. The shadows they project on the ceiling represent, again, the stars in Dante’s quote, but they can also be read as “[…] the ghosts of disappeared existences. The past is always around us, but it appears only when we turn the lights on and point them at it.”

From There We Came Out and Saw the Stars. Hera Büyüktaşçıyan for Underneath the Arches. At Aqua Augusta, Naples through March 10th, 2019

 

Hera Büyüktaşçıyan portrayed by Kleopatra Anferova

Hera Büyüktaşçıyan portrayed by Kleopatra Anferova

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by Eleonora Castagna
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