Michael Rakowitz Presents "The Flesh Is Yours, The Bones Are Ours" in Chicago

May 19 2016 - Aug 13 2016


Rhona Hoffman Gallery
118 North Peoria Street
Chicago, IL

Originally developed for the Istanbul Biennial in 2015, 100 years after the Armenian Genocide, the project revives the culture of Armenian craftsmanship in Turkey through Art Nouveau architecture. Rakowitz mined the history of the fin-de-siècle style to highlight the Armenian craftsmen whose hands shaped Istanbul’s ornamented facades. This compelling installation poetically connects historic buildings from the artist’s hometown Chicago, such as Louis Sullivan’s Garrick Theater and the Chicago Stock Exchange, to make a repressed cultural history personal and relevant on a global scale.

“The flesh is yours, the bones are ours” is a customary Turkish phrase that acknowledges a teacher’s influence, used for instance when a youth was given to apprentice with master craftsman Garabet Cezayirliyan. In ateliers like Cezayirliyan’s, Rakowitz learned how architectural adornments were produced using a plaster aggregate of ground-up animal bone for strength. The artist then worked with the remaining Armenian community to collect frottage rubbings of Istanbul’s decorations and cast new designs in local ateliers. Cutting deeper into the past, Rakowitz used bones from livestock descended from Armenian-owned farms and dog skeletons excavated from the island of Siviriada, where 80,000 of Istanbul’s dogs were exiled and left to die in 1910. 

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