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Derya Akay

Flowers from a Story 

until 13 July 2024

Where do we locate the contours of history? How do we trace its edges? Perhaps even more difficult to pin down, is the shape of the fleeting object known as the story, the atomic particle that builds towards grand arching narratives that structure humanity’s understanding of the self, on a more meta-level. Delineating the story, within cliché and narrow frameworks such as time or geography, feels like a disservice, a negation of the poetics that comes from letting the story fray and spiral, extending itself beyond itself. Rather, to really get at the story, I think it is more productive to think of the story’s afterlife or that which sits in a permanent state of parallel play. 


Naturally, the story must have a vessel. Normally, this repository occurs in the written word. But I think language is sometimes too singular, too limited and sometimes authoritative - a single voice speaking. I like to think that the container for the story can lay outside of language, a porous aggregate, polyphonic in its silence. A physical thing, small, diminutive, and yet, the sum of all parts. A thing that (continuously and forever) collects, hoards, and indexes the traces of a chorus of innumerable lives lived.


Here, Akay provides a provisional set of answers for these queries. The bond between chronicle and material is undoubtedly alluded to in the show’s title but further distilled into the objects themselves, as combines of both material poetics and signs. Akay’s works record and translate generations of history, carrying this yoke with both playful levity and driven commitment — precise and open to the world. 


Containers become meeting places become cork board become sounding become archive become garden become friends become the harvest become flowers become traces of petals become doily tchotchkes become pure pattern become your grandmother’s living room become memorial become social structure (architecture) become titanic migrations become a refusal to foreclose anything because to reduce this honed point to an eternally honed point would be a psychotic hallucination.


Much of this work is a forking path responding to the fundamental problem that the artist’s world is formed or affected, in one way or another, by the longue durée of ethno-fascist politics in their turk-ish homeland, a desperate project to accumulate power through the erasure of everything outside of a revisionist fantasy, through forced conversion, the erasure of languages, and traditions, and peoples - in short, the effacement of mediums for history’s transmission. Akay’s work is, in a sense, a rebuke, a denial of authoratarianism’s denial of the multiple for the one. These works contend with this fraught history of obliteration by the making of historical records of their own, which contend with the afterlives of these regimes on their own understanding of the world, while leaving a poetic space where the memorial can be a flower,  an index, a pattern, or an open question.


- Leo Cocar


Derya Akay (b. 1988, Turkey) is an interdisciplinary artist and cook. They live, work & garden on the unceded lands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sk̲wx̲wú7mesh and səlí̓lwətaʔɬ nations since 2005. Derya plays with the tension between preservation and decay, control and chance, trial and error. Their process-based artistic strategies allow them to embrace the realities of time and transformation with the organic materials they work with. They poeticizes the act of cooking, using it as a metaphor for their studio-based practice. Derya enjoys dumpster diving, cooking for large groups of people; remembering dreams; hacking & pirating; nerding out on code; alley walks & weeds. They have recently completed their project Estradiol Kitchen where they’ve been cooking at Moodswing Bar in New West, BC. Derya was the 2023 Stonecroft Artist-in-Residence at Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario. They were long listed for the 2022 Sobey Art Award from West Coast & Yukon. Derya’s recent collaborations and solo projects include, The Willful Plot, Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, University of British Columbia (2023); Queer Dowry, Toronto Biennial of Art, Mississauga (2022); Looking at the Garden Fence (, 2021); Meydan, Polygon Gallery, North Vancouver (2021) and The Neighbour’s Plate, Unit 17, Vancouver (2020).

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