Hande Sever

When the Geraniums Bloom

July 13 - August 17, 2019

On September 12, 1980, before dawn, a right-wing military junta led by General Kenan Evren took state power in Turkey. Leveraged by the Carter administration, the military coup established martial law, abolished civil rights, and ruled the country for the next three years. During this time, the Turkish Armed Forces persecuted millions from the Turkish student movement, whose members sought to end national oppression through social reform. As a result, the military arrested 750,000 people; blacklisted 1,683,000; tried 230,000 in 210,000 lawsuits; sentenced 7,000 to death; revoked the citizenship of 17,000 and denied the right of 388,000 from obtaining a passport.

When the Geraniums Bloom is an exhibition by artist Hande Sever, who recalls her mother’s experience of the coup d'état through plants, soil, and compost. During that time, prisons were synonymous with torture centers – the most notorious of which were Metris, Diyarbakır and Ulucanlar. The artist’s mother was kept in the Metris Military Prison – now known as Metris Closed Penitentiary. While incarcerated, Sever’s mother planted beans as a reminder of the outside world and of her life before incarceration, where she tended geranium plants on her balcony. Through her mother’s narrative, Sever’s exhibition examines the state of exception that confined the outdoor activity of gardening to an indoor space, while unearthing historical events that led to the poetic implications and symbolism of the geranium flower within the Turkish Student Movement. Sever brings together the complexities of botanical symbolism and its influence on Turkish poetry, while revealing its shifts in meaning brought upon by the US intervention in Middle Eastern politics during the Cold War.

A research based artist working across media – notably video, performance and sound – Hande Sever was raised in Istanbul, Turkey and received an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in Valencia, CA. Informed by interdisciplinary processes, her works often take up her family’s history of persecution to explore divergent lines of inquiries, including issues of exile and post-coloniality. Her work has been included in exhibitions and screenings at Hauser & Wirth in Somerset, UK; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Human Resources and the BOX Gallery in Los Angeles, CA. Sever has published with the Getty Research Journal, Journal of Arts & Communities, Hayal Perdesi, 5Harfliler and Hauser & Wirth. She is currently a member of the collective residency at NAVEL Los Angeles and teaches at CalArts as part of the Photography and Media Program.