When the Geraniums BloomJuly 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.