The project

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An important subject of my photographic practice in general, and of the project Hosgeldiniz in particular, is architecture as representation of shared histories or common memories. Which architectural traces, or in case of conflict: architectural 'scars', societies choose to preserve and which they don't. Selecting or ignoring architectural sites is a way of defining oneself. Which image or affirmation of identity do these sites represent…? Selecting or ignoring sites is an interplay of politics and identity.

Traveling throughout the South East of Turkey is an experience of the “guilty landscape”. During the civil war of the eighties and nineties, some 3.500 Kurdish villages have been evacuated and completely or partly destroyed. The cause of the depopulation lies in the military campaign of the Turkish army, poverty in the region and reprisals of the PKK against pro-Turkish Kurds. ‘Hosgeldinis’ is a project of photographing, if possible, all these ‘ghost villages’.
The region, dotted with architectural scars, is a blind spot on the map. This is an odd fact considering our contemporary culture, in which every historical event goes along with the competition of the production and distribution of images. ‘Hosgeldiniz’ shows the ghost villages as if it were a vast archaeological site.

The project also investigates how one can photograph a recent past with the systematic style of an archaeological methodology. The pictures show the object as pluperfect, while the distinction between past and present is not yet possible. The identity-bound character of the conflict is linked to the extend of this cultural property destruction through intentional devastation, collateral damage and neglect. In many conflicts the objective to erase memories, history and traditions attached to architecture and place is a goal in itself. Identity, also the identity of minority groups, is largely designed by culture. Not in the least by architecture (shrines, social gathering places, historical places that represent myths of descent…). Cultural property is the source as well as the result of social conflicts.
Undermining cultural property, as tangible reminders, means weakening identity formation of communities.


Els Vanden Meersch lives and works in Belgium, Antwerp.

Represented by Annie Gentils Gallery, Antwerp

She studied visual arts at the Sint-Lukas Hogeschool Brussels, was a post-graduate at HISK, Antwerp, and was participant at the Rijksakademie voor Beeldende Kunst Amsterdam (2001-2002), at Platform Garanti, Istanbul (TR) and at the Bellagio Center of the Rockefeller Foundation, Bellagio (IT) (2012). In her work she explores the relationship between politics and architecture. She published 3 photo books:  Transient constructions (Genk Flac©, 2003), Paranoid Obstructions (Leuven University Press, 2004) and Implants (Mer, paper kunsthalle, 2006).  Solo exhibitions a.o. in Vander Kelen museum, Leuven (2006), gallery Annie Gentils, Antwerp (2006/2008/2011) and La Chambre Blanche, La Biennale en art actuel de Quebec, (CA) (2008). Group exhibitions are a.o., ‘Vérité exposée’ Ernst Museum Budapest (2009), ‘The order of things’ Museum Contemporary Art, Antwerp (2008), Biennial of contemporary art, Sinop, Turkey (2010), Shenzhen OCT LOFT Culture Development Co., China (2013)




© Els Vanden Meersch

This project wouldn't have been possible without the support of the Flemish Community 

Many thanks to the Kurdish institute of Brussels and the many persons from local villages and cities who guided me through a maze of remote places.