Fellows in Focus: Fatma Bucak

A woman in a large studio
Fatma Bucak (photograph by Daniele Molajoli)

Fatma Bucak is an artist based in Turin and the 2024 Fondazione Sviluppo e Crescita CRT Italian Fellow in Visual Arts at the American Academy. While in Rome she’s working on We possess all things, a multichannel sound installation consisting of a contemporary cantata performance in three acts, each of which is narrated from the perspective of a bird, a tree, and a flower. The production of the work entails extensive research on 1990s conflicts in the Middle East, the history of botany in the region, and a survey of cantata and operatic performances. 

At Winter Open Studios in December 2023, she presented ten small bronze sculptures of birds from Iraq as part of We possess all things. The animals, Bucak said, are threatened both by extinction in part due to the consequences of the American invasion of Iraq in the 2000s, and war in Iraq in the 1990s. Weighing from 180 grams to over 1 kilogram, the weight of each bird—in a formal reference to traditional sets of measuring weights—corresponds to the degree of the species’ vulnerability.

AAR spoke to Bucak about her time at the Academy and her project.

What have you been working on while at AAR? Has your project changed since arriving?

I have been working on a few projects that I am developing simultaneously. First, I am conducting research on the opera format in advance of a new work and to better ground my desire to add music to the concepts I work on. At the same time, I have been doing a sort of diary of my walks in the gardens here in Rome that I will turn into object-sculptures. They will be the fruit of daily reflection on the world outside this place, a sort of ahistorical sum of the things. In addition, there are preparations for a few exhibitions, including a special project for Pinchuk’s 60th Venice Biennale exhibition.

Since arriving here, my ideas, thoughts, and doubts have taken more pragmatic shapes. I came here mainly to read and to think, but I have found other needs: for new collaborations and new methods.

What’s something that has surprised you about being at the Academy?

Many things, but especially the generosity of the people here—Fellows and staff. People take the time to explain their work and ideas with new people, at length, again and again. The staff have been both patient and kind. For some of us, events in Palestine and Yemen have been soul crushing, and discussions have been important to find some ways to make sense of the moment. Although short, my time here is filled with emotion and curiosity.

Have you had great conversations with other Fellows or Residents that changed your perspective?

Almost every day: new perspectives, new definitions of certain terminologies, and discussions on many things aside from ourselves and works. Also, new names to look up. I have taken some sort of brief note on crumpled papers perhaps a dozen times now.

What have you seen in the city of Rome that has made a strong impression on you?

I was very impressed by the sheer number of relics of the Fascist era that remain. One can’t quickly understand this comfort with living among Fascist symbols imprinted on the city.

Fatma Bucak in the AAR Atrium (Photograph by Daniele Molajoli)

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