Welcome to the Museum of Paleontology. What you will see in a little while is a part of the miracles of this ancient world that has not yet come to light. Step inside and face the miracles of life. A big bone will welcome you at the entrance. It will be followed by fossils, skin samples, the genealogy of the species and the samples of that species. You think you know all the living things on Earth? Do not be that certain.
Nergiz Yeşil’s Paleontology Museum sparks the imagination and leaves the rest to the audience. While the artist puts herself both in the position of the explorer and the collector in her exhibition “The Paleontology Museum”,in her arrangement she refers to cabinets of wonder. At exactly this stage the mentioned subject intersects with one of the impulses that create humanity, “curiosity”. So much so that curiosity is an impulse that urges humanity to come to today, and its method of being satisfied is through the impulse to explore and gather. The “wunderkammer”, which mean “cabinets of wonder” when translated in a straightforward way and translated into Turkish as “nadire kabineleri”, came about in the 16th Century and were mini museums where all the “oddities” were kept and where the owner could exhibit their own internal world and personal likes. Simple systems with drawers exhibiting objects that tempted the curiosity of people were at that time mini treasures uniting the fantastical and the reality. In the rich world of these cabinets of wonder, which became more widespread with the Renaissance, were objects such as handmade primeval tools, plants, animals and natural objects and with the acceleration of discoveries, goods from exotic countries; objects that were instructive but would also seem mystical to the West and would aid the western world to open up to the outside world. The owner of the cabinet of wonder was the only authority in its exhibition and arrangement and was the curator of their own collection.
In creating the Paleontology Museum, Yeşil is asking one of the oldest questions in Epistemology: “Is there real knowledge?” When we look at the installation she created with skin samples, fossils, with her book, we see a museum where the conditions for it to be real have been met. We can get close to look at the pieces in this museum; yet when we attempt to obtain the real information about them, the connection gets lost. The artist shows the audience a small fragment of a species that does not exist and arouses in them the necessary curiosity to do their own research. The audience leaves the exhibition with an uncertainty about the reality of what they saw.
Nergiz Yeşil’s work created with living organisms such as Manchurian mushrooms (Kombucha) is just as experimental. In her workshop that she organized like a laboratory, she works with living organisms and in this context, combines her art practice approaching BioArt with sculpture formation and steps into a search for new material and new form.The artist deals with the distorted forms that from time to time she cannot intervene with and the shape differences which are called anomalies in daily life on a philosophical level. Even though Georges Canguilhem, who has worked on epistemology and philosophy of science, in his article “La Monstrusité et le Monstre” gives more space to the forms considered extraordinary by confirming that” between a successful living form and an unsuccessful/flawed form, there is no difference between himself and a priori ontological difference”; a sense of norm inherent in life positions the freak as a vital counterpart. According to him, the living, albeit a freak can only be judged according to himself and his capacity to survive. Therefore, each entity is normal depending on the environment in which it survives and in which it can survive.* While the artist is creating new forms, she is asking similar questions and approaches the concept of normal from an epistemological perspective.
With its installation, the archeology of the future in a sense, Yeşil’s “Museum of Paleontology” brings new propositions to the question of what would the result be if cabinets of wonder would exist today and in the future.
* Pierre Ancet – Phénoménologie des corps monstrueux
İdil Deniz Türkmen
Art Writer / Director of The Museum of Innocence