The brief tale recounts the hubris and gruesome fate of Marsyas. A satyr and follower of Dionysius he lived in Phrygia, a kingdom that existed in what is now Anatolia. A gifted flute player, Marsyas rashly challenged Apollo, the god of music himself, to a contest to decide who was the better musician, with the agreement that the loser would submit to whatever punishment the victor chose. Only when he cheated, by adding his divine voice to the sound of his lyre, did Apollo win. In vengeance for daring to challenge a god, Apollo flayed Marsyas alive and nailed his skin to a nearby pine tree. The torrents of tears shed by the creatures, nymphs, gods and goddesses that mourned Marsyas, fell upon the earth, intermingled and became the source of the Meander river, now known as the Büyük Menderes River.
This strange and violent story was a touchstone in Classical, particularly Roman, culture. For populists Marsyas became a symbol and mythic martyr for liberty, freedom of expression and the right to speak truth to power. To authoritarians his fate was a warning to the forces of chaos and misrule.
This body of work is created in response to the story of Marsyas that plays with and juxtaposes various ways to picture, represent and manifest skin. The works are all about surface and surfaces. Unusually composed, close-up shots of bodies and body parts, render them almost alien and unfamiliar. The bodies seem restricted, covered in some with clear plastic in some images and strained, muscles and veins bulging in others. Further complicating the depiction of skin with varying material productions of the works, the series presents a world in which Marsyas’ subjection to punishment has become the default state.
All together combine to conjure a disturbing sensibility of tortured physicality, echoing the pessimistic wisdom of the myth of Marsyas, that suffering is more common than justice.