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Tuesday, 28 May 2013


Jennifer Steinkamp. Eye Catching. Video installation
in the Yerebatan Cistern, underneath Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. 2003

Underneath the 4th century Hagia Sophia cathedral/mosque in Istanbul, lies a vast nearly-empty cistern that once supplied the city with water. No longer used for its original function, it nonetheless retains a few feet of water. But the stone columns, walls, ceilings and arches have given it the name "the sunken palace." It was here, for the 2003 Istanbul Biennial, that Jennifer Steinkamp installed her video of computer-animated trees. The column in the foreground is supported by the head of Medusa, repurposed from some earlier sculpture or architecture, and installed, here, upside-down.

Medusa's head inverted. Subverted. Subjugated. Subterranean. Her halo of serpents directed down into the water; doused. Planted into the earth. Hidden from view, like roots.

And nearby, trees. Amidst a forest of stone columns, trees made of light.

Branches waving, writhing like snakes.

Jennifer Steinkamp. Eye Catching.

Jennifer Steinkamp. Eye Catching.

*** Spoiler Alert! I was reminded of this work while reading Dan Brown's new book, Inferno, this week. This cistern is the setting for some of its events.

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