For Twice into the stream, Turkish photographer Meltem Isik pictures the human figure in fragments, printing one close-up, magnified swatch of her subjects’ flesh on fabric before positioning the printed cloth against the entirety of their nude bodies.
From birth, explains the photographer, our own anatomies, by nature of being lived in, are foreign to us. Each of us knows the body we inhabit from the inside out, and yet we are only able to register its face, its back, and its hidden crevices by use of mirrors and photographs. Through time, we construct a composite vision of who we are from the puzzle pieces we see directly and through (often distorted) reflections.
The title of Isik’s exhibition, whereby her final images are printed life-size and mounted on the walls at Galeri Nev Istanbul, shares its name with a rough translation of Heraclitus of Ephesus, an ancient Greek who throughout the centuries has gone by the epithet “The Weeping Philosopher.” His fabled utterance, “you cannot step twice into the same stream,” speaks to the impossibility of permanence; everything, in the end, metamorphoses.
Like the stream of Heraclitus, the human body—and our understanding of it—undergoes a thousand transformations in a lifetime. As it bends and cracks with age, we must time and again rearrange the pieces to make something complete. While a vague unease persists throughout Isik’s photographs, the fracturing of the form isn’t a violent one but one that arrives softly and on tiptoes. The whole, perhaps in this case more than most, is not the simple some of its parts, and from the day of its creation to the day of its extinction, our bodies remain to us a secret, a riddle never to be solved.
All images © Meltem Isik, courtesy Galeri Nev Istanbul