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Deniz Sözen


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Deniz Sözen (concept and curation): Maker Unknown, 2022, virtual multilingual archival exhibition

Supported by Arts Council England

Realised in collaboration with storyteller-author Vayu Naidu and artist-researcher Mukul Patel, Maker Unknown proposes to reimagine the Camberwell (ILEA) collection of non-European artefacts, exploring ‘archival silences’, such as the lack of information regarding provenance and addressing the legacy of empire through object-based stories in English, North- and South-Indic languages.

What stories were embedded in the ‘making’ and ‘handling’ of these objects? To what extent could objects of this collection which embody the history of empire, such as a textile elephant or saree fabric from India, be considered as “agents of diaspora” (Peffer 2005) connecting dispersed people with their cultural heritage? What is the potential of multilingual storytelling, digital assets and sound to re-imagine the archive as educational tool in the digital sphere?

Departing from these questions, Maker Unknown aims to explore gaps and blind spots in the collection history, categorisation and provenance of non-European objects through a digital archival exhibition. Using ‘critical fabulation’ (Hartman, 2008) and multilingual storytelling the project creatively responds to colonial power relations inscribed in the gaps of the monolingual archive that holds this collection. Based on scripts created by Vayu Naidu the project enables objects to “speak”
in first person narratives, recorded in multiple languages (English, Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Tamil, Urdu, Gujarati, and Malayalam).

The virtual exhibition refers back the Camberwell ILEA collection’s archive of Non-European material, revealing the possibility of connecting globally dispersed objects and diverse audiences through digital technologies, such as 3-D rendering of objects, multilingual narratives and soundscapes. The multilingual soundtrack renders alternative and hidden histories audible in the
digital sphere, asserting and creating a multilingual, diasporic and decolonial agency. Exploring the potential of multilingual storytelling and digital technologies as decolonial archival methodologies, the project contributes to current debates on decolonizing the production of knowledge through artistic interventions in European museum collections.




Deniz Sözen: Making of Maker Unknown (2023), digital collages; screenshots of the Camberwell ILEA Collection, Collection photography © University of the Arts London, objects photographed by Ben Mullins and Julia Parks; archive photographs © Harold King (Photography) Ltd. and making of images by Deniz Sözen.  

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