Hakan Topal: The Golden Cage

Showing June 11–November 13, 2022
Location: 1st Floor Exhibition Gallery

Question the notion of man-made borders in nature by examining the plight of the Kelaynak with a poetic installation by Hakan Topal.


Click here to visit The Golden Cage in 3D!

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Contemplate the plight of the kelaynak, or Northern Bald Ibis, with this immersive installation by artist Hakan Topal.


Blending video, sound, text, and artifacts, The Golden Cage explores the impact of human intervention on the life of one of the most endangered bird species across the highly nationalized terrain of the Turkish-Syrian border.


Image credit ©Hakan Topal


Once considered sacred in ancient times, the kelaynak was thought to be the first bird released from Noah's Ark. With its bare, red face and neck, and long narrow feathers, the kelaynak faces near-total extinction due to hunting, pesticides, and human conflict.


In 2016, the state-operated Birecik Kelaynak Reproduction Centre – which has kept a small population in semi-captivity since the 1970s – decided not to release the birds from their cages during the migratory season. While the aim was to protect them, their entrapment resulted in a grave disruption to their fundamental instincts and habits.


Image credit ©Hakan Topal


Examining the line between protection and prevention, Topal's installation explores the notion of man-made borders as cages and questions the autonomy of vulnerable people who must migrate and cross borders to survive – contemplating their ability to speak for themselves.


By projecting an epic poem written from the voice of the “protector” over video footage of the kelaynak and its habitat, the installation places you at the centre of this threatened species’ world. 


Image credit ©Hakan Topal


The Golden Cage is a part of the Museum's Birds rotation — a deep dive into the Museum's Permanent Collection focusing on the fascinating sights and stories of the avian world and the art they've inspired throughout history.






Hakan Topal (born in Turkey) is an artist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. He has exhibited his collective and individual artworks as well as research projects in institutions such as the 8th and 9th Istanbul Biennials; Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21), Vienna; Kunst-Werke, Berlin; ZKM Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe; MoMA PS1; Platform, Istanbul; the 9th Gwangju Biennial and ICP Museum, New York. Topal has represented Turkey in various international exhibitions including the Turkish Pavilion at the 49th Venice Biennial. His texts and projects have been featured in various international journals, books, and catalogues. He is an Associate Professor of New Media and Art+Design at Purchase College, State University New York.

Curator: Dr. Michael Chagnon


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