Between Places Reflections on Identity & Place Edited by Naz Cuguoฤlu & Susanne Ewerlรถf
Between Places Edited by: Naz Cuguoğlu Susanne Ewerlöf Contributors: Fikret Atay Hera Büyüktaşçıyan Ferhat Özgür Katarina Pirak Sikku Liv Strand Can Sungu Lisa Torell Design: www.erikmansson.co Proofreading: Merve Ünsal
Exchanging Notes on Identity & Place Susanne Ewerlöf, Naz Cuguoğlu, Liv Strand & Can Sungu, p.10
Figure 2224 Lisa Torell, p.36
Badjelántta Luottat (Traces from the Land Above) Katarina Pirak Sikku, p.46
Geography, Migration & Dressing Policy Ferhat Özgür, p.56
Conversation with Fikret Atay Susanne Ewerlöf, Naz Cuguoğlu & Fikret Atay, p.64
Revolutions break out on ships & utopias are lived on islands Hera Büyüktaşçıyan, p.70
Left to right: Susanne Ewerlรถf, Can Sungu and Liv Strand
A Continuous Search The project IdentityLab was initiated by Verkstad konsthall (Sweden) and maumau (Turkey) in the context of Tandem Exchange program. It consisted of research travels in Sweden (Stockholm, Norrkรถping, Jokkmokk) and Turkey (Istanbul and Batman) and two public events: Exchanging Notes pt. I in Norrkรถping in February 2016 and IdentityLab Sessions in Istanbul in May 2016
Dear reader, we are happy to include you in our ongoing process to learn about various perspectives on place and identity. This publication reflects the research project IdentityLab; it includes a few of the takes on the issue that we have come across during the last year as well as some direct responses to shared experiences. During travels, readings and meetings we have been introduced to a great number of views on place and identity and the context of this book is by no means a representation of the experience in full.
We made a very conscious decision before beginning the
project to take on this broad issue together with the artists. We would not approach them after having done all our research and include them when we had already formulated a concept. Rather, we thought it would be interesting to include people in an organic process of searching for knowledge, understanding, and experience. The search is very much ongoing—this publication is taking a break and reflecting on where we are at the moment.
The artists Liv Strand (SE) and Can Sungu (TR/DE) were invit-
ed very early on to join us in our endeavours, included in the core team with us. The four of us are reflecting on the experience in the written conversation Exchanging Notes on Identity & Place. The other artists who are part of this book are the ones that we have come across while travelling as a team in Sweden and Turkey. We are very happy to be able to include their perspectives in this book that comes in the formats of both texts and images. At the moment we don’t know where IdentityLab will take us next but we are very happy to be able to make this stop and to reflect together. Naz Cuguoğlu & Susanne Ewerlöf Curators and founders of IdentityLab
Susanne Ewerlรถf Naz Cuguoglu Liv Strand & Can Sungu
Exchanging Notes on Identity & Place SE
Liv Strand, Naz Cuguoğlu, and Can Sungu: I write to you, my traveling companions, to ask that you reflect on our common experiences with me. Together we went to several locations in Sweden and Turkey in the spring of 2016 to see if the visits could provide us with new knowledge. We learned a lot about places and those who live there; the people we met were often very generous with sharing information and stories. But mainly, we gathered knowledge about how relationships between places and people can look. This, combined with discussions during the travels—both organized and informal—have brought about thoughts of how we, as individuals, are affected by the places we visit and the ones we call home.
We have read Doreen Massey together and leaned on her
thoughts about sites’ identities as evolving and multi-faceted. A place is rarely defined by a singular idea; it can be many different things depending on who experiences it. Globalization has created a situation where many cities are generic versions of each other, where local manifestations must give way to various expressions that come from the presence of multinational companies and international trends. Could one work to maintain local, unique characteristics without indulging in reactionary thinking?
The backward-looking perspective is problematic because it
often comes with an idea of that singular, essential identity; and place and community are imagined as coterminous, something that even through history has rarely been the case.1 We chose to 11
1. Massey, Doreen, Space, Place and Gender (1994), p. 146-147
visit places in Sweden and Turkey, where large parts of the population belong to minority groups. In summary, my experience from those visits tells me that several truths about a place exist parallelly. But I do not want to tell you about Jokkmokk in Sapmi or Batman in Kurdistan, because I still know almost nothing about those places. What I do know is that despite everything that is unique about each one, they also have a variety of links to other geographical points as well as to global trends. I am mentioning this, because just as with people, the identity of a place is linked to sameness and difference. With self-identification there is a single perspective on the matter even if the identity changes, but it is more complex with places.
A city doesnâ€™t identify with a neighbouring or distant place
due to common traits; its identity is created and negotiated by a number of actors, often with opposing agendas. The fact that we need to differentiate ourselves from others in the process of finding an identity is problematic for me, since I believe meetings between people are more prosperous if we focus on sameness. Most places, in a democratic society are governed by a number of people and should fulfil the needs of many. Here difference or comparisons canÂ´t be used as easily as a means to make specific traits apparent, since the difference also depends on perspective. Two people could think of a street, a region, or a room in totally different ways. In my curatorial practice, I have many times invited artists to come and work with NorrkĂśping, the place where most of my own work has taken place. I think that someone with an outside gaze could see things that we, the inhabitants of the place, miss, or remind us how we used to see them when the site was new to us. The artist or the work rarely express an opinion about the place but by mere presence manages to add to the negotiation
of what that place is or can be. That basic fact provides me with an argument to continue testing if it is meaningful to approach places that are not mine, spend time there and even to suggest artistic interventions. Differences do make things visible. As when a sudden silence alerts us that we have been troubled by a monotonous sound for a long time without really registering it. I need that difference to distinguish things, to make them appear. Our project took us beyond theoretical discussions and left room for other perspectives and personal stories. In that spirit, I reflect on my own identity and how the places we visited affected me. We do, of course, carry memories of trips with us and get a broader understanding of the world when we see new things. But I also think of something else: I feel that I discern more clearly when Iâ€™m in an unfamiliar place. Some traits that I donâ€™t otherwise think about suddenly feel very prominent. To just test myself against the rhythm or feeling of a place make me aware of my movements and appearances. Trying and failing to understand and adapt to every-day life makes it very clear that I am from somewhere else. Daydreams about staying on that very site and to start a new life may emerge, which leaves me with additional fantasy versions of myself. Places do have an impact on us and I think individuals could play an important role in rethinking and renegotiating the identity of a given place, as would art. I still donâ€™t know what IdentityLab is and what we are heading for but thank you for once again for engaging in a conversation with me and for going on this open-ended quest. With that I turn to you Liv.
I recognize the extra ordinary self-consciousness that visiting a new place could set—that you write about Susanne. How would my life be, here in X…? It is a sudden relief that I know about the places where I’m at home, where I’m able to discern the subgroups in the communities I confess myself to be part of. And where my engagements also allow for complicated encounters along the unfolding of processes. These complications can be happily surprising or just impossible. Then replacing myself. Things come to a halt. An unfamiliar place invites my imagination to wander more freely. The power of displacement lies in an openness for (my) phantasies, the sudden possibility to project the wishes I have. What if I was active here, who would be my friends, with whom would I work, sleep, laugh…? No one is an isolated island—we only become human in a sociality.
Therefore the realization of my wishes and phantasies de-
pends on weather I find/meet co-wishers and co-phantasizers. I am in need of a group and a social sphere for ideas to resonate. Individuation is what makes me distinct in a manifold of aspects in relation to a group. To a culture, to something cultivated by a group. I would like to call a place a social thing. I think Doreen Massey would agree. I know Eduardo Glissant does, he reflects beautifully on how cultural differences at the best can meet without having to conform to one thing. As an archipelago, water and land intersecting, touching. Yesterday I listened to the radio as I was in my studio with my hands in clay, I worked on shaping a proposed public topography/art work. Someone said on the radio that a functioning enterprise was the one where the rules could be broken or bent. This statement could be seen as suggesting civil disobedience for the business world, thinking of structures as changing over time. 15
The traveling IdentityLab showed that the work of differentia-
tion starts with distinguishing between big chunks, just to quickly
realize that what I/we just saw and understood some minutes ago was a simplification. Directing our attention to a place made differences bifurcate at a high speed, unfolding complication. One of the Sami women working at the Artes Museum we visited in Jokkmokk would rather not speak to us while her Swedish-defined colleague was around. When alone with us, people from a further distance, she became more comfortable and open in her stories. Stories that were about how the museum was working, and what different projects were aiming for, as for instance discussing the Sami language with youngsters. I guess she had metaphorically banged her head against the wall in too many situations of diverse consensus positions being unable to converge, unable to bend any â€œrules.â€? The wonderful thing is how she was able to trust us, the new comers, as if she would rather send a message far away, like putting a note in a bottle and setting it out to the sea. Never sure of where it will end up, or how it will be deciphered. Iâ€™ve been glad to take part in this project because of an interest in the structures shape our lives and how flexible we consider these structures to be.
My imagination and belief tell me that structures in our soci-
eties only exist as long as they are uphold and followed by people. Another way to pronounce the same is that if a major part of a group starts to think in a specific way, structures will form accordingly. In Jokkmokk we met with artist Katarina Pirak Sikku and she told us that her mother named herself to be Sami and that her aunt did not consider, or name herself to be Sami. A nice thing was that the story were not told with any indignant tone to it, it was a mere fact. The two sisters had chosen different ways in their lives. This brings me to considerations in relation to the workshop, Subject to Erring, which I hosted with participating artists and curators at the Swedish Consulate in Istanbul, as part of the IdentityLab Sessions. There, I insisted on wanting
the discussions to be about “belonging” rather than “identity.” By this selection of concept I wished to bend the discussions away from self conscious (self) identification. Perhaps away from the sophisticated choices in regards to self-branding, to be able to reach a more fuzzy topography where one person can find herself placed in a group by others, or to find a space for going with her urges and to approach a community she wishes to become part of (in contrast to “be like”). If I have a Swedish citizenship others categorize me amongst the Swedish people, however much I perhaps despise the Swedish culture and long to be somewhere/ something else. Belonging forms bonds of both rights as well as of obligations, and of allegiance. One tendency of identity is that it comes with too strong a connection to self-presentation. Another aspect of identity is that more refined subjectivities can be formed, to subgroups, along with political claims for acknowledgement.
For me the concept of belonging point more directly to the
formations and aggregations of “nation states”. The nation state as the locus to which a lot of demands for rights are posed. Rightly so. The structure of the nation state as the present formation where aspects of answerability goes in all directions: to/from individuals, groups, ideas of commons, administrations, exchanges, global equality, all sorts of transversalities. Along with the invitation to the workshop Subject to Erring I asked everyone to write a subjective report, recording personal experiences about the feeling of displacement. It could be about to find oneself in a strange state—by one’s own senses or to have been put there by the actions of others. It could be from an actual journey or from an imagination. It could be true. It could be a lie. My wish was that we could be on the lookout for moments of “queering identities,” where one’s self-perception has to adjust. With this I leave the 17
paper to Naz.
Dear Liv and Susanne, thank you both very much. As a matter
of fact, I am on a night train traveling from Berlin to Vienna at the moment, and of course it reminds me of our night train, from Stockholm to Jokkmokk. I am watching the geography changing in front of my window as the train moves and reading your thoughts. As we did together. For me, IdentityLab is an open-ended, continuous process. When I think about our research trips, I always think about that small compartment in the train. And our hours-long discussions and conversations, being skeptical about everything we know, see, and hear. I am actually really happy that I get the chance to continue from where Liv left off: the workshop titled Subject to Erring that has been one of the highlights of the IdentityLab for me, with the participation of Fikret Atay, Nancy Atakan, Katarina Pirak Sikku, Lisa Torell, Ferhat Özgür, Ceren Saner, and Dilara Arısoy. Similarly, the other one was when we had the meeting in Norrköping inviting Fikret Atay, Silje Figenschou Toresen, Mattias Åkeson, Annika Kupiainen, Babak Salimizadeh, Marcus Doverud, Elin Magnusson, Lisa Torell, David Larsson, Erik Berggren, and Bodil Axelsson—artists, curators, researchers with different backgrounds: Kurdish, Turkish, Sami, Swedish. From the very beginning, when we had our first meetings with Susanne, trying to come up with a curatorial background for the project, one of my aims has been to focus on the “community,” which you also highlight above, Liv. It is partly because of the fact that I am living in Istanbul where we have been losing control over the public spaces, freedom of speech, the sense of belonging more and more every day.
Then of course the question arises: “Who am I? What defines
my identity?” And being in those workshops led by Liv, being surrounded by other artists, curators, art professionals, sharing their own personal stories, difficulties, artistic practises dealing
with identity issues, I think I was relieved at some point. Because you know, you realise that: It is okay to experience these difficulties—you are not the only one. It is okay to have stereotypes, prejudices; everyone has them. But there is always a way to overcome them if you open yourself and push your boundaries. And it is only possible if you have the support system around you and encounters like these can create that system. The encounters I had in Turkey and Sweden made me ask many questions, and one of them was: “When we are outsiders in a geography, community—of course, we could also discuss what makes someone an outsider/insider but maybe more on that later—to make research, what are our limits/boundaries? How do we escape authenticating a space? Which questions are we allowed to ask?” When I was in Jokkmokk both talking to Katarina (Pirak Sikku) and the researcher at the Sami institute, I was surprised to learn both about the race biology that was experienced by the Samis even before the Nazis and also about the current prejudices and stereotypes are still present in the society. But these are fragile topics and most of the time, as a researcher, you find yourself in these uncomfortable situations where the limits are blurry. I think I agreed with Susanne at some point regarding what she mentions above. In those uncomfortable situations, you reach to the pure knowledge that is not affected only by one perspective but what could be called “an outcome of plural inner voices.” As you start to question everything, the unfamiliar becomes the familiar, actually what happens is that you come to a point where you do not know what familiar means anymore. The topic of “(un)familiarity” is becoming more urgent as movement is becoming more relevant every day as a result of the 19
recent issues related to voluntary or involuntary immigration,
View from the road in Jokkmokk
recent political situations and vocabulary such as Brexit, the unsuccessful coup, economical crises, and many others. And when you move from one space to another, if you cannot define your identity with your surroundings anymore, then what happens? An example from our travels is maybe the Million House project in Stockholm that we visited where as an immigrant, you cannot really choose or state where you would like to live. When you are assigned to a random living estate, having a different landscape and cultural environment around you, and maybe not having the possibility to live close to your community, does it help or does it make things more difficult?
Maybe it helps to mingle in the local community and get ac-
quainted with the new social environment. But who decides what someone needs to define his/her identity? If it is the community around you that makes this process easier, who could take that opportunity from someone? Who holds the power for such a hierarchically non-asymmetric relationship?
But again, going back to Jokkmokk and to the moment I am in now: The train. The compartment. And the landscape passing by in front of me. I remember travelling to the north of Sweden and looking out of the window: At the endless snow, the wild nature, and the reindeers. I remember myself wondering how even the geography we are born in changes our identities and perspectives. It makes a huge difference: if you go to work everyday by your snow ski on the frozen lake, by your boat on the river, or by your car in congested traffic. It makes a difference when you can hear your heartbeats on the silent streets of Jokkmokk.
It does not only change your aesthetic preferences, the way
of thinking or eating/clothing, it also changes how you deal with your heritage and objects of belonging defining that heritage. Thatâ€™s why I keep on thinking about how Samis do not leave any traces behind whenever they travel. I cannot think about a way of living that is more poetic and respectful to the environment, to those who will come there after. And the way that they do not claim any power either, on nature nor on human beings. A culture, an identity that does not depend merely on the objects. I think not only as cultural managers, artists, curators but as human beings, we have a lot to learn from this. What do you think Can?
How geography influences identity was surely an important question which I dealt with during our journeys as well. We had the chance to experience a variety of different conditions of weather, light and vegetation first in February in Jokkmokk and then in May in Batman. In Jokkmokk I found myself hearing the silence of the snow, walking on the frozen lake by hoping to see some northern lights or middle in my very first attempt to ski. 5902 km away from Jokkmokk, in Batman, we encountered melon fields under the dry heat of the shining sun and a city which is built next to the oil pumps. The geography determines the way of living.
One of the artists from Batman, Fikret, told us that the no-
mads used to leave a piece of sheep’s liver a couple of days in the sun in order to see the most windy, most suitable place to settle down. Or in the example of Samis, as Naz mentioned before, we can see how the people develop their know-how probably in a completely different way than they would in Mesopotamia but with a similar motivation to survive in nature. Besides that, the geography also determines the pace of daily life. People move, talk, eat, work according to that pace. Our meetings in Batman mostly started with searching a piece of shadow to sit under and to drink a cup of tea…and another. Something that could make those who are used to the puritan West-European punctuality a bit uncomfortable or—broadly speaking—even may be seen as “waste of time.” I think that such moments are exactly significant to deal with our identity. At those moments when we encounter “other” places, cultures, or people you start to recall, rethink, or redefine our identity or “secure” it somewhere so that it keeps us in the comfort zone. Our identity expands as far as the limits of our flexibility and openness allow. That’s why especially for those who live in multiple places or who 23
not live in the place (continent, country, city, neighbourhood—
depends on the borders whether it is physically/ geographically or culturally defined) in which he/she is born and raised (or at least settled down for a long time), “identity” is an issue that you may deal with almost permanently if you feel like doing it but mostly, it turns into an issue that the hegemonic cultural group in the society expects that you should deal with. Now, as the only member of the IdentityLab core team who lives outside of his native country, I’ll take the liberty of discussing some issues related to identity and migration in Germany.
Germany is a country of migration. Today it is one of the main
destinations in Europe for the new migrant groups/ refugees and half-century ago it has been the first European country who started with the recruitment of the so-called “Gastarbeiters”—migrant workers from Italy, Spain, Eastern Europe, and Turkey who were supposed to contribute to the reconstruction of German postWWII economy.
Even if we assume that we are living in a post-migrant society
today, the second or third generation who are born, who studied and who are now working in Germany with German citizenship (and whose parents/grandparents migrated more than 55 years ago to this country) are still confronted with the questions like “Do you consider yourself more German or Turkish?”, “Are you planning to go back home?”—or sometimes with statements which meant as “compliments” like: “Your German is really good!” or even worse “But you don’t look like a Turk/Muslim.” These sort of expressions, which are not obviously intended as racist comments by the speakers, are still part of a latent discrimination in Germany. People with a migration background are pushed to define their identities clearly or choose one of the identities which are being offered to them. Insisting on a monocultural hegemony, European superiority and/or a system of cultural values (german: Leitkultur) which all should agree with it, the migrant groups and
non-biological Germans permanently get the message that they are not part of the German society and never will be. Instead of underlining the differences between “we” and “they,” it should be redefined who “we” are first. What is exactly the “German” or “European” culture? Who has the right to make a definition of it? Can you say that Islam is not a European religion while over 50 millions Muslims live in Europe or insist on potato salad as a typical German dish while Döner Kebap is the most popular fast food in Germany? A propos redefining, we may also find some other ways to deal with the German concept of “home”: Heimat. Wiktionary suggests a rather contemporary definition of the German word “Heimat” (pronounced ['haimat]): “Heimat” is often considered a particularly German concept, because it does not have perfect semantic equivalents in many European languages (including English). “Heimat” refers to a place towards which one has a strong feeling of belonging, and (usually) a deep-rooted fondness. Most commonly this is one’s native region, but it may also be that where one has lived for long, where one’s family are, or where one feels at home for whatever reason.2 What differentiates “Heimat” from “home” in English (or “hem” in Swedish) is its emotional context, which refers to a certain intimacy. It is exclusively defined by a person’s emotional ties with a place. It refers to a relation between a person and a place which is influenced by descent, community and tradition and it highly affects a person’s character, mentality, attitude and last but not least identity. Due to its common usage for propaganda purposes during the Third Reich by the Nazis, “Heimat” had been a word that some people
2. Wiktionary. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Heimat (Last visit: 27.9.2016)
Liv Strand, Neighbor Think, performance at DEPO, Istanbul
in Germany not tend to use it very often or even avoid it if possible. Nowadays, it seems that the word is not only in the hands of racist group, but that the German majority came to terms with it. I mostly prefer to use the word by completely ignoring its chauvinist tone and rather in plural as “Heimaten” even though the usage in plural is not very common. As I mentioned above regarding identities, I think that nobody can be forced to choose just one “Heimat.” Having more than one “Heimat” is a logical (and emotional) outcome of transnationality. That seems to me as a proper way to let our identities go on a journey like what we did in IdentityLab and hope that they do not suffer a lot from lutalica which is “the part of your identity that doesn’t fit into categories” according to The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. Does that make sense to you, Susanne? 26
Dear Can! Thank you for bringing up the issue of migration, as it seems like voluntary and involuntary movement is a defining character of our times. In addition to the concept of Heimat or even “home” as I perceive it in either English or Swedish, it seems relevant to bring up the issue of the person without a place in the world. What about forming an identity under conditions where there is no home?
Refugees who arrive in Sweden today are not to be sent back,
even if they lack other rights to asylum, when they are under the age of 18. I heard on the news a few days ago that the authorities recently changed their procedures regarding these cases. Now, instead of letting 16- or 17-year-old children stay, they send them a letter informing them that once they turn 18 they will be sent away. One boy, who came to Sweden on his own as many do, spoke on the radio describing how he would be sent back to Afghanistan, a country he hasn’t lived in since he was a small child, where he doesn’t know a single person, upon reaching “adulthood” in a few months. Following that, an analyst mentioned what options he would face upon arrival, joining the military to put his life at very high risk for a country he doesn’t know, presented as the most appealing option. To travel for pleasure or with the endeavour to test one’s identity in new environments is a privilege. The Western perspective on identity in general is extremely atypical in comparison to how most people become who they are or have done so throughout history. Individual choices are so plentiful that we are rather troubled with anxiety from choosing than suffering from limited options. We don’t have to live in the same place or to approach the same profession as our parents did and can find our selves living a life in another geographical area, another social class or with a 27
different lifestyle than what was destined for us. Lutalica seems
to me as the curse of living in a capitalist society where we are not only given a chance to be who we want to be but are put under pressure to present ourselves as unique individuals free from labels, impossible to categorize. Growing up I remember rethinking my inability to fit in in certain social situations, simply as me being someone who was capable of not being labelled. This in turn has helped me become a critical person who can see certain labels as very harmful to society, national identity being one of them.
At the same time I think we all need community and shouldnâ€™t
hover above all social categories by default. Today I also understand that I am being categorized in ways that I benefit from to a high degree and this is a privilege I should acknowledge. Being white, fluent in Swedish and having had the chance to study gives me access to advantages that I shouldnâ€™t be blind to. Liv, do you have any further thoughts on this matter?
Exchanging Notes pt.I at NorrkĂśping Art Museum
I wish we were in the train compartment again talking, going on and on, crossing from north to south, offering an endless evening for sharing thoughts. Susanne, Can, Naz and me. I guess I/we live in a privileged time to be able to consider stuff linked to identity to the extent we do. The fitting in is a nice obstacle. I attended a seminar on the common, celebrating study circles and the Swedish tradition of self education. It was a working class phenomena, every workplace had study groups. At the seminar was a great group of lecturers, some of them had been flown in from the US. At some point blackness came up. Now I’m going to lend my writing space to Wikipedia: “[Imaging] Blackness is the complex concept of expressing, recognizing, or assigning specific sets of ideas or values used in the depiction of African Americans.”
I found myself in a room full of white Swedish persons and
a few guests from the US of color. And I found myself without any relation to the term blackness that came to the table, it was a disturbing silence, I read it as, and felt as part of, insecurity: I am here. Obviously white. What have I done now? Uncomfortably belonging to a consensus culture… My apparatus of analysis was spinning. My spinal cord reaction was that I was most possibly a perpetrator.
This experience links to something I think is deeply troubling
about questions and divisions of identity: that it is almost enjoyable to be able to identify as a victimized group, and so very much a blind spot when it comes to identify as a (over) privileged group. The bittersweetness of being subordinate, to be able to claim something better, to continue to climb and strive for improvement. Compared to the unforgivable delight that comes with being on top. And the hardcore actions required to ever make one acknowledge that “I am the one” that have to give space or things to others, for the benefit of us all. All this touch distribution 29
of wealth, but also empathy. How could I feel that what has still
not happened to me? There is also a distribution of pity going on. I think that is a weird one. And I sense it is somehow being connected to the increasing number of subgroups that continue to form. I’m not trying to imply that we should just shake up and smile to overcome injustices. But after all the fractionalization into sub-problems and newly expressed demands we have to get together in some way. We have to form communities. We have to have things in common. Going back to the seminar room. After a stuttering while the speaker of the moment explained that we could all have blackness, in the theoretical sense it was used. I simplify it here to be about a special kind of ability for resistance. To say no by instinct, as children do. A while later I got into reading about abolition of slavery in different countries. It is a fuzzy area of laws affecting the societies. In Sweden slavery was abolished in the 14th century, though one could bring an owned slave until 1813, without a forced release, and Sweden also had a colony island Saint Barthélemy where slavery went on for long. The Ottoman Empire abolished slave trade in 1847, and slavery at home in the Empire at 1882. In US the Emancipation Proclamation is issued 1863 freeing the last slaves in confederate controlled areas. Violence and force, as in slavery, pronounce inequality in a straight-forward manner. From my European perspective, it is very distant. I can’t relate to it. I will suggest for us to think that living in a place blind for the possible mastery of another human being is a privilege. That blind spot should be widen. Let it cover everywhere. Today I suffer of information overload. Give me heimat—“hembygd” in Swedish—a word that resonates of old times. Give me simplifications. Not to be able to forget but to be able to connect, to fit in. 30
Liv, I think I can relate with this idea of connecting and that we have to get together and form communities. When I was reading your section, Can, that was what I had in mind as well. Although I live in the country where I was born, I think I can still relate to feeling “as an outsider” through national identity (as in your example, living in Germany as a Turkish descent). Looking at my own family roots, maybe it is from having a mixed background of Greek, Bulgarian, Arab, and Turkish descent through my grandparents.
It is the feeling that I cannot really relate myself to any of these
national identities as I cannot speak the languages, I cannot read the literature, I am not equipped to deal with their cultural heritage, I cannot dance “sirtaki” as my grandfather did, and I cannot cook “kibbeh” as my grandmother did. Plus, after the dramatic change of language in Turkey in 1928, I cannot read what is written on a fountain on the streets of Istanbul as they are in Ottoman. As a result, a huge amount of intellectual information and cultural heritage that is even on the streets is irrelevant to me. So, what is my identity, where do I belong now? But what I want to highlight is something different actually: It is not only the national identity that makes you feel alienated. You can become an outsider because of many different reasons, such as your gender, religion, ethnicity, skin color, etc. But also because of your ideas, perspective, political position. If nothing changes after you literally fight for “a few trees” in a park called Gezi Park, you can become hopeless, part of a minority, and eventually an outsider. I think this shows us how fragile that line is and how identity has to deal with these challenges through time. And in that sense, I agree with you Liv, it is urgent for us to get together. And as part of Creative Çukurcuma initiative that we founded, we created a reading group in Istanbul last year. For a year, we 31
came together every two weeks after reading different articles.
The comfort feeling was not only about sharing knowledge, discussions, and conversations but it was also about the mere act of coming together, being physically present in the same space for a time and demanding our own private and public spaces. In a city where freedom of speech, public spaces, human rights are deteriorating every day, we need to find a way to focus on commonalities, rather than on our differences. Reading is only one way of doing this, but Iâ€™d suggest everyone to find different words to form this unity to feel home.
Workshop at the Consulate General of Sweden in Istanbul moderated by Liv Strand
Susanne’s critical comment on the absurdity of the European refugee politics is very to the point. There are a lot of things to say about this, but for not being too much out of context I just can say that unfortunately the current migration politics exposes the dark side of the European Union. It shows clearly again that the so-called European democracy (and all the values that you associate with that) is primarily for the welfare of the EU citizens there. Deportation of the refugees to their “home” countries where they have never been at “home” but still supposed by a court, commission, or jury that they belong there.
I know many Afghan refugees in Berlin who are definite-
ly underaged but ranked by “clearing houses” as adults so that they can’t benefit from the state’s youth protection program in order to save some costs. The whole asylum process depends on whether an officer finds your story credible, of course if you mention the “right” conflicts (wars, bombings, evictions etc.) in the “right” time and places so it make sense in your story. Who you are and where do you come from is defined/ decided by an officer relying on some facts and numbers. In that case nobody is interested in your identity before you have an “identification.” While worldwide over 65 million refugees are displaced3 and searching for a better place to live in or the majority of the world’s population never travels (or is not able to travel) outside of the country where he/she was born4, every third student in Germany
3. Figures at a glance. UNCHR. http://www.unhcr.org/figures-at-aglance.html. Last Visit: 02.10.2016
4. Press Release. World Tourism Organisation UNWTO. 06.05.2016. http://media.unwto.org/press-release/2016-05-03/exports-international-tourism-rise-4-2015. Last Visit: 02.10.2016
spends a semester abroad5 or the Western art scene celebrates euphorically the mobility of artists as a must of cross-border creative production. Most of the things that seem to the Western population very self-evident or undoubted facts are not even relevant to the rest of the world. Do the “winners” of this inequality really enjoy the luxury of choosing identities, lifestyles, outfits etc. like by choosing the flavour of their yoghurt for breakfast? Or on the contrary, do they feel themselves under massive pressure to adapt their identity to permanently changing trends/ values in order to gain social recognition and/ or (like Susanne mentioned already) to free their identity from labels of any kind? This reminds me of Zygmunt Bauman’s thoughts on identity in the age of liquid modernity where he suggests that “the world demands to the individual a constant and increasingly controversial search for identity, because, today the identity is a task.” and that’s why “being individuals in the liquid society does not simply mean being good consumers, but also being competitive goods in the global market.” In the convergence between identity and consumption lies one of the main features of our age.6
5. Jeder Dritte geht ins Ausland [Every third student goes abroad]. Spiegel Online. Date of publish: 12.07.2013. http://www.spiegel.de/ lebenundlernen/uni/jeder-dritte-deutsche-student-geht-ins-ausland-a-910810.html. Last Visit: 02.10.2016 6. Zygmunt Bauman. Individual and society in the liquid modernity. Emma Palese. SpringerPlus. Published online 29.04.2013. https:// www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3786078/. Last Visit: 02.10.2016
Thank you Can, Naz, and Liv for again sharing your thoughts and experiences. I am very happy we did this as it made me feel reconnected to you and our small community again. It has been great to once again dwell on this complex subject. I hope we will find new ways and formats of working and communicating also in the future.
We donâ€™t know what lies before us, but these are problematic
times and I am sure that the urges to keep reflecting will rather increase than disappear. Until next time!
Figure 2224 2016 Lisa Torell
Figure 2224 performance by Lisa TorellÂ at DEPO, Istanbul Photo: Selman AkÄąl
To share a coincidence, to remember a place and to have questions without answers, and to try to identify, a thought, a language, an identity, a place in progress.
In preparation for the work on Figure 2224, a performance that should have taken place at Gallery DEPO, 20 May 2016, in Istanbul, my thoughts were concerned with society, constitution and change. And systems. Systems as a tool to organize and give an overview. And a society as a geographical location, where a group of people, through habitation, work or some other activity are united in a network of social relations which occur over a particular period of time, or according to a specific idea. This relationship between place and person often makes up part of the structure in many parts, which comprise the term identity. Identity is a word ascribed to people, towns and buildings. A personâ€™s identity can be said to be the parts, which define me or us as human, right there and then. By ourselves, or others or both. It is inherent in both an interior and exterior perspective. A society, for example, can be identified by how the public space is created, its appearance â€“ structure person and function. The public space is the sphere in which our identity is formed.1 An identity described can be just as generalizing as exacting or unifying, according to its capacity to express both surface and depth, mass and unity. DEPO, the gallery where the performance took place, is centrally located in the area of Beyoglu in Istanbul. In Istanbul, the colour of official uniform indicates where in the city work is being carried out. In Beyoglu, the municipal servicesâ€™ uniform is orange-red, and in the summer it consists of: T-shirt, dungarees, plastic clogs, a high visibility vest as well as a dustpan and brush. This became my material and costume.
1. The public space is the sphere in which our identity is formed, in accordance with Hanna Arendt's thoughts. The Human Condition, 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958.
Despite the fact that all declarations of identity consist of coincidental logic, which really ought to be regarded as an opportunity to make more effective a dialogue or examination of a particular context, it is instead often presented as something constant, indeed like some kind of fact. This is what it is like. It is perhaps this, this trust in the constant, which causes us to become so surprised, whenever something is knocked off kilter. Like when the identity of, for instance, the city of Istanbul, or the nation of Turkey undergoes a transformation, we are so shocked, and so unused to things being different to the way they were. Just a moment ago. And that ’just a moment ago’ is different for me than for you, and we suddenly say that Istanbul has a turbulent history, just because that’s the way it’s been for a period, perhaps only a couple of months, or a year... Time and logic don’t always correspond. Neither does the idea of how it used to be. And so, how we begin to pit against; I recall what it was like at the conference in Istanbul,2 it was nice, but already it felt just a little harder for us all to speak, to openly question, perhaps because our smallest common denominator ”Turkey” wasn’t really valid to us there and then, in that moment. That’s when things become delicate; because suddenly everything can change concerning what
2. IdentityLab took place in Istanbul 20-21 may 2016. May 20th at the Consulate General of Sweden: 11-15, Subject to Erring, a workshop led by Liv Strand for the invited artists. May 20th at DEPO: 19.00, introduction to the IdentityLab by curators Naz Cuguoğlu and Susanne Ewerlöf, 19.20: Artist-talk with Katarina Pirak Sikku, 20.00: Performance by Liv Strand, 20.30 performance by Isil Egrikavuk and 21.00 outdoor performance Figure 2224 by Lisa Torell. May 21th at Galata Greek Primary School: 14.00 introduction to IdentityLab, 14.30 Can Sungu presents Replaying Home, 15-16.15: To Make Place, video screening curated by Naz Cuguoğlu and Susanne Ewerlöf, 16.30-18.30 Panel discussion.
something is like. Then it is word against word, legitimacy against legitimacy and finally silence against silence since interpretative prerogatives have come into play, because of course it is obvious: to have grown up there, gone to school there, the authenticity of having a physical experience of a place over time, and through changes, has a different meaning, than for the person who didn’t. The question is rather ”What?” Is it the illusion of the shared, the image of the communal or is it the collective memory which wants to step in and take some space, create order? The significance of a place in terms of how we experience and think is simultaneously complex to understand, difficult to disentangle and very politicised. There is perhaps an overuse of the terms and divisions international, national, local and global. Words which carefully exact who is the most where and where it is about being active (being, speaking) on the ground locally and to have the legitimacy to be active (being, speaking) on the local ground. The whole thing puts the question of the public space and of eventual rights to it, in perspective: The right to be active, to be and speak in a different place to the one in which you live, the right that a space ought to be able to be mental, private, global and mine and yours all at once, irrespective of time, origin, religion or position.3 Really, perhaps we should have begun the conversation ”Turkey was identified by” and ”Istanbul was identified by” in order to, in some way, be able to speak about that which has ”happened”, in order to be able to have the same points of reference. To subsequently be able to say ”Turkey is now identified by” and ”Istanbul is now identified by” in recognition of and with respect for each other’s differences in experiences, and rather
3. Plats till plats, 9 konstnärers reflektion kring platsrelaterat arbete, editor Lisa Torell 2016 (ISBN 978-91-637-8863-5).
than isolating place, land and identity as things tied only to one another, open up to exchange and increased understanding, and speak about countries, places and identities. And focus on where in a process and what in a transition, instead of permanence. The stage for the performance couldn’t have been much better. My condition that it must be out of doors in a public place became instead in a public and semi-public space simultaneously. Where I regard the one room as society’s public space, and the other as a room, for staging society. That is, that which appears in reality, as well as a representation of it. The audience, which was in the low hundred, were shoved out of the representation of, into reality itself, out in the L-shaped backyard which was shared with the outdoor seating area of a restaurant. As a result of this, the audience became both invited and temporary. During the first minutes, the audience was left impatiently left alone to its own devices. Art is not always best served by being completely comfortable, and I knew I had wanted to expose both the audience and myself. I wanted to inhabit both the public space and the construction thereof – to be in the doing – being in the body and the eye. In a public doing. What is it about the public and the doing, which is so fascinating – being in the acted-out thought?4 What is to be an audience in the public space and watch as an image is created? To be part of the picture, to integrate? It has something to do with a certain responsibility – to feel and see, attune. To others. And oneself. The perception of others and ourselves is made palpable through the physical reactions and glances of others and ourselves. It also becomes a place for exposure,
4. Acted out thought explained in the article: Närmandet, ironi och metod, Lisa Torell, Paletten Tidskrift för konst, Nr 3 #301 2015
where a collective [support] suddenly can be taken up, which can lead to actions becoming both greater and smaller. My assistant followed my movements and my body with the spotlight, lit up the space for the work and the uniform.5 Focused our gaze. The uniform enabled me to do – to be outside myself, when I, dressed in the municipal services’ uniform of Beyoglu, with sweeping motions, swept clean the backyard in the midst of the audience. The occasion gave me the opportunity to test an idea.
Istanbul, the city which public persona and mentality has
been influenced by the meeting between east and west, its location between two continents and two oceans, where there is even a building representing differing religious convictions as one unity and where street, kindly disposition, town planning and informal structure has been mixed in the same way as food and music and cat.6 The city comprised the ancient advantages of Cairo, and even if my description may now appear romantic, it felt like a city where I could be safe. Safe also identified as a woman, late at night and a little drunk. Womanly safe. It wasn’t like that now; the city had changed and I felt sorrow, even if it wasn’t really a personal grieving that was how I experienced it in the midst of all the politics. How to speak the unspoken, and to share in order to be able to think? That was it –to experience with the eye and the body and to almost separate the eyes from the body, and the thought from the feeling, ”make estranged” in order to see, to understand.
5. Damla Kilickiran is part of Lisa Torells project Potential of the Gap (http://artistic-research.no), in the role of being an assistant, spy and re-reflector. She’s also part of the BA program at the Academy of Contemporary Art and Creative Writing in Tromsø. 6. Hagia Sofia, Istanbul Turkey.
By the time it was 7pm, the streets of Istanbul had begun to empty of women, who were leaving the public space for the private. Alternatively, they moved in larger groups or together with their husbands or families. Women were no longer visible in the same way, neither as shop assistants or waitresses. The esplanade Istaklal had, in addition to its new police and military-might-order with tanks and policemen carrying automatic rifles, also been given a completely new gender dramatization. Now, in the darkness, the glare of the spotlight outside the gallery seemed almost blinding, the time was 9pm and the performance was estimated to take approximately 10 minutes. I swept from one side of the yard to the next and in the corner I changed to private clothing, in full view of the audience. Another broom was brought, and I continued, dressed in my private clothing to sweep back across the yard. The experience was not only mine, but also others’, not only the change of clothing made a difference, but maybe also I as a person, as class, as hierarchy, I as west and I publicly. It was both painful and interesting, if I would have known, I would have made everything last a little longer. Drag it out a bit for all of us, there was so much to get a grasp of, so little to understand, I didn’t know the language, but received help from those who did. Soon after, everything was closing down and we were on our way. It was a simple angle and I found an audience for ideas that I had wanted to explore. Afterwards I was told that it had been near impossible to source the costume, that there had been talk of making to measure; they weren’t available off the peg anymore as the police among others now used the uniform to camouflage themselves in places close to people – gatherings which they would otherwise find it hard to examine and control. 43
The image of Istanbul that, during the spring of 2016, was broadcast all over the world was one of plurality, but the content was essentially the same:7 Violent clashes with police and tanks and emergency services and street and park attendants cleaning up. The last few years I have visited Istanbul on numerous occasions and therefore followed the political developments in Turkey from a distance, and also based on my own feeling and experience. I have always loved Istanbul, so even though the invitation came late and in the middle of another exhibition period, I really wanted to contribute something. And I wondered: What happens to the public space, and the public officials in a society where it is no longer possible to trust in that, which is public? Is the perception of the bureaucrats, the police, the nurses and the park attendants changed? Or are these figures afforded the same level of respect as before? Is it possible to safeguard the public space without at the same time protecting the people for whom the space is for? And who are they anyway? When the clean up after the demonstrations occur, what is it that is being cleaned away? Is the city made peaceful, is the populace made calm or is it experienced as the sweeping away of temporary history? How is this experienced? 7. 12 Jan: Suicide attack in Sultanahmet, Istanbul, 17 February: A large bomb attack near a military barracks on Eskisehir Road in Ankara. 13 March: A bombing in Kizilay Square, central Ankara, 19 March: Suicide attack in Istanbul’s tourist and shopping area on Istikal St, Istanbul. 27 April: There was a suspected suicide bomb attack at Bursa Ulu Mosque. 1 May: A bomb attack at the Central Police Station in Gaziantep, 2016. (https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/turkey/terrorism)
What happens once an official uniform has been put aside in favour of casual clothing; is that which is public abandoned, or do the regulations, the functions and the behaviours remain?
Katarina Pirak Sikku
Badjelántta Luottat (Traces from the Land Above) In 1926, a group of people from the Institute of Racial Biology travelled along the lake ”Stora Lulevatten” to conduct research. I’ve been able to identify some of the sites they visited through looking at archives and photo albums. I know the areas—if not the exact position—since I have myself been walking in these surroundings previously.
I am certain that I found the correct location for one of the
sites. I know it from the background of a photo of a woman from the photo album from Uppsala. I know the mountains in the image since I have drawn them myself it many times.
The series Traces from the Land Above contains drawings
from archival photos and new photos of the sites that I was able to identify.
Photo: Polly Yassin
There is something very appealing about nature between November and February. There is a restraint in the colour scheme. It is beautifully graphic. I walk out in nature. Without paper, pen, nor a camera. I study the surrounding. I go to my studio. Sometimes I draw in the dark, sometimes in daylight. It depends.
Landscape painting is so problematic. It is so beautiful. Even
I make beautiful landscape images when I try to do the opposite. The landscape carries my story. Who walked here before me? What did she think? How did this pine tree look like when it was small?
These landscape drawings also pass on some of the same
sentiment that racial biology stirs in me. Sorrow, concern, anger. And the ambivalence that I have towards the landscape: so pretty, but it carries a painful history.
This is a thought experiment. If the sami population would have been a majority population, if we had a land of our own – a nation with all the characteristics and symbols that constitute an independent state, with laws, authorities, natural resources, and a people—the Sami—who consider themselves founders, citizens, and the people responsible for the wellbeing of the state. It has clear boundaries to neighbouring states, established long ago as well as a relatively peaceful history.
The surrounding world considers Sápmi to be a well orga-
nized country with good relations. You could say it is a respected state. If Sápmi would have been Sápmi—what would our country look like?
So I continued. I have exploited my country with its parking lots in the mountains. Something happens within me. With my self image. I become the owner of something beyond myself. It is not about the law. I become the owner of me. I place my soul in a context and it doesn’t matter what anyone else says about it. The power to define is mine.
Photo: Máridjá Pirak Sikku
Geography, Migration & Dressing Policy
Ferhat Özgür, Mum 1954/2011, 2011, photograph
Ferhat Özgür I was born in 1965 in Altındağ-Ulucanlar in Ankara, on “Yan Street” to be precise. On that street was the Great Ankara Hospital, a place where German professors used to work in the 1930s, and its building had influences from German architecture. On the left side of the street was the Ulucanlar Half-Open Prison. I was about to start primary school when Yusuf Aslan, Deniz Gezmiş, and Hüseyin İnan were executed there in 1972 for violating the Turkish Criminal Code’s 146th article, which concerns attempts to “overthrow Constitutional Order.” Whilst playing on the streets, we would come across prisoners escaping from the prison and badly wounded patients coming to the hospital at the same time. It was almost like going back and forth between life and fiction. The older guys in an adjacent neighborhood were advocates of the rightwing/nationalist front while the nearer Aktaş quarter was leaning towards the left. Thus, lying at the foot of the Ankara Citadel and on the hills opposite, our neighbourhood Altındağ, being the middle region between the two, was one of the most volatile places in the 1970s when the conflict between right and left was the most violent. It seemed to me that neither from the beginning nor from the bottom of that street one was hardly entering a hopeful avenue. This is how I remember my childhood.
My family moved to Ankara towards 1950s from Çorum, a
neighboring city three hours away from Ankara. In the 1950s, just like Istanbul, Ankara was facing a huge migration wave from central Anatolia. That was also the period when the Democrat Party was portraying itself as the champions of the CHP (Republican People’s Party) and te hruling elite classes, despite the fact that most of its leaders were members of this same bureaucratic 57
class. During the 1950s, the Democrat Party exploited the CHP’s
association with Westernization, a source of hostility for the public and a sign that they were losing touch with their citizens. Following the example of the DP, the CHP extended its efforts into the villages to compete for votes, inducting the peasantry into politics for the first time. Over time, the DP government began showing a deep authoritarian streak, including the issue of religious values. “Once the CHP began to exploit religion, the DP was morally and legitimately relieved from all restraints to exploit the religious symbolism of the majority of Sunni Muslims to its advantage thanks to the performance of the CHP governments of the late 1940s. It was a small step for the DP to reintroduce the call for prayer (ezan) to be chanted in Arabic, which had earlier been converted to Turkish, and to start up new institutions of religious education.”1 This sudden shift must have had tangible impacts over my Mum’s dressing habit, who was supporting CHP contiously and not wearing a headscarf until she moved to to Ankara. She mentioned occasionally that she happily could recall the times when ezan was chanted in Turkish. With this in mind, in 2011 I produced a diptych photograph entitled Mum 1954/2011, referring to the modernization process in Turkey where my mother represents the many women like her. After their migration to the big cities, instead of integrating themselves into the more liberal lifestyle of the capital city, due to political and religious pressure many women chose to preserve the traditional values and clothes from their villages. These young rural women grew more conservative in the country’s urban center. As a young woman in 1954, my mother did not wear the headscarf that became part of her identity when she moved to Ankara.
1. Ersin Kalaycıoğlu, Turkish Dynamics: Bridge Across Troubled Lands, Palgrave McMillan, New York, 2005, p.72.
More than 60 years have passed between the two images and we are reminded of how we age and our relationship is shaped by the policy during the period of modernisation. Ever since I have started being involved in the close relationship between artistic production and geography, policy and cultural dynamics, the conflicts between wearing habits—tradition and social pressure or all the facts I mentioned above—have also become one of my main concerns. I was asking myself whether or not the headscarf necessarily must represent traditional times, or must I feel that it has a place in the modern world. The video entitled Metamorphosis Chat (2009) was magnifying our tendency to classify people according to their figure and dress. In this video, my Mum with headscarf meets a neighbour, a teacher in modern dress, for tea. The women decide to switch roles and begin to exchange clothes. My influence as director recedes as the women, allowing themselves to get carried away by the merriment of dressing up, become their own authors. Their hearty friendliness, their openness to deal with what might otherwise be embarrassing, their laughing at each other and themselves—all poke fun at the fear and aggressive moralizing found in debates on symbols with religious connotations. At this point, if we consider in the religious context, in Turkey the traditional headscarf is used to function as a complementary decorative element of a person’s attire. It was a show of your respect to your values. But one should also consider the fact that there are two controversial varieties of wearing headscarf in terms of their descriptions as well. The first (as a modest adjective) could be ‘headscarf’, which is a sign of adapting or respecting your own tradition, here mainly in a religious content. The other one (as 59
a definite uniform, a symbol or a message) is ‘turban’, which is
Ferhat Özgür, Metamorphosis Chat, 2009, video
worn entirely differently to the ‘headscarf.’ Here, turban stands as a compulsory fact for women. Hereby, I would like to emphasize that the use of the headscarf, in both ways, doesn’t necessarily represent the past. Sometimes the association of the headscarf with religion can be overstated, over-emphasized, made symbolic. I still recall very well that my mother used to sometimes wear a headscarf but it was there to serve a purpose: for example to keep her hair out of her eyes or to keep her hair tidy, or to cover her head whilst praying, etc. Why is there never the same comment or criticism made about men wearing headgear or hats— e.g., various kinds of caps, I very often ask. Over time both the turban and the headscarf have been unfortunately associated with one another as a controversial topic especially in Western modern countries. In this sense, the headscarf could have a place in the modern world but it is inevitable that women with headscarves are subjected to prejudice or to discrimination.
The City Shaping Us In the early 2000s, Turkey was extensively introduced to a new term called “gentrification.” Cities started being ripped from their own memory and process of civilization turned metropolises into marketable commodity, a set of income-generating spaces symbolized by money, and a place merely to divvy up the loot from urban commerce. “The urban change/transformation that has come with demolition, the new models of life, have created in the individual trauma, strain, metamorphosis, and alienation. Systematic capitalist production totally altered the traditional order of society by imposing life in multistoried apartments, and the result in the squatter towns became ‘demolition’ and ‘mutation.”12
Such projects of new public “improvement,” tearing the peo-
ple of squatter towns out of their vital surroundings while supposedly “taking care not to displace them” and to provide “every necessity of modern life”, reduced life to a matter of modern construction and turned into an act of memory-erasure and total disregard. Consequently, as Lefebvre says, everyday life offers us very important clues for understanding a society and the urban context is an actual “space” where these clues can be found.
The horrendous craze for “transformation” of cities and the
constant push for real estate with advertisements, magazine pages, and newspaper inserts. A process that clears off the fragmented heterogeneous structure of cities in order to build homogenous cities that are more easily watched and easily controlled, just like what is happening in Istanbul and in many other cities.
2. Zeynep Yasa Yaman, Thoughts on Ferhat Özgür’s Selection from his ‘City Log’, City Log, catalogue text, Yapı Kredi Bankası Yay., Istanbul, 2008.
Meanwhile the proximity of the buildings to one another generates the metaphor of a “sanitized zone or area of control.” Proximity and the loss of space facilitates the control of power over individuals, and reinforces ideologies. Its space has been the focus of reflection and intellectual scrutiny, but the city has allowed this to be determined by commerce, as with neoliberalizing and globalizing policies, it is increasingly pushed into a zone of life shaped by religion. The city and its citizens have lost their say in the fate of the city where they live; social control has diminished, individual and political liberties are unable to hold sway, while the quality of life goes unheeded, as do modern urban and environmental standards, as the heart of the city becomes the scene of continual migration and the culture of construction sites, a mere adjunct to a process of tearing down and then building.
Within the framework of these developments, I became more
interested in how to keep real stories of this fragmented structure in the collective memory and to portray the places they take place in everyday life. During this period it was inevitable for me to go frequently to the street where I was born and grew up, for my family was still living there. It was Sunday. I went there with my camera. I knocked on the doors of all the neighbors and I asked them to come outside because I knew that the street would not continue to exist and its residents would never come together in the same way again. I did not really tell anyone what to do. “We will take a souvenir photo,” I said. I wanted them to experience a unique moment together. I lined them up along the street and photographed them both from the entrance and the exit of the street. When I went to our neighbourhood in Altındağ it was the year 2005 and the scene that greeted me was unbelievable. The bulldozers had moved in and the demolition long since commenced.
Ferhat Özgür, Let Everybody Come Out Today, 2002, diptych photo
As if overnight the first step had been taken toward revolution. For a while I just took it in. I hadn’t thought they would get so close to our neighborhood. The atmosphere emerged was like a catastrophe. In conclusion, I could say that artists are chroniclers of their own surroundings. Art works emerge from the historically important melting pot of their home country, where different cultures and religions converge which also require complex searches for clues.
Furthermore, artists always try to position their works in
between the tensions of tradition and modern times, some are spontaneous observations, some cinematically composed pieces. Art works are based on the realities of our neighbourhood. From there we try to interpret the individual and social stories which are another face of our places we are living in. What artists do is nothing other than to reflect or interpret all kind of realities surrounding us. They cannot stand as spectators but be partici63
pants in common issues to be able to deal with them politically.
Conversation with Fikret Atay Fikret Atay, Tinica, 2004, video
Your works are closely linked specifically to the cultural, social, and geographic phenomena and issues related to your homeland. The situations you show evoke in the viewer the familiar and at the same time somewhat unfamiliar scenarios. The situations we are shown raise questions about tradition and development, identity and the role of the individual in society. How do you perceive this contradiction?
Individuals form the society. No matter what their intellectual levels, ideas, genders are, when they become part of the society, their conscious identities get erased. The emotions and ideas of the individuals head one way when they are part of society. They form a collective consciousness and identity. This aspect defines all societies. As a result, the audience can relate to the situations I show regarding progress, identity, and the situation of the individual in society. The codes constructing societies are the same everywhere. What matters is to find these codes and to decode them. The biggest obstacles in this process of decoding are space and time.
Your video Paris Village that we have shown as part of our video screening program in Istanbul is set in the real village of Paris outside the city Batman where you live. This place is the starting point of all your work. Do you feel that it is the specific context of that place that is your main focus or is it rather that you are interested in the way people share places in a more general sense? As I said before, time and space are the biggest obstacles in decoding these codes. Decoding removes the problems. We should not perceive the space only as soil, wall, or as building. Space and time flow in our consciousness in a parallel fashion. The meaning we impose on the space and the effect of space on us create the phenomenon called time. Space is also the gap that individuals want to create in society. These gaps are filled with the phenomenon called consciousness.
I focus on the ways people share spaces. Home is a place
to get protected no matter where you are. It is a private space. Public spaces give the same feeling for all societies. You can observe the effect of cultural codes on life through these relationships. Pain, happiness, feelings, passion, love, hatred are the same everywhere.
Fikret Atay, Bang Bang, 2003, video
Fikret Atay, Goal, 2009, video
It is apparent that identity is a very complex concept where many different elements play a part. An identity is for instance formulated partly by the setup in which you were born, your own view of it, and othersâ€™ views. The context is also importantâ€”when you step in and out of a situation you can go from being a part of a minority to becoming the majority. Do you think that your identity has a direct influence on your artistic practice? Identity is an issue of how you feel. Identity is about the space where you spend your childhood and which you still dream about. Identity is the effect and reflection of the spaces and relationships on you. How people perceive your identity gets shaped by the space you live in, your geography, and the situations you are in. I do not think that whether you belong to minority or majority group could suggest a solution to the issue of identity. Although the identity is a social phenomenon, it is still a personal feeling. 67
Fikret Atay, Rebels of the Dance, 2002, video
If identity is about feeling, of course it affects my works. My works are shaped by my feelings. The works I make in a city where life is difficult as a result of small and political reasons carry anger, melancholy, and rebellion in the form of expression of my feelings. The young boy in the video Tinica kicking the tin boxes, the children in the video Rebels of the Dance singing forbidden Kurdish songs proudly and happily at the ATM, young girls and boys in the video Fast and Beast wearing blue jeans as a manifestation of anti-militarism and the perfection of the rhythm of their feet are all my feelings. You have been spending quite a lot of time in Sweden recently. We arranged a meeting for artists in Norrköping, Sweden that you attended. How was it for you to take part in that meeting just after the heated events in Batman (Turkey)? And how is your on-going three-month visit at Iaspis going? It was like being in limbo to come from a horrific situation to step in a space where everything seems beautiful. I had the strong feelings of: “Where am I? Why did I come?” There was the need to explain myself. My anxiety was about how much people could understand and feel. I was clearly aware of this. I knew they could understand the situation but could not feel it. I am working on my projects at Iaspis and I hope to bring them to life soon.
Revolutions break out on ships & utopias are lived on islands
She stared at the soil below her feet for a while… It was like the earth that her heels touch was activated by the trails left by those who passed by there before her. The earth was upside down… “today” deep under the earth, “yesterday” emerges from the darkness. Just like she was watching herself from the other side of the mirror or her other-self… The point where the past meets today moves in motion as a result of the tension of their synthesis. To the right, to the left, it was floating on the timeline, staggering. She wanted to make sure that her feet were firmly on the ground. What was this indistinct humming coming from the many deep layers of the floor? When she was totally carried away by the sound and feeling dizzy because of this turmoil, she asked this question to herself…. Is the floor swimming? Or is the floor writing?
This piece of land surrounded by the sea that she is trying to stay balanced on, was it swimming among the waves of the time? Or was it busy giving birth to new topografias that it writes the stories of by dipping itself into the smudgy ink of the time? When she dived into these thoughts, she moved her eyes across the hat-shaped island that she was standing on… actually beyond it… She untied and freed her feet that was tied with a rope to the corpus of the topos she was standing on. She stepped back with the fear of untying the bond of the centuries… Then thousand steps further, getting her courage… She walked through her boat that was waiting—at the coast that waves of time were washing— and that was going to take her on her own journey.
About the Contributors
Fikret Atay (b 1976) works mainly with video and relates to the life in his hometown Batman. Recent solo exhibitions were presented at PILOT, Istanbul, and Viafarini Docva, Milano. He has participated in group exhibitions at prestigious institutions including Istanbul Modern, New Museum and Tate Modern. His work was included in numerous biennials such as the 10th Lyon Biennial, the 10th and 8th Istanbul Biennials and the Biennale of Sydney (2006). Atay graduated in fine arts from Dicle University. Hera Büyüktaşçıyan (b 1984, Istanbul) graduated from Marmara University, Faculty of Fine Arts, Painting department in 2006. Her work focuses on the notion of the ‘other’ and concepts of absence and invisibility, identity, memory, space and time. Selected exhibitions include: EVA International, Ireland Biennial, Ireland (2016); Land Ohne Land (Land without Land), Heidelberger Kunstverein, Germany (2016); 1497, Green Art Gallery, Dubai (2016) and the Armenian Pavillion, 56th Venice Biennale. Naz Cuguoğlu is a curator and art writer, based in Istanbul. She is the co-founder of non-profit art initiative Creative Çukurcuma and artistic research project IdentityLab (SE & TR); member of Proto5533 curator team; and works as program manager at Gallery Zilberman (Istanbul & Berlin). She writes art critique for various online and published art magazines. She took part in CerCCa art residency program in Spain. She received her BA in Psychology and MA in Social Psychology at Koç University focusing on cultural studies. www.creativecukurcuma.com Susanne Ewerlöf (b. 1981) is interested in cultural heritage, identity and the politics of memory which she is currently exploring in the research projects Becoming by Recalling and IdentityLab (TR/SE). She works as a Curator in Stockholm, is the Founding Director of Verkstad konsthall in Norrköping, Sweden and a boardmember of Norrköping Air. She has a MA in Culture and Media Production from Linköping University and has studied Art History and Contemporary Art Curating at Stockholm University. www.susanneewerlof.se
Ferhat Özgür (born in 1965), lives and works in Istanbul, Yeditepe University Fine Arts Faculty. He participated in the 10th Istanbul Biennale and 6th Berlin Biennale. Selected solo shows include: Michigan University Museum of Art (2016), MoMA PS1-New York (2013), MarabouparkenSweden (2013), Gallery Nev-Ankara (2011). His work has been recently exhibited at numerous venues including: Seoul Museum of Art, Moderna Musset Malmö, Irish Museum of Modern Art, BWA Sokol Gallery of Contemporary Art-Poland etc. www.ferhatozgur.com Katarina Pirak Sikku (b. 1965) studied at the Art Academy in Umeå and now lives in Jokkmokk in the far north of Sweden. She works in a variety of media and addresses the historical and contemporary situation for the Samí people in her works. Her work has been shown at Bildmuseet, Umeå, Sweden, Korundi, Rovaniemi, Finland, Grafikens house, Mariefred, Sweden, Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín, Colombia, Arran Lule Sami holders, Drag, Norway. Art for Liv Strand (b. 1971) is a practice for physical materials to think with along with language. Processes as performances are contiguous to matter, forming subjective suggestions. Some on-going collaborations function as capacities for negotiation, concerning ways of doing together, and the topology of hierarchies. She has exhibited at Nikolaij Kunsthall, Copenhagen, at Haus am Waldsee, Berlin, at Verkastad konsthall and other places. Liv Strand is based in Stockholm, and sometimes in Berlin. www.livstrand.com Can Sungu was born in Istanbul, studied Film (BA) and Visual Communication Design (MFA) at Istanbul Bilgi University and at the Institute for Art in Context in Berlin University of Arts (MA), gave courses on film and video production, facilitated workshops and took part in various exhibitions in Europe, such as at Transmediale’14, MMSU Rijeka and Künstlerhaus Vienna. In 2014 he co-founded the project space bi’bak in Berlin-Wedding where he works as project manager, artist and curator. www. cansungu.com
Lisa Torell (b.1972) lives in Tromsø and Stockholm. She works site-related, with place as a material in itself and with the relationship place, language and identity – in the light of how meaning or logic is created. Society and perception. Her work have been seen at Bonniers konsthall, Konsthall C, and Index (SWE), Narraccje Festival (PO), Overgaden (DK) 0047 (NO) and Consonni (ESP). She’s a research fellow at the Norwegian Artistic Research Program with the project Potential of the Gap. www. lisatorell.com
Endnotes We are very thankful to all our partners, sponsors and all artists and other professionals who we have met during this project. The experiences wouldn’t have been the same if Liv and Can did not bravely agree to join us in this open-ended quest, thank you for your dedication. We are also very grateful to Serra Özhan Yüksel from Anadolu Kültür; Hera Büyüktaşçıyan from Galata Greek Primary School; Suzi Erşahin and Andrea Karlsson from Swedish Consulate in Istanbul; Asena Günal from DEPO (Istanbul) and the Norrköping Art Museum team; and to our own organizations maumau and Verkstad konsthall, especially Sine Ergün and Erik Månsson. Proofreading by Merve Ünsal. And a big thank you to everyone who have generously contributed to this publication.
Participants in public events linked to IdentityLab Exchanging Notes pt 1 Norrköping February 13-14, 2016
IdentityLab Sessions Istanbul May 20-21, 2016
Silje Figenschou Toresen
Katarina Pirak Sikku
The IdentityLab project and Between Places are joint curatorial and editorial efforts between Verkstad konsthall (Norrkรถping, Sweden) and maumau (Istanbul, Turkey). We are proud to be supported by the Swedish Institute and Iaspis - the Swedish Arts Grants Committee's International Programme for Visual and Applied Artists.
The IdentityLab project was initiated in the context of the Tandem Exchange Program 2015-2016. Tandem – Cultural Managers Exchange Turkey-EU is an initiative of the European Cultural Foundation (Amsterdam), MitOst (Berlin), Anadolu Kültür (Istanbul), and funded by Stiftung Mercator (Essen). www.tandemforculture.org
Published on Jan 24, 2017
“Between Places” is an anthology compiling reflections on how identity is made and performed through the movement of the self and/or experie...