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Evidence of my Sexual Misdemeanour: A Gendered Performance for the Abysmal Archive Gökhan Tanrıöver Royal College of Art MA Photography 2019

Tutor: Alice Butler Word count: 10, 481



List of Illustrations……………………………………………………………………5 A Note on the Abyss………………………………………………………………...7 I: Have You Served Your Conscription…………………………………………….8 II: The Still Image as a Document…………………………………………….......22 III: The Performance as an Act………………………………………………...…..31 IV: The Abysmal Archive………………………………………………………...…40 Conclusion………………………………………………………………………..…49 Bibliography…………………………………………………………………...……54 Appendix……………………………………………………………………………59




Figure 1, Kutluğ Ataman, jarse, 2011. Figure 2, Kutluğ Ataman, still from Turkish Delight, 2007. Figure 3, Kutluğ Ataman, still from Double Roasted, 2007. Figure 4, Karol Radziszewski, film still from Kisieland, 2012.



A NOTE ON THE ABYSS Beyond the gates that open Upon a successful completion of a service Lies the realm so masculine.

Strengthened by the acts between its members And weakened by seduction of the other.

With acts so condemning How dare they disrupt such fraternity? Recorded by an archive so abysmal They shall be banished to the abyss.





I never liked having my hair cut… I remember being 4 years old and dragging my mum away as I called out ‘pig-face’ to the barber who was surprised by my resistance and my desire to keep a longer hair. It was an insult I had learnt from the only character with natural hair colour in the Jem and the Holograms cartoon. My parents didn’t understand my obsession. I loved playing with hair and seeing it blow in the wind. In fun fairs I had just as much joy watching longhaired individuals on rides as being on a ride myself. My parents refused to buy me a doll as they thought it was something inappropriate for a boy to play with. A compromise was achieved when I convinced them to buy me a My Little Pony, followed by one more and then another.

I still find it a challenge to get a haircut as an adult, but not because I want to keep my hair long. Mine wouldn’t be fun to play with and instead of blowing in the wind in a beautiful and elegant way it would be flopping around as a dark mass attached to the top of my head. These monthly rituals of cropping my hair and getting a skin fade (my barber tells me it would make my face appear slimmer and more attractive to women) often involve a series of questions about my private life. The fact that the barber and I speak the same language and hence exclude almost every other customer from the conversation, inexplicitly gives him the permission to ask those. For this reason, over the last year I specifically waited for my hair to be cut by the Iranian barber instead. The fact that I found him undeniably handsome played a part but he also had a quiet demeanour and a softness to him that contrasted with his coarse beard and bulging forearm muscles: I noticed these features over time, repeatedly, as I watched his mirror reflection move around my veiled body.


The last two times I was there I observed his absence, and they told me that he opened his own place outside the city. With resignation I sat down at the chair of the most chatty and obtrusive of the barbers. Whilst he adjusted the seat’s height to accommodate my body, I noticed the moist patch of fabric on the underarm of his off-white shirt. It was difficult not to perceive his unwelcomed scent as he overconfidently manoeuvred a pair of scissors around my head. The first question he asks without failure is if I had work today. The question leaves a bitter taste as I explain to him once more that I am a student, still a student… I think that he thinks I am too old to be one at the age of 33. Not a projection I am making, but reading his body language is sufficient. He flattens his lips and crinkles his forehead on one side without lifting his eyebrows – he tries not to make his reaction too obvious. We talk about the importance of loving what you do; this is how he comes to terms with me leaving my medical training behind to pursue something that is less grounded.

My eyes travel between what is in front of me; the blade suspended in the fluorescent purple disinfectant, and what is reflected in the mirror from behind; mass-produced black and white photographs of classically handsome Caucasian men. The hum of the hair clipper puts me in a state of trance as I stare in stupor at the photograph of the original owner of the barbershop whose name still remains outside the door. The trance breaks with his second question: what are your hobbies? He never remembers them, as they don’t match his own. Apart from disliking haircuts, I also dislike football; both watching and playing. He asks what else I like. I become acutely aware of the little collection of droplets secreted from my pores and trapped by the elastic band around my neck choking me. At this point he is annoyed as it is too


much of a struggle for him to find a commonality and I refuse to perform for him to arrive at this commonality. With one hand pressing down a black plastic comb onto my scalp, he sprays water with the other at my thirsty hair. He tries one more time to anchor in with a conversation topic and sighs with relief, as finally there is something we can talk about. Askerliğini yaptın mı? he asks; have you served your conscription?

The Rite of Passage The icebreaker of a question is asked at various social situations and unifies, as every male over the age of 20 is required by law to participate in the national service. It is a pillar in both the national and masculine identity of the Turkish male, making it an expected topic of conversation in casual exchanges. According to Aslı Zengin it is possible to define ‘the present hegemonic masculinity in Turkey […] as a heterosexual, authoritarian, conservative, culturally Muslim, middle-to high-class, and [ethnically] Turkish.’1 The ideal Turkish man in this context is thus ‘expected to be an obedient son to his father and deeply devoted to his mother and to prove himself as a risk taker, assertive, a warrior, courageous, and fearless.’ 2

There are several rites of passage that mark the transition from a boy to a man who is part of this hegemonic masculine realm: circumcision, interest in football and serving his conscription before obtaining a job that is secured through his educational achievements. This then allows the man to get married and have children as ‘his performance in these sites shapes the public Aslı, Zengin, ‘ Violent Intimacies: Tactile State Power, Sex/Gender Transgression, and the Politics of Touch in Contemporary Turkey’, Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, 12:2 (2016), 225-245 (p.229). 1


Ibid, p.229.


opinion of his masculinity in private and public environments.’3 In this respect I come short on several. Despite having being circumcised at the age of eight under the watchful eye of my relatives, their friends and their children, on a bed decorated with red ribbons and gold coins which were given to me as presents, I had and still have zero interest in football. In fact, I still avoid kicking back a ball that rolls towards me in a park due to the fear of ridicule of my insufficient and clumsy kick. I have also gotten out of my conscription through a loophole.4

In 1927, shortly after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the formation of the Turkish Republic, the military service became compulsory for all men. This was a means to expand the power of the new nation state and ‘to mold the subjects within the new gender regime [which] defined men as independent and sovereign subjects who are now able to enter into a formal relation with the state.’5 This masculine sovereignty allowed access to employment and marriage in exchange for obedience to the military discipline and authority of the state.

Oyman Başaran argues that the appeal of the military service has dramatically reduced over the past three decades. As the armed conflicts between the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) and the Turkish state intensified, an increasing number of men sought loopholes in the recruitment process. Within the same timeframe, ‘social, cultural and political changes such as economic transition to a liberalized market economy, the emergence of new axes of 3

Ibid, p.229.

A transient allowance was made in 2015 for dual citizen Turks living overseas, to be exempt from service upon payment of a fee. 4

5 Oyman, Başaran, ‘”You Are Like a Virus”: Dangerous Bodies and Military Medical Authority in Turkey’, Gender & Society, 28:4 (2014), 562-582 (p.567).


differentiation within society other than a rural/urban divide, [and] the greater fragmentation of social identities’ allowed a restructured class system in Turkey.6 This transformation has thwarted the cultural significance of military service for young men. This is most prevalent among the members of the middle and upper classes as more and more use their resources to delay the draft by enrolling into higher education or paying for exemption from the military service; because for them, ‘military service [is] no longer the primary symbolic medium through which they [express] their masculinity.’7 Previously, payment for exemption was only reserved for Turkish nationals residing overseas, but a new system currently under parliamentary consideration will allow any applicant to be made exempt upon payment.

Zengin summarises the other ways to avoid military service: evading, declaring conscientious objection to military violence or receiving a çürük raporu which translates to a rotten or a bruised report.8 The first two options are illegal and put the men at risk of imprisonment, the third option relates to severe health problems that are evaluated according to the Health Regulations for Turkish Armed Forces. Here, ill health acts as a signifier of a bruised or rotten masculinity; the potential draftee is no longer eligible to become a member of the sovereignly masculine club. The military uses the first printing of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM II) published in 1968 that lists homosexuality as a psychosexual disorder.9 6

Ibid, p.568.

Ibid, p.568. I will be using italics in main body of text for voicing the phrases the military is using, e.g. homosexual, to denote their opinion rather than mine (excluding Turkish terms or names). 7


Zengin, p.238.

Başaran, p.579. In 1974, following protests by gay advocacy groups, The American Psychological Association removed homosexuality from its list of disorders, however the military still uses the outdated manual to diagnose its patients. 9


Sexuality Historicised Homosexuality is not illegal in the Republic of Turkey; in fact, sodomy was decriminalised in 1858 during a period of reformation of the Ottoman Empire.10 This, however, does not mean gay individuals have the same rights. Following the military coup of 1980, ‘trans individuals and “effeminate” gays were expelled from the cities on the grounds that they were posing a danger to the public order.’11 Furthermore, when the Turkish Military Penal Code went into effect in 1930, immoral acts or crimes were punished. These acts include drunkenness, wearing the military uniform to a brothel or a casino, marrying or cohabiting with a sex worker or practising gaytırabi mukarenet, which translates to unnatural behaviours. This vague term allows punishment for acts that the country’s civil law does not criminalise, such as homosexuality. If you have the freedom to express your sexuality in your dayto-day life, then why does it prevent you from serving your conscription?

The punishable unnatural behaviour was not always seen as unnatural. Even before sodomy was decriminalised in the pre-republican era, homosexuality was indeed part of the military life. The Janissaries, meaning new soldier in Ottoman Turkish, were formed of infantry units that made up the sultan’s household troops and bodyguards. They were regarded as ‘the most disciplined, dedicated fighting machine that the world had seen.’12 They comprised mostly of war prisoners and systematically abducted young Christian boys whom were made to convert to Islam, as non-Muslims were not allowed to bear arms. Following a rigorous training, they became paid Tehmina Kazi, ‘The Ottoman Empire’s Secular History Undermines Sharia Claims’, The Guardian, 7 October 2011. <> [Accessed 25 March 2019]. 10


Başaran, p.569.

12 Niki Gamm, ‘The Complete Janissary’, Hürriyet Daily News, 1 December 2012. <> [Accessed 27 March 2019].


soldiers but with limited rights; they were not allowed to marry until retirement. From the seventeenth century onwards, serving as a Janissary became so desirable that the traditional recruitment process declined and access was also given to young men born to Muslim families. The high number of applicants exceeded the actual demand and thus the young applicants, known as çiveleks, were registered on a waiting list and were allowed to stay in the army barracks under the protection of a fellow Janissary.13 Until grown up, the çivelek on the verge of puberty served the various needs of the older soldier, including being their bedfellow. Here, the surplus of army applicants paved a way for increased homosexual relationships, albeit those of an ephemeral nature.

It was not uncommon for the çivelek to wear a tasselled veil ‘so that his beardless face was not exposed to the desiring gaze of other men.’14 Sertaç Sehlikoğlu focuses on the concept of mahremiyet, the Islamic notion of privacy and intimacy, which ‘always denotes confidentiality that the insider is expected to preserve and an outsider is expected not to violate.’15 Though his essay focuses on the heterosexual culture in contemporary Turkey, it applies to the case above as, ‘sexuality is regulated through regulation of the body, not only through covering but also through a series of organized behaviours, movements, and attitudes in order not to attract attention, looks, and

Serkan Delice, ‘The Janissaries and Their Bedfellows: Masculinity and Male Friendship in EighteenthCentury Ottoman Istanbul’, in Gender and Sexuality in Muslim Cultures, ed by Gül Özyeğin (Farnham: Ashgate, 2015) 115-136 (p.125). 13


Ibid, p.125.

Sertaç Sehlikoğlu, ‘The Daring Mahrem: Changing Dynamics of Public Sexuality in Turkey’ in Gender and Sexuality in Muslim Cultures, ed by Gül Özyeğin (Farnham: Ashgate, 2015) 235-252 (p.237). 15


gazes.’16 It was thus up to the çivelek to preserve his piety when in a room full of desiring men.

Serkan Delice’s essay focuses on The Book of Shampooers that Opens the Soul, an Ottoman treatise written in 1686 by Derviş İsmail, the Istanbul based Chief of the Bath Keepers. The book describes the lives and relationships of eleven Istanbul-based shampooers employed by various hammams during late seventeenth century whom also worked as prostitutes in the same space. One of the eleven men, Yemenici Ali, was a fifteen year-old-boy who also served in the Janissaries. As a çivelek he earned no money. One day, a police superintendent found him in the police station as multiple men had raped him, including a fellow Janissary. Here he had no chance of reserving his mahremiyet. Whilst the perpetrators of the violent crime suffered no consequence, the victim’s name was added to a stigmatizing list of prostitutes and the word catamite was imprinted on his calves. He sought the help of Derviş İsmail to get his name removed from the list and eventually became his bedfellow, as ‘ending up as someone’s bedfellow […] pointed towards a […] network of patrons, clients, and suitors in Ottoman society.’17 It also allowed a privileged access to information they would otherwise not have had. In fact, the Ottoman administration felt threatened by the bathhouse employees because due to their profession they came into contact with a large number of people ‘and thus [were] able to exchange political ideas and opinions with their customers, which turned bathhouses into potential hotbeds of revolt and dissention.’18 It was not the fact that they were homosexual per se, but that


Ibid, p.238.


Ibid, p.133.


Ibid, p.123.


the potential power they may have gained by their multiple relationships could have caused disruption to the authoritative power.

Sexuality Declared Refocusing on the current situation in Turkey, a potential reason why gay men are excluded from their conscription may be a method of sustaining power control. Certain forms of exchange, interaction and intimacy are expected to take place between the soldiers:

Homosocial bonding practices (e.g., friendship, comradeship, solidarity, and sacrifice for your peers) are normalised, encouraged, and deemed necessary for keeping the soldiers together and sustaining military order. […] The military seeks to protect this order through assessing the dangerousness of the conscripts, thereby excluding certain bodies (effeminate men) that are feared to disrupt the dynamics inherent in male homosocial bonding in military service by provoking and/or seducing other soldiers.19

Based on Başaran’s research, the psychologists working in the military hospitals deploy ‘technologies of power and produce knowledge about individuals in order to determine whether or not they pose a threat to the body of the society.’20 Regardless of their sexuality, the military psychologists also attempt to find ‘imposters who evade the duty undeservedly [and hence] short-circuit the economy of sacrifice of the Turkish military and threaten the very foundation of the military, which is manpower.’21 In a society that values 19

Başaran, p.574.


Ibid, p.578.


Ibid, p.577.


conscription as one of the key milestones and as an entryway to the hegemonic masculine realm, both instances, being a gay man or an imposter, are sufficient to be stigmatised against as the question have you served your conscription? is inescapable.

A declaration of homosexuality is not enough to get out of military service; it is a long process that has no set standard procedure. There are no official channels of information regarding this and many find access through online forums or through word-of-mouth. The first time I heard about the specifics of the process was the only time I met someone who had gone through it. A few summers ago, in my hometown, Izmir, I walked by a long a public beach as the sun scorched down on my sunburnt body. Once I went past a secluded area where mostly conservative families bathed in, I climbed over a hill to reach a small beach. I had discovered this secret location a few years before and it became my quiet spot, where I sunbathed in the nude. Given its clandestine nature, each year more nude bathers came, most of whom were gay men. That day, I came across the Ukrainian man that I had met the summer before but this time he was with his new Turkish boyfriend. The boyfriend decided to be friendly once he reached the conclusion that no past indiscretions had taken place between his boyfriend and me. Eventually, he asked me the inevitable question have you served your conscription? and after I said no he decided to tell me about what he had endured.

The draftee who requests exemption must first report to the local military office in the district and ask for their transference to the military hospital’s psychiatry division where the psychologist will examine the individual based on their complaint: homosexuality. The following steps based on this consultation differ greatly. It is likely that he will take supervised psychological


tests such as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), the Rotter Incomplete Sentence Blank (RISB) test, or the House-Tree-Person (HTP) test.22 Başaran’s interviewed psychologists ‘emphasize that the tests were designed to assess general psychopathological disposition and personality structure rather than reveal homosexual inclinations, the results of these tests are used to bolster military psychologists’ decisions.’23 The main focus here is to assess the likelihood that the individual is homosexual through analysing how feminine he is, based on the cultural norms in Turkey which dictate that a gay man is effeminate and is the one who is penetrated during sexual intercourse. He may also need to stay in the hospital between three to fourteen days for constant medical inspection.

The results are then discussed at the next appointment in the hospital, when he may also be referred to the general surgery department to check for any deformation or loss of muscle tone of the anus that may have occurred due to repeated sexual intercourse. Zengin states that ‘the role of the “recipient” partner in sexual intercourse denotes a “passive” position, which in turn demasculinises and so (ef)feminizes the male body, excluding it from the membership of the masculine military community.’24 At instances when applicants were found not to be homosexual enough, visual material in the form of photographs and videos were asked. This practice has been largely abandoned since 2009 but still occurred until very recently. Through the MMPI is a standardised psychometric test of adult personality and psychopathology, consisting of 567 yes/no statements which the subject must answer accurately as the results also calculate a degree of accuracy by asking the same questions differently. One of the scales used for the above situation is the masculinity/femininity scale. RISB is a psychological test where the first few words of 40 sentences are given which is then completed by the subject to determine a score for maladjustment. HTP has two phases: the subject draws a house, a tree and a person, followed by a verbal reflection of what they have drawn. 22


Başaran, p.571.


Zengin, p.239.


sharing of personal experiences in the gay community, certain visual rules were formulated: the image should be made during sexual intercourse where the applicant’s visible and clear face reflects a state of satisfaction and joy, and he should be the recipient or the passive partner. The applicant is thus ‘expected to display himself and his sexual desire pornographically.’25 The final stage occurs in front of a committee sitting around a U-shaped table. Here, the results from the psychological and physical examinations are shared while the committee observes the applicant for his posture, affect and gait. The committee may ask him further questions before a final decision is made. Either the applicant’s request is denied, his military service suspended for a year or he obtains the certificate of exemption.26

It appears that to obtain an exception from military service individuals must first officially claim they are indeed homosexual. They are then psychologically and physically tested by several military officials and undergo a form double penetration: in the visual they create as a form of evidence, and by the medical staff in the hospital where they inspect them. Here they relinquish their mahremiyet or piety in front of the officials in order to prevent a provocation or seduction of the heteronormative men who are serving their country proudly at the gateway to the masculine realm: their homosocial bonding must not be disturbed! In order to be excluded from it, the utterance of ‘I am gay’ is not enough as you must evidence and perform it based on the unwritten rules. It is through this performance that you may be deemed feminine enough, and hence disruptive to the hegemonic masculine society.


Ibid, p.239.


Başaran, pp.570-571.


-Have you served your conscription?

-No, I was made exempt.





In 2011, as part of the Twelfth Istanbul Biennial, Kutluğ Ataman exhibited a two-page official document that had been issued by the military hospital in that same year. The document, mounted on a warm-coloured reflective surface and framed with wood, hung on a dark grey wall in the gallery space. Curated by Adriano Pedrosa and Jens Hoffmann, the Biennial composed of five group shows and more than fifty solo presentations. Ataman’s work sat in “Untitled” (Ross), the section that departed from Felix Gonzales-Torres’ 1991 installation with the same title, which was homage to his lover Ross Laycock who had died from complications of AIDS. As the curators state, the show blends the ‘personal into the political, exploring themes of love, relations, family, identity, desire, sexuality and loss. [As a whole] the Biennial explores the rich relationship between art and politics, focusing on artworks that are both formally innovative and politically outspoken’.27

Ataman’s piece titled jarse belongs to a collection of works he calls fiction, which ‘consists of a number of very personal works that make the artist the subject of his own gaze and practice.’28 The work received a lot of media attention in Turkey at the time and was repeatedly pointed out as a must-see piece by the art critics. The document from the military hospital can be considered as a mixed media print made in collaboration between Ataman and twelve other individuals working for the military in varying roles, including a psychiatrist. The first page holds Ataman’s details: full name, date of birth, ‘12th Istanbul Biennial’, Adriano Pedrosa and Jens Hoffmann (17 September 2011) <> [Accessed 15 May 2019]. 27

‘Artworks’, Kutluğ Ataman, (No Publishing Date) <> [Accessed 13 March 2019]. Translated to English, jarse means jersey. 28


and I.D. card number, which has been crossed out smoothly in black. The blackening-out of the number on Ataman’s piece acts as a protective device for the artist by preventing potential institutional transactions being carried out without his authorisation.29

Figure 1, Kutluğ Ataman, jarse, 2011.

Printed or stamped with ink, various dates are scattered around the document to demarcate: when the health report was requested, when the medical inspection was carried out and when the document was validated by the military personnel in ascending order of title. It appears that to reach its status as an official document, the piece of paper with the photograph of Ataman had been disseminated in time and space for an approval through a hierarchy of power. It can be assumed that the pencil scribbled date at the top of the first page without a reference refers to when Ataman first accessed the 29 The eleven-digit I.D. number functioning as a personal barcode in Turkey must be memorised for the daily set of exchanges in various institutions: schools, banks, hospitals, private companies, etc. It is considered an offence not to carry the card.


document; less than two months before the exhibition opening and more than eight months since requesting it.

Under the heading purpose of the examination, the psychiatrist states for the reason the specialist deems fit, asserting his dominance over Ataman and anyone else who may question the document’s purpose in the future. The psychiatrist appears as if he has no one to answer to, but the document still requires authentication by his colleagues with superior titles. Ataman is finally diagnosed with homosexuality and declared by the panel as unfit for the military service during the times of war and peace. This conclusion is reached by a set of findings that place Ataman further away from the heteronormative masculine realm. His speech, tone of voice, mannerisms, gestures and movements are marked as effeminate; the fundamental marker of gayness in contemporary Turkish culture as discussed in the previous chapter. The psychiatrist notes that Ataman’s forefront thoughts are his attraction to men and his disinterest in women, linking this current behaviour to playing girly games with girls since childhood and having sexual relationships exclusively with men since the age of seventeen. The report is finalised with a reference to another document dated June 2006: Ataman’s gay marriage certificate from overseas. This additional document further validates the health report’s documentary claim and thus finds Ataman’s declaration of I am gay as truthful.30

The psychiatric examination, the diagnosis and the conclusion of unfit for military service relies on the fact that the individual in question is indeed the individual whose photograph is attached at the top right corner of the document’s first page. The passport-sized photograph with the red 30

Please refer to the appendix for the translation of Ataman’s psychiatric examination.


background carries the psychiatrist’s signature in red ink as well as a faded red stamp where the initials T.C. can be seen.31 The same stamp is visible four more times throughout the document. The signature and the stamp validate that Ataman is indeed the signifier, signified by the attached photograph.

Despite the layers of authentication embedded within the health report, such document can still be untrustworthy. In September 2017, Sedat Peker, a convicted Turkish criminal leader, received substantial media attention when his alleged military health report was shared across social media. It became apparent that the document diagnosing Peker with homosexuality and drug addiction had been montaged from Ataman’s jarse piece.32 The montaged document under Peker’s name had the I.D. number blacked out and was affixed with Peker’s photograph. When the truthfulness of a document is questioned, the photograph, which is part of it, also comes under scrutiny.

Providing his marriage certificate augmented Ataman’s claim and hence military’s legitimisation of his deviant and dangerous nature. Unlike some of the applicants, Ataman didn’t need to provide photographs depicting him in the sexual act. As discussed in the previous chapter, these sorts of images have its own set of rules that have been formulated by a collective of past applicants who had various levels of success in obtaining exemption from their conscription. Roland Barthes asserts ‘every photograph is somehow conatural with its referent.’33 The photograph asserts the truth that the thing has been there and that ‘the photograph possesses an evidential force [where] 31

T.C. short for Türkiye Cumhuriyeti, meaning Turkish Republic.

No Author’s Name, ‘Sedat Peker Hakkında Yayınlanan Rapor Sahte Çıktı!’ Son Dakika Türk, 6 September 2017 <> [Accessed 10 April 2019]. 32


Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida (London: Vintage, 1981), p.76.


the power of authentication exceeds the power of representation.’34 However, if I were to provide a photograph of myself that appeared to be made during the sexual act with the intention of proving my penetrability, I would follow the conventions of what that sort of image should entail, as formulated by past applicants. The camera would authenticate that I have been there – naked and penetrated by another man, but as John Tagg argues ‘the existence of a photograph is no guarantee of a corresponding prephotographic existent.’35 Outside of this photograph, this penetrating lover who for all purposes could be a complete stranger, acting for the camera based on the guidelines I give him: not my real and truthful lover. After all:

Every photograph is the result of specific [and] significant distortions which render its relation to any prior reality deeply problematic and raise the question of the determining level of the material apparatus and of the social practices within which photography takes place. […] The indexical nature of photograph – the causative link between the prephotographic referent and the sign is therefore highly complex, irreversible, and can guarantee nothing at the level of meaning.36

Tagg claims the photograph only becomes meaningful in certain transactions. In this case, my created image would yield significance in front of the military panel who are looking to evidence my sexual misdemeanour and diagnose me with homosexuality. Outside of this institutionally created meaning, the image might be viewed solely as pornographic. The photograph here is ‘a material product of a material apparatus set to work in specific contexts, by 34

Ibid, pp.88-89.

John Tagg, The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 1989), p.2. 35


Ibid, pp.2-3.


specific forces, for [a] defined purpose.’37 Apart from my on-camera lover and myself, no one would have access to the pre-photographic reality. The panel with the psychiatrist – i.e. my intended audience – would have ‘no choice but to work with the reality [they] have: the reality of the paper print, the material item’ that I provide them as my evidence. 38

Tagg contends photography and evidence coupled in the second half of the nineteenth century with the emergence of new intuitions and practices of observation and record keeping, including the use of photography in criminology.39 As discussed in the previous chapter, homosexuality is not a criminal act in Turkey but it is considered to be a punishable immoral act under the Turkish Military Penal Code. My hypothetical constructed image thus turns into somewhat of a crime scene photograph where I am both the criminal and the detective.

Lela Graybill states, ‘understanding crime scene photography as a form of evidence places it in the realm of empirical science, with the photograph archiving and preserving proof of misdeeds and functioning as an aid to the detective’s forensic pursuit of truth.’40 She iterates that crime scene photography emerged at a time when ‘verbal testimony was increasingly aligned with the subjective and emotional, and material evidence with the


Ibid, p.3.


Ibid, p.4.


Ibid, p.5.

Lela, Graybill, ‘The Forensic Eye and the Public Mind: The Bertillon System of Crime Scene Photography’, Cultural History, 8:1 (2019), 94-119 (p.96). 40


objective and cerebral.’41 Using Alphonse Bertillon’s metric photography as her case study, Graybill asserts that these images are doubly indexical. The corpse in the image is already an index of what has transpired; a death that is possibly linked to a crime. Similarly, my constructed image of intimacy could be doubly indexical: I may bear marks from my lover on my skin, carry his bodily fluids on my flesh, and hold an expression of satisfaction as he penetrates me.

Bertillon foresaw that crime scene photographs were destined for the courtroom and for the eyes of the jury, not to be a ‘vehicle of objective proof but rather an emotional catalyst for conviction.’42 Until a few years ago, this was the case for gay men requesting exemption from the military service. In that situation, the detective (me) would have provided photographs of the criminal (also me), to the jury (the military personnel), to convict me (exempt me from the military service). 43 The image I provided them would have had a likeness to a crime scene, not to convict me of that particular crime (i.e. being penetrated by that man) but to assert that I am capable of such crimes in the future, specifically within the military during my conscription.

My utterance of being gay, my verbal testimony, could be seen as subjective and emotional by the institution, but only become objective and cerebral when I provide a doubly indexical image to demonstrate my penetrability. Although not every exemption applicant needs to provide such imagery, it

Ibid, p.97. The Bertillon metric photography is a standardized, mechanized set of rules and procedures that ensured the most objective view possible when photographing a crime scene. The essay uses specific examples of his images to highlight the technique and its cultural significance. 41


Ibid, p.96.

This practice of evidencing your sexuality is still being carried out today with the exception of using photography and/or video. The practice came to a halt as it gained an elevated awareness internationally thanks to news media. 43


does help in verifying their actual or perceived sexual orientation. Ataman used another form of document – his marriage certificate – to build a strong case against his masculinity and hence be exempt from conscription. This culturally significant practice, in the words of Tagg, ‘constitutes a site of struggle’ because it maintains ‘the relations of domination and subordination in which heterogeneous social identities are produced.’44 Following the formulated visual rules spread from mouth to ear and via unofficial online platforms, in the photograph I hypothetically construct I allow my body to be dominated by a man of my choosing, to subvert my perceived masculinity in front of a jury to evidence my dangerous and corrupt flesh that has a capacity of corrupting other bodies. For this reason, I am stopped from entering a formal relationship with the state and forfeit the role of an ideal Turkish man.


Tagg, p.30.





Just five months before the inauguration of the twelfth Istanbul Biennial where Kutluğ Ataman’s jarse was exhibited, the same space, Istanbul Modern, had held the first retrospective exhibition of Ataman in Turkey: The Enemy Inside Me. Consisting of installed moving images, the retrospective highlighted Ataman’s interest in identity politics and the representation of marginalised members of the society ‘while simultaneously creating a continuous, extended and ever-changing self-portrait.’ 45

His 2007 single screen video work, Turkish Delight, is the first performance piece featuring the artist himself. The viewer confronts a life-sized Ataman in the guise of a belly dancer in the complete darkness of the main space of the museum. The abyss-like arena of the gallery consumes the black surroundings of the dancer from the video to create the illusion of having Ataman in the same room as his viewers. Uncharacteristically as a belly dancer, the artist ignores the gaze of the viewers and instead dances in an arrhythmic, uncoordinated and clumsy manner. She shimmies, allowing the undulations of the gold fringes of her bikini-resembling two-piece outfit, but drags her foot around as if scared of falling over on her golden-high heels.46 She attempts creating figure of eight movements using her waist and hips and ignores her complete lack of grace and eroticism. She purses her red-painted lips and continues chewing a piece of gum. Uninterested in her beholder, she moves her arms up to caress her wavy black wig in an unengaged demeanour.

Duygu Demir, ‘Kutluğ Ataman: The Enemy inside Me’, Ibraaz, 1 June 2011, <>[Accessed 10 May 2019]. 45


I am using the pronoun she based on Ataman’s description of the work on his website.


Though not shown in the same exhibition, Ataman’s website archives an alternative footage. Double Roasted is a video work that is presented on a single small screen, allowing the audience to be drawn in a lot closer. The title is a literal reference to a type of Turkish delight that is smaller in size. The act of belly dancing is meant to attract and seduce, but in both pieces ‘the dancer […] conveys the opposite: her disinterest in the male beholder.’47 The purposeful isolation of the audience and hence their lack of importance is ironic since the belly dancer is dependent on their gaze to sustain herself. The description the artist gives to both works implicate the male gaze on a female body as performed by an openly gay man. In a cultural space where the male belly dancer also exists, does this constitute as a drag performance?

Figure 2 (left) Kutluğ Ataman, still from Turkish Delight, 2007.

Figure 3 (right), Kutluğ Ataman, still from Double Roasted, 2007. 47 ‘Artworks’ Kutluğ, Ataman, (No Publishing Date) <> [Accessed 1 May 2019].


Male belly dancers – zenne – (historically known as köçek) have long been part of the Turkish culture with fluctuating popularity. Joanna Mansbridge gives an account of meeting Diva, a zenne in an Istanbul tavern:

Diva is young, lithe and boyish. With hair immaculately sculpted, eyes thickly rimmed with black eyeliner, lips brightly coloured, and chest aglow with glitter and oil, he rouses the entire room, shimmying provocatively toward individual tables, where people clap to the rhythm of the music. […] Lips slightly parted and formed into a faint smile, he commands attention with his gaze, inviting the audience to look at him and appreciate his beauty.48

The zennes first emerged as entertainers for the Ottoman court and grace the murals of Topkapı Palace where they are depicted dancing for the Sultan in social ceremonies. With hair grown long and dressed in elaborate costumes, they drew the attention of European visitors and Ottoman poets. Whilst male and female belly dancers coexisted in the Ottoman society, the zenne gained increasing prominence between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, as women performing in public were deemed inappropriate. Much like the Janissaries as discussed in the first chapter, the zenne were recruited at a young age from non-Muslim ethnic minority families. From the age of fourteen they would start performing at the palace. Much like the shampoo boys from the same era, they also assumed the role of sexual servants. The Ottoman society perceived male sexuality in two distinct phases, dependent on biological age: until puberty boys would possess a sexuality that could be 48 Joanna, Mansbridge, ‘The Zenne: Male Belly Dancers and Queer Modernity in Contemporary Turkey’, Theatre Research International, 42:1 (2017), 20-36 (p.20).


used to attract older men to penetrate them but after the growth of a full beard, they were expected to be the desirer instead.49

In the beginning of the nineteenth century, there were over six hundred zennes in the taverns of Istanbul. Their popularity grew, turning these spaces to areas of violence between the men who courted them. In 1837, Sultan Mahmoud forbade their appearance due to the ensued quarrelling amongst the Janissaries – the members of the Sultan’s household troops. As the Ottoman Empire transformed into the modern Turkish republic, the draw of the zenne dissipated due to ‘the changes in societal structure and the containment of sexual desires that accompanied the process of modernisation.’50 The zenne were thus replaced by female belly dancers based on ‘the Western system of sexual classification [where] the displayed female body [is seen] as the emblem of modern attitudes towards sex and gender’.51

The costume worn by zenne usually consists of loose-fitting trousers (şalvar) and a chest piece adorned with sequins and gold coins: there is a resemblance to the female counterpart’s but unlike Ataman’s, it does not include high-heeled shoes or wigs. There are also marked differences in the way the dancers move: women tend to perform the same movements slower and prominently use their lower body and arms, whilst men perform faster


Delice, p.124.


Mansbridge, p.21.

Ibid, pp.22-23. For an account of how the Ottoman reforms had an impact on clothing and hence strengthening of the Western gender binary please refer to Spencer, Hawkins, ‘Queerly Turkish: Queer Masculinity and National Belonging in the Image of Zeki Müren’, Popular Music and Society, 41:2 (2016), 99-118. 51


with a focus on the shoulders and torso.52 Ataman attempts to sway his hips and raise his arms up with minimal recruitment of his shoulders and torso – both his movements and costume resemble that of a female belly dancer. Ataman is indeed belly dancing in drag rather than as a zenne, but could this be his way to highlight the gender binary forged by republican modernity and Westernisation in Turkey? Is Ataman performing for a Western gaze that is accustomed to an almost-naked woman dancing rather than a historical gaze that is acquainted with a man dancing in a similar manner?

Mainsbridge argues that ‘the zenne dancer is a queer ghost, returning to haunt (and seduce) the present.’53 She links the revival as part of global transformations in the visibility of LGBT identities and as the unexpected consequence of the romanticization and revival of Turkey’s Ottoman past by the ruling political party. Much like the shampoo boys, the zenne were linked to the disruption of the Janissaries, which partially led to the demise of the zenne. Although it appears far-fetched to imagine a male belly dancer in the contemporary military setting, such seductive and implicative performance of the zenne may threaten the gatekeepers of the hegemonic masculine society – the heteronormative military that’s is strengthened by their homosocial bonding practices. As outlined in the first chapter, the procedure of gaining an exemption from the military service offers several opportunities for the applicant to perform in such a dangerous manner: during the interview with a psychiatrist, during an extended military hospital stay, and during the final discussion with the committee regarding the outcome of their application.54 52 53

Ibid, pp.25-26. Ibid, p.21.

The procedure of the application can bear a resemblance to a prison as candidates may be placed in a psychiatric ward to be monitored for several days. The questions asked among the observers are: would he provoke other men and is his homosexuality noticeable enough. For more details and first 54


Whilst one cannot equate the zenne solely as a queer identity, their movements, mannerisms and costumes fall within the military’s and contemporary Turkey’s classification of homosexuality.

As discussed in the previous chapter, the act of evidencing one’s sexual orientation for the military resides closely with the camera capturing a predefined image that is constructed in a performative way. Ontologically speaking, however, the military zone becomes the site of performance or a stage for the performing applicant. This performance, much like the photographic evidence, relies on a collective of past applicants who, through various channels of communication, have shared accounts of their performances and their outcomes.

Peggy Phelan asserts ‘in performance, the body is metonymic of self, of character, of voice, of “presence”. But in the plenitude of its apparent visibility and availability, the performer actually disappears and represents something else – dance, movement, sound, character, “art.”’55 The applicant or the performer can rehearse the content of their speech, tone of voice, mannerisms, gestures and movements only to disappear and become a character that his audience – the military personnel – will be expecting to experience: the culturally predefined homosexual man. Since ‘performance uses the body which cannot appear without a supplement’, the performer may try to make the character more visible by wearing brightly-coloured revealing clothing to highlight their desire for attention and their potential to cause disruption within the institution.56 They may also shave their beard and

person accounts please refer to: Oyman Başaran, ‘”You Are Like a Virus”: Dangerous Bodies and Military Medical Authority in Turkey’, Gender & Society, 28:4 (2014): 562-582. 55 Peggy Phelan, Unmarked: The Politics of Performance (London; New York: Routledge, 1993), p.150. 56

Ibid, pp.150-151.


body hair to mirror a pre-pubescent boy – the Ottoman expression of youthful male sexuality.57

According to Phelan, ‘performance’s only life is in the present. Performance cannot be saved, recorded, documented, or, otherwise participate in the circulations of representations: once it does so, it becomes something other than performance.’58 The applicant has a chance to give a convincing performance for his audience to reach a decision at that time; that he is indeed homosexual. This act is not recorded other than in the document that is produced at the end; not a full account of the event but the decision based on it. Will he be exempt from the compulsory military service? A possible outcome is the suspension for one year, giving more rehearsal time for the performer to portray a penetrable gay man more convincingly. The ‘performance occurs over a time which will not be repeated. It can be performed again but this repetition itself marks it as “different.”’59 It might be this difference in the new performance that may finally give him his exemption. Since ‘representation is almost always on the side of the one who looks and almost never on the side of the one who is seen’ the military as an audience, has power over the applicant as a performer.60

Unlike Ataman in both Turkish Delight and Double Roasted, the applicant as a performer is highly engaged with and dependent upon the gaze of his beholder. His interest in the audience however is not for sustenance, but to The applicant I’ve met a few years ago at the beach, as mentioned in the first chapter, gave an account of cleanly shaving his face, his armpits and legs each time he had to visit the military during his one year long procedure of gaining an exemption. He also stated that he purposefully bought clothing that he felt the military would perceive as gay: revealing tank tops with pink floral prints. 57


Phelan, p.146.


Ibid, p.146.


Ibid, pp.25-26.


label him the enemy inside, a potential threat if he is to serve his conscription. Following a repeated series of seductive and highly gendered performances, the applicant awaits the legitimisation of his apparent sexual identity. The label of unfit for military service has the capacity to make the performer disappear from the gates of the hegemonic masculine realm: a space intertwined with nationalism and military prowess. The record of his performances – the documents documenting his unfit and inferior nature – takes its place in the military’s archive for future reference, if a need to refer to them arises. In the years to come, despite the performer’s advancing age, his masculine development is suspended and thus he retains the status of a penetrable beardless boy.





It appears that Kutluğ Ataman has a complicated relationship with his place of birth, Turkey. At only seventeen years old he was taken to the police station from his home in Istanbul and was tortured. Following the 1980 coup, public expressions of dissent towards the official ideology were prohibited and thus all of Ataman’s work from the previous year was confiscated when he was sent to the military hospital to retrain to become a Turkish nationalist. He claims, ‘my collection probably still exists in some dark corner in a storage room in a military facility, where they bring those kinds of things.’61 Ataman’s family bribed the state officials to allow him to leave the country after his imprisonment and he then relocated to Los Angeles where he lived for many years before returning back. He recounts, ‘I was really critical of the state ideology [but] I felt that freedom to express myself.’62

Ataman claims that he creates his most controversial work during the Biennial despite possible ramifications, but ‘if they [want] to do something they [are] not going to do it in front of the Europeans and foreigners.’63 His piece jarse, from the 2011 Istanbul Biennial, is a good example of this. Military exemption reports like jarse, along with supporting evidence of an applicant’s deviant sexuality, are held within an archive. In his research, Başaran was surprised when ‘one of the psychologists even emphasized that the psychological tests are done only so that they appear in the applicant’s file.’64 It is rumoured that Kutluğ, Ataman, ‘Political Framing: Interview with Radical Turkish Artist Kutluğ Ataman’, (interviewed by Kaya Genc for Index on Censorship), 43:3 (2014), 124-127 (p.124). 61


Ibid, p.125.


Ibid, p.126.


Başaran, pp.572-573.


this archive is also the world’s biggest collection of amateur gay porn.65 The materials holding data on the applicants take their place in an invisible archive, far away from the public gaze, thus taking on an almost mythical status.

Simply put, an archive is ‘a place where documents and other materials of public or historical interest are preserved.’66 However, as Jacques Derrida claims, ‘nothing is less clear today than the word archive.’67 What is considered to be a document and whether or not it is of interest can vary immensely between disciplines and perspectives. Michel Foucault gives a more encompassing definition:

The archive is first the law of what can be said, the system that governs the appearance of statements as unique events. But the archive is also that which determines that all these things said do not accumulate endlessly in an amorphous mass, nor are they inscribed in an unbroken linearity, nor do they disappear at the mercy of chance external accidents; but they are grouped together in distinct figures, composed together in accordance with multiple relations, maintained or blurred in accordance with specific regularities.68

This promiscuous statement appears in countless newspaper articles, journals and books, taking its place between a rumour and an anecdote. 65

Marlene, Manoff, ‘Theories of the Archive from Across the Disciplines’, portal:Libraries and the Academy’, 4:1 (2004), 9-25 (p.10). 66

Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression. (Chicago/ London: University of Chicago Press, 1996), p.4. 67

68 Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge and the Discourse on Language (New York: Pantheon Books, 1972), p.129.


It is vital to understand that archives are not neutral or innocent repositories of knowledge. The practice of archiving has a long history but the institutionalised archive has its foundations in the nineteenth century. As an example, the birth of the modern state-nation during the French Revolution coincides with the formation of the French national archives.69 These archives influence national identity by playing a role in the formation of national histories. Berger argues ‘the archive promise[s] the nation the truth about origins and provenance because it promised the confirmation of difference to and often superiority over neighbours.’70 The contents of the archives is thus biased; the objects contained within it are already a selection that has been preserved for a specific purpose: ‘These objects cannot provide direct and unmediated access to the past’.71

Although Berger considers historic superiority in reference to neighbouring countries, the Turkish military creates a division between a heteronormative male and a verified homosexual man in the contemporary setting. This division is maintained by the archive that serves to support the military’s outlook: homosexual men are unfit to serve and hence inferior. The archive says who among the applicants are in fact homosexual, by providing visuals of unique events – the photographed moment of intimacy between the applicant and another man – as a statement of the truth. Okwui Enwezor states, ‘the camera is literally an archiving machine, every photograph […] is an archival object’.72 The truthfulness of this object however is an area of

Stefan, Berger, ‘The Role of National Archives in Constructing National Master Narratives in Europe’, Archival Science, 13:1 (2013), 1-22 (p.2). 69


Ibid, p.19.


Manoff, p.14.

72 Okwui Enwezor, Archive Fever: Uses of the Document in Contemporary Art. (New York/Gottingen: International Centre of Photography/Steidl, 2008), p.12.


contention as photographs ‘are made for a reason for a specific audience, to embody specific messages and moral values.’73 The applicant created the photograph in a performative manner to mirror the military’s idea of the homosexual man.

Both the military and the applicant thus collaboratively contribute to the archive’s content but it is only the former who has access to it. As Derrida notes, ‘there is no political power without the control of the archive […]. Effective democratization can always be measured by this essential criterion: the participation in and access to the archive, its constitution, and its interpretation’.74 Despite being the co-creator of the contents, the applicant is powerless against the military: the photographs and the documentation only function to ‘dissociate them, […] insist on and illuminate their difference, their archival apartness from normal society.’75

Enwezor likens the archive to an anthropological space where the photograph within it can act as ‘the sovereign analogue of identity, memory, and history, joining past and present, virtual and real, thus giving the photographic document the aura of anthropological artefact and the authority of a social instrument’.76 Provided that there is an equal access to it, the military’s archive has the potential to be the physical space – the monument – to acknowledge, understand, relate to, question and critique the performed queer masculinities that are based on a complex amalgamation of the past Ottoman Elizabeth Edwards and Janice Hart, Photographs Objects Histories: On the Materiality of Images (New York/London: Routledge, 2004), p.10. 73


Derrida, p.4.


Enwezor, p.13.


Ibid, p.13.


practices with the republican nationalistic ideations: the institutionalised homosexual man.

Another example of an invisible institutional archive is in Poland; colloquially known as the Pink Archive. Its construction commenced by the police forces of the People’s Republic of Poland in cooperation with the Secret Service in 1985 as part of the two-year Operation Hyacinth. The purpose was to ‘create within Polish society, the illusion that the government is fighting against allegedly socially harmful individuals, prostitution and the spreading of AIDS epidemic’.77 The Citizen’s Militia raided private households, schools, universities and work places: men suspected of being homosexual were detained, interrogated and registered. It is estimated that more than eleven thousand files gathered by the police forces remain uncatalogued and scattered among various institutions.

The work of Ryszard Kisiel, the gay activist detained by the police and catalogued in the Pink Archive, is explored in the Warsaw-based artist Karol Radziszewski’s long-term project Kisieland. The police targeted Kisiel for creating and disseminating the first gay zine of Eastern Europe – Filo. The zine intended only for a small audience – Kisiel’s friends – consisted of news on culture, politics and lifestyle, explicit homoerotic content and advise on safer sex and HIV prevention.78 The on-going project Kisieland features a short film from 2012, where Radziszewski visits Kisiel’s home, which serves the function of a private queer archive, holding countless materials in the form of Aleksandra Gajowy, ‘Performativity of the Private: The Ambuguity of Reenactment in Karol Radziszewski’s Kisieland’, Art Margins Online, 26 January 2018. <>[Accessed 1 June 2019]. 77

Kisiel, working as a commercial printmaker, knew that it was legal to print any publication regardless of its content, if printed up to one hundred copies only. Yet the content of this zine ultimately lead to Kisiel’s interrogation and hence registration as a homosexual man in the government’s archives. At the time, official sources in Poland barely acknowledged the spread of the epidemic. 78


staged erotic photographs, newspapers, magazines, fliers and books, alongside with back issues of Filo. The film invites its viewers, not physically but visually, to an alternative archive that chronicles the lives of individuals that were targeted by Operation Hyacinth. This archive is created by a member of the same community that it represents – Kisiel – and its access is granted to a new audience by an artist – Radziszewski – who takes on the role of the researcher, interpreter, curator and ultimately the conservationist.

Figure 4, Karol Radziszewski, film still from Kisieland, 2012.

What untapped potential can the military’s invisible archive hold? Enwezor argues artists can interrogate the claims of the archive by ‘reading it against the grain’ to appropriate, interpret, reconfigure and interrogate both the content and the structure of an archive.79 In the absence of access to the institutional archives, Radziszewski allowed a new audience to enter Kisiel’s home, which functions as a counter-archive. With jarse, Ataman has shared a document from an invisible archive – a space that may also hold his 79

Ibid, p.11,18.


confiscated work from when he was seventeen – with an international audience, to commence a dialogue about the abysmal practices of the military that places homosexual men as unfit and hence inferior. Though even today the applicant needs to evidence his homosexuality through different gendered performances, in the last few years, sexually explicit imagery has no longer been requested. The abysmal archive will continue to expand but without the constructed visual content being part of this growth. Scholars and practitioners from different archival disciplines, including artists like Ataman and Radziszewski, can tap into this system and announce new statements or truths based on the unique events performed and experienced by the subject of the abysmal archive: the homosexual and homosexual men.




Regardless of living the majority of my life in the UK as a dual citizen, the Turkish government considers me to be solely Turkish within its institutions when I go back home. After years of postponing my conscription, eventually, as a man over the age of twenty years, I too had to enter into a formal relationship with the state to become its independent and sovereign subject. Through this rite of passage, the gates of the masculine realm would have opened up and I too could have said ‘I have served my conscription.’ I consciously object to military violence but I couldn’t avoid my conscription without the risk of being imprisoned; I could not evade. This left me with only two choices: to pay a large sum of money due to a new law transiently in place, or to declare and evidence my sexuality, marked by the military as a psychosexual disorder.

Despite the current revival and romanticising of the Ottoman past by the ruling political party, the sexualities residing outside of the heteronormative matrix deeply embedded in the imperial culture are conveniently withheld. The shampoo boys, the zennes and the çivelek bedfellows remain as ghosts expressing a historical type of sexuality that is only reserved for the penetrated youthful and the beardless boys: transient identities that are displaced over time and dependent on an older man’s protection against other men. The military’s contemporary conception of a homosexual man resides very closely to this historical sexuality: a sexuality that needs to be outgrown. Remaining penetrable deems the individual dangerous; as he possesses the means to provoke, seduce and hence disrupt the dynamics inherent in the male homosocial bonding that help to sustain the military order.


As discussed throughout this text, exemption requires the applicant to mark himself and declare his sexuality to the institution that is inherently suspicious of anyone trying to evade. Fearful of losing its manpower, the military deploys a set of investigations to ascertain the applicant’s true sexuality and prevent the exemption of any imposters. The applicant is examined and the documented results are stored in an inaccessible archive for future verification in case such need arises: a practice that is abysmal since it creates a tangible division between different sexualities. To bolster his claim, the applicant becomes both the criminal and the detective to construct his own crime scene photograph. This doubly indexical image incriminates him in front of the military acting both as the judge and the jury: not specifically for that crime but for future unnatural behaviours if he were to serve. The applicant is doubly penetrated: in the photograph as the documented evidence and by the medical staff ascertaining his penetrability. Furthermore, the applicant must convincingly play the part of an effeminate man whilst the military adjusts its gaze to surveil the seductive and disruptive behaviours displayed during these performances performed within the institution. Much like the shampoo boy and the zenne, he too may be banished from the hegemonic masculine realm before entering it, and sentenced to lead a stigmatised existence within another domain: the abyss – a dark chasm resembling the closet but with a full exposure of one’s sexuality.

As Phelan asserts, ‘the binary between the power of visibility and the impotency of invisibility is falsifying. There is power in remaining unmarked.’80 Increased visibility as a gay man - in front of the military personnel and within the abysmal archive - does not equate to increased power. These excessive 80

Phelan, p.6.


representations, in the form of the performative image and performed acts, perpetuate an identity that is (re)constructed by the institution’s desire to preserve its power. Is there a way away from representing queerness in the manner that the institution has deemed inferior?

Despite the ‘impotency of the inward gaze’ and the fact that ‘seeing the hollow blindness of our own eyes […] risks both self absorption (one sees nothing other than the self) and self-annihilation (one sees only the nothing of the self)’, throughout his career Kutluğ Ataman has produced work that made him the subject of his own gaze and practice, representing himself as a marginalised member of his society.81 In agreement with Phelan, ‘self identity needs to be continually reproduced and reassured precisely because it fails to secure belief.’82 Ataman, to sustain himself and his identity, does not rely on the gaze of his beholder; he rejects the surveying eye functioning to preserve a hierarchical system. Sentenced away from the masculine realm and banished into the abyss, he continues to share stories and experiences: both his and of others. It is imperative to acknowledge that ‘talking is the only meaningful activity we have. Once we are no longer willing or allowed to tell our stories, we collapse into conformity.’83 Whether it is our own uttered words or the unique statements preserved by an archive, we must speak up.

The other day I got a haircut and my obtrusive barber asked me,

-Why don’t you have a girlfriend? 81

Ibid, pp.6,26.


Ibid, p.4.

83 Kutluğ, Ataman, ‘What the Structure Defines: An Interview with Kutluğ Ataman’, (interviewed by Ana Finel Honigman for Art Journal), 63:1 (2004), 78-86 (p.82).


I then came out of the closet and declared,

- I am gay.




Printed Material Altınay, Ayşe, The Myth of the Military Nation: Militarism, Gender, and Education in Turkey (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2004). Başaran, Oyman, ‘”You Are Like a Virus”: Dangerous Bodies and Military Medical Authority in Turkey’, Gender & Society, 28:4 (2014), 562-582. Barthes, Roland, Camera Lucida (London:Vintage, 1981). Berger, Stefan, ‘The Role of National Archives in Constructing National Master Narratives in Europe’, Archival Science, 13:1 (2013), 1-22. Cabeza, Romulo, ‘In Turkey the Obstacles are Bureaucratic’, Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, 17:5 (2010), 44-45. Delice, Serkan, ‘The Janissaries and Their Bedfellows: Masculinity and Male Friendship in Eighteenth-Century Ottoman Istanbul’, in Gender and Sexuality in Muslim Cultures, ed. by Gül Özyeğin (Farnham: Ashgate, 2015), pp. 115136. Derrida, Jacques, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression. (Chicago/ London: University of Chicago Press, 1996). Edwards, Elizabeth, and Janice Hart, Photographs Objects Histories: On the Materiality of Images (New York/London: Routledge, 2004), Enwezor, Okwui, Archive Fever: Uses of the Document in Contemporary Art. (New York/Gottingen: International Centre of Photography/Steidl, 2008). Foucault, Michel, The Archaeology of Knowledge and the Discourse on Language (New York: Pantheon Books, 1972). Genç, Kaya, ‘Political Framing: Interview with Radical Turkish Artist Kutluğ Ataman’, Index on Censorship, 43:3 (2014), 124-127. Graybill, Lela, ‘The Forensic Eye and the Public Mind: The Bertillon System of Crime Scene Photography’, Cultural History, 8:1 (2019), 94-119.


Honigman, Ana F., ‘What the Structure Defines: An Interview with Kutluğ Ataman’, Art Journal, 63:1 (2004), 78-86 Hawkins, Spencer, ‘Queerly Turkish: Queer Masculinity and National Belonging in the Image of Zeki Müren’, Popular Music and Society, 41:2 (2016), 99-118 Manoff, Marlene, ‘Theories of the Archive from Across the Disciplines’, portal: Libraries and the Academy’, 4:1 (2004), 9-25 Mansbridge, Joanna, ‘The Zenne: Male Belly Dancers and Queer Modernity in Contemporary Turkey’, Theatre Research International, 42:1 (2017), 20-36 Munoz, Jose E., ‘Ephemera as Evidence: Introductory Notes to Queer Acts’, Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory, 8:2 (1996), 5-16 Phelan, Peggy, Unmarked: The Politics of Performance (London; New York: Routledge, 1993) Sehlikoğlu, Sertaç, ‘The Daring Mahrem: Changing Dynamics of Public Sexuality in Turkey’, in Gender and Sexuality in Muslim Cultures, ed. by Gül Özyeğin (Farnham: Ashgate, 2015) pp. 235-252 Semerdijan, Elyse, ‘Sexing the Hammam: Gender Crossings in the Ottoman Bathhouse’, in Gender and Sexuality in Muslim Cultures, ed .by Gül Özyeğin (Farnham: Ashgate, 2015), pp. 253-271 Tagg, John, The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 1989) Zapperi, Giovanna, ‘Woman’s Reappearance: Rethinking the Archive in Contemporary Art – Feminist Perspectives’ feminist review, 105 (2013), 21-47 Zengin, Aslı, ‘ Violent Intimacies: Tactile State Power, Sex/Gender Transgression, and the Politics of Touch in Contemporary Turkey’, Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, 12:2 (2016), 225-245


Online Sources Ataman, Kutluğ, ‘Artworks’ (No Publishing Date) <> [Accessed 13 March 2019] Ataman, Kutluğ, ‘Artworks’ (No Publishing Date) <> [Accessed 1 May 2019] Azizlerli, Emre, ‘Proving You Are Gay to the Turkish Army’, BBC News, 26 March 2012. <> [Accessed 1 December 2018] Bittencourt, Ela, ‘Queering the Archive: When a Personal Act of Collecting Turns Political’, Art Practical, 6 February 2014. <> [Accessed 1 June 2019] Demir, Duygu, ‘Kutluğ Ataman: The Enemy inside Me’, Ibraaz, 1 June 2011. <> [Accessed 10 May 2019] Gajowy, Aleksandra, ‘Performativity of the Private: The Ambiguity of Reenactment in Karol Radziszewski’s Kisieland’, Art Margins Online, 26 January 2018. <> [Accessed 1 June 2019] Gamm, Niki, ‘The Complete Janissary’ Hürriyet Daily News, 1 December 2012. <> [Accessed 27 March 2019] Gürcan, Metin, ‘Gays Seeking Military Exemption in Turkey No Longer Need to Provide Sexual Proof of Their Homosexuality’, Al-Monitor, 17 November 2015. <> [Accessed 1 Dec. 2018] Hoffmann, Jens and Adriano Pedrosa, ‘12th Istanbul Biennial’ (17 September 2011) <> [15 May 2019].


Kazi, Tehmina, ‘The Ottoman Empire’s Secular History Undermines Sharia Claims’, The Guardian, 7 October 2011. <> [Accessed 25 March 2019] No Author’s Name, ‘Sedat Peker Hakkında Yayınlanan Rapor Sahte Çıktı!’ Son Dakika Türk, 6 September 2017. <> [Accessed 10 April 2019]

Films Double Roasted, directed by Kutluğ Ataman (2007) Kisieland, directed by Karol Radziszewski (2012) Turkish Delight, directed by Kutluğ Ataman (2007)




Translation of Kutluğ Ataman’s psychiatric examination from jarse