28 Eylül 2010 Salı

DIVEÇITY / Grand Opening

video, installations, photography

Can Altay, Didem Özbek, Osman Bozkurt, Ergin Çavuşoğlu, Orhan Esen, Deniz Gül, Emre Hüner, Ceren Oykut, Bas Princen, Tayfun Serttaş, Ali Taptık, Solmaz Shahbazi

Exhibition opening:
17.09.2010, 6 pm
On view through 07.11.2010
Curators: Kaja Pawełek, Serra Özhan
Exhibition Design: Jakub Szczęsny / Centrala Designer's Task Force
Gallery 1

23 Eylül 2010 Perşembe


Interview with Tayfun Serttaş

Serra Özhan:
In parallel to the collage of photo-romance visual materials shot in the 1970's by Osep Minasoğlu, three more of your works will be exhibited in Diverçity. Among these works, video-films shot in two distinct periods will allow us—through the stories of Deniz Anne now in her seventies and of Osep Minasoğlu now in his eighties—to witness different narratives concerning the recent history of Istanbul. We see how these two characters, on whom you have focused, present themselves by means of completely new narratives, by telling us of shared times, of Istanbul the shared city, of the parallel processes they have gone through and of the secret experiences in their lives. Could you first of all tell us in which context are your creations in this exhibition set and what kind of communication you have established among these three works?

Tayfun Serttaş:
Even though my work about Osep Minasoğlu and Deniz Anne might at first sight seem to be far apart, we can for many reasons place the heroes of these two videos side by side within different layers of a shared history. They have innumerable experiences that are in contrast and parallel to each other. In his video, Osep Minasoğlu, who is among the most senior of the elders of photography in Istanbul, is actually analysing not just Istanbul, but the last 85 years of Turkey. Naturally enough, he does this from the perspective of an urban and modern artist and member of a minority, which is his own position. As for the Deniz Anne video, it is about the oldest living transsexual in Istanbul. She ran away from home when still a child, and left the provinces to come to Istanbul. While living under the difficult conditions of sex labour, she underwent operation in 1972. She was the third person in Turkey to be subjected to this kind of surgery. The first two are not alive anymore. For the first 15–20 years nobody understood that she was a transsexual, and in public she was treated as a woman. It was much later that the concept of transsexual and discriminatory practices took hold in Turkey. It was a very unique experience from the point of view of the city’s sexual history. In a way it is as if we were embarking with Deniz Anne on a trip through the archaeology of sexuality, observing things of which she is the only surviving witness.

In Istanbul, which is a port city, brothels have been very important commercial institutions all through history. During Ottoman times a well organised sector was established, employing prostitutes from all over the world. These brothels survived as one of the most dynamic elements of Istanbul’s economy until the very recent Republican past. For example, for a long time, the person paying the most taxes in Turkey was Matild Manukyan, a brothel owner. During the last 40 years, in parallel to the increase in new commercial opportunities, prostitution lost its importance. Neighbourhoods shrunk, brothels closed and this commercial tradition began to be perceived as an extension of a primitive culture from the past. With the development of technological means, services related to prostitution have been completely severed from the traditional “house” or brothel form. Nowadays, many women can practice this profession without even leaving their own homes, by means of internet and phone. Most of the younger generation have lovers and new social opportunities. Naturally enough, the traditional brothel form isn’t nearly as popular as it was in the past. But what is left over from the long history of such sex work? What have we to document it? Why has traditional history failed to address such an important element of the history of the city? When concentrating on all of this, we have to somehow fall back on personal testimony, because history survives in minds in an oral form... Many things we listen to as if they were legend, are actually true facts and data concerning a not too distant past of 50 years ago.

I have tried to find traces of Istanbul’s background silhouette, through the Osep Minasoğlu and Deniz Anne characters. This is due to the fact that there is a great complementarity between the narratives of these individuals, who have been excluded from the dominant classes, because of old age and other reasons. Another basic similarity is an extreme loss of memory. This situation adds a psychoanalytic aspect to the videos and serves to show how impossible it truly is to reach that subjective area called memory. It is possible to speak of a loss of memory within the context of Istanbul’s history which is similar to that in the case of these individuals. As I see it, in a way, minor heroes hidden in the city and in its social layers give birth to each other from the inside. There is some kind of a contract between them and Istanbul. For both of them, an alternative life outside Istanbul is impossible. In both videos I am actually trying to reach the background of this great contract, via present day conditions.

When you say, “an alternative life outside Istanbul is impossible,” to what are you referring exactly? What kind of different life does Istanbul provide to its components in comparison to other cities?

TS: Istanbul is perceived by many as a separate state independent from Turkey. This is the place where modernism began, and all through history its development happened through a perspective that is quite different from the country in which it is located. The first thing that the new administration did once the Republic was established was to transfer the capital of the new and modern nation-state from Istanbul to Ankara. Virtually no public works were carried out in Istanbul during the first 40 years of the Republic. It was as if a programme specifically designed to forget this city was being implemented. Obviously, it was difficult to establish the structure of a nation-state in an extremely complex city, one third of the population of which in those days was Christian. On the other hand, this city has an Ottoman and Byzantine tradition. Since the modern Republic did not care much for either of those two systems, it did not want itself to be perceived as a continuation of them. In this way, Istanbul lost its 2,000 year long capitalhood, and was abandoned to its own destiny. The sociological aspect of the process on the other hand, did not at all evolve in this way. For example, while the headquarters of all official institutions moved to Ankara, minority institutions obstinately stayed in Istanbul. Many other institutions and bodies were similarly adamant in preferring Istanbul. The result of this was that Ankara became the political centre, and Istanbul the cultural centre. It was only this city that escaped the effects of the homogenising policies implemented in Turkey. And this, thanks to a tradition of multiculturalism that was really thousands of years old. When multiculturalism came back into fashion, Istanbul once more became a prized city. Thanks to these circumstances, this city acts as a kind of magnet attracting and bringing together countless different identities that do not have the opportunity to live freely in other parts of Turkey, because a multi-cultural model in the true sense of the word exists only here. It can be said that Istanbul by itself represents something that is much more than Turkey.

SÖ: In your projects we observe a city undergoing a transformation that accelerates at various stages of the flow of history. You certainly use the method of referring to the “previous” experience while analysing present day experiences. How do you make your selection among the various historical layers, as you are working on the interminable transformation of the city?

TS: Even though transformation, gentrification and urban transformation are all “contemporary” concepts that we are used to perceiving from a present day perspective, we notice how, for example, in the case of Istanbul, all of these problems have existed for centuries, albeit by different names. At what points does the city, while referring to its own history, contradict its present day circumstances? The important thing here is to correctly analyse the potential process and to rethink the available data. Cities have to transform themselves for their very survival. I think that taking a position opposite transformation is a unilateral attitude and does not serve any purpose. What I try to do while following the process, is not just to face it, but to open new trajectories proceeding in parallel to the process. In this way, the discourse can be expanded, and while on the one hand efforts can be made to understand the city, on the other the direction of the transformation can be estimated and areas of intervention worked upon. I prefer to do this for areas that are known as much as possible, and to act from the inside using the area’s own elements. I consider the city I live in to be a construction site from the sociological point of view. Not just cities, but societies and even individuals are constantly reproduced as well. In such circumstances, I exercise great care in making sure that no data should be excluded, because it is extremely probable for the system to exclude somehow that data which does not mesh with its own paradigms.

SÖ: This kind of a definition of transformation refers to a concatenation of historic events through the centuries. Within the context of Istanbul, how long do you think the city has been undergoing a transformation?

Using a romantic memory, it is possible to extend this phenomenon to as far back as Byzantine times. However, as I see it, the last 200 years after the introduction of modernism are the breaking point of many problems that we are debating. In Istanbul, and in particular during the last hundred years, there have been great social transformations on average about every ten years. Even though we might have difficulty in understanding the phenomenon of urban transformation within their own contexts, events like the First Decree of Tanzimat Reforms, the introduction of a special Tax on Wealth, the Pogrom of 6th - 7th September, the 1964 Annulment of the Residence Treaty, the demolitions to enlarge Tarlabaşı Avenue, the forced evacuation of Kurdish villages, and the Ülker Street Events, all consisted of a reconstruction of the city from a socio-cultural perspective. For example, in the case of the Tarlabaşı Project, which at first had been described as being a way to ease vehicle traffic, an eight-lane highway was built in the historic neighbourhoods of the city. As time went by, we noticed how this road had begun to serve the function of a border separating the neighbourhood through which it passed, into two separate areas from a social class point of view: poor and rich, provincial and urban, safe and dangerous. At this point, the road stops being a mere road, and turns into a strip used to solve the question of security, which is becoming more and more a problem for city centres. In a way, it is through a rather chaotic historical route that we reach present day gentrification policies. However, in the case of Istanbul, this looks more than anything like an ‘irony of gentrification’… And it is from within this irony that I select my events.

SÖ: In a way, the neighbourhood of Tarlabaşı, which is frequently referred to in third page news pieces as the Harlem of Istanbul, looks as if it is resisting the existing utopia, right there in the heart of Istanbul. This is an area of decay resulting from the exclusionary policies of the state. How should we interpret this area and its social organisation?

In the case of Tarlabaşı it is difficult to speak of a neighbourhood organisation or a single social model. It is for this reason that making generalisations would make it more difficult to understand this kind of a neighbourhood. This is a place that lost its original social structure around 70 years ago. Nowadays, it is considered a transition point by all its inhabitants. It is a location where nobody can be considered a true local, a location which is used with the intention of abandoning it after a while, which is rarely claimed and embraced by its inhabitants as their own, and which is even considered something to be ashamed of. You can observe this also in the physical state of the neighbourhood. Each group of newcomers has tried to turn the neighbourhood into something similar to themselves, but without succeeding. This has meant a little more damage at every instance. In conclusion, we can state that all this is the result of the socio-strategic mistakes of the state. A ghost neighbourhood that has certainly not been well administered; a neighbourhood the dynamics of which have been destroyed by the state itself, and which has then been ignored. I think that Tarlabaşı is one of the most striking places where you can observe at a micro level the social chaos of the last fifty years.

The first transformation began in the 1940’s. At first, during the days when the minorities had to leave, nobody showed interest in the area, since it was considered to be a “neighbourhood of infidels”. Beginning from those days, Romanies started to concentrate in the area, then the Avenue was enlarged, and finally after the 1980’s, the real wave of immigration arrived. Kurdish families that had been evacuated from there villages settled here. It was in those years that there were intense turf battles between Romanies and Kurds. In those same years it became also a choice location for sex work. Drug dealing concentrated in this area as well. In the 1990’s, the number of African migrants and, following the Ülker Street events, the number of transsexuals too increased in Tarlabaşı. Nowadays, it is these groups that influence the general dynamics of the area. The great majority of local inhabitants has been there for less than 5 years, because everybody’s aim is to save money and to get out of the area as soon as possible. If we have to state a general social reality concerning present day Tarlabaşı, we can mention the struggle for power between the groups I have been mentioning. All of these communities are in conflict also within themselves, because they symbolise risks to each other as well. In light of these characteristics, we can see that Tarlabaşı is different from Harlem. It is not a homogeneous ghetto, where a single group lives. It is a heterogeneous point of resistance, where different groups at the bottom of the social pyramid have to struggle among themselves to survive. In such an environment, as I embark on a study based on the minor narratives of different individual memories, I actually complete the analyses I consider to be lacking, thanks to the words of people who have not been considered worthy of being remembered within the history of the city.

SÖ: In this way, while on the one hand you adopt a comparative method of analysis, on the other you also initiate a debate of the analysis itself. Wishing for more details, how can we follow the deformation wrought on cultural life by this transformation, which we try to understand as an economic and political phenomenon more than anything else?

TS: Since a similar trauma related to modernity was undergone also in Poland, it will be appropriate to mention for example the “Programme to Nationalise the Economy” carried out in Turkey. When the modern nation-state was founded, the economic privileges of non-Muslims, who for 600 years had been the mainstay of the economy from a commercial point of view, were taken away from them. This programme was very useful for the establishment of a structure having a single nation as its axis. However, what happened when this policy was carried out was that a cultural memory that had been created in parallel to commerce was also erased. In the simplest terms: by following this policy you confiscate that merchant’s boutique window exhibit, the model of the hat produced in that boutique, the light added to the street by that shop window... You confiscate the relief ornament of the Armenian architect, the cloth of the Jewish tailor, the hors d’oeuvre prepared by the Greek tavern keeper. At first you do this because the existing structure is not quite like yourself. But when you turn back and look, you notice that what you have actually lost is “yourself”, because the newly introduced system is not at all like you. Not the least bit of the “collective” aspect of the mechanism that we call collective memory has survived, and you have surrendered to the will of a single dominant memory. And it is there that the danger begins.

You transform the necessary elements of each period and reorganise them according to your own needs. Within this process, it so happens that different strategies might be followed even in contiguous neighbourhoods, because each street has its own physical characteristics and different social position. For example, the transformation programme followed in a Gypsy neighbourhood and the methods used in streets where there are brothels are not the same. Sometimes, the aim of the transformation is to destroy all traces of the previous experience, and in this case, when you turn back and look, what you see is a great big nothing! It becomes obvious then that this is not a multi-cultural utopia. The way we brushed away our own cultural history while trying to Turkify the nation’s economy, is one of the most tragic examples of this. This is a practice of loss concerning not just the past, but also the present day. I can say that with this approach, I handle the subjects of interest to me within the context of the experiences to which they have been subjected during the process. The selection is self-obvious in this case. Attempts to create new circles of power are constantly being made. Who are the people left outside this circle, and why were they left outside? This is where my question begins. Using gossip press terminology, I can say that I am interested in “outsiders”. Of course, who, in what century, and in contrast to whom, is going to be considered an “outsider” is obviously a question that will remain highly complex.

For example, in Warsaw there is a Jewish Quarter that inevitably attracts everybody’s attention. It is one of those areas recommended as a must-see to all city visitors. However, not only is it impossible to understand the former culture of the neighbourhood, but there are also risks like reducing the process undergone to a symbolic level for the benefit of visitors. First we lose something, and then in a way we commercialise it and we try to reproduce it via a touristic approach. Many cities in Europe have similar observation areas concerning their cultural history. And this actually has a kind of ironic effect on the memory.

History thrives on trauma. And somehow, the trauma industry grows and constantly produces symbols of victimhood that it can use. Following this, it tries to represent those victims at a symbolic level within cultural life, just like placing a retro phone, fashionable once again 60 years later, in a shop window. Naturally enough, the effect obtained is that of a sad irony. For example, the Turkish State prepares promotional videos to be used at an international level. In these videos, cultural and architectural works of minorities are always included within the framework of the “cultural variety – social mosaic” slogan. But what is happening inside? Who are the happy minorities or to which “symbolic” levels have the minorities’ activities within socio-cultural life been reduced in Turkey during the last 100 years? Nowadays, this question is perceived as a kind of “showcase” question. It is a hunger created by innumerable factors, since cultural pauperisation later feeds a serious hunger. We want to find something around us, in our environment, about the Jews, the Armenians or the other cultures that we have lost. The situation is not at all different in Istanbul.

For example, even though it does not have a post-trauma symbolic value, there is also a Polish village in Istanbul. Within a similar state of isolation. It serves as an autonomous scene of representation, rather than depicting a multicultural kind of life from the point of view of present day urban life.

It was founded in the 1830’s in conjunction with a revolt in Poland, by Prince Adam Czartoryski, as a refuge for people fleeing Poland. Over time, it turned into a permanent settlement. It is a village that the Turks love to visit for “touristic reasons”; and its true name is Adampol. Nowadays, it is known as “Polonezköy”, which can be translated as the “Village of Poles”. The village still has some 1,000 inhabitants. Half of the inhabitants currently speak Polish. You get in your car and go there. You tour the village as if it were some kind of botanical garden. You see the Poles. On the occasion of festivals you are met by people in folk costumes, and there are drinks and dances, and in the evening you return home. So you have seen also Poland, and you are amazed at the cultural wealth of the lands you live on! But is this really a multicultural life? How do we place these Poles, whom we would assume were tourists if we saw them in their modern clothes in the street, within their social positions outside of this village? Do we have a new kind of communication method other than watching various cultural groups in the ghettos we have granted them? As I see it, all of these symbolic representations carry similar risks and after a while they serve no other function apart from caricaturising cultures in the eyes of each other.

Just as places can turn into showcases of memory, so too do biographies present the risk of exoticizing. Within this context, how should we look at the works about Deniz Anne and Osep Minasoğlu in the exhibition? What kind of a process did you undergo as you were creating these works?

When I focus on subjects that I have decided to analyse, I do not take questions borrowed from certain sources as my starting point; rather, it is my personal sensitivities and connections that have matured naturally within the natural flow of life which serve as my point of departure. Both Osep Minasoğlu and Deniz Anne are people I have connections with within my social life. First of all there is the sensitivity I feel towards them. Working with people,who are so close to you in your life has both advantages and disadvantages. It is not easy to discuss everything, including the private lives, professional pasts, bankruptcies, and sentimental traumas of individuals in their eighties, and what is more, to do this when they are still alive. To be able to do this requires most of all a method based on solid relations of trust. I do not find these people in an agency and I do not work on them having paid them for their trouble. I first of all learn to live with them, and besides, they are both my neighbours anyway.

In my biographical work I take special care not to “provoke” the viewer. It is only in this way that I believe I can establish a truly spontaneous contact. In general, the profiles I deal with are profiles subject to a high degree of such risks; therefore, I might have to formulate different strategies according to the social position of each individual. For example, all through the exhibition I have never mentioned the state of abject poverty into which Osep Minasoğlu has fallen during the last 20 years. It was a project with a high risk of agitation. From my point of view, at the top of the hierarchy there were the complete works of Studio Osep and the peak of Osep Minasoğlu’s photographic history. I saw much more than his present poverty in the life of a person who had succeeded so much. There have been occasions when I intervened when there were questions on this subject. In particular during interviews there was great curiosity concerning his present day circumstances, but we refrained from publicising his current situation. The greatest risk of this project was that the misfortune of Osep Minasoğlu should gain more visibility than his photographic oeuvre. I think that I have somehow managed to balance this situation.

SÖ: I think that in the case of Osep Minasoğlu, there are many more factors, apart from his poverty, which risk dominating the exhibition. Such risks might suddenly appear as a result of various prejudices deriving from the accepted identity of the person.

Most certainly; if you interview a homosexual, and even if you have interviewed him only on the subject of recipes, there is the danger that the homosexuality of that person will suddenly gain precedence over all the recipes. This is due to a prejudice, according to which you should talk only about “sexuality” with him. This prejudice creates a kind of reflex in the viewer. In a way, in my work I try to find methods to break this situation. For example, I talk with transsexuals about the city’s history, with Romanies about US policies, or with elderly people about contemporary fashion. Most important of all is that these people have various different positions in life, apart from their generally accepted identities, and that you should prove that you can talk with them about all other details of life.

To continue with the particular case of Studio Osep, I have not within the context of the exhibition focused too much on Yeşilçam (the Istanbul neighbourhood where film studios were once concentrated), on his Armenianness, on his homosexuality, on his being an atheist, on his old age, or on his being a migrant, which are all among his identities, because there was the risk that all these labels that already existed might shadow the perspective that Osep Minasoğlu and the exhibition tried to present. Obviously, I did not deny anything either, but perceiving the exhibition as being only the sum of these parts would have been a great handicap, because this is not a mass of nostalgic readings. On the other hand, Osep Minasoğlu opposed all of these labels, throughout his life. Reducing the question to this would have shown a great lack of respect for him. I tried to present the subject as being first of all the biography of an individualist. In this way, none of Osep Minasoğlu’s sub-identities shadowed his true position. The connection between modern society and the individual were the mainstay of the exhibition’s sociological metaphor, because Osep Minasoğlu is a modern individual, above and beyond his burden of sub-identities, who prefers to position himself in this way as far as the perception of the rest of the world is concerned. All this notwithstanding, there was also the opposite perception. For example, there was a news item titled, “An exhibition of an Armenian photographer”. Why should the Armenianness of a person, the name of whom is the obviously Armenian Osep, have to be included as part of the title? Especially when this was precisely what I was trying to prevent. Unfortunately, it will be some time before we are able to overcome these prejudiced definitions.

SÖ: In this project, which you have titled “Trans(in)formation”, you focus on the fact that in various times, transvestite and transsexual sex workers have had to change the locations where they lived and worked, in parallel to gentrification processes. We see that you do this at a biographical level, through the narrative of a witness called “Deniz Anne”. Could we say that, considering the nature of the subjects you analyse, this is more necessary method than mere choice?

TS: Of course, because when it comes to such matters, it is impossible to access any kind of archives of information and documents, apart from the witness facing you. In this case you have to turn to individual memory. For example, the transsexual brothels in the big cities of Turkey are concentrated in certain streets. These brothels have recently been subject to a process of expulsion, in proportion to the rise in real estate prices in their neighbourhoods. As in the examples of Ülker Street in Istanbul or of the Eryaman neighbourhood in Ankara, the methods used during these evacuations vary from simple violence to house burning. City centres have been subject to a great transformation during the last 20 years. In general, transsexuals live in side streets near the city centre. The fact that real estate prices have gone up in these streets as a result of the process of gentrification, has given rise to a very unusual map of migrations. There are individuals in Istanbul who have had to change streets 10 times over the last 20 years. All these were forced migrations. Companies buy up whole areas for their projects and first of all get rid of all the “risk elements” in the area, with the hope of being able to market a more secure life to the new settlers they are trying to attract. In certain cases, the poor people living in the area are organised and paid to attack the brothels. In other words, if you have set your mind on chasing away the transvestites, there will be many methods to do this.

I know 14 examples, which I have come across with during my own research, of evacuations carried out by means of violence and threats. There are streets with 20–25 brothels. However, there is no source that I can use to carry out a serious study of the matter. No historian, social sciences specialist or urban planner has prepared a statistical databank of this process. Thus, you have only one method: finding witnesses and talking to them. In the Beyoğlu district of Istanbul alone, which is the district where I live, there are close to 6 thousand transvestite and transsexual individuals trying to survive. Istanbul has one of the highest concentrations of transsexuals of any city in Europe. So we’re talking about a rather large mass of people. What you are doing is forcing this mass of people into a constant state of migration and chasing them away from their houses. And this process now extends to the farthest corners of the city. So far, no urban transformation planner has studied the post-gentrification fate of the transvestite and transsexual individuals at the bottom of the social pyramid, because they do not even feel the need to introduce this subject. In such situations, other types of initiatives have to be taken. This subject, which bears zero importance for a municipal official working on the city’s transformation, is recorded somehow by the non-governmental entities active in the area, and I do the same by using testimonies.

SÖ: I am not quite sure that it is correct to refer to this method that you use, especially in your video projects, as “oral history”. In what ways do you distance yourself from the social sciences while you are recording within an artistic context the narratives of various witnesses of a certain process? On the other hand, as I see it, it is very important also to see who these witnesses are. For example, would most of the people who have been living in Istanbul for a long time have witnessed this history?

TS: Calling the testimonies in my video projects “oral histories” is not quite correct, because oral history cannot include any kind of selection among records and in the oral history method there can be no editing. We have to keep in mind that even though in my projects all statements refer to true life, these statements are presented to the viewers after very careful “editing”. Within this context, it can be said that I add my own selection to the existing situation. Sometimes, once all the recordings are done, I spend months working on them. Sometimes I make new recordings, using a single sentence as my point of departure. In addition to this, from the point of view of space, I extract people from the circumstances in which they find themselves, and restructure them within a “white cube” space that they do not know at all, thus adding my own will to the process. From this perspective, it could be said that what I actually do is to produce videos. Undoubtedly, a hundred years from now, these records might be interpreted in a very different way... As for the present moment, they harbour a subjectivity, to which I have added myself. A researcher practicing oral history cannot be permitted to introduce this kind of a subjective will. I take part in oral history projects as well, and the methods I use in those cases are completely different.

Everybody who has lived in Istanbul for an extensive amount of time has undoubtedly witnessed many historic events. However, my priority when selecting people is not so much whether or not they have witnessed a historic event, but rather the position from which they have witnessed the historic event. For example, if I am studying the way sexual minorities in the city were affected by the 1980 Coup, I do not go and discuss this matter with a married father, who from a sexual point of view is a member of the dominant class. The abstract first takes shape in my mind. Following this, I carry out my research and work on the basis of people who have been a part of this process from the inside. Obviously, these people are not standard, as if they had all been manufactured using the same mould. In the same way that not every homosexual likes gay clubs, there is no rule that says that every prostitute has to hate the police or that every homeless person has to desire a home. The individual positions of people might sometimes surprise you. For example, this is very visible in the “Deniz Anne” video.

SÖ: When we look at your production practice we notice that you proceed in an interdisciplinary way based mostly on documentation. What do you take into consideration when you turn the methods of different disciplines into part of the practice of art?

TS: Nowadays, we see that many disparate disciplines like history, fashion, sociology or politics have made statements about the same subject, without making much reference to one other. But have they been able to ask questions about this subject to each other? A question that instantly occurs to me: Can it be that the disappearance of transvestites from public spaces has led to a loss in street fashion? Undoubtedly it has. And has history said anything about this? Nothing. And how about fashion? In Turkey we have nothing that we can call a history of fashion. Or for example, what has happened to the photographs in police records? The awareness of method that I am trying to create is very close to this. That is, to show how a sign related to the concerns of a discipline, which not even that discipline itself can provide, can be very easily provided by another discipline. Thus I make efforts to juxtapose different parameters. While doing this, rather than preparing the basis that makes it possible for a series of separate disciplines to be able to make juxtaposed statements, I search for the methods that make it possible to compare the question I am analysing on the basis of the discourses of separate disciplines. It is for this reason that it is out of the question for me to borrow directly any one discipline’s approach towards a specific subject. Quite the opposite, I try to get the approaches available to me to ask questions to one other. In this way, I structure my own practice within daily experience as an “intermediate discipline”. This is at the same time a critique in which I produce and complete myself.

Footnote, sources:
* Modernizm ve Kültürel Temsiliyet Olguları Bağlamında, İstanbul’da Fotoğraf ve Azınlıklar / Tayfun Serttaş / 2007

Translated from the Turkish by Adnan Tonguç

Mama Deniz / 5 Chanel Video Installation. 2010

Mama Deniz, 2010, 5-channel video installation, 56

Mother Deniz, who ran away from home when still a child, leaving the provinces to come to Istanbul, is the sole protagonist of this video installation shot by Tayfun Serttaş. Apart from the fact that Mother Deniz, who is in her late 70s, takes us on a trip through the archaeology of sexuality as an important surviving witness, the artist finds Mother Deniz’s extreme loss of memory to be a very crucial element within what is filmed. This situation adds a psychoanalytic aspect to the video and serves to show how impossible it truly is to reach that subjective area called “memory.” And this loss of memory can be visible in the same way within the context of Istanbul’s history. In a way, minor heroes, like Mother Deniz, hidden in the city and in its social layers, give birth to each other from the inside. There is some kind of a contract between them and Istanbul. In this respect, it is not possible for the protagonist to find any alternative life outside Istanbul. It is the background of this great contract that the artist also strives to reach.