Saturday, August 11, 2007

On My Works


In my works I want to reveal the inner dephts of my subjective world as well as today’s social cultural and political geography we live in. The codes I have been using in my works are interpretations about both my own universe as well as the outer world. But sometimes, materials, which I use, may also be more complex than metaphorical meanings in the work itself. Because of the excessive style, disclosing itself excessively and questioning similar problems and creating same answers in viewers’s mind, I think that it caries some risks. Since the signs in the works of art have not always the purpose of giving a message, is in the sign language ond traffic symbols, they can not be described in a certain way and neither be clissified nor be understood easily due to their nature. Consequently, signs in my works have specific autonomy. Also my themes such as identity, migration, dilemma of birth-death, alienation, loneliness, economic crises, famine, wars, cultural differences etc, have been accepted as common themes of contemporary art especially during the period of globalisation. These create different relationships of form and content in our imagination.

I am not in favor of mannerism. Just for the sake of not destroy the mannerism, I think the extreme dependence upon a very specified area may harm the diversity of the language of expression. Hence I prefer to walk around in a wider area of expression such as installation, painting and photography.

I think while I walk down the street and often try to ponder and create simply by looking at my surroundings. I belive that concepts will emerge from life.

I do not have a studio. A studio, for me, consits of photo shophs, photocopy centers look for, streets, old bazaars, junk dealers, furniture shops, grains and fabrics, foundries and the the city itself in which I am living now. I stroll through and theese places keep the necessaries object that I will be able to express myself intimately. Every matireal has a specific memory. In a daily life all of us live with them and we smell and touch them under any circumtances. In this context there are some aspects which excites me about the locations of the materials I search as well as in the differences of the materials I use in my works. When two different objects come together two different memories are being juxtaposed and this is a prerequisite in order to constitute a methaphor. That’s why, criticizing on the certain phonemenon and creating the meaning varieties on it has close relationship with the nature of the objects that are presented together.

"Postcards" in conjunction with "Dream House" Project 2007

A postcard project from Damascus in conjuction with the "Dream House" Project - 2007

Dream House Project, Suggested By Hou Hanru March 2007

Since the 10th Istanbul Biennale catalogue will include separate sections with different paper stock and designs for each venue or theme. Those are AKM, IMC, Antrepo – Entre-polis, Antrepo – Dreamhouse and Special Projects. Each section will contain articles on the themes of the venues and interviews with the architects of the venues along with a comprehensive article by Hou Hanru.While articles are commissioned for AKM, IMC, Entre-polis and Special Projects sections, Hou Hanru came up with a new idea for the Dreamhouse section: collecting the artists’ own texts about their dreams, with the title of “LET’S DREAM TOGETHER!”.The section of Dreamhouse, located in the site of Antrepo, facing Bosporus, will consist of a series of platforms, overlapping the section of “entre-polis”… to become a “Dream House”. This will be a floating space that provides the night visitors to contemplate the city from an elevated, extraordinary angle, accompanied by the most unexpected interventions by artists.
It’s a fantastic moment for everyone to share common dreams, imaginations and fantasies… My Dream text has emerged in accordance to Hou Hanru’s exciting idea about artists’ contribution in the catalogue.
In My Dream I was in Palestine”Dreamed by Ferhat Özgür, May 2007"
In Accordance with Hou Hanru’s Suggestion My Dream was About Syria to where I had been when I got this invitation.
Have you ever visited Palestine under military occupation?
"This was one of the questions on the application form when I applied to the Syrian Embassy for my visa. It seemed to me as if it was inviting me to visit Palestine. Maybe if I answered "Yes" it may be easier for me to get my visa. Despite this I answered "No" for I had never been there. With this answer I got my visa. At this time there had been some gossip spreading amongst Turkish citizens who were applying for Syrian visas which suggested that Turkish people who had been to Syria would not subsequently be allowed to enter European countires or the United States unless they they had also visited southern Cyprus & this had been recognised in their passports.Whilst I was in Damascus I didn't forget this initial question. It stayed with me.
Naturally this question was appearing spontaneously on all of the pictures I was taking.

"Düş Evi" projesi çerçevesinde tasarlanan "Şam'dan Kartpostallar" projesi nasıl oluştu?
10.İstanbul Bienali'nde Hou Hanru'un "Rüya Evi" projesi
Bu yıl gerçekleştirilecek olan Uluslararası İstanbul Bienali küratörü Hou Hanru tüm katılımcı sanatçıları "Birlikte Düşleyelim" adlı bir proje ile Düşevi'ne davet ediyordu. Katılımcıların düşleri Düşevi adı altında, Boğaza nazır Antrepo'da izleyicilerle buluşacaktı. Yakın zamanda yaşadığım "küçük" bir ayrıntı, Batı'nın ve ABD'nin Ortadoğu politikasını sanki ironik olarak özetler gibiydi. "Düşevi" için, başımdan geçen bu olayı, gözlerim açık olarak yeniden düşledim. Dolayısıyla yolculuğum gerçeklikten "düş"e doğruydu.

Rüyamda Filistin'deydim!..!Düşleyen Ferhat Özgür, Mayıs 2007"
İşgal Altındaki Filistini Ziyaret Ettiniz Mi?"
Suriye Büyükelçiliği'ne vize için başvurduğumda, yanıtlamam gereken başvuru formundaki sorulardan biriydi bu. Soru sanki beni Filistin'i ziyaret etmeye davet ediyordu. "Evet" cevabını verince, vize almam kolaylaşacaktı demek ki. Filistin'e hiç gitmediğimden yanıtım "hayır" oldu. Bu yanıtla yine de vizemi alabilmiştim. Bu sırada Suriye vizesine başvuran Türk vatandaşları arasında bir dedikodu yayılmaya başlamıştı. Söylentiye göre, Suriye'ye giriş yapan Türk vatandaşları, Güney Kıbrıs'ı da ziyaret etmedikçe ve bunu pasaportlarında onaylatmadıkça bundan böyle Amerika ya da Avrupa ülkelerine giriş yapamayacaklardı. Şam'da bulunduğum süre içerisinde bu soru aklımdan hiç çıkmamıştı. Şam’dan çekeceğim tüm fotoğrafların üzerine bu soru kendiliğinden biniyordu.

Interview With Ferhat Özgür, by Anja Tuckermann. 2007

(the photos accompanying this interview were taken from the "shanties" most of which are recently being demolished by the municipatily within the framework of "urban transformation of Ankara" over the last 2 years.

Anja Tuckermann: How was Your Chilhood, Your District?
Ferhat Özgür: I was born in Ulucanlar in Ankara, on “Yan Street” to be precise. On that street there was a prison (Ankara Open Prison House) on the left side and a hospital (known as Ankara Big Hospital) on the right. Neither from the beginning nor from the bottom of that street one was hardly entering to any hopeful avenue, I remember my chilhood like this.

(from the district where I was born), all photos by ferhat özgür

I remember very sorely and very vividly the poverty of my family. I was born in one of the small shanties that was so near to the old downtown. I also remember that my father had enormous debts all the time. He was living with his mistress whereas he was officially married to my mother. I was the last child of this marriage and my father left our family when I was very young. Despite all this poverty I did not quite have a very unhappy childhood. There is no trauma which has been lingering from those years. Our narrow and long street was located in the midst of two opposite structures, one of which was a half-open prison and the other was the Great Ankara Hospital. I am telling you this, because, during my adolescence, while I was playing basketball it was not seldom that we saw either a prisoner escaping or a very badly injured or dead patients were brought to the hospital. Sometimes I heard the screams of the relatives of the lost loved ones.

I think, like many others, when I was 12, 13 years old, I also read many comic books, despite the negative opinion of our families toward these. Texas, Tom Mix, Zagor and Mandrake. I could not buy them due to my pennylessness, yet I borrowed them from my friends regularly. According to my parents’ opinion these books were rather harmful, since they were simply not school books. But I can say that I grew up by reading many books, whether they were textbooks or comic books. I was totally addicted to illustrated books. I used to feel as if I were one of these figures in the books. And the books I hated the most, were definitely all sorts of mathematic books, just because of the attitudes of our teachers.

A.T: What did you buy from your first pocket money?
F.Ö: I went to a cinema where Kung-Fu films were shown, for I was fond of Bruce Lee. I must be around ten or so. Yet I was not aware of the fact that before a Kung-Fu film a porno film was shown as well. To tell the truth, years after I realized that the main aim of these cinemas were to show porno films rather than karate films. Now I remember I was coming across a scene where all of a sudden stark naked people were doing something I could not comprehend, for they were incomprehensibly detailed shots. Like Kung-Fu films, all of us would watch Westerns and immediately after watching these we would imitate these characters in our games. Often I would become an Apachi. Usually we would mimic the Kung-Fu films, not the former ones.

A.T: The cultural life of the environment in which you used to live…
F.Ö:I have to admit that I lacked completely any cultural stimulus. I went to a standard Turkish (state) primary school where no foreign language was taught. But how the ambition of art got into my blood? In general, our teachers would try to teach whatever they knew. They would take us to the theatre or to the movies frequently, organize drama activities and poetry days and painting competitions. None of my brothers and sister was able to finish even the high-school.
A.T:To you, what was the most important piece of furniture in your childhood?
F.Ö:Surely the television set. In our district the first shanty house that had a black and white TV was on the ground floor level and with a friend of mine we were able to watch the TV from the edge of the curtain. Later on we had a radio. In the morning the first thing that I did was to listen to the Turkish pop music programmes from the radio while everybody else still slept.

A.T:When did you make your firt pieces of art?
F.Ö:I must have been in the secondary school, in 1979, when I for the first time intended to draw my family members’ portraits by looking at the photographs.
A.T:What was the first music you bought?
F.Ö:In 1978, I worked like a slave to buy the Village People’s long-play album which contained their most famous song “YMCA” with my first wages during my secondary school holiday.
A.T:How important was radio or TV in your early life?
F.Ö:Radio and TV were so important for me that from my childhood onward I have always thought that I would not have been able to live without them. TV showed motion pictures and they gave me the opportunity to experience in a surrealistic atmosphere, with their abilty of juxtaposing many different images and sounds at the same time, as well as to erase our time perception. A radio, for a real music lover was an indispensable device at our home. Anyhow, the TV entered in our house rather late. The radio, which was present much earlier, would seem to me like the most precious thing. Due to our financial situation I could not attend any course to play an instrument. And not being able to play any instrument has remained inside me an ever-bleeding scar. Of course, years later I got acquainted with the bass guitar and continued to play this for about two years. But after some time, thinking that it was not really possible to juggle too many things at the same time, I decided to give it up and turn back to painting. On the other hand, I sang and played in a group for two years when I was a master student in the university. Many years after everybody got TV in our district, as I told you before, TV opened up avenues for all of us in order to produce later on our own films, albeit they were low-budget ones. We watched TV for having examples of making films and these must have shown to all of us different possibilities and ways of thinking in that field and taught us many new things. Just to give you an example, my oldest friend has now become a film producer and director.

A.T:Who were the most important artists to you?

F.Ö:When I came across with one of Leonardo’s reproductions in our art history book, I found it so striking that I immediately decided to be like him. Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” had stucked to my mind as well.

A.T:How did you know you were not a child any more?

F.Ö:Last year, when I had my 40 years behind me.
A.T:As a youth, what information did you get, that informed you about world affairs?F.Ö:
While I was young I began to buy the daily newspaper “Cumhuriyet” (The Republic) twice a week. The Republic was a newspaper the articles of which were so comprehensive and enlightening. I hope that I don’t sound arrogant to emphasize that I am a hard reader. I would always collect novels, and all sorts of art books. Since we were members of all foreign cultural institutions (American Cultural Center, British Council, Goethe Institut, French aund Italian Cultural Centers in Ankara, we are used to spend most of our times to following art periodicals, watching films and festivals. That was why, I was almost fully aware of what was happening around the world.
A.T:How are you living as an artist in this Capital/ Ankara…What do you think about Ankara’s relations with the other cities, espicially with İstanbul?
F.Ö:I do not think that Ankara is as so much of a big player in art environment as İstanbul is. Yet despite everything, one cannot ignore its importance, its force, its contribution to Turkey’s culture and art life. When we consider thoroughly, one should except that many main resources such as artists, writes, actors, newspaper colomnist are Ankara based. Since in general Ankara is deprived of institutional support İstanbul snaps them up after a certain while, through its museums, private galleries or alternative spaces that are so open to every kind of proposals, by suggesting many possibilities. Yet in all sense, Ankara continues to draw attention by her potantial. As an artists I am trying to survive here by keeping my international and local contacts fresh by leaving one my foot always in İstanbul.

A.T:What moment did you first know that you were an artist?
F.Ö:My most respected professor Mr. Turan Erol offered me to become an assistant in our fine arts faculty, in 1993. Up to that time, I was struggling to be an artist, yet from that time onward I am fighting to remain an artist.

the 10th Istanbul Biannial - September - November 2007

2 projects for the 10th Istanbul Biannial September 2007
English (Türkçe bilgiler için aşağıya inin)

"Puzzle Paper and Board"
This year in the 10th Istanbul Biennale there will be two of my projects. One is a semi-documentary video called "Today is Sunday/Monday". You can find more information, comments and reviews about it if you scroll down the page. The other one is an "interactive public space" project. This has been made possible through the contributions of the merchants, people & passers-by in the IMC block - one of the designated spaces for this biennale. Accompanying this project is a four page 'puzzle' newspaper - similar to the weekend inserts of many daily papers. Here are crosswords (with questions & answers), puzzles, word search games, etc. These have been created bearing in mind the interests of those traders who work in the IMC blocks and the people who visit the markets. The suggestions, proposals & worries of these people have been supplemented by other people that I know.

Preface - Editor's Note for the Puzzle Paper

The Paper you are holding in your hands has been designed as a public space project titled “Game Area: Crossword” for the 10th Istanbul Biennial. The newspaper includes questions and answers compiled with the suggestions of the inhabitants of the İMÇ and enables subjective information flow between us the audience and the traders and also among the traders themselves. Every individual who asked a question naturally thought about the point which had to be emphasized in their life and invited others to discover this point. In my face to face meetings with the traders to collect questions and tell them about the purpose of the project, I frequently emphasized the following point:

I am a beggar of questions-answers.

In the beginning, everything seemed very difficult. The project came at an extremely critical time. The tradespeople in the area had lost their joy to work since they had learned that this centre, which had held the pulse of the country since the 1960’s, would be demolished in the near future as part of the urban transformation plan and that 50 wooden villas in the Ottoman architectural style would be erected in its place. Although this news has not been confirmed yet, the fuss around the issue has already led to a significant loss of customers. Every time I went to the İMÇ for the project I found the traders waiting for customers, generally in despair. Even on Saturday, the busiest day for business, while the streets, boulevards and shopping centres of Istanbul were jam packed, the tradespeople here were alone in despondency.

Within the scope of the project, although for a short period of time, I shared the questions and answers of the tradespeople who worked there and therefore their problems, their interests and their life by the mediation of art. I was pleased to have communicated with them face to face, voice to voice, to have mixed with them. However, this project, since it developed in accordance with the language of the geography it was produced on, may seem limited by locality and the participation of only those who speak Turkish. No doubt those who cannot speak Turkish will not be able to solve the crosswords here. Nevertheless, the project also carries an element of "nomadism" since it can be adapted to other geographies, other contexts and other languages.
Because the essence of the “game” is the same everywhere.
(ferhat özgür, july 2007 / translated into English by Nazım Dikbaş)

"Today Is Sun/Monday", 2005 video stills, 7:10"

"Puzzle Paper: A Public Space Project
for the 10th Istanbul Biannial, Istanbul Textile Traders' Market", 2007

"interviewss with the people in Istanbul Textile Traders's Market"

for the preparations of the puzzle paper and board project

July 2007

sketch for the puzzle board 1

stetch for the puzle board 2

Türkçe10.İstanbul Bienali çerçevesinde sergileyeceğim "Today Is Sun/Monday" adlı videoya ilişkin daha ayrıntılı bilgiyi aşağıdaki sayfalarda bulabilirsiniz. İkinci proje etkileşimli bir kamusal alan projesi.

"Bulmaca Gazetesi ve Panosu"

Günlük gazetelerin hafta sonu bulmaca eklerinden hareket edilerek hazırlanacak yeni bir bulmaca gazetesi, bienal mekanlarından biri olan İMÇ Blokları'nda çalışan esnafın, müşterilerin, gelip geçenlerin ve tanıdığım kişilerin, soru, yanıt, öneri, ilgi ve kaygılarından hareketle oluşturuldu. Gazete tüm bienal mekanlarında ücretsiz olarak dağıtılacak. Doğasına uygun olarak bu gazetede, alışılagelmiş eğlenceli bulmacalar olabileceği gibi, kültürel, toplumsal ve politik içerikleri olan "oyunlar" ve "bilmeceler" ve "sorular" da bulunacak. Bulmaca Projesi sanat ve toplumsal katılım arasında bir işbirliğini önermekte, sanat ile gündelik hayat / sanat ile oyun arasındaki sınırlara sızmayı amaçlamaktadır. Huizinga oyunun insanın en temel özelliklerinden biri olduğunu vurgularken, insanın “homo sapiens” ve “homo faber” özelliklerine “homo ludens”i yani, “oyun oynayan kişi” özelliğini de ekliyordu. Huizinga ciddi oynanmış her “oyun”da bir gerilim de buluyordu.

Bienal projesinde amaç, bir “oyun alanı” açmak için, İstanbul Manifaturacılar Çarşısı çalışanlarıyla toplu ya da kişisel görüşmeler yapmak, bulmacaların soru ve yanıtlarını belirlemek, 2 yapraklı 4 sayfalık ve ziyaretçilere ücretsiz dağıtılacak bir bulmaca gazetesi çıkarmaktır. Bulmaca doğası gereği kavramsaldır. Sorunu çözmek için gerekli olan, tüm parçacıkları bize baştan verir ama bizi siyah ve beyaz karaler arasındaki boşluk sekmeleriyle kendimizle baş başa bırakır. Bütün işimiz, parçacıkları doğru yerlerine oturtmak, bağlamları birbirleriyle ilişkilendirmektir. Kuhn ve Feyerabend bilim adamlarını bile bulmaca çözmeye çalışan kimselere benzetiyordu.

Projede bir gazetede farklı toplumsal katmanlardan gelen bireylerin önerileriyle toplanmış soru ve yanıtlar yoluyla, bu bireyler arasında öznel bilgi akışına da olanak sağlayacaktır. Soruyu soran her birey, doğal olarak, kendi hayatında vurgulanması gereken noktayı düşünecek ve başkalarını bu noktayı keşfetmeye davet edecektir. Bir bireyden ötekine, bir dükkandan diğerine geçerken bulmaca süreci benim için bir tür “soru-yanıt” dilenciliği olacak.Yine de projeye hissedilebilir bir görsellik kazandırmak için dört büyük bulmaca tahtasını, üçer haftalık dönüşümlerle, bienal süresince, İMÇ’de görünür bir yere yerleştirmek ayrı bir gereklilik. Sadece “basılı gazete”yi tek başına kullanmak yeterli bir etkileşim ve görsellik yaratamayabilirdi.

Bulmaca tahtasının kamusal bir alana yerleştirilmesiyle, gelip geçenlerin de bulmaca tahtasıyla karşılaşmaları, onu çözmeye çalışmaları, oyuna girişmeleri, yapıtla temas kurmaları mümkün olacak, böylece projenin etkileşimliliği bir kat daha artacaktır.

Bulmaca Gazetesi İçin Editör'ün Notu

Elinizde tuttuğunuz bu gazete 10.İstanbul Bienali’nde içinbir kamusal alan projesi olarak tasarlandı. Gazete İMÇ sakinlerinin önerileriyle toplanmış soru ve yanıtları içeriyor ve hem biz izleyici ve esnaf hem de esnafla esnaf arasındaki öznel bilgi akışına olanak sağlıyor. Soruyu soran her birey, doğal olarak, kendi hayatında vurgulanması gereken noktayı da düşündü ve başkalarını bu noktayı keşfetmeye davet etti. Soruları toplamak, projenin amacını anlatmak için esnaflarla yüz yüze görüşmelerimde sıklıkla şu noktayı vurguladım:

Ben bir soru-yanıt dilencisiyim.

Her şey başlangıçta çok zor göründü. Zira bu proje çok kritik bir zamana rastlamıştı. Buradaki esnaf, 1960’lardan beri ülkenin nabzını tutan bu merkezin, belediye tarafından, kentsel dönüşüm planı çerçevesinde yakın dönemde yıkılacağını ve yerine 50 adet Osmanlı mimarisine uygun ahşap villa dikileceğini öğrendiğinden beri çalışma sevincini kaybetmişti. Şu aşamada haber kesinleşmiş gözükmese de çıkarılan yaygara epeyce müşteri kaybı yaratmıştı zaten. Proje için İMÇ’ye her gidişimde esnafı müşteri beklerken ve genellikle ümitsiz buluyordum. En işlek gün Cumartesi bile, İstanbul’da sokakları, caddeler ve alış veriş merkezleri tıklım tıklımken buradaki esnaf kan ağlıyordu.

Proje çerçevesinde orada çalışan esnafın soru ve yanıtlarına ve dolayısıyla dertlerine, ilgilerine, hayatlarına sanat aracılığıyla sınırlı bir zaman dilimi için bile olsa ortak oldum. Yüz yüze, ses sese temasa geçmiş olmaktan, içlerine karışmış olmaktan memnunluk duydum. Ancak bu proje, üretildiği coğrafyanın diline bağlı olarak geliştiğinden dolayı, başlangıçta yerellikle ve sadece Türkçe bilenlerin katılımıyla sınırlı gibi görünebilir. Doğal olarak Türkçe bilmeyen buradaki bulmacaları çözemeyecek. Ne var ki, başka coğrafyalara, başka bağlamlarda ve başka dillerle adapte edilebilmesiyle de bir tür “göçerlik” özelliği de taşıyor.

Çünkü “oyunun” özü her yerde aynı.

Ferhat Özgür, Temmuz 2007 İngilizceye Çeviri Nazım Dikbaş)