Log of an artist
From Veritas Omnia Vincit exhibition:
Difficult sleep, Acrylic on canvas, 238 x 82 cm.
Hakan Akçura, 2001
When Beral Madra invited me months ago to the labyrinth exhibition entitled 'Veritas Omnia Vincit' (reality overcomes everything), which he produced as part of the 'Human Rights 2000' event organized by 60 different non-governmental organizations led by SODEV, I hadn't the faintest idea how much trouble it would have caused for me.
The term 'labyrinth exhibition' referred to the fact that 24 artists would occupy sections of a labyrinth to be set up by means of panels in TÜYAP hall in Istanbul, and invite the visitors to a 'labyrinth for looking for the truth'. The exhibition would have lasted three days, and it was just the icing of the cake that all artists would have found the opportunity to talk to the visitors for one hour every day in the middle of the labyrinth...
It would have been so, but I didn't know how much trouble it would have cost me.
At the beginning, I made preparations for said exhibition as one of the tens of thousands of people who had been taken under custody, interrogated, tortured, arrested, tried and convicted because of their crimes of conscience in this country...
First of all, I planned a performance in which I would use my body; I would lean my fingers against the labyrinth's walls. As familiar to those in the know, the police make you stand against a wall between interrogation sessions. You are naked or semi-naked, your eyes blindfolded, your legs apart at an angle of 45 degrees, your body leaning forward, your whole weight resting on your toes, and one of your feet is in the air... I don't know the nickname given to that salty liquid in other cities, but in my native Izmir it was called "sugar bomb" with devastating irony, the police made you drink it before hanging a sign on your neck reading "no food, no water, no toilet". We stood against that wall for hours and days, except for inevitable falls or faints, resisting against those who did best to break our resistance as much as we could. Those who could play chess blindfolded, and those who came across the shift of 'good cops' permitting them to change their feet were considered lucky. Those who came across the shift of 'bad cops' who decided to gain more experience on bastinadoing their feet in the air were considered unlucky.
That was it, I would have stand up with my eyes blindfolded, wearing only underpants, in order to present the visitors with the visual effect of the above mentioned punishment which the other complicated torture methods made look relatively innocent.
However, since I assigned myself to object every scene, every plan reproducing a torture method even if it has been set up as part of a dramatic or cinematic work for the sake of protest, I asked first myself, then other people, whether I will have been making such reproduction. They answered 'Yes, you will', adding that it would be a striking event, provoke the visitors to interrupt it, contain deeply hidden wishes, startle the visitors, and it might be an irresistible call for those who had undergone a similar experience. I gave up.
Then I thought to pay a visit to Beyoğlu Police Station, talk to the police chief, and make him a suggestion. I thought to say "I was a so and so person, but now I'm an artist. This event of art will be held, an exhibition will be arranged as part of it, and I will exhibit some of my works there. Given that the people are still reacting against and scared of the police stations, and given that said event's main theme is human rights, let's cooperate. Let's set up a camera in neither your office, nor your interrogation rooms, nor your custody cells, but in your application room, where people come to file official complaints, where I was an applicant a few weeks ago after having argued with a neighbor. Let's ensure that camera to transmit what happens there live to the labyrinth. All you have to do is to warn your officers to act carefully, and it will transmit image only, not audio, anyway. We can also set up another camera in the labyrinth to capture the images of the visitors watching your images and feed them to your monitor, so that you can watch them while they watch you... Do you agree, chief?"
Naturally I didn't so, because my friends said "Hey, what do you think the police stations are? Do you think their chiefs are authorized to accept or refuse such suggestion? No, it will be submitted to the Minister of Interior Affairs, no less, wait there one and a half months before it is refused." In fact I am still suspicious how could they be so sure about the outcome which I could not predict, but everybody said so, so I had to give up. I hope maybe some day I or somebody else would try it. It seemed a good project after all...
Then I began to surf the Internet, visiting about two thousand sites concerning torture, ranging from the USA to Canada, Chili to Guatemala, Nigeria to Tibet and Turkey. I read many documents, statements and indictments, saw many pictures some of which even I could not stomach. It would not be a lie if I say I didn't know what I was looking for. Then I hooked on a page containing a number of pictures drawn by a Chilean painter, depicting several torture methods. One of those pictures depicted a victim lying on a bedstead made of wire, electrocuted by total five torturers each of whom performing a separate task using a separate device, and contained the relevant explanation. It was a very well-known scene for me. I wanted to hang a digitally blown-up reproduction of that picture on one of the labyrinth walls. It would require to set up a circular panel to ensure the right perspective. I could have ask Beral Madra to supply such panel. Then all I had to do was to display a potential where everybody could play the role they would choose, including the victim! Thus the players could have themselves photographed there, and used the photograph as a souvenir from Istanbul or Turkey or 'Human Rights 2000' or December 10, 2000. I was somehow sure some people would have wanted to pose there.
But then I asked to myself 'Is it a theme too much by half? Is its irony unfair? Is it grotesque?" so many times that both my heart and intention dried up!
While I still had that wish and intention in my mind, and while I sat where I devised this plan, i.e. at my computer, a picture of mine hanging on the right wall of my room reminded me of itself. And the 'I Want My Mirrors' project that I was preparing for the last three months...
That event I planned was really an effort to search the truth. (An artist friend of mine, whom I loved so much, got angry with me because I called it 'unusual'. I thought over it a long time, and concluded that he might be right. Although I aim to make an announcement which people can notice, read, find and select, calling it 'unusual' implies the hidden presence of the adjective 'usual', so he is right. Carrying the announcement of this event (and the whole of the thing I created) was a solution available to me, so that it was not wrong.
At this point you might ask what the hell was that picture on my wall. It is entitled 'Zor Uyku' (Difficult Sleep). An acrylic painting on a large canvas. The times I had painted it this summer and the painting appearing as a result brought a power and meaning which enabled me to survive many potholes that I fell into while I designed the 'I Want My Mirrors' project. ". Without shame, I described it as most beautiful picture I've ever painted to some people somewhere. (Did I mention it ParalaX?). That picture was a mirror I made for myself, depicting a transversal body in an abstract space and its head beside a mirror. A single body interpreted as two bodies by some people, a body interpreted as female by some people or male by some other, a body interpreted to undergo immense pain by some, or to enjoy peace of mind by some other...Who could stop me displaying my announcement on a wall of the corridor assigned to me in the labyrinth, and hanging the 'Zor Uyku' on the opposite wall!
I am determined to exhibit both of them.
I am sure my ego, which will not be able to feel it has done what it must do before having blood on its hands, while having blood on its hands and after committing that murder, wants neither to startle the people, nor to impress the people with the strike of a surprise coincidence, nor to act ironic! It wants to confess it can hardly sleep.
It will look for the mirrors of this country!
Because I am deeply grieved thinking that one of them might die tonight, tomorrow night, Thursday night, or the exhibition opening night, while we enjoy our drinks and gossip, chatting with the visitors, or after the exhibition is closed! What if one, two, three or ten of them die, them prisoners who are on hunger strike?!
Let's do not deceive ourselves... We all know that after a number of prisoners die, the government will start making negotiations only for a show, and many of us will forget everything until the next hunger strike and tortures begin!
If this is death, helplessness, if we are all on the verge of a bloodbath again in this country, then is not what we call TRUTH just our INABILITY TO OVERCOME THE NEW MURDERS, LET ALONE THE PREVIOUS MURDERS?Hakan Akçura
(Article by the artist, published in "Görsel Kültür Arşivi" ParalaX on 07.12.2000)
From Veritas Omnia Vincit exhibition:
A manipulated art event announcement, Hakan Akçura
(103,5x72 cm.; mix media on photoblock; 2000)