"My biggest fear was that nobody would send anything"
Let's start this interview with a question now considered to have a classic dimension: Who is Hakan Akçura?
He is a contemporary artist. From this project's point of view, he is a person not contending with painting pictures even if the discipline of art he studied was painting. I also make short films, write poems, and published a book. The second book is on the way...
I think it is right for artists creating contemporary art works to contact with different disciplines, to extract their arts and creativity from such a synthesis. Furthermore, I do not make art works far from me even if they contain too many plots and plays. I just turn everything that I wonder, I'm interested in, whose theme touches me in a way within my daily life, into an art work. I am not an selectivist artist. On the contrary, I believe everybody has a potential of creativity that would surface if they are provoked, if they can provoke themselves, or they accumulate self-belief. If people establish dialogue with my art, or take steps to get to know themselves, said potential might surface; I witness this process all times..
Does your 'I Want My Mirror' project has a certain purpose or starting point?
This project has no pre-determined purpose. It is far from such words as purpose or expectation. Because it is a project which cannot be realized with estimable, foreseeable things. Because the theme of this event of art is myself. What's more, it is myself not from my own viewpoint, but from the viewpoints of all subjects who got to know me directly or indirectly in one way or another. What it calls for is not a view of a certain period of time or process that I determined in advance, but is a view of my entire life; and since I declared that I would accept everything they would send from their own viewpoints, it is a process as much interesting as hurting. It probably is the art of a place where the image of my art and creativity, which I don't want to be far from the flow of my daily life I mentioned earlier, unites with my own self. Therefore, it is an event that will bring its own definition, its own identity, depending on what will it bring, what will it become. But I can say this: it is a kind of confrontation, a kind of total confrontation. I understand it is what I called from my life. But I have no expectations such as 'What will this confrontation result in?' or 'How can the results of this confrontation be described better?' which I already determined, already paraphrased.
Does not the result of or reactions to this project, which takes too much courage, scare you? I mean it might result in something you have not expected at all?
This potential exists, of course. But the core of this project sprung to my mind in 1993. It was more like a street performance, it did not go beyond my asking to the people around me, close or far, 'Would you send me some thing had I attempted to realize it?', did not turn into a real call, for years; I never thought I would attempt to realize it one day, dating back many years. Then one day I turned to myself and felt that it was the only thing I wanted to do, that I was ready...At that time I was probably in the most motionless period of my life. In a way, the unhappiest period of my life. In another way, it was the most tranquil period of my life. Yet in another way, it was a period in which such words as strength and weakness are not much meaningful. It was a period in which I no longer used such explanations and definitions in order to find my way in real life. In other words, it was a period in which the word 'risk' was no longer used. But there definitely is a subconscious. Especially after such a life story! It also gains a power by itself from the fact that I know each and every one of the subjects of the call in question. I opened all the ways to my mirrors. Up to my answering machine... It is open to everybody, every subject who take a step in order praise me or to attack and exhibit me from the most opposite view, in the most unexpected way, in the most imaginable reflection! I can deduct from the mirrors sent to date that I think what will affect me most will be identities whom I used to think I played only a tangential role in their lives, but in reality whose lives I transformed or changed, or whose lives I played a very important role, as I might understand from their mirrors...
Is the 'I Want My Mirrors' project an event of art designed by an artist who has self-belief, self-assurance, or who hasn't?
My previous answer is valid for this question too, even in a hidden way. The word 'belief' is a definition, description too. Let me say it is an event where belief and insecurity disappear... Some definitions do not provide me with a base enabling me to question whether or not my actions are in accordance with them, to continue as long as I fall in step with them, when I look at their connotations or associations, or when I experience the processes they define. What I can say is this: On the contrary, I am where I am most diligent, where I understand how priceless to be as tranquil as this, where I see what the wordlessness or motionlessness add to me, where I believe I can live in peace. I don't know whether all these define belief or a point of zero.
How did the people around you, close or far, react to your announcement?
They reacted in many different way. Before attempting to realize this project, I described it to about 40 people who are my very close friends or those who know me, being in different categories, who in my opinion are among the subjects of the 'I Want My Mirrors' project. And I asked them to keep it a secret. To see their reactions...I wanted them to read my announcement, which I had tremendous difficulties to compose, whose final text I very hardly agreed, which I could not change anymore, to see the self-flow of that process...I wanted them to hear their comments...And reactions turned out to be very different from each other. The most common reaction was emphasizing my courage. Most of them commented that it was project they would never attempt to realize, they would never think over. Some people envied it. Especially my fellow artist friends made such comments as 'It is too enviable for me', 'I wish I could have dared to do it', 'I wish I could write such announcement'. Some of them considered it unnecessary. Some found it sick. Some found it exhibitionist. Some saw it narcissistic. Some found it media-friendly. And some other found it sensational, which was precisely the thing I wanted to avoid most, I questioned most. A psychiatrist, being a friend for the past 10-15 years, said an interesting: 'I knew one day you would expose your private world, your private life to attacks that much!' That comment made me ponder.
Why did it make you ponder?
Was this what I wanted to do? Descriptions of what I am doing are as uncertain as my uncertainty towards a very good reaction! I mean I am an animal, and call this project from my reflexes, my roots. Therefore I cannot describe this project in any way whatsoever. My destiny lies, in a way, at the stops of this process...I asked people questions I believe to be right, in order to let them answer them from their own view points. I always had to slightly define what I created so far, however I was not willing to do so. Because in this country I always had the problem of having only a few people who can act in a consistent and reasonable manner to consider such unusualness, such originality, with reference to the international world of art. But I don't have a pre-composed sentence defining the 'I Want My Mirrors' project, and where such sentence is not ready, all kinds of other sentences which might make an impact by itself turn into sentences through which I look at my project again and again, even if they not force me to give up on it. This is especially true with the mirrors sent in. Some people began to debate this project at the level where the people I used for my previous test had stood. And they make their own comments, some of them describe this project with such sentences as 'Nobody can turn into a mirror-free person unless and until he shatters the mirrors carrying the reflections of his life and then walks on those broken glass', some other debate it with statements looking like quoted from the Zen Buddhism, some other allege that one won't be able to make peace with his own self, which is a process defined as 'turning into dust' in Sufism, unless and until he passes such examination. Some others quote various books written by a number of men of letters for the purpose of self-questioning by means of composing sentences or both composing sentences and reflecting them to their own lives. All these things are a film I saw in the past. But a friend said an interesting thing, interesting because he knew me well: 'I had predicted ten years ago that one day you would do something like this.' So I wandered if I am calling for something which can be defined as an attack to my private life, by calling such event which can narrow my field of life. I'm still thinking over it. I don't know.
Is it a mirror for which you would ask 'Why?' or 'What you mean?', or are there more interesting mirrors?
It is not a mirror!.. And comments that surprised me too much as part of the initial dialogues I mentioned were not made by people who don't know me. Three or four people asked 'Do you plan to commit suicide on the exhibition opening date' at different times. I never thought that aspect. It even worried me. I even wondered if my mother would think so too. But that question did not spread, did not become common, so I relaxed. And I know many people thought my announcement, also including the story of my life, was reflecting a deep sadness. Fortunately, many other people did not think so. I kidded those who point out suicide, saying 'Yes, it would be a graceful act, but I generally like to watch my exhibitions until they are closed. It is at least a responsibility for me. So forgive me, I won't commit suicide...'
Do you think the number of mirrors sent in to date is enough? Did you enjoy the interest you expected?
Over 60 mirrors were sent in. And they continue to arrive, to flow. Some people want to use the three-month period. For example, I don't think the people who attempted to talk to me about the symbol of the mirrors they aim to send, who tried to understand what mirror I really want to receive from them, who seemed determined to act in accordance with my wishes, whom I refused to answer in spite of all their insisting, whom I replied 'It is your own journey' and left the decision-making to them, whom I replied 'If you want I'll listen to your questions, but I'll never make a comment', will be able to finish their mirrors within that time. The biggest paradox of this exhibition is that I don't want to receive mirrors which I would like to keep and store, that I'll exhibit all mirrors, i.e. all objects, letters, voices and pictures as they are, without altering them, without sorting them. To whom will I exhibit them? To tens of thousands of strangers. Or to the other mirrors. And the second paradox is that the most of the people I am calling to create a work of art never composed an artistic creation sentence, never intended to make such composition in their lives, but they are willing to send in a mirror.... When the mirrors are framed, hung to a wall, become a part of the exhibition, put on a pedestal, displayed on a monitor, or played through headphones, they will become the artists of the exhibition! So they both suffer and enjoy the situation, make preparations for it or try to unite what they are thinking over to create for years or what they attempted to create, with the content of the mirrors they would send to me, and this a long journey for them. I know because they share those processes with me... Although I never make comments at any stage of those processes, at their decision-making stage... Anyway, some of the first mirrors sent in a short time are the ones made just for getting rid of the burden of the process in question... Mirrors made just for the sake of sending an object, settling this matter... Or mirrors not being an indirect object of my life, sent by strangers who came across the e-mail message containing my announcement, who wanted to answer it. And the mirrors attacking me were made by people who were determined to attack myself or this event directly, or to everybody who considered this event a good one and decided to be a part of it. What they forget is that themselves become a part of it when they send a mirror...
What narrative style do they adapt? Do they send the mirrors by mail or e-mail?
Most of the mirrors sent in to date are letters sent by e-mail. I could browse my post box just once, but the people who should send their objects by mail need time. Two messages were left to my answering machine. We are still at the beginning stage.
Is there a particular narrative style that would move you more?
No, all of them at the same distance to me. Had you asked this question again after I received all mirrors, I would give the same answer. The things written, sent, made, drawn or told by the people who agreed to answer this call are equally distant to me...Or there is no distance between them and me. They are all in the same place, in my heart....
Let's assume the day has come, the exhibition is about to open. All mirrors are hung to the walls. You stand in the middle of the hall, looking at them. Does that moment scare you? After all, all of them is a mirror, however right or wrong they all reflect you!
First of all, I'm not sure all of them are going to reflect me. If all of them reflected me, it would have been the happiest event of my life. I love to hold exhibitions. I love to be together with people in the context of an exhibition. I run on the visitors' reactions during every exhibition. In my last exhibition, the picture I found most difficult to display, which I postponed to hang until the last minute, which I thought whether I should change more or dump", turned out to be the most appreciated and likened painting by the visitors. Those are parameters lying beyond my control. And when the issue is myself and reflections of my creativity, it becomes more complex. Shall I be visiting my own exhibition, or a mixed exhibition arranged by others? That exhibition is arranged by me, but it will contain none of my works. So I'll find myself at a place where I am as much a guest as the host...It sounds amazing...Whatever it contains... In the present the both points of the possible scale has turned to me. Some mirrors praise me, some others criticize me. And there are ones in between, but I won't be scared if any of those categories constitute a major portion of the mirrors.
What about the risk that some mirrors might reflect you in a wrong way, so that the visitors might get wrong impressions of you?
I shall neither eliminate nor change some of the mirrors. Therefore, I do not have an ethical problem with the mirrors. Because they are objects, works created by other people. I'm only human, it is obvious that some of them will move me; but I do not think that facing the risk that some mirrors might not reflect me will be an unpleasant experience.
What is your biggest fear then?
My biggest fear was that nobody would send anything.
You break new ground with this project, and it requires courage. How would you feel if somebody else repeated it in the future? Would you be proud of it, or just think you are copied?
None. In my opinion, real artists do not take pre-planned steps. They are what they are. History is what history is. The common consciousness of Man is what it is. The thing through which I experience an event of art by myself is an eye I never use to look at things from outside. An event of art is placed at a position by a person whoever he is, or determines its own position in time. Frankly, I don't know whether another artist in the world called its subjects for a confrontation as total as this, without adding his own view point. I made a research, and nobody did this as far as I know. Yes, many artists confronted a painful period of their lives from their own view points or by adding other people's view point to theirs... But I believe such confrontation cannot be realized unless I cut myself off.
Did the announcement of the project through the Internet bring a different dimension to it?
My original purpose was to publish a full-page announcement in one or more of the best-selling daily newspapers. I intended to do so twice, at the beginning and end of the project. The editors I talked to agreed, and treated me good, but their boards of directors refused. When the question is money, all editors can't help saying that if they agree my wish, it will set a trail for others to follow. On the other hand, this project needed to reach as much people as possible. It even needed to be advertised on the TV, in my opinion. Only a small portion of the nation read newspapers. And when I look at the scale of all the subjects of my life, I understand the only means that provides nation-wide communication is unfortunately the TV. So that the Internet turned out to be an obligatory starting point even if I didn't prefer it. And I began to distribute my announcement through an e-mail posting method called SPAM, which I opposed in principle. So I might say that I started with a database of e-mail addresses I obtained from the SPAM mafia. But I inserted a warning in the message: 'This is a SPAM. I know. I apologize. But I had to use it.' So I sent it to about 60,000 e-mail addresses, and some of them sent it to their friends.
Interview made with the artist by Ahmet Emre Kızılarslan (superonline.com)