"I'm Hakan Akçura. I want my mirrors."
Maybe you found the message above in your inbox, or saw it in the TV, or read it in a daily newspaper. Hakan Akçura is an artist, and his 'I Want My Mirrors' is an unusual event of art. Akçura makes a call to the people who became subjects of his life one way or another, directly or indirectly, through the Internet and various Media organs. He calls everybody who gave birth to him, fed him, caused him to suffer hunger, made him sleep, waked him up, loved him, not loved him, taken care of him, betrayed him, teased him, rented a house to him, sold clothes, cigarettes, beverages or their bodies to him, ordered meals for him, made a pass at him, passed balls to him, tortured him, injured him, made love to him, talked to him, shared meals or drinks with him, challenged him, made fun of him, fought him, quarreled with him, got beaten with him, suffered torture with him, made graffiti with him, handed out bills with him, didn't expect him to do this much, received letters from him, received e-mail messages from him, borrowed books from him, stole something from him, escaped from him, fed up with him, or hated him. What he wants them to do is to send an object, photograph, video cassette, audio cassette or film whose theme is him, which they would create by pointing out, telling, writing or drawing the thing they carried in their heart for him, the thing they saw when they looked at him. They don't have to reveal their identities, what is important is to send said items until 27 November 2000 which is his birth day. All those things, all those 'mirrors' will be displayed at an exhibition, so that this event of art will be realized. A huge mirror will appear...
Why one looks at the mirror?
I began to look at the mirror a very short time ago, when I began to make peace with my body. There always were mirrors in my life, but I never did much more than glimpsing at them. I think men and women exist at different levels at this point. What a man sees in the mirror is his real self, he so looks at it that he almost share a secret with his image. They make a silent agreement on what face they will not show to whom. Since I refuse this approach, I kept a distance between myself and the mirrors. I remember to have felt joyous when I found myself looking at a mirror, wanting to find myself beautiful, wanting to see myself from my own inner eye to guess what part of me will be appreciated by the lookers, assigning a lover's eye to the mirror, 5 or 5 years ago.
Like your discovery of looking at the mirror, does your search of your 'mirrors' correspond to a threshold in your life?
Exactly. But they are two different thresholds. I developed the idea of this project in 1992, it was the most mirror-free period of my life, when I most savagely attacked myself, when I was most lonesome, when the beast inside me ruled me most, when I passed through a dense unhappiness. It was also a period when I sought to reach the balance of freedom of letting my mind be confused as much I as would want to after an intermediate period during which I hadn't want my mind to be confused was over. I remember I told this project a few people I loved you too much, and a few people standing around me but whom I did not want to see, and all of them were perplexed, but again all of them agreed.
Why did you wait until 1992?
I focused on it every now and then. Now I understand all those periods had a common point: a dense cloud of unhappiness covering everything... It is even denser today. I am passing through the most tranquil, the most deserted period of my life, where I can say now I know everything.
As an artist enjoying to play games and to create 'art games', don't you think this time it is a somewhat dangerous game?
It was a game which I could be expected to play in 1992, not now. I never used my mind for it. I think it stems from the facts that I am in search of a kind of genuineness, that an inner voice keeps on warning me to be cautious, that this project faces the risk of being considered media-friendly and sensational because of its obligatory umbilical cord with the Media.
How much the overall mirrors resemble Hakan Akçura?
I shelved all my expectations, all my deduction from this project. One has to be excited even to say 'I want to see my reflections as much as I can, taking all risks, within this event of art which I attempted to realize to be able to see my real reflections from the people'. I am not unexcited. So far 20 mirrors were sent in, and I enjoyed each of them as if I was given a present. I am not sure if it was my purpose, but I feel good to observe that this project provides some energy that can move me. I am cautious, on a journey where I don't know if I'm as strong as I think. It is an incredibly self-centered project, but there is always the possibility that none of the mirrors might reflect me. I depend on the assumption that the mirrors to be sent to me will adapt a new identity when they are exhibited to other people.
Is this new identity not likely to reduce genuineness?
I think there is such risk for mirrors reflecting feelings other than dense affection or dense hatred...Such risk definitely exists at every stage. But they will not be merely reflections, because the people who make the mirrors will be present in them too. Mirrors might not contain me, but they will definitely contain their creators.
You yourself admit that it is a self-centered project, so expecting the people whose lives intersected with yours in one way or another to provide such a subjective contribution is a kind of fait accompli, isn't it?
No, I just call them to contribute, it's up to them whether or not to do it. They would contribute or not, deceive me or other people or not. This is a personal journey.
Then the process itself contributes mirrors too.
Yes, but that's not my purpose. My worry that this project might be considered sensational and media-friendly stems from the presence of people who don't know me, who are outside that core. Since I'm the first person who attempted to make such confrontation as far as I know, this project has another aspect matching with my artistic direction in its entirety: I invite all my direct or indirect subjects to be an artist. It is my exhibition, but everything will be made by the others. This aspect is the only prank, only game of the project.
You might have shelved all expectations, taken all risks, concerning the outcome of this project. But can you undertake the risks, disillusionment or astonishment to be faced by each and every subject, that emotional price? For example, what is your mother going to feel when she sees a mirror sent by your boss, lover or torturer?
I know I'll do everything to undertake all relevant burdens. Nearly all of the first thirty people to whom I described this project reacted in the same way, asking 'What do you plan, to commit suicide after the exhibition?' And the moment I noticed this project could make some people ask that question to me, a special feeling developed towards my relationship with my mother. I do not intend to commit suicide, and I don't want my mother to get such impression even in the slightest. She will not see the mirrors until the exhibition opens, like every won't, but she'll step in the exhibition hall with more curiosity than all the others. And until that time she will have found strength to confront them as much as I could, or I will have done everything I can to help her to do so.
Your mother is the most apparent, most protectable subject here...
And the only subject whose mirror I'm not curious about, the only subject whose existence did not make me yearn for a mirror.
Then it will be the most unexpected mirrors that will excite you?
I think so. One cannot help thinking over and over. Of the twenty mirrors sent so far, the one that surprised me most was sent by a person whose life I thought to have been a tangent to mine, because the mirror proved otherwise. I could have found it very tiring, but I did not.
How many people will your announcement reach, in what ways?
To date e-mailed the announcement to 60,000 addresses in Turkey, asking them to e-mail it to their friends. So that it will remind me to the people who forgot me, and reach those who read me or saw me but whose whereabouts are unknown to me, even those who don't know me but might want to send a mirror after reading it. I want the core to cover outside of mirrors too.
Was it because of your concern to skip some people?
Exactly. If I could have this announcement published in a best-selling newspaper, I wouldn't have employed the e-mail method. In fact the most direct way to reach my core people, my direct subjects, 30,000 to 40,000 people was the TV and newspaper. But since I had to send e-mail messages in bulk, an external ring gained significance whether I liked it or not. Those who are not direct subjects of my life, but who saw the announcement and asked me whether they could send their mirrors, or who sent their mirrors without bothering to ask me. Now they are important too. Furthermore, I shall reach a number of international art houses and publications thanks to the English text of the announcement. In addition, now I am having flyers and posters printed which I'll send to all places where I lived in Izmir (where I come from) and Istanbul.
Does aftermath of this exhibition points out a new threshold in your life?
This project is the fruit of a period for which I don't have a description, so I don't have an answer for your question!
Interview made with the artist by Pınar Öğünç (chivi.com)