In anticipation of the Art Collection Telekom exhibit Fragile Sense associated with Hope , EB. net will roll out a series of seven short selection interviews with contemporary artists from Eastern Europe. They’ll all appear at the exhibit, which features a selection of functions from Art Collection Telekom musicians in Eastern and Southeastern Europe. Fragile Sense associated with Hope opens at Berlin’s me Collectors Room/Stiftung Olbricht Oct 10 and ends November 23.
Şükran Meaning has made a career and a life away from provocation. She’s incited her deepest fears and other peoples’ hatred with controversial performances and video pieces, which have involved acts like community sex and self-mutilation. After getting expelled from Italy and powered out of Turkey, she’s returned in order to both countries and now splits her time between Rome and Turki. Max Dax spoke with the challenging artist about the power of provocation and the role of women in Turkish society.
Hey Şükran, we’re currently speaking via Skype, so I’m wanting to know where you are right now.
I used to live in Rome, but in the final five years, I’ve spent more time in Istanbul—and currently, I’m right there.
Why did you leave Rome?
I by no means actually left Rome, I’ve simply spent most of my time in Turki over the past couple of years. In 2010, I obtained many death threats in Turki because of my performance “Amemus, ” which is the ultimate negative reaction to my work. For my own security, We moved back to Rome for a season and couldn’t come back to Istanbul. Today, my life is back and forth in between Rome and Istanbul.
That’s serious. “Amemus” was obviously a performance that you did in Turki, at the Casa dell’Arte, right? What happened?
Back then, I had developed an exhibition at the Casa dell’Arte, which would later become the Galeri Zilberman in Istanbul. There, I did a performance where I would make love with another woman. Obviously, this was provocative to many Turkish men. Turkey is a very religious and patriarchal country.
That wasn’t the very first time that you provoked people. Years ago, a person filmed one of your performances and titled it “Bordello, ” meaning “ brothel. ” The video is going to be part of the Fragile Sense of Hope exhibit in Berlin. Can you tell me why it is so important to confront people—or, more precisely: to confront men ?
“Bordello” was a commissioned efficiency piece for the fifth International Istanbul Biennal in 1997. For me, it was required for leave an impression there. The years prior to that date marked an extremely difficult period in my life. In 1994, I tragically lost both my parents, and in the same year, I got expelled from Italy. I transformed; I became somebody slightly various. I was a woman, I was an performer, but I was from Turkey.
I always believed something like that will wouldn’t happen to an artist—I really believed that the concept of “being an artist” would make me a persona grata . But I realized that, to the police, I used to be just an illegal foreigner with no visa, not a woman or an artist or even a human being . I used to be regularly studying at the Accademia pada Belle Arti in Rome, and I was doing a lot of performances all over Italy, so my expulsion had been actually illegal. For the following 2 yrs, I lived in the underground by having an illegal status. So , in hindsight, I can say that I stopped to become an idealist. And I remember perfectly how this expulsion changed my whole perception of the world.
You felt rejected?
Yes, and because of that rejection I finally grew to become a true artist.
How did you realize this change?
I very consciously and suddenly chose that will my answers to everything that actually happens to me should always be creative. I would call this a change. I strongly believe in the power associated with creativity. I think that you can change a lot as an artist, and I would contact art a stronger currency compared to weapons and money.
Coming back to “Bordello”—how will this performance fit into the formula? You dressed up like a prostitute and walked right into an Istanbul brothel. You had two signs that you would hold up in the air: “For Sale” and “Art Museum. ” Didn’t a person even rename the brothel in to “Museum of Art”?
Basically, the invitation in order to participate at the Istanbul Biennal offered me a second chance. Coming back to Turki was a very emotional moment, and I tried to make a special performance. In fact , I did five different performances, two of which became quite well-known: “Hamam” and “Bordello. ”
All five performances dealt with things that have haunted me for years—for instance, my parents would always threaten me with the phrase that I would “end up like a whore within a brothel” if I didn’t do because they said. Doing the “Bordello” performance in Yüksek Kaldirim in Istanbul was like diving straight into the pain. Also, another performances dealt with my fears, like getting admitted into a mental medical center to shut me away from culture. And yet, another performance was about getting thrown into prison—which, by the way, would happen to anybody at any time in modern Chicken. The whole system has a very strong Kafka-esque side. Everything bad can happen to a person during a day.
So , basically, you dared your primal fears.
Exactly. I wanted to discover what is lying behind the surface of my deepest fears.
The German BILD tabloid has called you “Turkey’s most courageous artist. ”
The tabloids always call myself stuff like that—but I’ve never considered my performances as courageous . I don’t even think while I’m doing performances. For me personally, the only important thing is the conceptual factor within. Being courageous or not doesn’t matter, as it’s the concept is always most important. For the “Bordello” performance We transformed into a prostitute, but I also transformed the brothel into a sign for the art market. I think that all the big institutions in the art planet are like giant-sized brothels.
You didn’t do the efficiency alone—there was also a photographer and a cameraman present.
There were three of us. At the brothel, some of the johns would jostle myself around, and they’d also lump against the cameraman. If you watch it, you’ll notice that it is quite shaky, not really because we weren’t professional—it’s since we got pushed around. We all used a huge Betacam back then. Nowadays, you could do the same with your mobile phone, but in 1997, we embraced the heavy reactions of the men contrary to the presence of the camera.
Don’t forget that the whole performance had been targeted against Turkish macho conduct. We wanted to deal with it ironically. I mean, in Turkish society, women are considered virgins until they get married, while men visit brothels continuously. It’s quite a backward and medieval understanding of the role of women in society. Men are allowed to have fun; women have to deliver.
On your website, you welcome visitors with the words “Resist Turkey! ”
In the last season, we had the biggest demonstrations ever in Turkey. Some of the protesters invited myself to do a performance as part of the demonstrations, so on June 14, I did a performance in Gezi park in which I cut myself. I cut the letter “A” on my belly with a razor blade—“A” such as “anarchy. ” That was the efficiency.
Of course , I know about all the performances in history in which musicians have already cut themselves on purpose—so why should I? Of course , I know this is a topos in the history of artwork since the seventies. This is important. I didn’t want to repeat something others possess successfully performed before me. But I think that prejudices come from the belly, and that’s why I cut the letter “A” there.
Şükran Moral’s work is going to be featured at the ACT exhibition Fragile Sense of Wish . Click here to read more selection interviews in the ACT series.