3 Ocak 2008 Perşembe

Plastic City/Time Out İstanbul

Micheal Merriam'ın derginin ingilizce versiyonunun kasım sayısında çıkan makalesini aynen veriyoruz...

Plastic city Michael Merriam (2007-11-09)

Michael Merriam ponders the possibilities for İstanbul's punk Surrealist movement
Shrug, during conversation, and say that this or that painter is basically Surrealist. Cezanne, even, or Matisse. I mean: life doesn't look like that. Heads will see-saw back and forth, but no one will argue with you. Now talk about punk. Identify your favourite band as a punk band. Play it safe ('The Fall') or don't ('The Bangles'). There's going to be a fight. The error in your thinking, which should have been obvious to you, will be pointed out with rancour and vitriol. Nobody knows what punk means. It is unknowable. Whoever voices the Real Punk movement will be revered as some kind of God. Especially if that happens here.

Surrealism is all things to all people; punk is nothing to no one. For Turks today, though, the two movements don't make much sense without each other. Yüksel Arslan, the greatest Turkish Surrealist (and, really, the only one known outside Turkey), was contemporary with Andre Breton and the originals. His work hangs in the İstanbul Modern. Visit it, and look closely: there's nothing punk about it: it ranges from a low moan to a stage-whisper. Few painters are that quiet. Max Ernst wasn't quiet. Magritte is, but his is the silence of typewritten screams. Eylem Turkiye is growing louder and louder.Few remember how humourless, how sorrowful, the first Surrealists were. We tend to see only the phantasmagoria, the wonderment, the oddness. The Treaty of Versailles wasn't working: showed us the void. Love didn't work: Italian painter de Chirico nailed a dishwashing glove by a classical statue's severed head. The bourgeousie claimed that nothing could be further from their minds than politics: Bunuel sent a cloud over the moon andsimultaneously opened a woman's eye with a razor. These phenomena resulted from the First World War.

World War I gave us something else too: the Middle-East. Surrealism, the World's New Map; same coin, two sides. Winston Churchill hiccupped, drunk, they say, while drawing the border of Jordan. Look at the shape of the place, it still aches with meaning.Where was Turkey in all this? Why was Arslan’s work so confident in its difference from the other Surrealists? And today, why is Turkey's most mobile and active Surrealist group so affable, so approachable, and so enjoyable? Is that how it should be? Where is their rage?An individual that has accepted to live in the plastic city should know that he/she is being watched (observed) for 24 hours a day. This surveillance is made by the surveillance police and it is not evoked to the individuals in order not to make them becomecomfortless.-The Plastic ManifestoThat's just it: discomfort doesn't seem to be a part of the Surrealist movement in Turkey as much as it should be. Not yet anyway. But then, in İstanbul, how could it be? In an interview with Time Out İstanbul's Esen Boyacıgiller, the younger Arslan (no relation to Yüksel) agreed with our assessment: most Surrealism is like classical music, while his work is generally closer to punk. On their blog, they express vexation (not rage) with the fact that art movements in Turkey tend to be confined to İstanbul.What do you want for İstanbul? Greater tolerance between people, he said. Hippie stuff. 'We are not a very tolerant country,’ he said.Having told us what he wanted, we asked: How will you get it?'We will use our ties to Anatolian culture,' he said. Such a truth: as a centre of culture, the perceptive do notunderestimate Ankara. With a view to expanding the 'alternative' arts scene outside İstanbul, they held an event in İzmir, advertised on their website with a photograph reenacting a scene from Pasolini's ‘120 Days of Sodom’. In that film, soldiers waltz together next to a window overlooking scenes of torture. But the genius of Turkey may be less to represent the unbearable than to divorce emblems of human misery from human misery.

In 1996, a ballet of tanks rode through the Sincan district of Ankara, then returned to their barracks. They may have halted a civil war, and quietly. If you have an interest in these phenomena, then you have an interest in the Turkish Surrealist movement. Surrealism was ever an undisciplined movement, despite its Alexandrian library of manifestos and documents. Dada, its parent movement, tried to give it rigour: meaninglessness at any cost. (Indeed, looking for the punk scene in İstanbul with a young Turkish friend so frustrated him, as we cycled the same areas over and over, that he began to shout and holler about how all things were meaningless: in his frustration with the lack of a scene, he incarnated it, if briefly.) Nobody ever disciplined the punks: whenthey took punishment, they brandished it, and they were brandishing the fact that it hadn't done them any good.The lukewarm suspicion toward authority is in line with the quiet Surrealism of Yüksel Arslan; but if the youth of the country feel pointlessly chastised by an antiquated movement, we will see a new basis for punk culture in the East. The Real Punk and True Surrealism might make their headquarters in İstanbul in a new movement, with new icons, new voices and a new name.
Spot‘…why is Turkey's most mobile and active Surrealist group so affable, so approachable, and so enjoyable? Is that how it should be?’

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