4 Haziran 2008 Çarşamba

The 6th Degree

TimeOut: Istanbul

The 6th Degree
With Rafet Arslan of Surrealist Action

March 2008

Surrealist Action is...

Graffiti, street art, poems, short stories, graphic art, paintings and sketches, films... an intersection of a variety of artistic disciplines...

Which you showcase on your blogsite,, at free-of-charge exhibitions both domestically and abroad; as well as among various fanzines, such as Fetus, Albemuth and Düzensiz.

Yes... we’re trying to bring art to the streets and make it more accessible to the general public so it’s not just for the elite, or for the few. Our aim being, to help resuscitate the weakening connection between life and art...

What do you see as being the threat to that connection?

Living in a world driven by consumerism, we’re far removed from our own struggle of being. As art turns into a market industry, it becomes tame, compliant. Privacy is surrendered, and it becomes sterile.

Does Surrealist Action encompass strictly Surrealist art?

No. We’ve got artistic manifestos in keeping with the first Surrealist Manifesto drawn up by Andre Breton in 1924 – for example, the Wayward’s Manifesto, The Street Art Manifesto, The Mutant Art Manifesto, and the Manifesto of Poetry – but our focus isn’t Surrealist art per se.

So where is the “surrealist” connection?

The world presented to us is a virtual one... and we prefer to look at it from, let’s just say, a twisted angle. Take the poem, “Lezziz Ceset” (Scrumptious Corpse), which uses a random form of poetry written by a group of people. Someone writes a line, folds the paper over, passes it on to the next person, and so on. The point here is to remove prejudices and see what comes from the subconscious...

Then we have Turkish-style “street surrealism” – where I write a poem on a sticker and stick it up on a wall, for example. Not to mention the graffiti we all know...

So we certainly have a surrealistic bent in some of our art, but it’s not our sole area of focus, by any means.

It’s worth mentioning, on a more historical note, that there have been a number of noted poets in the region who were, one could argue, pre-Surrealists. Consider the quote by Hassan El Sabbah, who lived around the time of the European Middle Ages: “Nothing is real, but everything is possible.” Omer Hayyam, Hallac-I Mansur and Sheikh Bedreddin are others to check out, for those who are interested…

Surrealist Action also is, as the name would indicate, an action…

Our aim isn’t one of a political nature, per se… That said, with the politically charged circumstances that exist in Turkey, much of our art is, in fact, political. For example, we’ll be in İzmir in April to put on an exhibition of artwork concerning the dangers of nuclear energy – given recent discussions of building a nuclear energy plant in Turkey.

Have you encountered any obstacles in the way of censorship?

Not so far – we’ve officially been around since April of last year – but then, the free-market society we live in is a form of censorship in and of itself, after all. Working 9-6, aren’t I censored anyway? The conditions of a free-market society run counter to independent thought, and censorship is inherent in having to follow its rules.

You are, of course, a non-profit initiative...

Yeah – we’re totally against art for profit. We pay expenses out-of-pocket – for paint, say, or print-outs... All our support so far has been entirely volunteer-based. We haven’t received any money.

Though you aren’t a formal organization...

We’re a loose collective of volunteers, with no formal bureaucratic structure whatsoever. We keep the ball rolling by running interference with each other to get things done.

Our artwork and the projects we’re involved with are entirely our own creations and they come from the heart. We aren’t into dogma or labels, or putting on an aesthetic show. Each of us is simply trying to make progress by dealing with the labor pains that come with the fact of our existence.

Surrealist Action has taken part in the Barışarock Festival in Sarıyer, which took place last October…

The non-profit Barışarock Festival took place at the same time as the Rock ‘n’ Coke Festival, in a pointed act of opposition. It featured our exhibit, Crimes of Passion, which was a collection of photographs, poems and short stories – many of them collaborations – of 17 of our friends.

There’s also action abroad…

Surrealist Action has been around for longer in countries like Argentina, Portugal, Sweden, England and Spain… We as Turkish Surrealist Activists, along with a host of amazing Portuguese artists, recently took part in an event in Portugal to honor the Portuguese poet and painter, Mario Cesariny, with our poems and paintings. The independent film director, Jan Svankmajer, was also there.

Who can get in on the Surrealist Action as a participating artist?

Anyone with a suitable artistic idea and who feels a sense of belonging to the cause. Just contact us through our blogsite. Artwork in English is welcome.

Note: The January and February 6th Degree interviews were also conducted by Ms. Şahin.

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