(from left to right with the works of Taner Ceylan, Ayşe Erkmen, Viron Erol Vert, Erinç Seymen, Ming Wong, Mehtap Baydu and Hasan Aksaygın)
Included in ğ is Ayşe Erkmen’s 1997 work Conversations that references an earlier piece of hers, in which plexiglass cut-outs of the Turkish -miş tense suffixes (used to speak of events one has not witnessed first-hand), were installed on the exterior of a building on Heinrichplatz, Kreuzberg in 1994. These chunks of syllables, without meaning on their own, have been prompting Turkish speaking by-passers living in Berlin to a game of words since the early nineties, and highlighting the mostly ignored relevance of the migrant culture in Berlin. The work reminds us of how indispensable an element gossiping (gullüm in queer Turkish) is for a blossoming queer culture.
The history of queer migrant communities is also visible in the sassy gaze of Fatma Souad who looks out at the viewer in a portrait by Cihangir Gümüştürkmen or Lale Lokum. Fatma Souad is a reoccurring companion in Gümüştürkmen’s painting practice and comic strips, and in this repetition we recognize the accumulative traces of a years-long queer friendship.
(Cihangir Gümüştürkmen, Fatma Souad, 1997,Mixed technique, oil and paper on canvas, 100 x 90 cm, Courtesy of Ulaş Yılmaz & Koray Yılmaz-Günay)
Patterns are central to Erinç Seymen’s strange, experience-disgorging and restless device-organisms. The artist works: Sweet Memories and Sweet Memories 2, insist on showing the viewers of ğ the startling beauty of resistance through a series of subtly and patiently presented fictional imagery. How the bodies in Seymen’s work evolve from pain to pleasure in the face of power is an indescribable joy.
Hasan Aksaygın’s mural painting for ğ is a study in self-portraiture. Archaeological artifacts excavated in Cyprus, which Aksaygın encountered in the collection In Focus: Cyprus, Aphrodite’s Island in Berlin’s Neues Museum serve as his starting point. His mural of the same title is an intervention with acrylic paint on the walls of the Schwules Museum*. It provides an alternative to the dominant discourse around male migrant bodies and widespread notions of masculinity in Germany.
(Hasan Aksaygın, In Focus: Cyprus, Island of Aphrodite, 2017, Mural painting in acrylic, Courtesy of the artist)
Transitioning bodies also feature in the work of Mehtap Baydu. In 2015 the artist realized a seventeen-day performance in the documenta-Halle in Kassel. In that performance Baydu spun a cocoon from the shirts of men she crossed paths with during her time in Kassel. Baydu is contributing the documentation of her seventeen-day performance, Cocoon to ğ. One knot after another, the artist weaves tight labor and patience, as she directs our attention not to the outcome but to the transformation itself. Cocoon is a performance testing the re-construction of the body through queer resistance.
The act of becoming is central to Ming Wong’s 2011 performance Biji Diva!, commissioned by HKW Berlin, in which the artist becomes Bülent Ersoy. While taking classical Turkish singing lessons as part of his research, the artist became familiar with the soft g. This ğ he met through Bülent Ersoy had another surprise in store for him: the personal history of his music teacher that extended to Germany. Ming Wong’s homonymous sound installation whispers the migration of artistic forms to our ears from the queerest makam (melody type) possible.
The immaterial takes form in Viron Erol Vert’s new work İnci Arcade: a ‘sling’ inspired by its namesake arcade, a magical place of Vert’s adolescence in Istanbul containing haberdashery stores and and a sex cinema. Maybe this unconventional sex toy does not let the viewer to hop on the swing but it emancipates its main material, the kilim (a traditional carpet), from reductionist western perspectives. İnci Arcade invites ğ viewers to a game of desire substitution, and in a queer manner inverts the flying carpet image that has been often objectified in orientalist discourses.
(Masist Gül (1947-2003), Drawings, collages, photographs, graphic novels, copper gravures and writing, Presented by Banu Cennetoglu and Philippine Hoegen, Dimensions variable, Courtesy of Pascal and Masist Gül)
Another translation of sorts, Masist Gül, as presented by Banu Cennetoğlu and Philippine Hoegen, is returning to Berlin once again. Turkish film audiences might remember Gül as the villain in various action movies, but he is an interdisciplinary artist who masterfully transformed his own image through drawings, poetry, photography and comics. The artist subjects his image to endless translation through visual narratives that can be read as male-to-male drag, involving exaggeratedly masculine poses adorned with melancholy and irony. Through an interdisciplinary migration, Masist Gül’s image encourages the ğ viewer to ponder the performativity of masculinity and the widespread narratives on first-generation Turkish migrant men, often rooted in heteronormative perception.
Yeşim Akdeniz’s recent painterly practice experiments with ways of how to stage painting. These settings with drapery backgrounds of various fabrics and canvases leaning against or resting on chairs enable Akdeniz’s imagery to take flight from the walls and flirt blatantly with becoming sculpturesque. It is almost as if these same-sized trios of jackets, ties and handkerchiefs, painted on checkered canvases for ğ, are sipping their lemonades in a queer tea garden for migrants on a sunny summer day, casually spread on their chairs.
(Yeşim Akdeniz, Among Us, 2017, Installation with various materials: oil paintings, chairs, and fabric, Dimensions variable, Courtesy oft he Artist and PI Artworks)
Also employing painting, Taner Ceylan offers a queer interpretation of the self-portraiture genre, with his painting Taner and Taner. Looking upon himself, Ceylan does not shy away from describing his artistic personality as a multiplied subject. This artistic attitude imagines fucking itself and pulls self-hatred and self-love, sentiments every queer individual is familiar with, into a dialectic conversation while also reflecting on the medium of painting. Through this queer attitude, failures of the binary gender code evolve into an affirmation.
Nilbar Güreş’s piece in ğ, Sapatão’s Rose, was produced for the 31st São Paulo Biennial. Sapatão means a large-sized shoe in Brazilian Portuguese and also refers to butch lesbians in slang, and is the subject of Güreş’s verbal and visual syntax. In Güreş’s vision a hand-made men’s shoe, also called a pimp’s shoe in Turkey, migrates into a lesbian dream; a plastic rose, gushing out from within the shoe, plants a lustful kiss on the tip of a ceramic dildo. This acrobatic attempt that seems to defy physics takes place on a low-floor table covered with lace tablecloths. A familial and domestic space blossoms with new possibility through the orgasmic touch of queer/lesbian eroticism. What new relationships could take place in the presence of this object?
Aykan Safoğlu’s prints develop the companionship theme essential to the exhibition ğ. The images show sweat marks – body prints – left behind after sex. On a blue surface these pools of fluid form the only physical remnants of an encounter, which even now threatens to evaporate. Scratches and lines superimpose a cartography of sorts – a criss-crossing map that traverses a vast, Bosphorus-like blue sea. The potentialities of human relationships inherent in the differences of the queer – be they sexual, romantic, intimate, platonic – are alluded to, as is their absence from wider understanding and representation. The left-over pools of sweat stand in for the presence of actual bodies, the etched marks for the journeys they have made. Safoğlu’s artistic depiction of these traces reminds us of the experiences of the migratory that often only exist in memory and consequently can not and will not take physical form.
(Aykan Safoğlu, Untitled (Blues 1) & Untitled (Blues 2), 2012-17, C-print on metallic paper, 60 x 40 cm, Courtesy of the Artist)
Photo credits: Sven Gutjahr