|Adnan Yıldız interviews Mehmet Dere (www.derece.blogspot.com):
Aut disce aut discede
ADNAN: Mehmet, I was thinking about the nationalistic jokes lately; the worst of all I have heard till so far is the one that’s supposed to be the real reason of why we can’t join the EU. We can’t join the EU because the average length of Turkish people is much shorter than Europeans, and also the penis size. I am sure, it is also not size that matters for you but function… My question is: What are the definitions of nationalism and patriotism in your dictionary regarding your perspective and approach that you have been constructing through your blog posts, both visual and textual material? The title of your blog site means “degree” in Turkish and you also relate it to your approach in general using the term, “angle”…
MEHMET: Angle (degree) is the curtain or window of the thing you consider or see as important at the same time. That degree (of the angle and the temperature) makes you feel warm or cold, and it makes you think in another way. I am a kind of “child of angles” 1 and I am proud of this. I am collecting this ruptures and thinking strategically about what I can/could do. I am looking for a world that I can be exiled or I can survive in, between visible and invisible walls. My early works (How hopeful to say I am a Turk, Frame your sentence, T.C. Notebook) deal with identity as counter-construction. My blog posts have positions that try to develop a counter memory and to document what we have witnessed in this change and transformation. I consider our identities as labyrents to get lost inside, especially in this mythical world, which the problematics of seperation and absorption have been besieged by strategies of otherization. As T.C. (Turkish Republic) citizens, we don’t forget; we only don’t remember.
In my ipinipon, nationalism is meeting at a common (denominator) ground, without being stuck to any race or geograpgical territory, without being divided into “us”, “them” or “those” except a relation of origin/tail.2 Aut disce aut discede (CO EXİSTENCE MOTTO), learn or leave. In Turkey concepts are continuously exposed to the situation of being consumed through open and flexible transformations and reformations. As opposed to what I say and think, even eveything has an end, there is no definition of nationalism, and its discussion has no end. It can exist in a way that turns into a discourse of independence or a propoganda or a cheap advertising campaign. Patriotism is something else. I can try to eplain it like this; being a patriot is like trying to be standing water that transparently shows the crap at its bottom.
ADNAN: What are you doing nowadays? Have you checked the opening ceremony, Beijing Olympics? Why do you think Russia started a war when there have been the Olympic games played at China? Meanwhile America is sinking… Why now? What is this timing telling to us? This could be an exam question for a course like Introduction to the New World Order 101. What does the difference between politics of China and Russia at the present tell to us?
MEHMET: This is a sort of question that I don’t get at my first reading. I should confess that it is a really difficult one. I feel as if there is a Sphinx waiting for me to eat unless I answer. I haven’t seen the whole of it, but as far as I know, such a sort of visual technology and show hasn’t been seen or used before in any of the previous Olympic games, in any opening ceremony before; from the led lights to the heavy equipmenst, this Olympic ceremony in Beijing is considered as the biggest show of all times.
It reminded me of the old myth, an old fantasy that is about what would happen on earth if one billion Chinese would jump at the same time. This humorous suspense has a point, but I think the strategy of China has been developed as opposed to this ceremony; regarding Olympics I would like to say that Chinese really do it well, but today China –in the world order that they represent themselves- functions as the center of capitalism –rather than socialism. So invitations for Olympics can also be considered as captured property. China has been commiting crimes like Russia does, and China is infringing human rights in Manchuria; for instance the boycott of Amnesty in East of Turkestan did not work out too, theye were at the opening ceremony and protesting the presidents. It has been proved that it is a big naïve dream to relate the competition (esp. the wars and conflicts) between countries to the competition, solidarity, and unity between sportsmen and sportswomen for the last years.
In Russia… In Ossetia, there are two countries, north and south. According to Russians, they were the ones who let Georgians be independent whereas Georgians argue that the land was always belonged to them. Russia is planning to transfer the oil through this region, so why would Russia let Georgians get the big potential of natural gas and the oil here? If Georgia would become a part of NATO, would/could Russia intervene again? We also know that America invites Russia –who is back to the international scene- to NATO. Through this approach (that can be briefly mentioned as “Come in Nato”), America wants Russia to calm down and leave their notorious Caucasian temperament.
But I think, your emphasis here is focusing on the audience. You mean, there are two TV programs at two different TV channels being broadcasted at the same time, and we might watch the Olympic games at one of them whereas Russia-Georgia war on the other. The whole fact is transformed into the reality of audience. We can’t confront this painful reality, a reality that turns into a pastiche through the continuous continential abjections and miseries of the “Diunited Nations” and world peace. Globalization and the new capital have been becoming a long story about the hegemony of communication; reality does not like delay and noone is innocent…
ADNAN: How will the new capital influence us? Why does everyone in Istanbul want to be gallerist now? Do they really sell a lot of art now or is it more the speculation or gossip that makes up the market? Is a generation that is “okey” with all of these; the anti-democratic arrangements, censorship, the article 301. (Turkish penalty code), the first ever e-intervention (by the Turkish army), going to be successful at business? What are they going to sell –to whom? I want to ask you... Why are you initiating 49A now, but not two or three years ago, when the artist initiations such as PİST, BAS, altıaylık were coming up? Was it all a fashion? Gone with the wind? Are you a late-comer –in relation to Istanbul scene- or a beginner for Izmir?
MEHMET: A quotation fom Marx here (what a pity, it is true); "Capitalism logs the trees if their shadows don’t make money”, it gradually penetrates its strategical and tactical philosophy into time, desire and body. Common territories have got lost and are getting lost. In old days, all the neighbours were getting on a truck to go to a seaside or a picnic all together, children, all relatives, all friends… It is nostalgia now. What Napoleon said! Arab, Arab, Arab. 3 If you ask me, all the symbolical meaning, common sharings have been lost in time. You can’t get any satisfaction in terms of speed, if there is any power today, it is for sure the speed. Everything that saves itself from gravity is transformed into its idenity, even gets stuck to it.
As a form, a space, and a situation, 49A has been developed suddenly-and-naturally. I could survive through my blog regarding my artistic visibility, but I felt the need to have a space as a meeting point; a place for neighbourhood and interactive actions; as a place for visibility in the context of visible-global public space. While I was thinking what I had in my hands, I have found myself as “a guest in my own house”, and my questions turned into: “if we are not going to live all together, then what is the meaning of art?” At this point, I would like to talk about the history of 49A. It was originally a tobacco shop that belonged to my father. My father used to work here and it was a TEKEL store (Turkish state-owned tobacco company). I was also spending my leisure time there, selling Evin wine to Turkish Romans. Everything has changed after the economical crises, my father quited the job, and the store was shut down. With the support of my wife, 49A has taken its final apperance through our savings; it was our family budget that made the space, so it is like our kid.
In İzmir, there has no any meeting point that could set up homogenious links between everyday practice and artists; and where contemporary art practice can survive and be accessible, supported by local authorities, academy or any art institution. This is a clear and precise conclusion that could be driven at the moment. Academy defines itself through borders and intersecting lines, and local authorities continue their ineptitudes through a position that can’t get organized. This situation of having almost no dialogue between institutions, have turned into another condition for artists; they have no center now, and they feel the need to reorganize themselves to exist in their own territories and to reestablish their strategies. This is one of the most striking factors for 49A to emerge as place for taking initiation. This is a natural process for me, maybe late in comparison to other initiations, and early for İzmir… Open to other comments. For me, 49A is a construction of a space that could be visible and could survive (could be carried on), as a starting point. This concrete place, a physical entity, aims to host some possibilities and availabilities of recent artistic production as well as other artists’ projects as if it happens in a play garden moving from this point. Here we say that we are at your service all the time with %49 discount.
ADNAN: No ads here, in this publication. Mehmet, I almost remember that once you had given me a copy of a hand made book. I have also seen some transformations of this visual language, (which I think I saw first time in your hand made book) on your blog posts. And time went by… Recently you showed at “Contemporary Artists Exhibition” and there you installed a monitor that was displaying your blog address. Your blog has been updated everyday -changing the show everyday, and it was decoding the invisible –or not easily visible- movements and circulaitons in the city. You have a sort of image politics, image history, and visual language that have been gradually-slowly slowly developed. How do you define the relationship between 49A and your blog in terms of “creating a space”? Considering the contextual moderation between us and a space that introduces other spaces to us, what are your strategies, ideas and principles in order to transform 49A within your artistic practice? Is 49A going to become an art work in time?
MEHMET: There was Gırgır (one of the most important Turkish comic papers) from Oğuz Aral’s time, and on its covers, “Gırç Gırç Gırç” was written. There was a cartoon character who twirls the mainspring on his head there. Once I read a note for the reader, “…for years, this comic paper has been published and you-people- have never worried about why this guy has been twirling the mainspring on his head, and now we are not telling you the reason of it... This is your penalty…”
I am dealing with everything through an intuitional way, and mostly anything can work as a starting point for me, and my photographs are good examples of how I relate myself to my time, my city and myself. I consider eveything in circles that vibrate each other. I reach to the outer circles moving from the interior circles through language, body and space. The crashes between these provide my angles and my degrees. As an emergence of a visible and surviving space, 49A is trying to establish a sort of relationship that I could not make through my blog; so it transfers the duration of the recordings of my works. This space as a union of “time”+“place”+“action” (How hopeful to say I am a Turk, Frame your sentence, T.C. Notebook) is a social form. This is also a good chance to see the resisting capacity of art in the global social territory.
I evaluate 49A as an experiemental space for the works I have posted on my blog as sketches but I could not apply to any space yet; a form that provides the possibility of transporting my dialogue with the city into another channel, an art work that transforms itself through my proposals… Considering the strategical part of the discussion, its strategy is establishing itself within its spatial presence. Working in progress into working together…
How can many perspectives come together –as how they are reflected on today- when they have no relationships between each other? How can I make projects out of human relations? How can I use the space as an immaterial language? How can I present a story to the man on the street, a story that provides a new perspective for me, a story that enables me to see –that- man on the street with a fresh look? These are my questions… I am also curious about what kind of forms the space is going to bring to the projects in terms of the cultural content and the spatial presence?