QUEER ART, CULTURE AND POLITICS FROM TURKEY AND ITS DIASPORA

24 September 2020

Online Symposium

This is a one day online Symposium on queer art and activism from Turkey and its diaspora, which aims to open a dialogue on contemporary art about alternative sexualities and non-conforming bodies from alternative geographies. 

The symposium will feature two keynote speakers: Evren Savci (Yale University) will provide an overview of queer culture and politics in contemporary Turkey and Cüneyt Çakirlar (Nottingham Trent University) will present an overview of contemporary queer art practices from Turkey. 

Keynote Speeches
Queer Politics under Neoliberal Islam

Dr. EVREN SAVCI

Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies, Yale University

Evren Savcı is Assistant Professor in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Yale University. Her work focuses on transnational sexualities, informed by feminist and queer theory and ethnographic methodology. She is currently finishing her first book Queer in Translation: Sexual Politics under Neoliberal Islam (under contract with DUP), which analyzes sexual politics under contemporary Turkey’s AKP regime. As she wraps up her first book, she is starting a new research project on “failures of Westernization,” analyzing sexual practices that were deemed “uncivilized” and either heavily discouraged or outlawed by the Turkish Republic, such as Islamic matrimony, cousin marriages, arranged marriages and polygamy, yet are still practiced today.

Savcı’s work on the intersections of language, knowledge, sexual politics, neoliberalism and religion has appeared in Journal of Marriage and the Family, Ethnography, Sexualities, Political Power and Social Theory, Theory & Event, and Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, and in several edited collections. She has contributed op-eds, blog entries and interviews to Jadaliyya, The Feminist Wire, make/shift and Middle East Research and Information Project. She was selected Exemplary Diversity Scholar by University of Michigan National Center for Institutional Diversity in 2013.

Savcı received her Ph.D. in Sociology from University of Southern California, and her master’s and bachelor’s degrees in Sociology from University of Virginia. Following her Ph.D., she was a postdoctoral fellow at The Sexualities Project at Northwestern (SPAN).

Unsettling the Patriot: Queer Art in the New Autocracy

Dr. CUNEYT CAKIRLAR

School of Arts and Humanities, Nottingham Trent University

Cüneyt Çakirlar is a senior lecturer in Communications, Culture and Media Studies at Nottingham Trent University. His current research practice focuses on transnational sexuality studies, global visual cultures, and cross-cultural mobility of contemporary art practices. Awarded a PhD degree in Gender Studies (UCL), followed by an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship award at University College London with his project on cultural translation in arts (2008-2009), Çakirlar has taught on queer aesthetics and film theory at UCL (UK), Bogazici University (Istanbul, TR), Koç University (Istanbul, TR), and Istanbul Bilgi University (TR). Çakirlar’s articles appeared in various international peer-reviewed journals including Critical Arts, Paragraph, Cineaction and Screen. Has co-edited a volume about cultures of sexual dissidence in contemporary Turkey, namely Cinsellik Muamması: Türkiye’de Queer Külltür ve Muhalefet (Metis, 2012), and co-translated Judith Butler’s Bodies That Matter (1993) into Turkish (Pinhan Press, 2014). Çakırlar has also worked with various arts institutions in Turkey, USA, UK, and Germany. He has authored exhibition catalogues for the works of various artists including Taner Ceylan (Paul Kasmin Gallery NYC, 2013), Jake and Dinos Chapman (ARTER Istanbul, 2017), Erinç Seymen (Zilberman Gallery, 2017), and Soufiane Ababri (PILL Istanbul, 2019). He has recently acted as the public program curator for the show House of Wisdom Nottingham, an arts exhibition curated by Collective Çukurcuma, produced by Queer Art Projects and sponsored by Arts Council England, Bonington Gallery, Primary Nottingham, Bromley House Library and UNESCO City of Literature.

Artist Presentations
Emre Busse 
Ahmet’s Fuck Tour: Why do I want to get fucked for my thesis?

As a relatively common phenomenon in European representations of gay sexuality and masculinity, ‘ethnic’ pornography has been a constantly growing market over the last 30 years. As part of this phenomenon, Germany has also produced around 49 films of gay ‘ethnic’ pornography that are produced in Turkey. All of these films were produced by two companies, in Germany, owners of which have Turkish immigration background, except for one German national. These productions are of additional critical importance and represent a radical shift in contemporary aesthetics of gay ‘ethnic’ pornography as the producers and directors are of Turkish descent, which creates a contrast to earlier examples of gay ‘ethnic’ pornography in Europe. Especially, at a time when the public image of gay culture is becoming more and more liberal and mainstream both in Europe and specifically in Germany, and when the Turkish immigrant community appears to be irreversibly embedded into the German culture, my proposed research enables the analysis of how these two different sexual and cultural spaces define and produce alterity through masculine body representations, then and now. These points also appear as spaces of freedom, which are not much different to the spaces of freedom created through sex tourism while also referring to how these spaces sanctify the heteronormativity of the Western social body. My paper will propose reading masculinities through this cross-cultural exchange in Europe, specifically between Germany and Turkey while exposing the examples of gay ‘ethnic’ pornography. To this end, I will engage with both archival and critical analysis of these productions during my paper presentation. In addition to this presentation, I will open up a discussion on practical part of my research where I will take part as an actor of a porn movie which will be directed by the pioneers of German gay ethnic pornography. 

Born in 1990, Istanbul, Turkey. Emre Busse is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the Freie University Berlin, focusing on gay ‘ethnic’ pornography in Europe. He worked as head curator of the Berlin based queer art project, Pornceptual between 2014 – 2017. As an artist and filmmaker, he directed numerous movies such as, “Hyper-Masculinity on the Dance Floor” and “Landlords - Economics of S&M Apartments in Berlin”. In March 2017, he co-curated the exhibition called “ğ-queer forms migrate” in Schwules Museum* Berlin (LGBT History Museum of Berlin) supported by the Regierender Bürgermeister von Berlin – Senatsverwaltung für Kultur und Europa. 

Erkan Affan

Berlin’deyim Aşkım’: On Performativity, Advocacy and Transnational Solidarity for Queer, Turkish-speaking Migrants in Berlin

(UCL, University of London)

As the largest ethnic minority community in Germany, the Turkish-speaking diaspora in Berlin have been the subject of numerous literatures focusing on the intricacies of their marginality. Nonetheless these analyses have established unchallenged assumptions of hetero-patriarchal identity as the significant existential point of focus within their intellectual practice. Rather, this paper uses a mixed-method approach of participant observation and semi-structured interviews to uncover how performative spaces in the city maintain queer, Turkish-speaking identity vis-à-vis the larger Turkish-speaking and German population; how advocacy organisations politically represent this cross-generational queer community to mainstream socio-political infrastructures in the country; and how the queer community creates and maintains transnational networks of solidarity between Berlin and the local activist communities extant in cities such as Istanbul, Ankara and Mersin in Turkey. 

Erkan Affan is a queer and gender non-conforming activist of colour based between London and Berlin. With an academic background in Middle Eastern politics [BA, SOAS] and global migration (MSc, UCL), Erkan’s research has focused most notably on the importance of club and performance spaces for Turkish-speaking queer migrants in Berlin, and on the trans-exclusionary policies of the UNHCR’s gender mainstreaming programmes for refugees. An avid believe of decolonising the contemporary structures of knowledge and fostering accessibility, Erkan completed a curatorial residency funded by the European Commission in 2019 and co-curated the first queer, of colour and Muslim festival in Berlin. They are also the co-founder of Berlin-based collective Queer Arab Barty, curating social and political spaces in Berlin for LGBTQIA+ Arab individuals that include a panel for the 2020 CTM x Transmediale Festival on navigating Orientalism in contemporary society. Erkan has worked with a number of notable venues and organisations, including the Institute of Contemporary Art in London, the KW Institute of Contemporary Art in Berlin, the Swedish Socialist Union in Stockholm, and the International Queer and Migrant Film Festival in Amsterdam. 

Mustafa Boga
Testimony

While military service is mandatory for all Turkish men - they can only be exempt if they are ill, disabled or homosexual. But proving homosexuality is a humiliating ordeal. Turkey's military hospitals still define homosexuality as an illness, taking this, 1968 version of a test, by the American Psychiatric Association as one of their guides.

The talk will focus on my experiences of getting a ‘pink certificate’ and how The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) a personality test is used to get it. This test is one of the necessary steps required to exempt from military duty for marginalized groups. If a person is successful in getting a pink certificate this could also mean a job rejection because the status on the paper reads as ''psychosexual disorder''. The test is the most widely used and researched standardized psychometric test of adult personality and psychopathology.

Mustafa Boğa is an artist based in the UK and Turkey. He completed his masters degree in 2016 from Central Saint Martins in London after studying for an MA in Fine Art as well as previously obtaining a masters degree from Greenwich University in London in Cinematography and Post Production.

 His work deals critically (but also humorously) with issues such as gender, national identity, militarism, masculinity and sexuality. His work covers a range of different media including photography, video, printmaking, installation and performance. www.mustafaboga.com

Selin Davasse 
Head Too Far West and You’ll End Up In The East

Head too far West and You End up in the East is a lecture and sound performance, providing a window into the artistic lives of (un)/dutiful daughters of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Turkey’s founding father. It uses the narrative voice of a politically self-motivated, aesthetically self-questioning and financially self-exploitative artist from Asia Minor. Illusionary elements referencing the rules of perspective in Renaissance painting are employed in the visual presentation. Putting the disillusionment with Turkey’s cultural reforms—which strived for a Turkish Rebirth—into perspective, the work explores the emotional dimensions of unlearning official narratives. Delivered in verse, the lecture surveys female artists whose personal/professional lives were molded by Kemalism; namely the operatic soprano Leyla Gencer, the Turkish Art Music singer Mermaid Eftalya and the painter Mihri Müşfik. Intertwining personal and national histories, the work harmonizes the young Republic’s inferiority complex around producing polyphonic music and a Turkish pictorial/sculptural tradition, with the artist’s own contemporary artistic anxieties. She produces work originating from an exoticized and commodified identity, which evokes tokenistic intrigue mixed with lowered expectations. As an eternal Other, she has no claim on the universal as it still signifies western and western only. The lecture interrupts itself with polyphonic rearrangements of Turkish Art Music songs with English libretti. Atatürk’s cultural reforms were notoriously hostile towards Turkish Art Music, deeming it dissonant with the West’s advanced polyphonic technique, and thus modern Turkey’s progressive trajectory. The polyphonic rearrangements intend to sonically disprove Turkish state ideology, while simultaneously giving voice to a non-Western artist’s alienation from the language of high art.

Selin Davasse (b. 1992, Ankara) is a Berlin-based artist. Her performative practice translates research across various disciplines to textual, visual and sonic textures. Interweaving theory, history and fiction into feminine voices, her work engages with ethical/political impasses and takes shape as multilayered lecture-performances with site-specific installations. She has recently performed at Pickle Bar (2020) organized by Slavs and Tatars and KW Institute for Contemporary Art, presented Hydro-Salon for Embodied Aqueousness (2019) parallel to the 16th Istanbul Biennial and participated in The Society for Matriarchal World Domination (2019) public poster series acquired by Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin. Her upcoming performances will be presented at Armen Avanessian and Enemies (2020) at the Roter Salon at Volksbühne, Berlin and Mediterranea 19 Young Artists Biennale (2021), San Marino. 

Produced by Queer Art Projects in partnership with CUNTemporary.

Supported by the Mountain of Arts Research (MARs) / Goldsmiths, University of London and Arts Council England