Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Queer Art from Turkey

Earlier this year, Cuneyt Cakirlar presented his research on queer art from Turkey at an event on Turkish Society in the Neoliberal Age at the University of Oxford.

His paper focused on the contemporary art scene in Turkey which has gained a considerable international visibility in the last decade. The currently expanding traffic of art galleries, institutional investors and art collectors as well as the international networks in the country have made the scene as one of the most crucial territories of cultural capital, in which the artists and their collaborators working in neighboring fields of expertise (such as academics and activists) channel their critical voices through art. The neoliberal regimes and the political economy within this international travel of art-as-capital deserve critical focus. His research, however, focuses on in-depth analyses of art-works by the key queer figures from the contemporary art scene of Turkey. Being a part of a much more extended project, his talk addressed a critical space where the glocalization and/or internationalization of contemporary arts and that of queer (and/or LGBTT) practices intersect and nurture each other.
Cuneyt's use of “queer figures” refers not necessarily to certain active members of LGBT communities in Turkey but particularly to artists whose art engages with issues of gender and sexuality in creative and dissident ways. The current academic, artistic and cultural visibility of queer practices in Turkey opens up curious critical possibilities to articulate the problematic of cross-cultural translations as well as global form(ul)ations of sexual dissidence within the post-9/11, second-generation queer theory. The main aim of this project is to examine the art-practices of Kutluğ Ataman, Taner Ceylan, Nilbar Güreş, Murat Morova and Erinç Seymen by focusing on their transregional strategies of inhabiting the “queerly critical”. While their art-works may be said to engage with the hegemonic intersections between localism, nationalism, heteronormativity and masculinity in contemporary Turkey, they instrumentalize the transregional formations of criticism, theory and contemporaneity in dissident arts. Thus, though sceptical of an unproblematically performed de-contextualization of queer theories from its western referent, his discussion investigated the possible strategies of translating and transposing queer aesthetics into a practice that not merely insist on a local political context but also act as a methodological object in its potential to reciprocate the geopolitics of critical theory and that of the global contemporary art market.
His ongoing study proposes a critical agenda of reading these practices as theoretical and methodological objects of theory, aesthetics, visual culture and media that transposes a certain queer alterity to Turkish cultural memory – and vice versa – through a constant disidentificatory distance working on and against the local/global binary. While these artists “pursue the decisive strategy of scuffling with all dimensions of its geography-culture” (Kosova, 2009), their artistic agenda also demonstrates a curious self-awareness of cultural globalization within contemporary arts. Their art practice entails layers of critical appropriation which do neither escape nor entirely forego the globalizing imperatives of theory, politics and art-practice. The mode of critique within, and the queerness of, their methodologies, which is nurtured by the so-called global trends in contemporary art (such as actionism, performance, exposure, appropriation, parody/pastiche, intermediality, etc.) can be neither reduced to an Occidentalist internalization nor overinterpreted as self-localization that enacts an innate geographic alterity. 

“Queer Art from Turkey: Aesthetics of the Glocal, Erotics of Translation” Invited Lecture, Authority and Subversion: Turkish Society in the Neoliberal Age, organized by Kerem Öktem, Lauren Mignon and Celia Kerslake, University of Oxford, 9 May 2012.

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