It was crowded, but not in a suffocating way. The music was good, yes it was really good. You could come here for just the music she even thought. Plus the colours, the lighting, the food and drinks...in short, the place was not bad at all. They ordered two coffees.
The dialogue shaped by the usual, memorised 'post-work hour depression' confessions and the 'I've had it with this life!" complaints came to end because of the irresistible urge to go to the bathroom. Where could the bathroom be? She had to find out by 'trial and error', with the 'everything is alright mask' she was wearing to cover her hesitancy of the asocial origin. She was relieved to notice the stairs on the left going downwards.
What a short-lived relief! Just when she was getting ready to concentrate on choosing the bathroom door with the correct gender sign, the stairs crawling with a Kafkaesque move left her in front of a completely different space. It was a bright-lit room, appearing larger than it was. Considering the paintings on the walls, could this be a gallery? Her gaze was now on the paintings.
The canvases were hung doubly, in pairs. Each pair also shared a title. "Woman looking at her self", "Jenni watching herself making love", "Venus waiting for herself to undress"...Are these really in sequence? Should I look at them like reading a comic book? Maybe they only share a common title. She had never seen such an exhibition. What was the use of such a game? Is the painter trying to say something else? Just before she was about to read the signature on the painting to find out who the painter was, she saw the poster on the wall. It was Hakan Akçura, and the exhibition was titled "Self".
POWER OF THE ARTIST. Hakan Akçura has been the first artist of the new art and culture project in Dulcinea Cafe's basement floor, "The Independent Space for Contemporary Art". His exhibition is called, "...Self". Simply it is a "different" exhibition. Yet, there is much to be said about how paintings which are technically traditional can transform into contemporary and avant-garde works through their context, and the game played through them, which asks for your participation in changing the conventional way of seeing, perceiving and reading into a painting.
The exhibition consists of 16 single canvases which form 8 diptychs. These diptychs, also sharing a single title, describe a certain moment or two consequent moments from a different corner, light or angle. For instance, we see the man observing himself from a different angle in the next painting. Jenni whom we see making love in one painting, is watching herself in the second one. All the subjects are concerned with them'selves' in some way. They watch them'selves', they anticipate by them'selves' the things that they want to happen to them. In a way, their courage to look at them'selves' from a distance is provided by their alienation. All the canvases are separated by schizophrenic scissors.
In the paintings, an aim to make accurate renderings is not sensed. However an intense abstraction is also absent. There is a rough, primitive feeling in the choice of colours, lines and brush strokes which are deliberately brought together to act up which gives precision to the expression. In the middle of all this, you sense the painful laughter of a child making "mean" jokes. Are you playing around with us? Are you trying to create power over us by narrowing our field of recollections?
"When you look at a painting, there is a state of the first reading. It is true that by presenting two canvases and giving them a title, the definition of that action is contained within my personal domain. On the other hand, there is not a duality in the subjects. I am ready to give up that power any minute, and you always have the chance to go back to that first reading. Indeed, this is what the game is all about for me. These paintings are consumed in this way;. People are surprised at first, then they become certain, at that point they realise that they are mistaken and feel frustrated and they become certain again."
ART-PLAY AGAINST THE SPACE. When you learn about Hakan Akçura's previous works and his future projects, you feel the need to give up that word painting and replace all of them used since the beginning of this article with a new word. 'Work', for instance, could be more suitable in definition. According to Akçura, art as a whole is the 'tool of expression'. Expression towards whom or what? Towards the space itself. This is the only way he can express his existance to him'self'. Poetry is a cry, for instance. Graphic design and short films, on the other hand, are fields that he uses his mind more directly.Painting on the other hand is a real synthesis.
"In a time like this, I feel that the artists who strictly commit to a single medium are not creating fully. Where the image, our urge to consume and then reproduce, and our reflexes are coming from requires a way of creation which has placed one foot here and the other elsewhere. This is where the definition I prefer to call "art-game" comes into the picture. I think that our game language (the recollections, the broken sentences) is the most proper language to be used as a bridge between our pasts and future.
This is such a game which by nature is humorous, lying, fictitious and it requires knowledge and skill on the mediums it makes use of. This is Akçura's favorite platform. He likes to provocate and pokes the creativity in people by his works. He prefers working on this platform not only in art, but in all his relationships. He wants to surprise people.
Seeing, gazing, showing, observing, voyeurism…These are all important words for Akçura. One of his friends describe him as "The only voyeurist who can express himself so easily." He does not deny this, but he is concerned with something else:
"I call the eyes to another way of seeing. We live in a world in which pill-like presentations and consumption empose an over simplified way. I think that any action to break this pattern, artistic or non-artistic, is useful for men. I am seriously pessimistic about the future. It has become very easy for us to open and close our eyes to things. If someone walking on Istiklal Street prefers to be peaceful, he/she is able to ignore a lot of things there. After a while, this turns into a self-defence mechanism. We are becoming blind and dull." Although Akçura is not actively involved in politics as he has once been for many years, he is in the most political phase of his life.
LIMPING BIRD, BROKEN LINE. Hakan Akçura explains that he creates the tension he aims for by not turning his back to the references of art history in the aesthetical and technical sense, yet he also does not dismiss the significance of painting. For instance, he could have easily used photographs instead of paintings in this exhibition. However, he wants to fight against the idea that contemporary art has to turn its back to all the traditional techniques.
Akçura who believes that everyone carries an artistic potential within themselves wants to provocate this with his work. When poetry and "Limping Bird" is mentioned, he hesitates for a moment: "Poetry is a highly private field for me. It is like talking to myself, like keeping a journal, like a cry. There is something healing about those breaths. I find poetry to be sacred in a point in my life where I do not feel that art is sacred. Poetry is not included in the field in which I want art and creation to be democratic. I want to integrate this ancient language into my games."
The Internet which Hakan Akçura perceives as a rich source for creativity, plays an important role in his recent projects. He considers the Internet language and the relationship formed with the Internet to be highly significant. At the moment, he is involved, anonymously, in 4 different activities on the Internet.
He is planning to display one of these projects in the near future. The artist, collecting criminal profiles from nearly 1500 police departments, international police organisations, inspector offices and composite sketch artists' websites, aiming to turn these into a portrait exhibition using their criminal stories. This is a new way of provocation, shocking, and creating tension. He is quite hesitant about revealing the other 3 projects in a country where there is a chronic shortage of ideas for new projects. He actually does reveal them, but does not want them to be revealed. The game is his game.
"The Internet is an incredibly rich source. I have the advantage of speed and knowing what I am looking for. I can, for instance, scan 900 live cameras in one day."
He wants to play more and more games. Is speed important for him?
"I am concerned with expanding the time itself by breaking the given codes, instead of taking less time to do something. The work itself does not call for a specific speed. In the work that I will display, speed will not be apparent except those moments of playfulness, wit and joy displayed by those who are highly involved in the creative process, in their interaction with each other and the spaces they use in their daily lives."
I turn off the recorder. The woman who gave the impression that she was there by mistake has also just finished looking at the paintings. I can end this text whichever way I like. The game is my game. Plato refers to a poet as "something light with wings". "He can not discover anything unless upon being inspired he loses his consciousness and his mind leaves his body". This is the way to escape the void, to patch it, to gaze at it by creating. Gazing at where and how? Perhaps by playing games. Roland Barthes describes the 'gaze' as potentially mad in "Camera Lucida". The gaze is influenced by both the truth and the madness at the same time. Barthes is rather certain: "Whoever looks right into my eye is mad". I am confused.
Pınar Öğünç, Artı Haber, October, 1998