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<nettime> Statement against censorship of Akbank Sanat in Istanbul [x2]
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<nettime> Statement against censorship of Akbank Sanat in Istanbul [x2]

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bit <bit {AT} riseup.net>

     Statement against censorship of Akbank Sanat in Istanbul
     Re: Statement against censorship of Akbank Sanat in Istanbul

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From: bit <bit {AT} riseup.net>
Subject: Statement against censorship of Akbank Sanat in Istanbul
Date: Tue, 10 May 2016 18:22:26 +0200

   Dear all,
   Below I'd like to share my statement about Akbank Sanat 's censorship
   of the exhibition Post-Peace in Istanbul, and my video Ayhan and me:


   link to the video Ayhan and me: https://vimeo.com/165093404

   all my best,

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Subject: Re: Statement against censorship of Akbank Sanat in Istanbul
From: bit <bit {AT} riseup.net>
Date: Tue, 10 May 2016 18:40:11 +0200

   in case you don't want to click a link from a stranger, pasted below :)

   Open Letter - 11 May 2016
   belit sag

   It was my intention for a long time to publish a statement about the
   censorship of my video Ayhan and me (2016), part of the group
   exhibition Post-Peace that was censored by Akbank Sanat. When the
   exhibition was censored, I wanted to prioritize the group statement of
   the collaborators and artists of the exhibition. The group statement is
   out, and it's now my turn. I would like this statement to be seen as a
   contribution to the statements made by Katia Krupennikova, the curator
   of the show (http://bit.ly/21CBqUy); the jury of the Akbank Sanat
   International Curator Competition 2015 (http://bit.ly/23tKRVu);
   Anonymous Stateless Immigrants Movement (http://bit.ly/24B03Tp); and
   the artist and contributors of the exhibition Post-Peace
   (http://bit.ly/1Ygs1zS). With this statement, I aim to share my own

   I am the only artist from Turkey that was supposed to take part in the
   group exhibition Post-Peace. My initial proposal was specifically about
   Turkey. This proposal went through a censorship process starting months
   before the originally planned opening date. I'd like to share my
   experience with the hope that it will shed a little bit of light on the
   censorship that of the exhibition itself and the problem of censorship
   in the art field more generally.

   The group exhibition Post-Peace was initially planned to take place in
   Amsterdam. I was invited by the curator at this early stage. Later on,
   with this exhibition concept Katia Krupennikova applied for and won the
   Akbank Sanat International Curator Competition 2015. The exhibition
   moved from Amsterdam to Istanbul. In one of the talks Katia had with
   Akbank Sanat managers in November 2015, she mentioned to them my
   proposal. They told Katia that the political situation in Turkey is
   tense, and that they can not commission the proposed work. Katia asked
   for an official statement from the director of Akbank Sanat, Derya
   Bigali. She didn't receive a reply. I met Katia when she came back to
   Amsterdam. We wrote together to Zeynep Arinç from Akbank Sanat, with
   whom Katia has been in contact throughout the process. We asked for a
   formal rejection letter from the director, explaining the reasons for
   their decision. Zeynep Arinç replied to our email informally telling
   Katia that Akbank Sanat can not commission this work.

   My initial work proposal, censored by Akbank Sanat, was about Ayhan
   Çarkin. Ayhan Çarkin was part of JITEM, an unofficial paramilitary wing
   of the Turkish Security Forces active in mass executions of the Kurdish
   population in the 1990s. As a part of the deep state and JITEM, Ayhan
   Çarkin confessed in 2011 that he led operations that killed over 1000
   Kurdish people during the 1990s. These confessions were made on
   television, and videos from those confessions are accessible on
   Youtube. The work I was planning to make was about Ayhan Çarkin's
   personal transformation, how historical reality is constructed, and how
   to think about the term `evil'. This work, which was only a written
   proposal at that point, was censored by Akbank Sanat, even though it
   was part of the curator's exhibition concept from the very beginning,
   and was chosen by an international jury as part of the exhibition for
   Akbank Sanat International Curator Competition 2015.

   This was the first time something like this had happened to me. Instead
   of leaving the exhibition, Katia and I came up with a proposal for a
   new work. The new work was going to talk about the censorship of my
   previous proposal, as well as the politics of images of war in Turkey.
   Akbank Sanat requested to see the script of this new work. Katia didn't
   respond to this request, and I told her that I'm not in favor of
   showing the script, due to Akbank Sanat's attitude up till that point.
   Consequently we asked the founder of the Akbank Sanat International
   Curator Competition, curator Basak Senova, for her opinion on this
   issue. At first she supported us, but after she consulted with Akbank
   Sanat she told us that the refusal by Akbank Sanat is understandable.
   To be honest these reactions made me feel alone. Turkey is really going
   through a tough period, and I started questioning why, as an artist, I
   was putting the whole institution at risk...?

   In December before I started producing my second proposal I realized
   that I did not feel comfortable with accepting the situation as it was.
   I decided to make the censorship public, by writing a letter and
   sending it to the press. I met withKatia and we started writing an
   email explaining the situation to the jury. In mid January, before we
   finalized the letter, Katia told me that she talked to Akbank Sanat and
   they agreed to the new proposal and no longer demanded to see the
   script in advance. I started making the video. I got in contact with
   Siyah Bant, a group that deals with censorship in the field of art in
   Turkey. I got a lot of support from them, which helped against the
   feeling of isolation such censorship cases cause. Also, we started
   thinking about ways to deal with this specific case. The final video
   took shape as a result of this process. I believe watching the video
   complements this statement.

   Ayhan and me: vimeo.com/belit/ayhanveben

   The video was finalized on the 23^rd of February, and Katia
   Krupennikova presented all the works to Akbank Sanat for technical
   check on the same day. The exhibition was supposed to open on the 1^st
   of March, and it was cancelled/censored on the 25^th of February. There
   was no exhibition announcement on Akbank Sanat's website or social
   media accounts, or there was any exhibition poster at Akbank Sanat's
   space at any point. This makes me think that Akbank Sanat has been
   considering this decision for a long time, but didn't communicate it to
   the curator or any other contributor of the show.

   I don't know and will never get definite confirmation whether the
   cancellation of Post-Peace was related to the content of my work or
   not. However this does not change what happened. Together with Siyah
   Bant we prepared a press release explaining the censorship prior to the
   cancellation of the exhibition. Even if the exhibition had not been
   cancelled, I was planning to publicize my experience of Akbank Sanat's

   In the 90s, Akbank Sanat hosted a painting exhibition by Kenan Evren.
   Kenan Evren is the leader of the 1980 coup d'etat in Turkey. Akbank
   Sanat has had several censorship cases in its history. Akbank Sanat
   gave Kenan Evren the possibility to exhibit his work as an `artist',
   without questioning his leading role in the 1980 coup, from which the
   country still suffers. Akbank Sanat has never taken responsibility for
   this exhibition nor the role they took in it and what it means for
   Turkey. I do not believe that Akbank Sanat has or aims to acquire the
   ethical and conceptual capacity to host any exhibitions. The Akbank
   Sanat International Curator Competition that they have sponsored for
   the past four years is an important award in the international art
   world, which gives them a prestige they do not deserve.

   At this point I have a number of questions to ask:

   - Why does Akbank Sanat have the right to bypass the jury of Akbank
   Sanat International Curator Competition 2015 and the originally
   accepted plan of the exhibition? As mentioned in Basak Senova's
   statement following the cancellation: "Afterwards, Akbank Sanat
   unquestioningly implements all aspects of the exhibition" -

   - How does Akbank Sanat position itself in relation to the jury of the
   Competition, the founding curator, the curator, and the artists of the

   - Why didn't Akbank Sanat discuss the possibility of canceling the
   exhibition together with the curator, the artists and the jury prior to
   the cancellation? Why does Akbank Sanat take decisions from the top,
   thereby marginalizing the contributors and blocking their participation
   in decision-making mechanisms concerning the very exhibition they have
   been commissioned to make?

   Institutions like Akbank Sanat will not admit that they censored the
   content of any exhibition, and will not take responsibility for the
   situation. These institutions interfere with cultural content due to
   their connections to corporations and banks, allied with oppressive
   government policies. This paves the way for normalizing censorship and
   abusing the political situation of the country as an excuse, as in the
   text explaining the cancellation by the director of Akbank Sanat
   ("Turkey is still reeling from their emotional aftershocks and remains
   in a period of mourning."). I believe we need to expose these
   government-allied mentalities and structures over and over again.

   Institutions like Akbank Sanat can continue their activities, because
   every time they censor the cultural arena they get away with it; their
   acts are not revealed, they are not held accountable, and they continue
   to receive support. Letting this happen deserts the fields of culture
   and art, and distances them from the struggles going on in the country.
   At the same time, this acceptance and silence obstructs those people
   and institutions that bravely resist, and further restricts already
   shrinking zones of freedom. We, as cultural and art workers, can
   counter this by refusing to accept the silencing of artistic

   Any cultural and art worker who is ignorant of the ongoing oppression
   in Turkey, who does not call censorship by its name, who does not see
   or fails to recognize the ongoing massacres in Kurdish lands becomes
   part of this oppressive structure. I have channels to speak out, I do
   not want to intimidate people who don't have access to such channels,
   or who have to stay silent in order to avoid risking their lives. It is
   exactly for this reason, that we have to speak out en masse. I also
   think that `speaking out' can happen in a variety of ways, just as acts
   of resistance do.

   Although I have a hard time believing it myself, almost everyone I met
   in Cizre (a Kurdish town inside Turkey bordering Syria) in 2015, has
   either been killed or else left Cizre in order to stay alive. I owe
   this statement to the people I met in Cizre. Many other Kurdish towns
   and cities have suffered from or are currently undergoing similar
   attacks by Turkish State security forces. Every struggle in this region
   is connected, even though some might want to separate them. The one
   sharp difference is that some people get censored and others get killed
   in this country. Exactly because of this, we, the ones who get
   censorred, need to keep ourselves connected to other resistances and
   realize of our privilege. With this letter I wish to show solidarity
   with those working in the fields of culture and art who have already
   experienced or might experience similar censorships. My statement aims
   to express that we do not have to bear those abuses alone, with the
   hope that more of us will be able to speak up, and the hope that we can
   act collectively.

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