Before coming to Germany from a Kurdish region, Gülşen’s mom Şirin was subject to persecution, to the supra politics of the state. She had experienced so many deportations, systemic annulation of the state and in the backdrop of a war scenery. Gülşen’s mother died in Germany and was buried there, so for the Aktaş sisters the history and ancestry is buried in Germany. It is a second homeland for Gülşen and her siblings. The site is important because Gülşen has a special connection to it, like different strips of time are buried there. What is time? Time in my eyes is what is being dealt with in the medium of cinema and film. We are dealing with time as filmmakers. So the duration that one needs to spend in the movie theater is our material. Through the cemetery I came to understand that people buried there represent different time segments and strips, like film strips that have been brought there to be buried. So imagine the cemetery is an editing room with so many film strips. It is raw material; we’ll try to cut our own experimental film from it. This is what I am interested in this second essay film, now.
»Through the cemetery I came to understand that people buried there represent different time segments and strips, like film strips that have been brought there to be buried.«
So this is where I come back to photography and moving images. I filmed Gülşen everywhere. Her daily activities in the cemetery. I have her every move in HD, but it is at the end showing her in motion. And I think this makes the project lose a bit of meaning. Because in photography, like in migration, your itinerary might be clear, yet you can’t really foresee things. For example, you shoot analogue photography, not really knowing how it will turn out when it’s developed. What it will look like, because it is a very short glimpse of time. You don’t know what you have shot. Like when you don’t know what will happen with your life, when you migrate somewhere. Another important thing in analogue photography is that chance and error play a crucial part. Everything can go wrong, even during development. So this is more interesting to me than showing a controlled itinerary of Gülşen visiting the cemetery; then it becomes too performative and aware of an audience. I always thought this is going to be a two-channel piece. I always thought of me and Gülşen, taking inspiration from the Grimm Brothers, as fairy-tale characters, maybe Hansel and Gretel. Us moving in this cemetery trying to find bits and pieces and things that can help us understand the archeology of feeling. So, the cemetery became a site for us not to dig in, but to try and collect bits and pieces through a visual kind of archeology. What we are doing here is excavating the symbolic.
In 2013, I found myself in the midst of the Gezi uprising. I had five days in Istanbul and I spent it in Gezi Park. This is quite important to me, because on the way from Berlin to there, I brought a lot of film material thinking I would use it at Bard College in New York for my final semester. But experiencing Gezi – seeing what happened there, and then on top of this, maybe the exposure that I received from Oberhausen for a film in which I’m dealing with already existing photography – I was overwhelmed with any kind of image production and I had to cease taking photographs. Vividness of life and resistance – how beautiful it was. I never intended to take photographs in Istanbul. Not even the idea having a camera between me and the outer world crossed my mind, because it was so beautiful and mesmerizing. So, I stopped shooting images there. Imagine myself like a python, and I just had swallowed a sheep. It is a lot of this flux, of feelings, and information. And emotions just somehow blocked me. So, I couldn’t touch this film material for a long while. It was a lot of film rolls, both in medium format and 35 mm, B&W and color. I didn’t use the medium format rolls in Istanbul, I used them in Berlin. I shot Gülşen on these expired film rolls. These film rolls that I gathered had been sitting and stored in a storage space in Berlin. Like my life had been sitting in boxes for too long since 2013. A box is also meant for moving, it requires flux, or brings movement to mind. But my boxes were sitting somewhere. And these films are boxes, too. They contain light-sensitive material and they are supposed to be exposed to light to create imagery.
The unexposed film material can be a metaphor of me as the artist of this project. I was equipped and trained as a photographer to shoot film, but I have chosen not to make use of those rolls from 2013 on – it needed me to go somewhere else and to come back to be exposed and unfolded…that I needed to be somewhere else than Turkey to come back to them to understand the time that had already past. Now it is reborn in this film. The material is reborn into a now.