As part of the 10 years celebration of Uppsala as a city of refuge for writers and artists, , internationally renowned artist from the Northern Turkish city of Batman, took part in a conversation with Hanna Nordell, producer at Tensta Konsthall in Stockholm. They talked about art, censorship and the politics of place in today’s Turkey.
Taking Atays artistic work and situation as a starting point, the talk addressed the situation of artists in Turkey today. Both a Kurd and an artist makes him double persecuted by the authorities in Turkey, he says. And the failed coup in 2016, has made it even more difficult for artists and intellectuals to work and stay safe in Turkey. Atay says it was impossible for him to get permission to film in Turkey and they could imprison him at any time.
“I was constantly worried when filming my art works”, Atay said.
Nordell points out that Atay shows, in a sharp and poetic way, art’s ability to challenge systems and structures. Watching his film Tinica, she got the feeling that he was back in 2004, foreseeing the events of the revolutions that would take place several years later.
“What I take with me from the conversation is also how his body of work reflects the issues at stake within the ICORN-system, where the city and its inhabitants provide a very specific locality, and in a way work as a counter-narrative in relation to nation-states and global systems of power.” says Nordell.
In his art, Fikret Atay highlights the tensions that rise from permanent opposition between the West and the East, civilians and military, tradition and experimentation. A situation he experienced in his hometown. He has a simple, unaffected style that lends a straightforward authenticity to the images, yet the meanings of the performers’ actions remain mysterious to viewers unfamiliar with the local culture.
Atay came to Örebro through the ICORN programme in November 2017. In Sweden, he continues discuss the same topics through his art, but in a different context. He says that whereas freedom is a recurrent theme in his art, equality has now become an important part of his work. Because there is no freedom without equality.
Saturday 15 September, Atay also took part in a panel discussion on artistic freedom and its role in shaping free and democratic societies. The panel included Iranian journalist Ali Kalaei, Eritrean journalist and artist, Girmay Yohannes, Anna Livion from Swedish PEN and Ann Ighe, historian and editor of Ord&Bil, and Calle Nathanson.