Hypocrisy, a street which both begins and ends in the world, and there is scarcely anyone who doesn’t have, if not a house, then at least rooms or temporary lodgings along the length of it. A suspicious old man and a trusting young one walk to this main street of the world to observe closely habits and customs of their peers.
To cross certain thresholds to see The world from inside, as Quevedo did in this fourth Dream, is what the Turkish artist Sükran Moral also seeks through her performances, which is why the curator Claudia Gianetti takes this title of the Spanish writer to present Sukran’s work in Es Baluard.
1. Sükran, two of the video performances on view in Es Baluard happen in male-only spaces: a hammam for men (Hamam 1997) and a brothel in Istanbul (Bordello 1997). In the first, you disguised as an assistant in order to enter; in the second, you dressed as a prostitute and holding up a “For sale” sign. If we link both projects, can we say that the anachronism of sex segregation in a society is one of the causes of double standards?
Bordello and Hamam are projects that I did to enter places where men have fun, buy sex and can afford to shut themselves in a Turkish Hamam to feel comfortable. My intention was to break a taboo… What was happening inside? We talked about it but we really didn’t know anything. It was meant to unmask a macho myth.
It was interesting for me to descend to the “underground” city, unlike the false prudery that is usually found in art biennials where is difficult to face the truth.
2. Another issue that links both projects is the reification of women: in Hamam, the nod to odalisques in European painting; in Bordello, the parallelism between the prostitution of art-commodity and the commoditized body of a prostitute… Both works come from local situations but you try to extend the reflection to a more global level. Sexism takes different forms as molded by religion, by capitalism, by art…
Yes, but if you look closely at Hamam it will bring you to Pompeii’s frescoes. Although I prefer to work in my country, I would say that ancestral feelings move my guts towards a universal language.
In the West, Hamam has been linked to Ingres paintings, to his orientalist vision of a seductive and passive woman; an object of desire in a Turkish bath or as a docile geisha who offers her body to men. My entrance to a Turkish bath in Istanbul breaks away from these cultural stereotypes and denounces, in a local situation, a medieval and petty taboo.
3. In “Married with Three Men” 2010 (also on view in the Mallorcan exhibition), takes place a complete role reversal by staging a traditional Turkish wedding with its most degrading rites and customs: you adopt the role of a bride who chooses two very young boyfriends (denouncing polygamy and child marriage), you tie a red ribbon (virginity symbol) on their waist, and pin bills and gold on their suits. They are Kurds, so you further rub salt into the wound. How did the townspeople react to this surrealist wedding?
The first time I made “Married with three men” was in Rome, in 1994, to denounce my clandestine status in Italy. So, at first, it was not just about denouncing polygamy. Later, I did the performance in a Turkish village with local people, and here is where I did denounce a crime against young girls forced to marry older men and humiliating customs against women.
4. All your performances are risky and have been censored in your country, but the one that caused more commotion, forcing you into exile, was a sex scene with another woman (Amemus 2010). Do you think the reason for so much noise was to make love in a gallery or the theme of lesbianism? Homosexuality is not criminalized in Turkey but still remains taboo in regressive circles. How do you see the current situation?
The truth is that they were looking for an excuse to discredit me. Until that moment I had already done many inconvenient works, which were widely echoed… And they found that excuse. My country was living a difficult time. All minds seemed clouded by a blinding light. Better to say… sunk in the darkness. I had never seen such a thing. The whole country was thrown into a collective delirium.
They wanted to lynch me because I made love with another woman in an art gallery. Make love! The situation of homosexuals is getting worse. Denied rights are increasing, we are heading towards the Middle Ages.
5. I read that Amemus was inspired by Courbet’s painting “Le sommeil”, which brings me to another correspondence: between Courbet’s “L’origene du monde” and your “Found Guilty” (a photographic close-up of a bloody vagina). The critical load is increased by linking a history of violence against the female body with the phallocentric and voyeuristic history of universal art.
In Amemus I was not inspired by Courbet but my own experience. Inspiration came to me from a patriarchal society that humiliates and denies women’s desire.
Otherwise, I did the bloody vagina (Ecco la colpevole 2009) to give an answer to “Origin of the World”, a so cute pussy. Instead, my pussy is like a slap to the voyeur gaze…
6. “Family night” (2009) installation showed the latent violence in a household with a greater scenic impact, the atrocity rooted in minds clouded by millenary customs that are not questioned. Although the laws are becoming more open, the reality is different: crimes of honor, the humiliation of girls who try to leave the fold…
Family Night talks about violence at home, a violence that reaches women inside a domestic space: from their husband, father or brother. At home, the happy family, a festive meal in which each one has their role so that the lords have at their disposal the wealth of the world that is shared among a very few families.
Interviewed by Anna Adell
Sükran Moral, El mundo por dentro
curated by Claudia Gianetti
can be visited until 9th September 2018
in Es Baluard, Museu d’Art Modern i Contemporani de Mallorca