A Musical and Political Calendar

This text has written for the book of Masa Project on Önder Özengi’s work ‘ I Wanna Hurt – I Wanna Love’ (2008). Didem Yazıcı 2010.

The research starting with the question “What is left if we take the music out of a band?” brings us to an imaginary band, the unreal gigs of this band, and the set up that was designed with the fake objects that were left over from these performances. Masa lies as a massive four-legged animal in the form of a phony museum crafted with fake objects. In fact, we are on a suspicious ground that the tickets to non-existing concerts and unwritten newspaper articles are laid out in front of us, and actually it doesn’t really matter if the audience believes in them or not.  Besides encountering some everyday objects about the band, there is an important data fort he viewer: the dates! The work is trying to build itself over historicity. So, as the dates referred and the events that these dates refer to are highlighted, the band becomes only a tool such as a forgotten brochure from the past. But we shouldn’t be deceived by the fraudulent aspect of the work, because it performs through what is pointed out, not through what is shown. The dates chosen with a post-punk and dissident attitude, related to the everyday objects of the band manifest a documentary presentation. These objects that are presented like the archaeological remains of the actions of an activist organization have their meaning when matched with the specific dates. The political area and the musical area intersect on an operational ground and generate a mutual scenario. This historical selection starting with the ‘68 movement is based on both local and international political and musical events. With the emphasis on the dates, the work inevitably presents a construction that draws attention to the concepts of riots, massacres, activism, organization and memory. Is highlighting these dates in the search for social traces just a “reminding” gesture not the forget what was experienced? Within the contemporary art practice as a playground, what kind of point of view does creating a legend through the non-existent past of a fake music band and choose for them the dates of the significant political events of the present perfect include/suggest?

A dual situtation: I wanna hurt/ I wanna love 

When Igor Stravinsky says,I’ve never understood a line of music but I’ve felt it,”  he implies that music is essentially a spiritual discipline and it directly diffuses into feeling without needing any knowledge. New media artist Mehmet Akten, similarly mentions the sensual experience created by music while talking about his interactive work, Body Paint, which participated in the exhibition Decode, Digital Design Sensations[1]. “I think about all the films and musics I like, these are very strong media. For me, there is nothing above them. This is my goal. Body Paint is trying to reach it.” The area of influence of music is pretty wide, and it is commonly used and and it is an inspiration for contemporary art. But in this work, music takes place ideally instead of sensually. The power of music in bringing people together, and going to concerts being a collective act, correspond with the ideas of getting together and community. “Music makes the people come together/Music makes the bourgeoise and the rebel[2]” What can’t music do? The reason for the concert halls working as modern temples is not only being suitable for expressing feelings and helping socialization; but also being a means of communication that spreads easily and cheaply, without discriminating cultures and classes. One of the objects displayed in Masa is the ticket to concerts of the band (not) performed in Sorbonne University in May 3, 1968.[3] 3rd of May is an important date for the start of the ‘68 movement. After Nanterre Paris University was closed down for political reasons in May 2, 1968, the next day the students of Sorbonne University got together to protest against it. In a few days, National Student Union of France (UNEF) and the scholars got organized and the protests and clashes kept getting bigger until the summer of 68. To be present in Sorbonne University exactly on May 3, 1968, appearing in a concert there and  exhibiting an alleged evidence is an indicator of witnessing and partaking. The events of 68 are not only a local, historical definition that includes only that certain date and land; it is an ideological and global concept. The excitement, passion and belief that basically keep a band together, also serve as a source of motivation for political acts.

According to the work, another breaking point is the Sex Pistols concert that took place on November 6, 1975. As in the name of Özengi’s work and fake band “I wanna hurt, I wanna love,” Sex Pistols also aimed to love and hate/ make music and create an opponent and anarchist consciousness at the same time. “Sex Pistols seemed to be an ideal means to communicate directly with the people who didn’t get the message of leftist politics.[4]”  The reference to Sex Pistols, who have utilized their political views through music with their lyrics against religious and political authorities also maintains the dual impact of the exhibition that proceeds through politics and music. Even though this concert is not a direct social trauma or a cult event such as Paris ’68, it indirectly includes political notions in some way. Furthermore 1975 in London is a year that was politically troubled besides the punk movement; it was a bloody and violent time when the bomb that exploded in Oxford Street was denounced to The Sun newspaper five minutes earlier[5]; the London Hilton Hotel was bombed, and there was a conflict between IRA and England. Displaying a cigarette pack allegedly remaining from the ’69 Woodstock Festival is important in terms of being a date regarded as May 1st of music[6] and referred frequently. Like playing ping pong, the passing between these fake remains of this band through dates determines the rhytm of the work. Historicity is clearly on the focal point. While developing a discourse, it searches for the ways we relate with these dates that we refer to. We are aware that, while this imaginary band was leaving some traces behind, on the same dates there were massacres in Sivas and Maraş, the twin towers were bombed and Hrant Dink was shot.

Symbolizing Objects

The guitar pick that was assumed to be used in Maraş concert is no longer just a tool that helps playing the guitar. December 19, 1978 is the starting day of the one-week-long Maraş Massacre. The existence, evidence and display of the guitar pick left from the same day, exceeds the idea of community and uncovers the political sensitivity of the work.  The events that incited the distinction of Alaouite-Sunni and resulted with the massacre is accepted as one of the reasons for the coup on 12th September. I wanna hurt, I wanna love, choose the time for their performances on the local political breaking points. The album cover that was allegedly published on September 12, 1980, and the guitar string that was allegedly used in the concert on July 2, 1993, on the day of Sivas incident, are the objects that point out that while all these political events take place, daily life and music goes on. The January 19th Collective, which also indicates another date referred in the work brings attention to the fact that everyday life continues no matter what. “With the loss of Hrant, now everything is dull and matte but we stil keep on living.” On the other hand the idea of appearing in concerts on the days of violence and conflict brings about a suspicious situation; how does I wanna hurt, I wanna love position itself while all these events are taking place? We are not exactly sure about it. Are they unresponsive/reckless about these events, or are they showing a supportive/provocative performance? This suspicious situation completely clarifies the irony created by building the remains of unreal performances on real past events.  The idea that the band was performing on the dates referred, during the times of violence and conflict… This is the sharpest irony in the work that easily reaches to the audience. Özengi’s note is a clue for this passive presence: “Just besides these important historical stops it silently creates an existence for itself.” The band is nothing but a tool formed to draw attention to the dates; besides we don’t have any idea about their ideologies or music. More than a so-called opponent attitude that advocates some certain idea and does nothing beyond satisfying its own point of view; we are faced with a suggestion in which some certain dates reinforce the idea of being together.

Mythicizing Dates

In the calendar of the work, January 19, 2007 is also included. We don’t know if the band cancelled their Istanbul concert after they heard that Hrant Dink was shot. However, from the t-shirt that is exhibited, we learn that a special t-shirt was made for that concert. The t-shirt is ready for sale, professionally prepared for the fan base of a famous band, ready to wear, and stainless.  In order to refer to January 19, 2007, Özengi did not choose to use the photograph taken right after Hrant Dink was shot, which was widely used. Instead of Hrant Dink’s shoes that stand sadly and crosswise like an obtuse angle problem, he preferred to use an independent object, a “t-shirt.” The same attitude can also be seen in the relations with all the other dates. He doesn’t fall into the trap that most of social and political art does, which leads to a stereotypical visuality and repetition of the language by the use of local elements, advertising aesthetics and fetish objects. Without  giving way to commodity fetishism and exploiting the meaning of images, he presents an indirect statement. And the presentation of the work is set in a sense with a method that does not allow this. What seems to be a single work of art as a whole is actually consisting of conceptualized objects. In other words, there is a strategy that the exhibition itself is suggested as the work of art. The band that we assume that existed, I wanna hurt I wanna love is presented with the method of traditional exhibition, and thus makes a reference to the practice of museology. This opportunity provided by the design of Masa, makes it possible to make a documentary presentation with the label information of the objects. This is directly related to the relationship Özengi has with art. Not defining himself as an artist and working professionally as a curator since 2007 is clearly seen in this project. Because the work is formed by the conceptualizing of the chosen objects towards the concept of the exhibition. This work made with a curatorial approach can be seen as an occasional “gesture.” Considering that he became the curator of Masa after this work, it shows that this gesture is working.

Forming his curatorial approach of his artistic production based on the political breaking points indicates that these dates are the sources of reference. These dates and events by themselves are sufficient to indicate an ideological discourse or a period in music history. Because, either a social trauma or a music festival, what brings people together are some certain breaking points and just like the concert areas that become desolate after the music stops, the streets become uncannily empty after the protests are over. The crown in Hrant Dink’s funeral never being able to get together in such a big number again also remind of this uncanny emptiness. The “Where are we?” poster designed by the  January 19th Collective one year after the incident aims at this community  who has gradually lost his reactivity. January 19, 2007 indicates a date of the shot point of the rising nationalism in Turkey and the protests that developed with it. The collective taking its name from this date is actually a concrete example of the fact that Özengi builds an analogy with developing an opponent discourse through dates in his work. May ‘68, 9/11 events, September 12, 1980, and ‘69 Woodstock; all of these are the sources of references that form a togetherness on a musical and political route. They are the data that make it impossible to build a discourse on the events  lived in the past. On the contrary, I wanna hurt I wanna love builds a language on what is not lived and thus reads the subject it discusses backwards and suggests to leave a permanent mark in the memory.

Didem Yazıcı



[1] Decode: Digital Design Sensations sergisi Aralik 2009- Nisan 2010 arasinda Victoria & Albert Muzesi’nde yer almistir.

[2] Madonna, Music sarki sozleri, 2000.

[3] Gulsah Kilic’in tasarim ve is birligi ile hazirlanan biletin ustundeki para birimi, dolar ‘$’  her ne kadar absurd dursa da, inandirici bir tasarimla ve eskitilerek, izleyicinin merakli gozleri icin titizce hazirlanmis.

 

[4] Savage, Jon, England’s Dreaming, p. 151.

[5] “The Year London Blew Up August to November1975” Channel 4, 18.04.2007

[6] “fredi” sourtimes.org,  19.12.2005

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