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Aykan Safoğlu

Venue: Gropius Bau

Aykan Safoğlu

Born 1984 in Istanbul, TR – lives and works in Vienna, AT, and Istanbul

Consisting of an animated film and strips of digital prints installed along metal grids, Aykan Safoğlu’s project looks back on his teenage years at the German-Turkish public high school İstanbul Erkek Lisesi, popularly known as Istanbul Boys’ High School—one of the oldest and most renowned in Turkey. While the curriculum advocates westernized notions of emancipation and liberation, its foundation is rooted in the longstanding military and strategic relationship between Turkey and Germany and served to assert German cultural superiority. The school building once housed the headquarters of the Ottoman Public Debt Administration (OPDA), a European-controlled organization established in 1881 to collect, through taxes, the money owed by the Ottoman Empire to European companies.

Critically reflecting on his personal educational trajectory and the school’s history, Safoğlu touches upon repressed family incidents and the German colonial interest in Asia Minor at the turn of the twentieth century, which somehow seem perfectly intertwined. Safoğlu’s work Null-Defizit (in Ablehnung) [Zero Deficit (In Refusal), 2020] examines the emotional landscape of “indebtedness” in relation to questions of German education, artistic formation, and naturalization in Germany. This history and personal biography come together in the imagery used in the video work Hundsstern steigt ab [Dog Star Descending, 2020], which the artist describes as “an imaginative, resistant retrospective vision.” The video takes inspiration from the memory of a trip Safoğlu made with his parents to Imroz, an island in the north of the Aegean Sea (today within Turkish borders). It shows strips of photographs being reassembled and animated on a scanner bed while an inner dialogue with his parents unfolds.

Proposing a visual script for strategies to deal with the shortcomings, but also the potentiality, of this feeling of indebtedness, Safoğlu transposes a Western terminology of queer civic rights—coming out—into an unlikely yet reparative epistemology: “an attentive feeling-seeing.”

Florencia Portocarrero

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