this was written as an intro for my phd proposal, currently titled “rituals of disintegration: cultural bonding in wedding ceremonies of turkish immigrants in berlin”. i needed to give a brief biography of my ‘problems’ and reasons which led me to pursue this topic.
A personal journey forms the background of this PhD thesis and its research. An acting study with the Stanislavsky method, at a relatively early and painfully immature age, marks the beginning of this journey.
Suffocating in a society of melancholy and unrest, I often dreamt of other worlds which would make me happier. Thus, I was drawn to the world of fiction and fantasy, without yet knowing what artistic expressions meant. Like and unlike any child I was able to create strong dramaturgies of new worlds I have dreamt of. This longing for fiction might have led me to a fascination of theatre and its black box, where the body of the audience is restricted by architecture to facilitate the penetration of illusion. This illusion eased my anxiety for the time being as an audience, encouraging me to study acting. However, as soon as I became an ‘applier’ of the same art form, my body felt uncomfortable in it. Our professor, a star actress herself, was using the metaphor of ‘water’ for our bodies, often saying that our bodies must take the shape of any character just like water takes shape of any cup it enters. I was not able to do this and blamed myself for the failure, scarring my own body. This made me spend the rest of my studies in agony and a longing for escape, while also forcing me to look for a different form of theatre, where my body would feel at ease.
I understood soon that my reaction was not to theatre in general but to a certain form of ‘textual’ theatre, which is based on the dynamics of Western culture; a culture that I was partly in partly out of thanks to my Istanbul upbringing. It was this theatre that had to work within the borders of fictional creation, and its actors would then naturally have to fit their body into the characters of any given text, at any given time even though that character belongs to a culture completely alien to him/her. Instead, the ‘other’ form of theatre that I was looking for would work in tandem with the society it is made in. And thus I came to realize the importance of the locality of the body.
After being introduced to contemporary art, I chose the medium of video to pursue my journey focusing my attention to capture performative moments outside the borders of the defined theatrical space(s) and more in daily life itself. Documenting moments valuable in performativity, I started to call these kinds of moments “life-theatre” as opposed to “live-theatre” or “live-performance”. The fact that they were being made not primarily for art, but more to sustain the flow of life within that specific society interested me and put me closer to the theatre I was searching. In these kind of actions, the body of the participant was not trying to reconstruct itself to be someone else, but rather taking its energy and story from within, at a more personal and human level. Moreover these actions would often remain within the geography it is made in, without the urge to be repeated in other distant lands, like theatre.
After completing video works on national day celebrations in Turkey; in Germany I focused on the wedding ceremonies of Turkish and Kurdish immigrants. Documenting their weddings over a period of six months allowed me to get a rich insight to their troubled life and the integration discussions surrounding them. I witnessed how all their problems and bodily trauma were exorcized by way ‘performing’ these weddings. It was these immaculate experiences in which the locality of the body could create its own personal fiction and this drove me much more closer to the target of my journey.