King of the Bosporus

by H.G. Masters

Ergin Çavuşoğlu. Percé Rock. 2016. Polyol. 16 × 78¾ × 16½ in. Courtesy the artist and Rampa, Istanbul. Photo: Chroma.

For wandering along the beach in Turkey is no longer a way to escape the troubles of the world. Its shores are strewn with desperation, the most beautiful sea transformed into a shallow, blue mass grave. The great migration of refugees from Turkey to the Aegean islands that began in April 2015 has swiftly repopulated the coastline with Afghans, Syrians, Iraqis, and Ethiopians, for whom a transit route to continental Europe had suddenly opened. The visual motifs of this great migration, the strewn life preserver and the semi-submerged inflatable boat, and the cycle of promise, elation and potential tragedy—which now have become familiar the world over—were reprised in an exhibition by another Diyarbakır-based artist, Cengiz Tekin, at Istanbul’s Pilot Galeri. The life jacket appeared in the form of a carved white marble sculpture that, in its blankness and heaviness, resembled a headstone. Facing it was a video, Just Before Paradise (2015) which first depicts a stormy green sea and then young refugees, one by one, standing in the shallow waters. A siren goes off. The camera is plunged into the waters. When it reemerges, the men are standing together, some holding their hands on their hearts. The paradise they might reach is perhaps the European Union, perhaps somewhere more eternal. And we know instinctively — we read it in the close-up of their faces — that their successes come with others’ losses, and the loss of the many landscapes of home they are leaving behind.

The full article appears in Even no. 4, published in summer 2016.