Turkish politics in focus of Islamic video artists
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
On May 1, 2011, Kontrart spray-painted a single letter on a number of T-shirts, which together read, ‘Be afraid of capitalism, there is no authority but that of God!’ and hung them on the street in Beyoğlu district where the main protest happens.Collaboration between religion and contemporary art has not been common, yet a group of Islamic video artists from Istanbul, calling themselves Kontrart, said they were resisting the current political system and injustice in Turkey through their projects.
“We have all been studying the Quran, yet we also have concerns about the world we live in. Then we started thinking about what we could do and came up with using social media, videos and street actions,” said M., a member of the five-person group.
Calling themselves an iconoclastic action group, Kontrart members said they started their projects on May 1 last year. On that day, they spray-painted a single letter on a number of T-shirts, which together read, “Be afraid of capitalism, there is no authority but that of God!” and hung them on the street in Beyoğlu district where the main protest happens.
“What we are doing is neither activism by itself nor art, and we do not consider ourselves socialists since we look at the world with God at the center. It is a part of our worship, because nobody in the Islamic community is speaking up against the political authority in Turkey or critiquing it,” a member said.
All the members of Kontrart come from a religious school background; however, they said they were also interested in reading Frankfurt school, avant-garde and post-modernism theories, as well as Islamic scholars such as Seyyid Kutub and Ali Shariati. “The Islamic youth in Turkey are politicized and read a lot; they are reading Foucault and Baudrillard. However, they are conformists; they are not interested in change or critiquing themselves,” U., another group member, said.
“The Islamic movement in Turkey has become a critique of Turkish Republican values and Kemalism, yet the current political authority just took its place instead of changing it. The last example of this is what happened in Uludere,” said another member, referencing the military air raid in southeastern Turkey in December 2011 in which 34 Kurdish civilians were killed.
Kontrart’s other projects address current issues such as the Uludere bombing and elections, as well as social issues like injustice with Marxist-like slogans such as “Governments of the World, Unite!”
“We do not think that contemporary art clashes against religion. If you think of the ’68 generation, a lot of what they say, except the sexual revolution, is in line with the criticism of Islamic scholars,” a member said.
Kontrart’s projects can be seen at www.kontrart.blogspot.com.