These three interviews between Fulya Peker and Kara Feely, which address the aftermath of the Gezi Park Protests in Turkey, served as the basis for the majority of the text for Object Collection's 2015 opera "cheap&easy OCTOBER".---------------
This second interview was conducted a year after the first and was just prior to the elections in Turkey in 2015.
This second interview was conducted a year after the first and was just prior to the elections in Turkey in 2015.
June 2, 2015
Kara Feely: So, first off, how are you? Ready to invade NYC again?!
Fulya Peker: I am well, kind of busy still... will go to Paris for a performance 15-25th of June... hoping to perform in front of "Gates of Hell", which suits me well!
KF: ooooooh I wish I could see that. What's the performance?
FP: Embodying all the figures of the "Gates of Hell"… Butoh style, and hopefully the actual shadows will help... my Modern Mythologies Project series continue... as usual...
KF: Fantastic. Well, I wanted to dwell on the idea of commemoration… since you were talking about the Gezi uprising anniversary. And this is a major idea of the piece… 3 consecutive commemorative events 1) the Russian Revolution 2) the film "October" 3) the founding of the art journal "October". And of course jump into whatever you like here… it's all good. But things are sort of dead now in Turkey, yes? What's going on?
FP: Commemoration! When it is not the uprising itself, commemoration of a revolution is never revolutionary... but to remember helps, and keeps the hope of yet another uprising awake... but you know such uprisings are unrepeatable. It requires an immense pressure for the volcano to burst... elections are coming up!!! Which is the major subject right now.
KF: When are the elections?
FP: This weekend.
KF: Are there any activist activities planned around them, or is it considered futile?
FP: Well I voted already... because I seem to be living in New York still, so I voted in the airport.
KF: Officially or mentally? Did you have to vote at the airport?
FP: I have to, because my address appears to be in New York. If I were in New York I was going to go to the consulate.
KF: I really like the idea of voting at the airport, of course not having to do it, I'm sure it is a pain in the ass.
FP: I travel between Ankara and Istanbul every weekend to teach, so it was easy... I know!!!! Voting at the airport felt funny! It was as if I was supposed to elect a pilot!
KF: Is the Gezi anniversary bringing up any memories of the past couple of years for you? I know you've been present for some events and not others, but since you're a part of a collective memory now of these uprisings, does memory extend beyond your personal experience?
FP: Yes indeed. The idea is I had time to romanticize Gezi, because when fear is not too close, you can sit back and think about it... but when you are in the middle of a protest, it feels more about survival, and one looses track of what one fights for. Collective memories help one to wake up from the daily routine and stay in the present in this case, as opposed to personal memories that push one to dream most of the time. It is the difference between being afraid and being sad.
KF: Can you give me an example of a collective memory and a personal one of these past events?
FP: Sure. When I heard about someone being killed by the police in the news, I felt very very sad, I wanted to go there and do something, then I began dreaming about what I could do, what I have done, what I would do, or what I should do, floating in time... but when I was running away from the gas with all the other people around all I thought was to be able to breathe, just like the others... and make sure my friends are able to breathe, we were just in the present. It was as if the subject was evaporated, or maybe it was the real "subject", the animal self. We revolt against something to survive, and to revolt against something in the “field” we experience the real sense of survival.
KF: Are there any incidents that really stick out for you during that time? That you keep coming back to? They don't have to be directly related to the protests. Are there sounds you remember?
FP: I can talk about a sensation in general I guess. Some kind of cold sensation. Even if it is hot, it feels cold... the police and their outfits, masks, guns, tanks etc... it feels cold... metallic... but this is again what it feels like after the uprising... maybe during the uprising it was hot as hell.
I am sure people experienced things that would make this example silly, especially when Gezi was happening the cruelty was intense... but my biggest memory was during the theater play I saw... did I tell you about it? It was surreal.
KF: I remember but say it again please.
FP: I went to see a play and it was about a homeless kid who experienced Gezi. When the actor was saying a line like "the police throw the gas capsule and we began running away", suddenly the audience began coughing... it was hard initially to figure out if it was us feeling empathy with the actor or if it was a real gas capsule. We waited until the end of the play, went out to see that the police had thrown a gas capsule at the building the theater was in. We tried to leave the building but the protest was happening right in front of the building and there were anti-riot water cannons around... we used the back door... we went out and saw a crowd running toward us, which means the gas is in the air... we were lucky to find a taxi and jump in... my friend had asthma... it was not the most scary incident but quite dream-like... theater versus life... you know.
And at another time we were at a peaceful commemoration, it was very crowded... when it is that crowded it feels like there is no way out... and you become extremely alert... it is like a deep roar... but constantly in the same volume, so you never know where the source of the roar is... because it is everywhere, it is within. Sometimes what makes you anxious is not the protest itself but the past that makes you know what could happen during a protest... I was more actively thinking about Turkish politics when I was away in NY, here it feels like I should do something instead of thinking about it... but there is not much to do... other than logistics, politics. I am more interested in the poetics of a revolution than the politics of it.
KF: Do you ever dream about the events? Or ones you weren't apart of?
FP: I was dreaming about them when I was in New York... I was dreaming about what I envisioned them to be, more like symbolic dreams. Here, I don't... weird... I guess there should be a distance between you and the events to create metaphors. But people who experienced the trauma during the uprising, they say they often see nightmares, some need therapy.
Anarchy is better I guess. To deal with the system using the systems' tools is hard... the system is what is rotten... the thread is too long, and it feels like a political strategy cannot help such knots... but do I agree with a suicide bomber? Of course not.
I guess the only option is either fight in the present in person in the streets, or just dream for a distant future... like 50 years from now someone can read what I write and it may provoke something in him or her... that may lead to a transformation. blah blah...
KF: “Why the hell would I want to travel on railways under anarchism?!”
FP: Hahahahaaa…exactly! I am reading all that Innova text from a whole other perspective now!
KF: Is it useful to commemorate a failed revolution?
FP: We argued about that a lot here. Commemoration, either failed or not, is just a memory activator... it is a form of archiving I guess... sometimes one hopes for it to provoke yet another revolutionary momentum, but at other times it feels like it takes away the possibility of another uprising, because it releases the tension somehow and without enough pressure built up it is hard to have a revolutionary momentum...
KF: Hold on...
FP: Ha! Actually that is the right phrase... that is all we do here right now, we are holding on!
KF: “The oppressed masses, even when they rise to the very heights of creative action, tell little of themselves and write less. And the overpowering rapture of the victory later erases memory’s work. Let us take up what records there are….” Guess who?
KF: Papa Trotsky, your old friend.
FP: Someone who was not a part of an oppressed mass.
KF: He writes of himself in the 3rd person in that “History of the Russian Revolution” volume. Weird. I think I have collective memories about Trotsky.
FP: Trotsky! Utopia is too good to be true... 3rd person! Interesting, very Brechtian! Actually this is really important... writing of himself in third person... de-subjectifying of the self... communism cannot happen otherwise. Which in a sense may not be the ideal for me... philosophically maybe but not politically. Moderation... is a dangerous word... it leads to standardization from another path. There are always empowering forces that creates the "-tion"... the noun form of a verb! When action becomes a noun, there is danger. I think the only way for a revolution is to shake the language! We need to strip the political terminology and redefine it... or else it will just be failure after failure... as I’ve said to kill the system with the systems' tool... is not working... because the system is rotten. All words are overloaded!
KF: Do you have any regrets about the events of these past few years? Personal ones, not collective regrets about the movement.
FP: You mean personal regrets about the events?
KF: Things you wish you did, or could have done, and didn't. Can be very specific, or minute.
Your Skype id picture is really intimidating by the way.
FP: Hahah. Looks quite young and regretful, doesn't she?
KF: Or a little like Charlotte Bronte or something.
FP: Well, I have regrets, but I always feel glad when I feel regretful, does that sound weird?
FP: It means I am on track, and have the power to be self critical. I never like people saying "I never regret"... it feels pretentious and over-confident, almost too strategic. One can only feel regret if there are risks that were taken I guess... what do you think?
KF: Yes risks. Or you didn't know what the right solution was, and still don't.
FP: Of course I am not talking about a regret that takes over, more like being aware of wrong decisions... and continuing to look for them, search for them... one of the reasons why I teach is to figure out how to tell what I want to tell... without the arts.
KF: I think in teaching the lessons that stick with students are the ones that are much broader and more profound than we intend to give.
FP: What was the name of that game… there is a face that eats stuff as it moves in a labyrinth? Old game. There is some other stuff that follows it, and it is running away in the meantime....
KF: That is the greatest description of Pac Man I have ever heard.
FP: There you go! That is how I feel lately. Pac Man, the revolutionary hungry artist, who is running away from the system!
KF: Do you think it is possible for a revolution to be as profound if it is a revolution of words?
FP: Well if it is not only on paper it can be I guess. My key word is "metaphor" nowadays... as opposed to "materialism" or "metaphysics". We need to begin defining things with unusual adjectives... or to define something with another thing's properties. I guess I am trying to figure out how to do politics with poetry! Not talking about politics poetically.
KF: And when does it stop being academic and actually useful… or transformative on a larger scale?
FP: Yes, this is the question! I guess it never does for masses... but it does for a few who can provoke masses... or maybe it is possible for a revolution to be individual? Well, what I mean is instead of horizontally becoming crowded in the present, can we become vertically crowded in time... like one revolutionary each year?
KF: I like this, vertically crowded in time.
FP: I am in between... I refuse to be an activist, and I refuse to be a thinker. The solution is not to sacrifice the self. I think the idea is to be familiar with the self that is universal. There are two selves here that I am dealing with... one is the one that is talking to you now, and the other is a self that is more primal (maybe not the right word...)
KF: Speaking of primal, I now have a 2 year-old hanging on me with a mouth full of chicken. Might be time to go…
FP: Ok dear! See that is exactly what I meant! Mouth full of chicken! Great to talk to you! More soon...
Theater artist Fulya Peker’s dialogue with arts and aesthetics began with painting classes. Soon images transformed into words, and her interest in poetry led her to theater.
She completed her BA in Theater at H.U. Ankara State Conservatory, and her MA in Theater, Literature, History and Criticism at Brooklyn College/CUNY. She interned at the 13th Street Repertory Theater as an assistant to the literary manager, at the Wooster Group and the Ontological-Hysteric Theater as a production assistant.
In New York, she performed in works by the leading figures of experimental theater and music such as Richard Foreman, John Zorn, and Robert Ashley. She also worked with butoh dance master Katsura Kan and photographer/director David Michalek. While presenting her own work as a writer and director, she also collaborated with fine arts, literature, and philosophy organizations on projects concerning ritualistic and avant-garde theater. Her poems, translations, and articles on experimental theater were published both in Turkey and the USA.
Peker, as the founder of Modern Mythologies Project and the founder/artistic director of the theater group Katharsis Performance Project, continues to present performances; develop and teach new approaches and interdisciplinary projects on acting, writing, directing internationally.She has performed with Object Collection on several pieces including "cheap&easy OCTOBER", "NO HOTEL", "Innova", and was the solo voice in their staged adaptation of Robert Ashley's "Automatic Writing".