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Interview with Burak Delier (excerpt)

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Portrait: Burak Delier. Photo credit: Fatih Metin Demirkol /Elle

What is the meaning behind the exhibition’s title, Freedom has no script?

Perhaps the fundamental question that lies behind my work is ‘what is freedom?’ ‘What are the diverse practices of becoming free?’ From the recent uprisings in Istanbul’s Gezi Park, Tahrir Square, and Occupy in New York, we can see that the rioters don’t have ‘a programme’…The exhibition title resulted from the chaotic, anarchic spirit of these movements, emphasising the relationship between the idea of freedom and spontaneity, improvisation, creativity. Freedom is not the outcome of pre-determined script.

Do you think the themes of your work will translate for UK audiences?

I think so – the difference between Turkey and UK is that in Turkey social support structures (social and job security, minimum wage, workers unions, public institutions etc.) are weaker, so society is much more vulnerable to the effects of financialisation and neo-liberalism. The disastrous effects are the same; only in Turkey we feel them without any dependable protection. The focus of my work is not much on grand politics but on the effects of politics to people’s daily lives, I think this makes my work approachable.

Your work has an element of playfulness, is this important for what you are trying to communicate?

Without wit and a certain sense of humour not only is art boring but life becomes insupportable. I think humour is the main weapon of struggle against power and capitalism. It may not help us win, but it can save our souls… and this is already an accomplishment.

What is the most challenging part of your practice?

The challenging part is the constant interrogation of notions, established narratives/scripts. Pretending to be sure and certain is very comfortable and easy but it is not my way. To be certain is like blindness and it is preventing curiosity to flourish. Even when I am working on a project, I am not sure exactly what the outcome will look like, I have only a feeling that if I realise this project it will say something that we didn’t consider beforehand. I like to wait for the surprise, but sometimes this process of waiting, researching, questioning becomes really challenging.

Which people or movements have most strongly influenced your work over the years?

There are many things and persons who influenced me. For example the writings of thinkers related to Autonomist movement, although I don’t share his pessimism writings of Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, Pierre Klossowski especially his small but inspiring book La Monnaie Vivante, films of Jacques Tati, Buster Keaton, the writings of French economist Jean-Joseph Goux, the famous con man Sülün Osman (his best known scam is selling Galata Tower and Galata Bridge) and Nasreddin Hodja 13th Century satirical Sufi, just to name a few…

Your recent work tends to be more filmic – what prompted the move towards creating video art?

Actually this is the result of my recent interest in the different meanings of the notion of ‘performance’ (in art, theatre, sports, work and daily life) and settling peace with aesthetics. I am trying to not to get defeated or seduced by the power of aesthetics while keeping theory and politics at the core. So video as a medium permits me to move between diverse aesthetic regimes such as, cinema, documentary, performance, commercial forms (music clips, ads), selfies etc. Video is a medium where multiple languages can be spoken. This possibility attracted me, and responded to what I am trying to investigate.

How did come up with the idea to make the film Crisis and Control? What ideas are you exploring in this film?

Well, this video, as a form, is moving between documentary and performance. These are real office workers, managers who practice yoga and these are real statements. My contribution is to move these figures to the workplace and ask them questions about their careers, workplace problems etc. It can be considered as a torture session where the subject is trying to keep his/her posture and talk. The truth is not much in their statements but in their endeavour to continue, to keep the wholeness of their selves. They seem like as if they are not aware of the torture, they are talking as if they were standing in a usual position. Their blindness and their desire to continue make the whole situation dramatic. At first glance it seems absurd, even comical but as the video rolling, when their deliberate blindness and their desire to continue noticed by the audience, the comedy is turning to tragedy. And of course, all of this is pointing to inadequacy of our ways of keeping things easy within the conditions imposed by contemporary capitalism.