Atlas Of Interruptions, Ceren Oykut
Site-spesific installation, acrylic on walls, 2014
Centre forJerusalem Studies, Al Quds University, Hammam al Shifa
I would like to talk briefly about what I do in general. I usually work on “the city” as a concept and I usually make drawings. I’ve been doing this for quite a long time. Through repetitions and different points of view I started to discover some common images in theses drawings. These images, in time, started to crystalize and form icons or even typography. I take icons from this collection and combine them to come up with new meanings. This way I am trying to form a kind of pictograph.
The story of drawings installed on the walls of Hammam Al Shifa begins in Istanbul. In winter 2014, Basak Senova called me and told that she’s going to make an exhibition in the Walled City of Jerusalem, and said that she wanted me to participate. I was probably going to make a site-specific installation.
Thinking of what to do in Jerusalem, I worked around the idea of City Walls. So I started to do drawings describing confined spaces on A4 size papers. I drew 15 pieces of them. I named these 15 piece series of drawings as “remote”. These drawings, in short, focused on getting reacquainted with spaces I knew well for a very long time but got alienated eventually. Those drawings were describing a specific state of emotion. I decided that I could not exhibit them in Jerusalem, a city that I’ve never seen before. What I hoped to achieve about this exhibition was, to carry an icon or a connotation to Jerusalem and give them an unforeseen (unexpected) new life. So I needed more minimal and vague images. I knew that I could not foresee this kind of image. I felt the need to look at the Remote series again, but this time differently. To do this, I cropped and decomposed these drawings on digital media. Trusting the potential content of details, I searched through the drawings to find unnoticed, hidden images.
Cropping these fragments of drawings from their original surface, have made them acquire new identities. Actually, on one hand they lost all their belongings and became incomplete, and on the other hand they started to get integrated with a state of searching or with a need of a journey. A journey may have a mission or purpose, or it may itself be the purpose, or sometimes it is just a state of intermediacy (double mind? Limbo?). So, these travelling images started to imply a vague expectation, a probability and include more and more potential.
Hammam Al Shifa is the space where my drawings are installed. It is located inside Suq El Quattanin which is a big bazaar constructed during Memluk period. Suq contains 60 shops, 2 hammams and a caravanserai.
Today, the service area seen on the ground floor plan of the Hammam Al Shifa, functions as the office of The Jerusalem Studies which is a part of Al Kuds University. The entrance section of the hammam is not in use today so the boiler section is used as entrance instead. And to get to the new entrance, you have to pass through the language school’s office.
Suq Al Quattanin has two gates. One of them opens to the western side of the Temple Mount and is called Bab Al Quattanin (gate of the cotton merchants). The other one opens to Al Wad street. Just across this second gate, there were soldiers guarding the street constantly. But on Fridays and on Saturdays, which are Muslim and Jewish holidays, these soldiers barricade the gate and let only Muslim people in.
In those days, to enter my workspace, I had to explain that I wasn’t going to the Temple Mount but I was going to the Center For Jerusalem Studies to work, and every time that I try to enter, I had to repeat. I could also prove that I’m officially considered a Muslim by the state that I’m a citizen of, by showing the religion section of my Turkish id. But I choose the former.
For this reason, there were several steps to enter the hammam:
1-Enter through the gate guarded by soldiers
2-Walk through the corridor which is on the right side of the bazaar’s main street and arrive at a courtyard
3-Pass through the door of the Center For Jerusalem Studies office
4- Arriving at the boiling room which is at the end of the office
5-Bowing your head to pass through the entrance which was probably made by crushing one wall
Finally you arrive at the hot room. The space consists of 5 interconnecting rooms. The final room was the changing room. This big room had high ceilings and a water fountain on the center. There were 2 doors, one was wooden the other one was iron. The wooden door opens to the original entrance, which is not used today. There were other doors inside the hammam but all of them were locked. That’s why you have to walk the whole spiral back to go out.
I could hear the lively sound of the crowd from the changing room. I thought people were going to the Temple Mount for Al Aqsa or maybe they were already there. Or maybe they came to Suq El Quattanin for other reasons. Through the twin windows of the hammam, I could also hear the sound of a radio somewhere near and beside that some intensive discussions between people. I guess those people were guarding a place I don’t know where. There wasn’t any music coming from the radio, but I heard a lot of prayers and speech. The windows of hammam were at the same level with the ground of the outside space, where sounds were coming, I never saw anything but people’s feet. Even if I was so close, the outside world was unaware of my existence. This place I’ve reached at the end of my journey was like a dead end but also like a shelter.
The day I arrived at Jerusalem, Jumana from Al Ma’amal Foundation made me visit many of the exhibition venues. Hammam Al Shifa was a very impressive place itself and I had to fit in. The space was weary, walls became mossy in time, layers of plaster had fallen off in many places. I focused on the details on the walls and their connotations .In time, some modifications had been applied to the place. Some corners were straightened with concrete, some of the valves and doors were replaced. These modified parts of the space would reinforce and complete the story of my traveling (or maybe migrating) images.
The space was not functioning as a hammam anymore. It was used as an exhibition venue and an activity center by the school. The functional relation between hammam and the space had been lost, just like my drawings and the fragments I cropped from them. On the other hand, this installation was going to be realized for Jerusalem Show VII only, the space was going to be used for other occasions afterwards and in the future hammam was going to be restored. For this reason, the existence of my drawings inside hammam and the relation between the drawing and the space was temporary.
It was one drawing that determined the relation between the other drawings and the space. The first day I started to work, I installed the image with the container ship just across the entrance. I thought it was a clue about the story of the drawings. I suggest, the containers on the ship were carrying the images that I was transporting from Istanbul. I also suggest that the cypress tree on the ship was carried as a connecting image containing Mediterranean and Mesopotamian cultures. The cypress tree was demounted and transported carefully to plant into another land, just like my drawings.
After I transferred the container ship image on the wall, the other transported images were unloaded from the ship, one by one, on their way to their new belongings. The Mediterranean tradition of commerce started to work unexpectedly. So, in a hidden corner of Jerusalem, the images completed their journey.
The following days of the Jerusalem Show opening, the army has occupied Al Aqsa Mosque. The Atlas Of Interruptions was also included, and was blockaded by the soldiers. So a part of the exhibition fell behind the barricades, the exhibition process was interrupted. “Intervals” was one of the sections inside Jerusalem Show, and the title of my work was Atlas Of Interruptions, both of these concepts, sadly and suddenly were crashed the reality of this progressing agenda.*
*taken from Ceren Oykut’s presentation in the public speech Jerusalem Show VII , hosted by Salt Galata in Istanbul, February 2015