State of Confusion

The patriarchal house of cards underlying the Turkish coup and Brexit

BY Övül Durmuşoğlu in Culture Digest | 01 AUG 16

Gülsün Karamustafa, Double Reality, 1987/2013, exhibition view, 'A Promised Exhibition', SALT Beyoğlu, Istanbul, 2013-14. Photograph: Mustafa Hazneci

Those who experienced the events of 15 July 2016 in Turkey will remember the following morning’s state of confusion. Sonic-booming jets, loud prayers from mosques, baffled young soldiers, a FaceTime-ing president, civilians lying in front of tanks and helicopters shooting parliament – was this a coup or not? Was it staged or ‘real’? In 2014 the filmmaker Adam Curtis, in a segment he prepared for Charlie Brooker’s TV series Newswipe, described a power strategy that works by undermining one’s perception of the world. Case in point: the ‘contradictory vaudeville’ of Vladislav Surkov, a close advisor to Vladimir Putin. Strategies of confusing fake and real confound any possible opposition. Similarly, Umberto Eco once wrote of ‘ideological discombobulation’ to describe the nature of fascism in Italy and its ‘structured confusion’.

Such non-linear warfare may serve as a meta-explanation not only of the 15 July, but also the surrounding political environment. Despite this confusion, the majority can agree to stand behind one slogan: ‘Neither coup nor dictatorship’. One move from the state was to fly the nation’s most populist element, the Turkish flag, in public spaces in the name of democracy. This masked the very societal schisms deepened by the government’s polarizing imposition of a ‘national’ identity by a conservative, profit-seeking Sunni male attached to tradition. Meanwhile, Jacqueline Rose described a familiar identity politics in the context of Brexit – which similarly involved the curse of masculinity and male-dominated politics.

This curse also stands behind the recent work Gülsün Karamustafa realized for her retrospective in Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin this summer, Monument for the 21st Century (2016). Her repetition, in cardboard, of 19th century military acrobatics, through figures in a human pyramid, amounts to a gentle but witty mockery of the ongoing patriarchal house of cards at work in this intense summer of 2016.

Övül Durmuşoğlu is a freelance curator and writer based in Berlin and Istanbul.