On Tö

Merve Ünsal
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"Night and Fog" (1956) which Alain Resnais had made for only 10 years after the Holocaust, describes the unrepresentativeness of pain through the lack of language and images. In this film where the images of those days and the Holocaust photographs of the concentration camps are intertwined, the potential of forgetting of the place corresponds to the habits of forgetting, overlooking, ignoring of all of us, of the human being. One of the most effective ways of confronting the Holocaust, which unfortunately does not have the unique place in the history of humanity that we can agree about the unimaginable dimensions of its horror, is to begin to accept the feeling the slippery hill of the visual and verbal languages that try to describe.

Zişan and İz Öztat's "Tö" (2017) is predicated on the bloody inadequacies of languages. The tensions created by the language(s) cannot tell creates a space in Tö, where it is transformed to the material formalistically and began to produce its own language with vibrations.

Tö is an artwork formed by three intertwined elements. The encounter at the base of the work, which can be considered as sculpture, publication and moving image (greeting the feelings of touching, handling, and caressing by Tö), restricts the movement of the audience in the space.   

The intestine tickling the architectural elements of the space by tying one column to the other, reminiscent the ribbon waiting to be cut in the opening ceremonies, a little bit inured, and the inability to get there. The familiarity with the form and the material itself does not diminish the severity of its use to mark the space. What leaves a trace on the audience is the fact that whom the violence is applied by whom is left unknown. The fact that the intestine is strained, the disguise of something removed from a dead body, actually interrupts our perception of the body, which is abstracted. The potential of the thing we are looking at, belongs to an organ that continues to exist in us at that moment, removes the skin as a cover and destroys the protection of its inner-outer boundary. While the intestine is becoming a touchable, observable object, we face the organic decay of our own body. With the decaying bodies at that moment, the ones under the ground, or the ones in unknown places.


In the image projected onto a stretched piece of parchment, a human figure wrapped up in parchments slowly walking around a round dome. The image, including the roughness of the surface on which it is projected, can be seen as a moving icon while being abstracted. The fact that the relationship with the viewer's body and eye-level is in a state that requires a fling a head back. This extends this awe-pose, which is unclear whether it is pleasure or pain. (I think of Peter Hujar's men at the time of orgasm.) The audience is caught in the middle of a desire to see the face of the figure turning around the dome and request it to do something. And the desire to begin to act by wearing the parchments, the viewer who wants to participate, to become a participant can actually be read as a flirt with a ritual of purification. The possibility of salvation shown by Tö is mysterious and inviting as well as being tactile.



In the circle, the garments disguise reminiscent of imaginative figures that we recognize from the video hang with water buckets beneath them. The presence of six buckets and three garments reinforces the feeling that the viewer is also a part of ongoing, timeless situation. The water in the buckets carries the threat that the situation can go back to the beginning at any moment, with an initial potential that suggests the parchments can be softened, deformed, and reused. Every bucket means birth and death. Maybe the hanging garments are waiting for their owners (maybe they have taken their places as dead talismans) by being aware that they will never be donned again.



In the publication that I have perceived like a wind that fills the space, that mix the objects, and sometimes take them down, there is no clue about what objects and images are. Bataille's Acéphale meetings, the possibility of a group of people gathered to produce nothing is a portal opened for the audience by the text in the publication. The configuration discrepancy between objects and the audience (which is possible to read the projected image here as an object) is becoming more visible with this information. On the one hand the self-emergence, the purification, the possibility of its own participation; on the other hand the desperation of the mournings and wounds of the geography where it existed at the moment even the perpetrators of the atrocities do not/cannot undertake their agents, and the compassion turns into a weakness; Tö, like Night and Fog did, shows us the forgotten state.

The collaboration beyond the time between Zişan and İz reminds us how social trauma has a cyclical and never-ending nature. Zişan's works that İz brings into light; the images and the experiences of Zişan build real bridges as they are imaginable and cannot be burned with the past. The existence of Zişan in this installation is repeated as it is in the image that circumvents and therefore it is infinitely flexible. The state in which lostness creates an eternity rather than a void encodes over the encounters of these two women and involves us in the expense of self-consumption.



A quote from Zeynep Sayın's "Ölüm Terbiyesi" (Metis, 2018), which İz attached to the end of the document when I shared the first draft of the article.

"The community which is forming as dissolution and disintegration instead of the claim of eternity and persistence, which does not complete any artifacts; the community established by those who have no new partnerships other than their deaths and their killability, other than their morality, who are refraining from being transformed into any kind of power gesture as long as they are withdrawn at any moment. [...] It is obvious that it will be not infinite but finite, not possible but impossible, not confidential but non-confidential, not headed but headless. Rather than offering a solution, sensitizing the awareness of the problems and makes them more valuable than responses, is a community-free community.

However the years following Documents and Acéphale which have a desire for a community without a work and an art without a work; on the contrary, are the years which witnessed the rise of capitalism, the greatest work mankind has ever set up. After ten years passed away, in 1946, the time which we still live in no matter in our country or in the world, made Bataille write "Auschwitz is an indication of humankind such as the pyramids and Acropolis: from now on, the image of mankind will inevitably be remembered together with the gas chambers."