Open Letter to Cemil Batur Gökçeer

İpek Çınar
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Beloved Batur,

Writing an open letter is a good method to avoid the burden of the word "criticism". Still, it is very hard to write a letter addressing a unique person, especially if this person is someone who I am acquainted with. Even so, writing this letter to someone who is the glitter of sweet little memories, who always have a smile on his face and a desire to jump around physically, breaks the tension to some extent. There is you and me in this letter, as for the others, they are only eavesdroppers. And even if I always love this exultant, incorrigible person, what augments attributions and admiration to this "love" was "Düğüm/Tangle."

It is customary, when you write about someone, you start with his/her life story. The fact that when you know the genealogy of various photographers by heart and be oblivious of someone you know, reveals the senselessness of this kind of information. Therefore, if you don't mind, I would like to skip this kind of information and start with your journey into photography.

Your journey begins with taking elective courses on photography when you are studying Tourism and Hospitality Management in Bilkent University. You "accidentally" choose documentary photography as a field. If we are to consider where you stand now, I don't know where to put my finger on if the former sentence doesn't involve the word "accidentally." However, even if this journey starts with the field of document and documentary, to me, your style has been apparent right from the start. You spend loads of time firstly on the effects of human trafficking on children in Moldova, then uncontrolled development of industry in Dilovası, and later your work in North Iraq. However, you have always mentioned that these works have never satisfied you. In fact, it would be surprising to see someone as exultant as you, no matter how flexible, remain in a specific field of photography. And your documentary photography period, let's say between 2004-2010, is laid aside when you hear a story in Aksaray during your holiday, becoming an exploration period as to what you really want in photography which ends up with "Tangle."

So, it is 2011. And we start seeing Batur's reality rather than photography's reality.

If I were to explain "Tangle" in one sentence; I guess I would put it like this: a nightmare departing from a gin tale, a love story and a rumor, culminating in a rape. But I also admit the fact that describing the work solely in these terms means being judged and condemned for superficiality as well. Rather than a much-heard and taken for granted story of a woman, it is an effort by Batur who might be an impertinent nosey for characters of the story, and a detective for the viewers, to grasp the reality; wandering around that woman without ever being able to touch her... I cannot imagine who gets tangled first in this story, which emerges from a love story maybe solely a romantic Batur would believe, you or in fact the story itself. It is like we are in one of Asghar Farhadi's films, where the situation at hand is ambiguous, and going into details means everyone is playing some role in this situation. Isn't there any crime, or is everyone involved in it? The more one tries to decipher, the more one realizes the complexity of the situation, yet one starts getting lost and it is as if the tangle itself tangles more and more.

I go back to this work, trying to find clues solely from the fictive, free from all I have read about it; immense, infinite terrains welcome me at first. Then, I start seeing people. People who are hiding away, some willingly, some from their technical occupations (or they prefer to hide away or you prefer to hide them). I expect to see a face, for if I see one, I would believe someone is telling the truth. I move along hoping to see some photograph without fearing, without feeling cold, hoping to believe in it and start to understand. I coincide with no such photograph. I have to admit, I pick up speed as that photograph never comes; but to no avail. And when I see the faces, I have no belief left in me. So, we sway from one side to another with each image in "Tangle." We try to find the answer in every face we turn towards. And at every turn, we hit the wall and lose hope.

It is as if I go to meet the woman's family in Aksaray with you and ask them to tell this story, and they shut the door in my face. It is as if I wander around the streets with you, and ask people about this story; and they say "Why are looking for her? If you have some kind of problem I can help you, but I can never tell you the story of that girl." Your hope starts to run thin; I am cold, I start doubting. And I realize with you: "It is not a smooth and sweet adventure to pursue some gin. It might be the most frightful of what they call love." I don't know how you associate the word "love," but what comes to my mind is: to hell with such a "love."

And sometimes I wonder: After your documentary works like Moldova, Dilovası, North Iraq and your photography experience which started with a reality-oriented perspective, you shift grounds with "Tangle." I wonder if the "Tangle" in which you learn that a story that you believed to fuel novel experiments both contextually and formally through a sharp transformation in your conception (so sharp that we cannot encounter any works from your first period, even your retrospective exhibition covers works since 2012.) is a fiction, is the cause or the result. It is as if the "Tangle" is named after this gin story, on the other side it grasps at you: it symbolizes your notion of reality, your photography background after all those years, your path becoming tangled and your starting from scratch. That change in you, the reason why you pursue this story is whether a result of you realizing the fiction or is it because you have already changed, this takes the form of a third tangle in the viewer's mind. Thanks to you, literature teachers get lucky, a new way of double-entendre comes to light.

As for your next work "Cave Albino," moves along in this path you question reality itself, both in theoretical and technical terms.

As for where this journey ends, it is a curious, enthusiasting question mark in my head.

All best,



Editor's note: Ipek Çınar's letters to artists will continue to be published in Orta Format. Although this is an open letter, artists themselves also have the right to reply and if they wish we are willing to publish their letters in the next Update.