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My project entitled Restore Hope,
which I began in 2004, is about people with no designs for the future,
people who are trapped between life and death, and have failed to find
a way out.
It was within this context that I worked together with
young women between the ages of 14 and 18, who had attempted suicide,
street kids hooked on paint thinner and glue, and women of various ages
who had run away from their families fearing for their lives due to 'honor' issues.I explained their oscillation between feelings of error,
love, hate, and death, via the art that they produced, and the images
that they used in their art.
Love is Fake , view from the video installation, 2006,
Charlattenbourg Pro , Copenhagen, Denmark
In the three films ( Love is fake ,Competing with genies, 'I wouldn't quit ,if the world turned upside down' ) Suicide or drug abuse as a different version of suicide as a solution to feeling trapped, without alternatives. These three films are made up of the animated drawings and paintings made by girls and boys at Bakirkoy Mental Clinic.
Competing with genies 2006 Video Installation Duration :11 min
Charlattenbourg Pro , Copenhagen, Denmark ,2006
COMPETING WITH GENIES 2006
This film deals with my work with teenager boys being treated for drug abuse at Bakirkoy Mental Clinic.
I initiated a collaborative work process with these boys. The camera would sometimes be in their hands, sometimes in theirs. Mostly they asked the questions amongst themselves. They did a bir of journalism, a bit of role playing and acting. My own role wasnt quite defined ; I was a bit of mother, a bit of sister, maybe a bit of a friend, but i think, most importantly, a person who tried to create a third language with them on the basis of these drawings made by them. Boys who chose to live squeezed inbetween reality and dreams.
'I wouldn't quit, if the worldturned upside down' 2007 This film about glue sniffers.
Hard to die 2007
This film is about honor killings in Turkey. I worked in seven different cities in women shelders for this film.I have started in March and complited in October 2007.
'hard to die' 2007 Video Installation Duration :8 11 min
Arttransponder, 2007, Berlin
See me 2008
This film is about violence against women. All the shootings are realised in Sweden.
(for more info, please go to the see me page and also www.homenothome.com)
Who was I really? 2008
It is a film related to 'see me'. These two films are the part of the project entitled as 'Home not Home' in Sweden.
These two films will be shown since 6 th october to January 2009 in several cities such as Gotenburg, Stockholm, Malmo , Umea ..in Sweden.
Restore Hope is a kind of series. It examines the paradoxical reality of life and individual with videos of psychoanalytic depth.
As subjects; it takes people that are stuck, that do not belong anywhere, without any image of a future, wandering between life and death, on the verge of losing their imagination of a future.
The common concept in all films is death.
These are films that convey peoples stories through the paintings they make. In 2004, I worked with teenage girls (aged 13-18) that decided to kill themselves and attempted suicide. For 2.5 years, I worked in the mental clinic in Bakirkoy and made 2 short digital films; 'Love is fake' and 'Why me?'.
Then for 1.5 years, I worked with glue sniffing boys that although not consciously, living on the edge of death. With them I made 2 films; 'Competing with genies' and 'I won't quit even if the world turns upside down'
Then, for the project 'Hard to die', I worked with women that took refuge in the women's shelters, running away from honour killings, living under threats of death.
Finally, there are 2 short films 'See me' and 'Who was I for real?' that I shot in Sweden. In these films, there are stories of women running away from physical violence and death.
Interview with Selda Asal
by Kutlu Esendemir / Yeni Harman
1. You made a study with girls that attempted suicide in Bakirkoy Reception Institute. What was the thing that strike you most?
The story of a 15-year-old girl from a rescue home was quite dramatical. She was really smart, way beyond its peers in terms of perception, cognition and associations. She was abandoned, forgotten as a child, she had been moving between rescue homes throughout her life, her mother is alive but she had never been called. What she cares most about is to save money to buy books. She keeps the money given to her by the state carefully. One day her mother calls, who has never called before, and she happily runs to the phone to hear her, but it turns out her mother called to ask for the money that she collected. It was her 3rd suicide attempt by the time I met her.
Despite the things that she went through, she painted a scene called The City of Hope. She explained her painting: Everyone has a city of hope. The city grows as one grows. As it grows, her dreams become our cities of hope. A different world appears in a different future..?
2. About the girls that you had a chance to work with, what kind of emotions exist in the roots of their wounds about life that leads them to death?
A kind of pain, rave or disappointment that could not be compensated for.. A feeling of not being understood, and not being able to speak themselves. And may be a belief that they can speak themselves more accurately through suicide, through erasing themselves. Actually as far as I understood, most of the girls look for ways to express themselves before commiting suicide. They leave various marks around for the ones that are close to them to see. They want their existence to be seen and understood. When this does not happen, they give up.
3. How did you come up with the idea of this study?
Since 2004, Ive been making studies on various aspects of death in the video series named Restore Hope. This project covers people who are stuck, could not find a way out and chose or experienced death through different ways. The video Love is Fake that I talked about was about teenager girls that decided to erase themselves through suicide. The second one is about people who knowingly or not knowingly chose the slower way. Teenager boys aged between 14 and 18 that chose to sniff glue to forget and erase the trauma. The third video is about the ones who chose to kill not themselves but others, meaning murderers. And the fourth video is about the ones whose killing is decided by others, the ones that are running away from honour killings. Briefly, these are girls that are running away from being killed. The ones that commit suicide, kill and run away from being killed. Four video installations that discuss four different views on the issue of death.
This is more about a project where I focused on them, where they stand, how they see life from where they stand and their statements through the paintings that involve what they think about the concepts of love, hate and death than a project with sociological openings. As individuals; who are they? What are they? Where are they stuck? How do they express it in their paintings? This is what I concentrated on in this project.
4. Your studies roam around on the back of a knife. What does death represent for you?
Death means something or someone that can not be compansated for, that cannot be taken back.
5. How was your childhood? Were you afraid of death when you were a child?
I guess not many people would believe me if I said that I was intrested in death since I was 8. But it is true. Although I never thought about death or had an experience of committing suicide I would cut and keep articles from newspapers concerning death without knowing why. Mass killings, mass graves, notes that people that committed suicide left behind... These were my subjects. I did not know why they were. And in the later period I went on with reading Sylvia Plath, Virgina Wolf, Cesare Pavese, Paul Celan books. Whereas I was a child that grew being kept away from death and cemeteries. We would not visit cemeteries like others in religious festivals. We would not be taken to the funerals even if the person died is close to us. I was thought to be a child so tied to life, fighter, cheerful and loveable that was not expected to be interested in issues of death. Was I afraid? I do not know, I never thought whether I was afraid or not. I guess I wasnt.
6. Which tale was your favourite?
7. What kind of paintings would you draw?
Hard to tell. We should ask the family. I guess I did not observe myself so closely by then. I remember I would make drawings everyday since early ages.
8. Did you ever attempt suicide or considered death in any way?
No, but at the age of 8, moved by a friend from another class that died of cancer, I wrote down my will in case I was dead one day. My hairgrip to this, my ring to that and so on... It was incredibly funny.
9. Could you tell about the most striking, hard suicide attempt that you heard about?
I do not want to answer this. It has the potential of representing a model.
10. Durkheim says that Suicide is how someone is drifts him/herself to death through a positive or negative action knowing the result. Coming back to your study, there is a huge effort. How long did this study took?
Shots took about two years as I had other exhibitions that I had to participate in. I have another year to finish all the study.
11. What kind of troubles did you have in the clinic that you studied in?
The first week, I was deeply disturbed by what I heard and could not recover for a few days. In time I achieved putting a distance between what happens in the clinic and myself. Chief of Clinic Ass. Prof. Kemal Sayar provided enormous help. He made me attend to a number of meetings and conferences that helped me out on understanding some of the things that I could not understand before. And on practical difficulties, doctors, assistants, nurses, psychologists whoever was around would help us. In any case, two assigned proffesionals were always present in the room that we studied in.
12. To what do they connect their suicide attempt in general?
Depending on my studies, I would say pain, rave and disappointment. But for a statistical reply Ass. Prof. Kemal Sayar should be consulted. Im sure they have statistics on the subject matter.
13. I guess all the patients are women that attempted suicide more than once (maybe it would be more proper to say girls)...
I should have statistical data to comment on that and I dont. But depending on my studies, I could say most of them attempted suicide more than once. But still this is a question that I should not be answering.
14. In general, which regions and socio-economic status do these girls come from?
I could say from middle and lower layers.
15. How are their communication with their families?
If the family has above a certain level of education, there is a relatively faster improvement in their relationships with life but in the reverse case it is hard. As much as I have observed, with the teenagers who have actually families but grew in rescue homes, the magnitude of trauma is even larger. The feeling of being unclaimed is hard to cure.
16. How did they decide on getting treatment?
Because they are aged between 14 and 18, because they are under-age, they are taken to the clinic by their families or the institution just after they attempt suicide. I did not meet any that came to the clinic by their her own will.
17. How old are they?
14 to 18.
18. Did you have any trouble communicating with the girls?
19. What kind of notifications did you get from the specialists about the patients?
All along the study there would be doctors, nurses and psychologists around. They would even paint with the patients sometimes. I guess there was never a need for notifications.
20. Could you tell about the first time that you entered the clinic?
I dont remember. I just remember what I felt like. I was worried. I was concerned about how I would come out from this study. I remember that.
21. How did you start?
What would be nice now? What would make you feel better if you draw? Or where would you be happy to be now? I used these kind of questions to help them with the theme. Then I saw that this did not have any impact and they drew what they wanted to and I set them free on whatever they wanted to express. I just helped out with the ones that had trouble finding what to draw.
22. Wasnt it hard to make the patients draw?
Just that it was not possible with the ones that just started medication. But with others...actually they seemed pretty eager to draw.
23. What kind of themes stood out in the drawings?
Drawing hearts, writing the names of the loved ones in the hearts was the most popular I guess. And secondly a home.. Homes with light in and with no light, with smoking chimneys and with chimneys with no smoke, under the sun, under the rain, under thunders.. Each of them had a home that they wanted to express. My role, was to provide them the chance to tell about themselves through images.
24. Which color was favourite?
25. Did this study help them with their mental situation? How was their attitude towards you except from the study?
I think it was important to make them feel seen, accepted and having an important part. I might have helped them with this. There are some that kept calling after they lef the clinic. And I even persuaded one that was determined to commit suicide.
26. Were you too, as a woman, exposed to your fellows mood disorders?
I do not know whether talking about this would be right or would it help in anyway...
27. At the time of your study, did you have any chance to get any data on the suicide rates in Turkey?
The doctors in the clinic, or Ass. Prof. Kemal Sayar could help on the subejct. I do not have information about exact numbers.
28. How did this study influence you? And what is your next study about?
As I told earlier, this project about the people standing on the limits, having no way out, stuck will continue. And the artist initiative Apartment Project where I put together different disciplines will continue with a project called Everything is gonna be allright in December. This exhibition will be related to the exhibition Everything about Lie. In this exhibition there will also be participants other than visual artists like writers, sociologists, philosophers, journalists and musicians. I would appreciate if cartoonists interested in this subject would like to take place. Anyone interested can reach me through firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone who would like to learn about the project can have a look at the site www.apartmentproject.com
How will you perform this study in an exhibition?
Love is Fake is composed of 3 different videos. These 3 videos will be performed through 3 different projections screened in 3 different walls of a room. Therefore, on each wall there will be a different video. These 3 videos make up the project Love is Fake. The first video shows their gestures, the room where they worked in, their explanations on the drawings that they made without uncovering their faces or identities. The second video is an animation of the drawings they made. And the third shows the digital notes that I took for myself throughout the project. It shows my contradictions, my confusion and the notes that I took relating to understanding the subject.
Was this installation ever shown anywhere?
It was shown in Strasbourg, Berlin and Kopenhaag. Next year different versions will be shown in Stockholm, Istanbul and Berlin.
Can you tell about the most striking, hard suicide attempt that you heard about?
When I was younger I was moved the most by the suicide of Tezer Ozlu. Although her refusal of cancer treatment makes it a different case, it is a suicide that is really hard to understand. The way she noted her trip to death step by step was very saddening. Her refusal of a process that she could take back any minute. A very determined, very long process. Very opressive, very striking. In order to understand the process that Tezer Ozlu lived through, I started reading books of Cesare Pavese. Did I understand? I dont think so... Maybe a little.
What kind of an abandonment was that?
Abandonment of life. The decline of will to live and the incline of will to erase oneself is simultaneous. Actually similar to the Y example, Y is a girl filled with the will to live. Anyway, as her mother never calls her, she created an order of her own in a world where there are no parents, she collects money, she is going to buy books. Although the story of Y is painful, she lives a state that she is familiar with. Her expectations are limited. When a phone call comes from someone unexpected and it ends unexpectedly, the order she created is ruined and therefore she can take the decision of erasing herself so easily. And she gives up.
How did you psychiatrist friends comment on the painting City of Hope?
Despite all, a strong will to hold on to life. Complicated of course. On the one hand, she attempts more than twice but on the other hand she wants to dream that everything could be better.
What kind of influences were these?
The images in the drawings that they made, the talks that we made, the surroundings, everything took a place in my brain for days on the same paltform. At night, they were passing through my mind one after the other in my dreams. And in the daytime I was thinking about how it should be? What should be done? How should I talk? I guess I thought I was insufficient in the beginning. It is a bad feeling not being able to do anything.
Do you remember the themes in the doctors drawings?
My attention was never on the drawings that the doctors made actually. Anyway, mostly doctors that knew how to draw were joining us and they were asking only a few technical details. And I guess they also realized that my attention was more on the girls that I do not really remember them asking me anything other than a few questions.
Which color was their favourite?
The used red the most.
Why do you think?
This might be the color that expressed the strong feelings inside them but this could be a relative information.
You as Were you too, as a woman, exposed to your fellows mood disorders?
When I was working with the girls, my attitude was like a friend or a mother, but mostly the approach of a mother I guess. But I understood that this approach might be percepted differently by a teenager that had a childhood that was emotionally drained of strength with an incident that happened. One of the girls, A was very good at drawing, and so I was paying more attention to her and asking her about how her painting was going quite frequently. But in time I realized that A was putting me in a different place in her mind, and I started behaving all other girls like I was behaving A. Than A did not take well being in the same center of attention as all other girls and she told me that she wanted to talk to me in private. Right away, I wanted to consult one of the doctors but the doctors were not in the room beacuse of a conference and the resident physicians were in patient visits. A was insisting on talking to me in private and I was making up excuses and waiting for a doctor to come back and help me out. In the end, A did not wait for a private talk and she told that she was going to commit suicide. Her eyes looked sad and weepy. Then I told her that I would feel like a mother that lost her child if she did that. I guess by then she understood that I was feeling like a mother towards her and things became a lot better after that. But after that day, I learned how to regulate the dose of my emotional attitude and my compassion towards the girls. I put a distance between us.
Umut ,yaşam üzerine gündelik düşüncelerimizi şekillendiren bir kavram.Insanların bir geleceğe ve mevcut duruma alternatiflerin getirilebileceğine inanması normal karşılanan bir yaklaşım.
Hayatın olağan akışında gelecekte birşeylerin olmasını beklemek ve hayatın bir anlam olduğunu hissetmekte öyle.Ama umut yerini yitmek,yok olmak ,yok olmaya oynamakla yer değiştirirse ne olur?
Umudu Onarmak adlı film serisine 2004 yılında Istanbul Bakırköy Akıl Hastanesinde başlayan Selda Asal 2004-06 yılları arasında Aşk Yalan, Cinlerle yarış yapmak, Dünya tersine dönsede vazgeçmem adlı çift kanallı dijital filmler yapmıştır. Her üç filmde de çıkışsızlığın çözümü olarak intihar yada yada farklı bir intihar biçimi olan madde kullanımını seçen Istanbulda yaşayan 13-18 yaş arasında bulunan gençlerin yaşam ve ölüm arasında gidip gelmeleri konu ediliyor.
Umudu Onarmak serisini Asal, 2007 de yine yaşam ve ölüm sınırlarında dolaşan kadınlarla çalışmayı sürdürdü. Töre Cinayetinden kaçan genç kadınlarla Istanbulda dahil olmak üzere Türkiyenin çeşitli şehirlerindeki Sığınma Evlerinde ve 2008 yılında Isveçte de şiddete maruz kalmış kadınlarla sürdürdü. Ölmek zor, Beni Gör ve Ben sahidende kimdim? isimli çift kanallı filmler Istanbul,Diyarbakır, Berlin, Belgrat, Viyana ve Isveçin 17 şehrinde gösterilmiştir.
Asal, in her video installation series of Restoring
hope investigates the connection between the sentiment of hope and
holding on to ones own existence. She points out the thin line between having hope
and the moment of losing it. Every single video of the series creates similar
questions in the viewers mind: Where does hope start and where does it end?
What motivates it to exist or disappear? What happens when one loses it or
regains it? Ironically, and sadly, the viewer is left with a feeling of
hopelessness and powerlessness. They can only ignore what seems inevitable.
this series of video installations, Selda Asal analyses the fact of suicide as
the very thin line between death and life, and between having and losing hope.
The series started with young girls who had attempted suicide, and young boys
with drug addictions. It is now being completed with this fifth work, entitled Hard to Die, which is about the tragic
stories of the women who have been forced into suicide by their own families in
order to preserve their so-called honour. During the creation process of the entire series, Asal
selected and visited several restoration places for hope, such as hospitals,
clinics, various committees and for the last project, womens shelters in many
cities. She encountered the tragic stories about honour-killings at first
hand and represented these stories through her artistic point of view.
Asal realised this project in various cities and countries by individually interviewing
several women most of whom were associated with womens shelters. The stories
are told by women who are often forced into death with the consent of their
families, and often after having experienced violence, rape and other sexual
harassments. These women were actually some of the few survivors who have been
able to run away from the trouble. They were strong enough to fight with the
realities of their lives or weak enough not to commit the sin of killing themselves,
as indicated by the religion.
people who are telling their stories are not clearly exposed, or recognisable,
as they are still living under threat of being found and killed. Instead, we
are shown their body gestures and the images that these women draw while
telling us what has happened to them. As these images function as illustrations
of their dreadful experiences, Selda Asal amplifies them by means of strong
sound effects. The pain, fear, panic, suffering, and other similar sentiments
are represented through this sound more than by the voices of the women, or by
the content of their dreadful stories. The tension between the freedom of being
a runaway and the paranoia of being caught again, and killed, is made palpable
to the viewer.