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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Canan Şenol

Istanbul,
Turkey

Canan Şenol (b. 1970) was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey, where she lives and works today. She studied painting at Marmara University, Istanbul, from 1994 to 1998. In 2006, she completed a residency at The School of The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She has had solo exhibitions at Rahmi M Koç Museum, Istanbul; Tabela, Istanbul; Laden No:5, Germany; KBH Kunsthal, Copenhagen, and Festival De Rode Loper, Amsterdam. Her work has been included in group exhibitions at Passage de Retz, Paris; Centrum Beeldende Kunst, Utrecht, Netherlands; Istanbul Technical University; Gallery 291, London; Gian Carla Zanutti Gallery, Milan; Istanbul Bilgi University; Proje 4L, Istanbul; Parc de la Villette, Paris; Skironio Centrum Kiffissia, Athens; Gallery Berkelkraftwerk, Vreden, Germany; Emser Salon, Germany; Apartman Project, Istanbul; Maribor Art Gallery, Slovenia; and Radikal Art, Istanbul. She also was invited to participate in the Bienal de Valencia, Spain, in 2001, and the İstanbul Biennial in 2005. Şenol is a featured artist in Global Feminisms at the Brooklyn Museum, curated by Maura Reilly and Linda Nochlin.

Feminist Artist Statement

I describe my work with the feminist slogan that is still pertinent today: “Personal is political.” I start from the point of view that the ideological system is following the path to “body restriction” by spying on and normalizing us by means of controlling our personal lives. I am questioning the governing power of such institutions as religion, government, society and family on our private lives. I focus my work on the concepts that are glorified, that are transformed into taboos, that are not talked about, and that have a continuum without being questioned. Daily life has been the biggest influence on my work. From this point of view the artwork becomes provocative, aggressive, erotic, risky and violent. Artwork, then, has the act of meeting the private with public space.

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See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil

This is not pornography!

Years ago, I met a young woman during my visit to Mor Çatý. She has welcomed me in with a nice smile. A tiny little woman was she. I do not remember how we ended up talking about his fathers rape for years while talking on pragmatic daily things. It was not her father but also her brother who imitated his father. She has been under this act since she was a small girl and for long years. And that was not the only circumstance. Her father has forced her to marry a cruel man, and her husband has been worse than her father or her brother. He was a man who would rape his wife, tie her to bed and violate her by using various apparatuses. Lastly, she got pregnant and divorced her husband somehow, took shelter in Mor Çatý. Her story did not seem as if real. All the things she has lived through were a bit absurd and unbelievable, also that of the smile on her face while telling her story was not making me feel sorry or painful.

Afterwards, I learned through my mother that a close relative has raped his son. Actually his wife has witnessed but has not reacted upon. Also, this being told by my mother and well-known by all our relatives, reversely has been attached a kind of invisibility. That was a sign of the constructed protection zone over the institution called ‘family’ and whatever has been experienced must be captured, stay indoors of the family frame. There was a system and family, has been sanctified by power structures like state, society, religion. Under any condition or circumstance, that system should not be demolished or destroyed. Hence economy, politics, religion, state and society can survive only by dominating the private life.

The work titled ‘See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil’ is based on the true stories. This work is exhibited at a solo exhibition in Germany. The exhibition space was at a conventional shopping street with a large display. The audience could see the work only through the display. With respect to the privacy, I have colored the display glass into pink and situated some peeping holes. Thus, people who would wish to see the exhibition could see through the peeping holes. In this exhibition, the work was exhibitionist and the audience as the peeper.
After the opening night, I have been put in back of a police car and brought to the exhibition space with my little daughter. And my exhibition was censured by the police.

The interesting point of all is that the police censure did not have a legal support but the complaints of the people living in the neighborhood and realized this act in the middle of the night. Because you do not have a high possibility of rejecting and in the middle of the night no one can help you. This country which is claiming to be democratic, has behaved similar to the countries criticized to be undemocratically.
The police came in midnight and without any basis censured my one-work exhibition. Police asked me to close down my work ‘See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil’ and the naked babies.

The first sentence of the Police was “Exclude all the pornographic photographs”. My answer to that was “which are the pornographic ones, can you show them to me, because I do not think any of them is pornographic.” The answer was with a loud voice; “All the naked Barbie’s.” In a film, book or a magazine if the sexual intercourse is being exhibited in every detail being pictured.

If a film, photograph or a book is not produced to be pornographic, it is not porn of all the images, texts contained in. It is tragically funny that a work of art made of dolls is being defined as pornography and censured in a country like Germany.

The exhibition ended in court thus, lawyers, police, artists and the people in the neighborhood of the exhibition space got to be involved. The exhibition continued in censure for a week and reopened with the help of lawyers.

The reactions continued till the closing day of the exhibition. The district I was living in was a small one thus I got to be a little famous. People threw words on me while I was walking on the street, shopping or in a public space. I have been traced for two weeks and disturbed by the midnight phone calls by unknown people, also some people tried to get into my flat.

The work titled, ‘See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil’ is a photography work which has reached its ideal and complemented by the unplanned fact, the censure. This is a work of art, not pornography!

* Mor Çatý is a women’s association that supplies shelter for the women who have been violated and/or tortured by their husbands.

Pink Dreams

Kybele

The work “Kybele” was made during the artist’s pregnancy. “Kybele” with wide hips, belly, big breasts who is always sculptured naked is the goddess of goddesses in Anatolian Culture. Hips, belly, the genital organ has always been used as a symbol of fertility, femininity, motherness and the circle of life the ongoing life. Kybele reincarnates herself in the body of the artist who has also been sculptured as if giving birth.

Finally you are in me!

This is one of the works the artist has realized during her pregnancy. It includes innocence and provocation. This work has been exhibited in public space can disturb the people who are not aware of the concept the work deals with. The meaning changes when the audience knows that the narrator is a pregnant woman. This work has been considered as a harmful work of art that has to be de-placed. And done so by the municipality of the city where the exhibition takes place.

Nisai (Pertaining to Women)

This book consisting of miniatures and calligraphy has been produced by the influence of the statement in Kuran-ý Kerim under the title “Nisa”. This is a summary of women who have been shaped by the strict statements of sins and shame that have been shaped them starting from childhood, with religion lessons and traditions. When religion is deeply considered and revised, many aspects of the daily life springs from those sources.

To burn in hell, to make a sin, to feel dirty and nasty, to lock yourself in the house or to be locked by someone else, to belong to a room, to perceive the men more capable and powerful than the women, to feel incapable of realizing something, not having self-confidence, not having right to do or have something, to feel that you are being watched, to think of the body as a sexual object, to give out the body as a gift, to perceive sexuality as a requirement but not as a feeling of pleasure, to be a loyal wife, a good servant and a precious mother…

“Nisai” is an Arabic word that means associated with women. The work includes the old and the new technically. Some miniatures used in the book are deconstructed from their original forms.

Odalisque

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