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A queer migration

INTERVIEW: Aykan Safoğlu and Emre Busse examine the Turkish-German connection through a LGBTQ lens in ğ – the soft g, on through May 29 at the Schwules Museum.

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ğ – soft g – queer forms migrate, curated by Emre Busse and Aykan Safoğlu (installation view), Schwules Museum. Photo by Sven Gutjahr

Aykan Safoğlu and Emre Busse examine the Turkish-German connection through a LGBTQ lens in ğ – the soft g, on through May 29 at the Schwules Museum.

Subtitled “Queer forms migrate”, the exhibition gathers works by LGBTQ artists who have lived or worked between Turkey and Germany. So expect intersectional politics, although Safoğlu and Busse, who both moved to Berlin from Istanbul, also cite their own friendship as a reference point. Safoğlu, a photographer and video artist, moved here in 2008, while Emre arrived in 2013 and joined the queer art-porn collective Pornceptual. The events programme that accompanies the exhibition includes artist talks by Safoğlu and Ming Wong (May 7) and Erinç Seymen at the closing event (May 29); a talk about Turkish-produced German porn by Busse (May 14); and a free outdoor screening of the documentary Trans X Istanbul at Urban Spree (May 28).

What was your aim in creating this exhibition?

Aykan Safoglu: We believed it was time to reclaim our history – and also “herstories” – and we wanted to do it as a critical intervention here at the Schwules Museum, which more or less has been focused on white queer narratives.

Emre Busse: There have been Turkish people here in Berlin for four or five generations, and no exhibition focusing on these issues – for me, this was long overdue.

Did the changing situation in Turkey since you moved to Berlin influence your curation?

AS: I left in 2008 when the situation in Turkey was still promising – so I left a good party, but over the course of the last nine years the Turkish government has gotten more aggressive and the situation has gone downhill regarding human rights, LGBTQ rights, labour rights, reproductive rights, everything. Part of the reason we did this exhibition here in Germany was because the relationship between Turkey and Europe has become polarised, and when things are polarised a lot of nuances get lost.

EB: It was very different for me because I left Turkey right after the Gezi Park protests – which were at first such a joy, but in the end such a disappointment. What’s happening in Turkey now is more than sad, but at the same time seeing all these possibilities here gives us hope…

What’s the role of queer and artistic communities in drawing attention to representation issues?

EB: In my eyes, it’s not only the responsibility of the queer community, but also the responsibility of institutions in Berlin, in Germany, in Europe in general – because the queer community is already a disadvantaged community that needs to be supported. All around the world, and here in Berlin especially, I want to see that. Institutions, art galleries, museums and foundations need to give more space for queer artists of colour to raise their voice.

What was your thought process for choosing artists?

EB: I would stress that we didn’t only choose artists who were Turkish or German – there are artists from Singapore and the Netherlands, also some Kurds – but ones who have worked between Turkey and Germany. We also wanted to have part of the exhibition focus on the first years of the big migration to Germany starting in the 1960s, as well as show some young artists who have recently been producing and showing works in Berlin.

AS: For me, personally, it was important to have Banu Cennetoğlu and Philippine Hoegen’s installation on the works and legacy of Masist Gül, an Armenian actor primarily known for his villain roles in Turkish B-movie productions. He was a bodybuilder, but in his artwork he also transformed his own image through many media, almost like male-to-male drag. His artistic production was quite prolific, but it was not previously known until Banu and Philippine discovered it in a thrift store and presented his work for the first time at the Berlin Biennial in 2008. So you could say that Gül migrated to Germany after his death, posthumously, and rose to fame through this migration. Germany was the place for him to finally be discovered.

ğ – the soft g – Queer Forms Migrate Mar 2-May 29  Schwules Museum, Tiergarten