RUMEYSA – ‘Prison’ installation invites audience to think about impunity

‘Prison’ installation invites audience to think about impunityGaleri Zilberman in Istanbul is currently showcasing a thought-provoking exhibition by artist EIref YIldIrImFor this exhibition, the artist has built a small andldquoprisonandrdquo for visitors to think about their wrongdoings and to spend some time locked inside to get redemption. Titled andldquoPrison for Minor Offencesandrdquo and inspired by the historic Sinop Prison located in Turkeyandrsquos northernmost tip on the Black Sea coast, this installation was first created for the fifth edition of the Sinop Biennial (Sinopale).

andldquoObviously, itandrsquos a symbolic situation, not a real punishment,andrdquo explains YIldIrIm during a recent interview with Todayandrsquos Zaman.The initial idea for this piece is reflected in a quote from Oscar Wildeandrsquos well-known novel andldquoThe Portrait of Dorian Gray,andrdquo he said.

andldquoThere was purification in punishment. Not andlsquoForgive us our sins,andrsquo but andlsquoSmite us for our iniquitiesandrsquo should be the prayer of a man to a most just God.

andrdquoandldquoThis work attempts to explain that being punished is actually not a negative thing on the contrary, preferring to be punished, willing to be punished makes us more just. Conversely, not paying for oneandrsquos crimes can end in disastrous results.

In this time period in which we constantly lament about injustice, the starting point of justice could be our own lives,andrdquo YIldIrIm said.Furthermore, he connected this to the impunity of states.

andldquoJust as a state can exist without paying for its own crimes, individuals within these states can sometimes make their crimes parts of their personalities in time. In my previous exhibition andlsquoSalute!andrsquo I delved into crimes by the state that remained unpunished in the end, such as the suspicious deaths of soldiers in the army, the Roboski massacre and unresolved assassinations,andrdquo he added.

YIldIrIm says lying, gossiping, being secretly happy when something bad has happened to someone we know are among wrongdoings people can use the prison forAsked about the audienceandrsquos reaction, YIldIrIm frankly explains that while creating andldquoPrison for Minor Offencesandrdquo he didnandrsquot think that people would want to participate in it. Placing the one-person prison — made of iron bars and a padlock — on a cart, he wandered around the streets of Sinop.

andldquoItandrsquos not easy to shut yourself somewhere for your own crimes and most particularly doing it in front of other people.However, participation was much more than I initially expected.

People first asked questions in order to understand what it is. Since we were not in an art space but on the street, I first tried to explain that this was an art performance.

Some of them hastily went away after learning what it is, as if I was trying to put them inside without their consent. Some said they liked it very much and they took numerous photographs but still didnandrsquot want to go inside.

Groups generally chose one person to go inside. Whenever there was someone inside, more people gathered around to watch.

Probably because they felt less threatened when somebody was inside.andrdquoYIldIrIm said there were people who told him they had not done anything that would require them to go inside, and then there were others who said they had done so many bad things that if they went inside they would have to spend a lot of time there, so they preferred not to go in at all.

Some told him that they could have their own inner contemplation without the need for such a place, while some didnandrsquot want to go in first but came back 10-15 minutes later to go inside.Asked about his choice of putting the prison on a cart like a street vendor, YIldIrIm explains that the work was aimed at convincing people that he is andldquobringing them something they need, just like any other street vendorandrdquoandldquoFundamentally, this work aims at making punishment desirable, to convince people that they really need to pay for their crimes.

Street sellers also assert that they are bringing us things that we need, plus they would try to convince us we need them even if we donandrsquot. Nobody would go to a prison and say andlsquoI would like to pay for my crimes here,andrsquo thatandrsquos why I used this method.

andrdquoHe adds: andldquoI tried to make the andlsquoserviceandrsquo as practical as possible and used a loudspeaker system, giving it the feeling of andlsquoood newsandrsquo.andrdquoandldquoPrison for Minor Offencesandrdquo can be seen at Galeri Zilberman in BeyoIlu until Jan.

10.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman