“FOR THOSE WHO SLIPPED DOWN FROM OUR HANDS IN THE NAME OF ALL UNHAPPINESS…”
FAREWELL WITH SHE PAST AWAY’S “LAMENT” VIDEO
June 26, 2020
Having made a “heavy” closing to the “Disko Anksiyete” album released by She Past Away last year, “Lament” got some fresh air through a special video that was longed for and expected. The images in the video, which takes the audience into an intense emotional world as of the first seconds, were shot by director Burak Erkil in 2013, before Gezi Park protests. The name, who performed her performances behind a silicone mask inspired by the face of a trans woman, is Şeyda Yamanlar Aydemir (aka Heidi Rotterfurman) who was one of the staff models in Fine Arts Faculty at Mimar Sinan University for a long time and died due to cancer in the last days of 2018. The witness of Şeyda’s performances is Tarlabaşı district, which was in the grip of demolition after the events in 1986.
Director: Burak Erkil – Title Design: Studio Pul
As a tribute to Şeyda Yamanlar Aydemir (aka Heidi Rotterfurman). Thanks to Fırat Uzun, Murat Tepe and the beautiful habitants of Tarlabaşı district. – Istanbul, 2013
After the decease of his friend, namely Heidi, Burak Erkil wanted to take these performances to a new form in which he wanted to touch her and the obscure aspects of urban transformation, and this production took its final form when She Past Away met with “Lament“. We wanted to know more about what “Lament” video tells and which feelings it creates, and talk to its creators who dedicated it to all the “others” who are oppressed, persecuted and slaughtered. Burak Erkil and She Past Away have answered our questions.
Interview by Ekin Sanaç for Bant Magazine
BURAK ERKİL ANSWERS
Hello Burak. First of all, where have you been up until now? Since when are you there? How do you go through the pandemic period?
Hello. I have been in Berlin since 2014. Although I spent the first three months of my pandemic period in isolation in the Netherlands, I have returned to Berlin recently. Frankly speaking, I want the pandemic period to end as early as possible. That’s more than enough!
You shot the scenes we watched in the music video with Şeyda Yamanlar Aydemir (aka Heidi Rotterfurman), Fırat Uzun, Murat Tepe and habitants of Tarlabaşı district in 2013, just a few weeks before Gezi Park protests. In other words, we are talking about a process extended over more than seven years in the name of the journey of the work that ended up with this clip upon its meeting with “Lament“. How, when and by means of what motivations did the idea of reprocessing the images of the video series captured in the personal exhibition you held in 2014, developed?
Since Şeyda passed away in December 2018, I have been thinking about such performances. It was not that easy for me to distinguish the content of the performances at that time from the decease of Şeyda. Since we were not in Istanbul, including me, during her illness, our emotions about her farewell were different. If you crossed paths with a friend through such a visual form, one wants to make her eternally remembered. As a matter of the fact, there are many ways to do this. In my opinion, doing nothing is also one of them. However, my motivation was the music whose universal language I rather trust. I think that Şeyda contributed to the formation of a visual heritage/memory by putting her own unique signature on every project she participated as a model during her life. She really loved the music. Taking this as a starting point, it was important for me to reprocess/transform this video performance series and present them within a more public framework.
How did the images meet with the “Lament” song of She Past Away?
I think there is a fateful or coincidental link between She Past Away, “Lament” and every element of this movie. I was incredibly impressed when I listened to “Lament” after Şeyda’s decease. I found myself contacting She Past Away in February 2020 and presenting the project and the story of Şeyda. Although pandemic has interrupted our communication somehow, I can say that She Past Away has provided a great support to me and everyone around the project from the very first days of the project. I have finalized the title design section of the film, which was undertaken by Studio Pul from Istanbul, in about two months during the pandemic period. I am sure it will always have a very special place in me.
How did you meet Şeyda?
Actually, that is also a question that I ask myself over and over again. Simply, I cannot remember. Maybe, we might have met at the popular club Machine in Tarlabaşı. Or in one of the after parties in Beyoğlu between 2008-2009 or in one of the houses in that neighborhood… Or we might have met on the night of one of those days on which we drank red Tuborg on the streets… Does it really matter in any case? Recently, I have coincidentally seen a photo of hers that I have never seen until that time. Thus, we met again. After her decease, I also remember that I tried to get to know her again by reading our Facebook messages and trying to understand what she was trying to say between the lines implicitly. For example, I found myself watching “Saygılar Bizden” in which Kemal Sunal acted. Şeyda, albeit pretty young, has a small role there. I didn’t even know that. Thus, we met once again…
WHO IS ŞEYDA YAMANLAR AYDEMİR (AKA HEIDI ROTTERFURMAN)?
Heidi was born on August 10, 1979. She was one of the staff models of Fine Arts Faculty at Mimar Sinan University for a long time. Heidi was a good music fan and advocate of LGBTI+ rights and her friends organized exhibitions and solidarity events under the name “All For Heidi” during the period she fought against her illness. Heidi died on December 6, 2018, due to lung cancer, which was diagnosed late.
It is a very impressive clip. The scenes immediately create intense emotions. If we want to breathe the air of the days when these images were captured… What was the original idea then? What inspirations did this idea take? How has this idea changed (if it did) while it was implemented? To what extent was the resulting work in the form of an improvisation?
Thanks. This was also graduation project from the academy. The whole process started with a film consisted of images that I captured in three days that I spent by a family which bought/marketed similar silicone masks in Iskenderun. In this period, I have also learned that masks could be very profitable materials apart from their avant-garde meanings, offer new alternatives for individuals with facial burns or help you at times when you need to ‘disappear’ by changing your identity. This movie was in the form of a very gay/trans response to those three, male-dominated days I spent in Iskenderun. The film consists of Şeyda’s performances in private areas and in public areas of Tarlabaşı. I think it has similarities to Cinéma Vérité in terms of improvisation and search of truth.
Şeyda makes her performances in the clip behind a silicone mask inspired by the face of a trans woman. Mask acts as a tool to make us think about the fact, what is behind the face as well as body and we also view the city behind the mask. We question the privileges of the powerful to be ignorant or to forget both through the imposed binary gender system and also through those who are attempted to be crushed by the ruins of Tarlabaşı. In this context, how do you relate the mask to our social memory and forgetting processes?
Our society and the world in general are going through a period of decay as we all know it. It is obvious when viewed from inside and outside. I don’t think we’re in a state to boast about. Unfortunately, we are in a period in which masks are used as a means to forget and make other forget as well. The colored masks in Istanbul Pride, similar to the Rio carnival, held seven years ago were replaced by gas masks representing the masculine police state. During these seven years, we met a lot of politicians and famous or ordinary people who wore new masks or dropped their masks.
While these were happening, more and more trans women died in unsolved murders. We are going through a period in which systematic policies for silencing/causing to forget persecution and violence smelt to the heaven. We said, “You may forget, but we will not” and continued on our way.
Shortly after this performance, which uses the mask as a metaphor, we witnessed a new period of mask with Gezi Park protests, and the days on which it was a crime to cover the face with a mask (or similar). At the moment, we are going through yet another period in which it is forbidden to walk around without a mask in the pandemic period. Therefore, it is very meaningful for our memories about mask to complete these efforts in this period. Did this period have any effect?
If Gezi Park protests were not so sudden and new for us, maybe we would have been watching this project and the masked characters during the Gezi Park protests. We talked about it, but we couldn’t realize it because of the complex mood of the time. So many things have happened after Gezi Park protests… The re-preparation process of this video coincided with the COVID19 pandemic and the beginning of the BLACK LIVES MATTER movement. Currently, the idea of continuing our lives without surgical masks is almost impossible. Masks also add meaning to our social periods beyond our personal images. For example, 23-year-old black American Elijah McClain, who was killed by the police on his way back from the store in August 2019, had anemia and was wearing a snow mask because he had to keep his face warm. In short, this film was prepared to be available for you on a global calendar in which police officers, who killed Elijah, could still walk around in freely. We should not forget these.
In what ways have your ideas changed over the years (if changed) for the participation/contribution of art to political matters? Do you think those who are under oppression and threatened like LGBTI+s, Kurds, black people, etc. have a heavy burden on their shoulders in this sense?
Although the LGBTIQ+ flag has been revised recently and it has been decided to continue on its way being ‘more inclusive’, I think there is still a ‘jungle’ out there and we have a long way to go. As a matter of simple fact, all these aggrieved minorities, as you mentioned, bear the burden of these in their own life. My production also meets with these adventures in recent years and actually looks for more fantastic ways to explain them…
SHE PAST AWAY ANSWERS
“Lament” is like a final destination, where the Disco Anxiety journey causes listeners to introspect. You know, it’s one of those “end-of-album songs” that everyone would like to save for themselves. At this point, where we now introspect, “Lament” hands a mirror that makes us question our urban and social memory and reminds us of the opposition to all kinds of oppression and persecution. What sort of a mirror has the process of writing “Lament” to completing its music video handed to you? What can you say about the transformation and/or transforming aspects of the song? Are there any new meanings attributed by She Past Away?
Volkan: “Lament” takes the lost as the starting point. This idea, which emerged after a tragedy I experienced, became a multiple deprivation when it was completed and turned into “Lament”. With the theme of the music video, the song has reached another dimension beyond an individual tragedy.
Doruk: The conclusion is quite right, it accurately expresses the place the song occupies regardless of the music video. The track was a favorite from the very beginning and we thought a music video would be made for it at some point. It is comforting that an important song in the record met an appropriate work of art after meeting Burak. Now when I think about it, I would say “no music video would fit with this track”. It is a fact that it transforms our perspective for the next videos.
In my opinion, combination of music and video produced at different times, in different places and in different situations and being so complementary of each other creates a very different area for the form of what we know as “music video” (capturing/making video for a music). Since these two productions, which existed independently from each other, come together on a truly equal plane, they create a feeling of a common life that cannot be passed to another person in any other way. How does the common life of the work of Burak Erkil in “Lament” make you feel? Why does it make one feel so good? Can you please explain?
Volkan: In fact, the idea of making a clip for “Lament” has always been in our minds once the album was released. But we had no idea what it would be like. Once we contacted Burak, everything was clarified. Yes, even though there are works occurring at different times and in different situations, we have common problems. The world created by Burak and what the “Lament” expresses for us perfectly match each other.
Doruk: Yes, it is actually good because the video stands on its own, so even if we remove the music, there is still a strong expression and emotion. It makes me happy to challenge ourselves on this occasion.