Images delegitimized and discouraged: explicitly political art and the arbitrariness of the unspeakable
Karaca, Banu (2011) Images delegitimized and discouraged: explicitly political art and the arbitrariness of the unspeakable. New Perspectives on Turkey (SI), 45 . pp. 155-183. ISSN 0896-6346
While the increasing interest in contemporary art from Turkey has centered on explicitly political works, discussions on the limitations of the freedom of expression have likewise come under the spotlight, not least with regard to Turkey's EU candidacy. In contrast to the attempts of complete suppression marking the 1980 coup d'etat and its aftermath, current censorship mechanisms aim to delegitimize and discourage artistic expressions (and their circulation) that can be construed as threatening the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Turkish state, and to turn their producers into targets. This article investigates selected images produced in the contemporary art world between 2005 and 2008, which were taken to transcend the limits of what constitutes tolerable depictions of Turkey's socio-political realities. It examines current modalities of censorship in the visual arts and the different actors involved in silencing efforts. The cases show that within these fields of delimitation there are considerable contingencies: The domain of the unspeakable remains unclearly mapped. I argue that it is because, not despite, this arbitrariness that delegitimizing interventions are successful, in that they (a) create incentives for self-censorship, and (b) produce defenses of artistic freedom that, by highlighting the autonomy of art, to some extent consolidate a conceptual separation of art from politics.
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