So, I do remember reading in Howard Becker’s “Art Worlds” how unlike musicians, visual artists don’t have the same luxury of immediate feedback for their work. For example, we don’t perform our work and get applause (or whinging) every three minutes like rock and roll bands. Less frequently, and less immediately, we may have our work written about by critics or sold in galleries, which may give us some measure of our level of success in a particular “artworld”; however, the reviews may just reflect how successfully we conform to certain time-bound expectations regarding what art is supposed to be, and the sales may be more a reflection of the current state of stock-market or interest-rate returns than of any emotional or intellectual connection with “the work itself”.
One nice thing about my “women” – i.e., the “try-me-on statues” that I made for my installation “Have Your Photograph Taken as an Ottoman Princess”, which were then recycled into the installation “8 Cases”, and which are currently hanging about various locations around Foça and its environs – is that I have had opportunities for obtaining immediate feedback by watching people interact with these figures in one way or another.
Not that there always is any interaction. I have seen people walk right past “the women” without even noticing they are there – which is kind of sad, because they are life-size figures, placed in the immediate field of vision of pedestrians, so not even noticing them is like not even noticing other “real” people out on the street with you – and that to me is really sad.
Noticing, however, is not exactly interacting, and there are quite a lot of people who look up or turn their head towards one of “the women”, only to immediately look back down or turn their head away – much as you might do after accidentally making eye contact with a stranger walking towards you from the opposite direction.
Then there are the people who couldn’t wait to “play pretend”; they went running up behind a figure to stick their own face into the appropriate empty space and have their friends click away – taking a “selfie” was kind of out of the question (although the thought itself raises interesting philosophical questions about identity…) – without even noticing the text in the back.
Oh, did I mention there’s text on the back of each of the figures? In fact, I have the dilemma of explaining this, so you understand the installation, or not explaining it, so as not to ruin the experience. I guess this is where I need to say “Spoiler Alert”.
Each figure represents a case in which a woman was murdered by her husband, who was tried and sentenced for his crime, only to have a judge reduce the sentence on the grounds of “unjust provocation”. (This is supposed to mean someone who is “provoked into a crime due to an unjust act”, and an example of this might be a woman who kills her husband who is beating her for the umpteenth time – rather than, for example, a man who kills his wife because she “swore at and cheated on him” – which is along the lines of the types of “provocation” considered in the “Eight Cases” described in my installation.)
Now, it has been suggested that it might be more effective to put the text on the front rather than the back of the figures, and it has been noted that most people who have their photo taken are doing it because it is fun: Well, more power to them! It is definitely fun to try on a different identity from time to time.
Interestingly, I might add, although there are eight different women you can “be”, from my observations, I’d say that somewhere between one-half and one-third of the time, people want to “be” the “sexy lady in black” (so much for our objections to the objectification of women), with the next-most-popular type being “the tourist”, followed by “the farmer”. Some adventurous “modern” folk (more men than women) have tried out the “Islamic fundamentalist”, and I’ve noticed a few girls pretending to be “the businesswoman”. Surprisingly, I don’t recall very many people wanting to be a “student” or anyone at all wanting to be a “fashionista”, either with or without a headscarf. In fact, the fashionistas are my personal favourites, because they’re the most colourful. But my most favourite part of the installation is when I get to watch someone saying to her friends, “Hey, wait a minute; did you read this?”…
Admittedly, that probably only happens about a third of the time, but it’s worth waiting for, to see the expression on the face of a person that has just had something sink into their brain. If the text were on the front, sure, more people would read it, but I don’t think anyone would want to “play pretend” anymore. I can’t imagine people wanting to “be” a murder victim…
So, there you have it. If you want to “play pretend”, you can “be” a “sexy lady” or an “Islamic fundamentalist” in Eski Foça in front of the studio of Şenay and Hatice (who noted that while these two might be the most extreme, they also are the ones likely to attract the most attention) – it’s on the street near the parking lot behind the archaeological site and the fish market. If you want to “be” a “tourist” or a “student”, you need to go into the Foça Municipality’s Reha Midilli Cultural Centre (or just walk by on a weekend, if the weather’s okay and the staff remember to put them outside). You can go to the Iraz’ca Taş Cafe on the Marseilles Plaza in Eski Foça to be a “fashionista” (and I noticed that someone put a table behind one of them to make life easier for the littlest icon-wannabees). Finally, if you are tooling around the villages, you will find a “businesswoman” outside Yağcı in Kozbeyli and a “farmer” (appropriately) in front of the Dirim Farm shop in Bağarası (where you’ll also find jams and other yummy things to eat, and maybe even Öngör, the woman who runs both these establishments).
And, if you happen to be heading in the direction of any of these places in the company of friends who haven’t read about the “Eight Cases” (or the “Ottoman Princess”), you can find out just how much they’re paying attention…