I can never go there

On Bahadır Yıldız’s Notebook of Sleepers

Merve Ünsal

It is sometimes hard to talk about the works of a living artist, whom you don’t know personally. You don’t want to offend the artist and you don’t know if you know enough to speak about the work, yet the impetus to somehow contribute to the reading of the work is immense and wins (obviously).

I’m intimidated by Yıldız’s drawings/paintings. The subject matter of “men” in the army—I can’t say men in the army without quotation marks, “men” here denotes something more than mere gender identification—is something of a mystery to me and my first look is that of curiosity. I have always wondered how “men” in the army sleep, what their bodies are like, how their bodies relate to each other’s. Yıldız lets me in to a private space. My gender not being a full participant of the military is alluring in and of itself.

On the other hand, I’m not looking at photographs. And I’m glad. I realize that I’m not interested in viewing these men in their reality, but I’m interested in looking at one of them looking at the others, perceiving, processing and representing. I’m not only let into this private place, but I’m also let into the even more private space of one of “their” minds.

And I can’t get over this sense of otherness. I can’t empathize, I can’t participate; these sleeping bodies are very different from any sleeping body that I have seen and this is somewhat of a problem. My blood relatives have and will do their military services, I have and will be with people who have done their military services, but somehow these bodies are estranged when they are “there.”

Yıldız’s images leave with a mixed sense of pleasure, curiosity and estrangement and I’ll just have to live that.