Vasiyetimdir: Zeyno Pekünlü

The concept of a will was something that wasn’t a part of my life up until a few years ago. As I was the granddaughter of those who left everything behind and settled in Izmir, there wasn’t much to bequeath—what did remain was entrusted to be handled among siblings.

My paternal grandmother left behind a letter. My mother found it after her passing. For the first time, someone dead was talking to me, to us, but this talk was in the language of love. She had written down how well we took care of her when she was ill and how happy she was to have spent her last few years with us.

My mother often mentions that if she one day becomes a burden on others, if she is no longer herself, she would want a euthanasia. My father talks about how he doesn’t want to be buried in compliance with the Islamic rituals. These two things that are asked of me at this time are both related to the body and both are almost impossible.

My own will was something that was not a part of my life up until a few years ago. I first encountered it in the form of agreements. If I passed, who would have the rights to my work? I don’t have a sibling, nor do I have a child. A romantic partnership is one that I cannot fully rely on when thinking about what happens so many years from now. In these agreements, I give the name of a childhood friend. I also send her the agreement to inform her. “Ugh Zeyno. I don’t want to think about these,” she says. I say, “Don’t think about it, but just FYI.”

My own will was something that was not a part of my life up until a few years ago. Then our peers started to die. Some of them we personally knew, some of them we didn’t know in person, but we could have been friends with them if only we had met in real life, acquaintances of acquaintances, darlings of friends died from police brutality, bombings, traffic murders, to cover up rape, they were murdered. Just like everyone else, I started to ask myself whether we would get to die from natural causes. As I looked at the smiling photographs of those who passed, I told a few friends and my partner where everything was. I told them where the documents were and the address where I left a copy of everything in case there was a police raid, a confiscation, an earthquake, theft.

All of my works are things that can be reproduced, copied. Thus I wasn’t too worried about their preservation. I hope that they’ll be updated as technology advances. But when I think about how and where they should be shown, in which context and with whom, who could protect them, I can’t make clear decisions. I don’t think the rules of this can be contemplated on now—I don’t think the boundaries can be drawn at this moment. Life will change, conditions will change. So I gave my friends also the names of two artist friends. “If you can’t make a decision about something, if you get confused, ask them,” I said. They say, “Ugh Zeyno. We don’t want to think about these.” I say, “Don’t think about it, but just FYI.”

In the middle of the mayhem, I’m not sure whether they’re able to register these dark issues. I wanted to sit down and write about it many times. I should also put it in a drawer, somebody would find it. Then I say, “Ugh Zeyno. I don’t want to think about these.”

Zeyno Pekünlü (b. 1980, Izmir) is an artist and lecturer based in Istanbul. Comprising a wide spectrum of material from cheat sheets to Turkish melodramas, her works traverse public and private manifestations of various forms of subordination and problematize the technologies of power.

Translation from Turkish to English by Merve Ünsal

For the original text, click here

Vasiyetimdir* is a publication project that aims to explore how art works will subsist over long periods of time. Art works live in artist studios, private collections, museums, storage spaces, or simply in memories. But how far do the artists want to control what happens to their works when they are no longer? How do they want to exert their control? We directed these questions to the artists we are in dialogue with. We are accumulating their answers through

*Vasiyetimdir is a Turkish phrase that can roughly be translated into English as “It is my will that…” The phrase holds a tint of the melodramatic, mixed with a sentimental flair.

Vasiyetimdir was conceived by Aslı Çavuşoğlu, Özge Ersoy, and Merve Ünsal.