Ferhat Satıcı
    • "shattered fingers of a stone worker
      -new colossus"
      "bir taş işçisinin bitkin parmakları
      -yeni anıt"

      Ferhat Satici, 5533
      15 /11/2008 - 13/12/2008

      Beginning words

      When I encountered Ferhat’s work in his exhibition at 5533, I realized I needed to do research to understand his thought processes, beliefs, and art practice. I was not initially attracted to his work that appeared to originate from the male world of super heroes, engines, machines, technology, heavy work, construction, violence, ideology, dogma, and measurement. I knew I must approach it from an intellectual perspective, but as I delved deeper and talked with Ferhat, I realized we had many shared beliefs and interests. I was intrigued and wanted to understand more about his construction and deconstruction methods.

      I began my research by asking google, “What is new colossus or yeni anit?” I found two possibilities:

      1. The Colossus computers were used to decipher tele-printer messages. Since the hardware and blueprints of these early computers were destroyed in the 1970s, the creators were deprived of credit for their pioneering advancements in electronic digital computing. In 2007 a functional replica or ‘new Colossus’ computer was completed.

      2. Colossus (Pilot Nikolalevitch Rasputin) was a fictional superhero in the Marvel Comics universe (Giant-Size X-Men #1) created by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum in May 1975.

      Since some of Ferhat’s work used Yuzbasi Volkan, a Turkish comic book hero that also appeared in 1975 as a reference, could he as a child have read about Pilot Rasputin as well? Furthermore, I found similarities between the two characters. Even though Pilot Rasputin, a Russian mutant, is portrayed as the strongest X-man, throughout the series he is also shown to be a quiet, shy, honest and innocent character and an artist. Yuzbasi Volkan is also a reluctant although well trained soldier. He is against war, but believes he must be strong and fearsome to remain a pacifist. Even though he is portrayed as a Pacifist and Humanist when necessary he can be ‘as fast and destructive as a bullet’. Yuzbasi Volkan like all Turkish soldiers is Patriotic and puts country first. Pilot Rasputin and Yuzbasi Volkan differ in that Yuzbasi Volkan is strongly pro-American. In the Volkan comic books, America is shown to be strong, important, and needed country. Warplanes and flying tactics are also presented in a manner that makes the comics almost scientific documents.

      Believing I now had an entrance into Ferhat’s work from these three sources, I emailed him my findings only to learn that he did not take the title from either of these possibilities, but from Paul Auster’s book Leviathan. While I am a fanatic Auster fan and have read all his books, I had not made this association. I have found that finding the correct association and in fact, the whole process of association, is the key to an understanding of Ferhat’s art practice. So…now I must re-read Leviathan.

      New Colossus is the title of a book written by one of Paul Auster’s characters, Benjamin Sachs. Sachs is a Pacifist who went to jail in the 1970’s rather than fight in Viet Nam as a soldier. He stood up for his principles rather than run away to France or Canada. This character claimed to have been born at the precise moment that the boom was dropped on Hiroshima. A poet, writer, and eccentric, believer in coincidences, Sachs gathered all types of facts, but saw the world as a work of imagination. He changed documented events into fiction. If you knew Sachs’ references you could understand what he was saying, if not, you couldn’t. In his book, he used facts but put them together in a manner that made them fantastic. New Colossus is, “filled with unpredictable associations and departures, marked by increasingly rapid shifts in tone-until you reach a point when you feel he whole thing begin to levitate, to rise ponderously off the ground like some gigantic weather balloon.” Lacking a belief in systems and ideologies, Sachs eventually started to blow up images of the Statue of Liberty, to isolate himself from the world, and finally blow himself up. It is a world of de-construction. Now, I understand and can connect this to the comic book character and later to Ferhat’s lithographs and installations, but first, more background information.

      Ferhat wrote, “For me, Yuzbasi Volkan, shows a comical means of conveying propaganda. Of course, both my brother and I read this comic book as a child, but I dug it out anew as a mechanism of criticism. Originally the comic books were American copies, but eventually they took on Russian/American, Turkish/Greek, Turkey/Greece/Cyprus topics by including newspaper articles in between the stories. Worse of all, as a tool of propaganda, they targeted the impressionable 8 to 15 year age group.” I suspect that when Auster named the book, New Colossus, he was aware of the American comic book and also the Colossus computer. Therefore, in a Ferhat-Sachs type of fact-fiction association, all of these pieces, all of these definitions, fit together.

      Next, I must tackle the other part of the title, shattered fingers of a stone worker and the fact that he was trained as a sculptor. Ferhat wrote, “I am researching the regimental, militaristic, and fascist side of art. Everything that appears to be democratic or humanistic can be a totalitarian tactic. Something representing freedom can also cover up or imprison. I detest all types of external pressure. I put art on one side of the scale and militarism on the other.” It seems to me that this quote connects his beliefs and worldview as shown through associations with New Colossus to his art practice. He also wrote, “I have never believed in the traditional sculpture tradition. Everything I have done has needed something else and has led me to work in an interdisciplinary manner. Coming from a classic sculpture background, I am familiar with materials and construction. I can easily think about habits related to these. I de-construct the sculptural practice and question its tools, methods, and materials. In general, I question all art practice. I am against development of an individual style.” Always working with the concept of making and not making, in 1998 after completing his first commissioned large sculptural project, he made an artwork from the left over pieces of marble and the photographs from the opening ceremony. He said, “When I am doing something, I always think about its absolute opposite. None of my sculptures ever finish.”

      One of the last pieces of this puzzle, at least the last one I plan to deal with in this article, is Ferhat’s passion for graffiti. When I asked him about graffiti, he wrote, “My graffiti sculpture is a permanent document of temporary street art. I can take a photograph of graffiti and I have, but that is a still life or a landscape. A photograph does not involve gravity. When one makes a sculpture, one of the basic problems is to make it stand. The form must resist gravity.” Evidently, a painting or a photograph does not deal with this problem since it can be hung on or leaned against a wall. He also looks for paradoxical situations in graffiti art. For instance, he mentioned that, “Graffiti art is a symbol of freedom, but today most of the artists making graffiti work in advertising offices during the day. They have mostly studied graphics. Whereas graffiti was initially unsigned, today the artists often develop a style. One immediately knows who made the graffiti. The idea should be the important element rather than the artist or company or style. They could at least use a false name. Perhaps, we should call this type of work Post-Graffiti. The artists use stencils and spray paint to render the images, but the work is not permanent. I asked, ‘How can I make it permanent?” Ferhat developed a working method. He designs a symbol and then carves it into a piece of marble that can stand and be installed outside. In his opinion, this process includes the whole history of sculpture. In the middle ages, relief sculptures were carved into the walls of churches. Icons that illustrated the Bible, they supported the power system of that era. In the Renaissance sculpture became free standing. Graffiti is painted on the walls of structures during the night and is against the establishment. Ferhat wants to free graffiti from the wall. In a way, he sees himself as a superhero with the mission of rescuing graffiti and making it permanent.

      Another of Ferhat’s projects developed together with Hulya Ozdemir is Videoist1, Videoist2, and Videoist2010. These projects consist of selected and compiled series of videos made by contemporary artists. Again, in a sense they are using sculptural methods. They are assembling pieces, arranging them in an order, and allowing new associations to be made. The separate video works become something more. Ferhat and Hulya see video as a democratic tool in modern life. When I asked Ferhat to explain, he wrote, “Everyone can make a video. In one sense it is an easy technique, in another it is extremely complicated.” He refers to video as “Blind Sculpture”, a term taken from Frederic Jameson’s writings. He elaborated by saying, “While a video is only an illusion that you cannot touch, it is a type of cave that the spectator enters. The spectator enters and a relationship is formed.”

      Words about the work:

      Lithography, Form as Propaganda
      70 x 100 cm

      It is ironic that Ferhat who hates any type of pressure, makes lithography. To make lithography, designs are drawn onto a large stone with oily crayons and pressure is applied to print the image. But, Ferhat also realizes that the lithographic technique was used to produce one of the oldest forms of propaganda. He takes the images for this lithograph from Yuzbasi Volkan, but like Warhol in his silkscreen work, Ferhat allows the images to slip and blur. With this technique, Ferhat expects the spectator to make this association: “airplanes and pilots move against gravity. Sometimes the pilots become drunk and may even faint.” In this work he says, “I deal with three types of pressure, propaganda, lithography, and gravity.” It is also ironic that the pilots in these lithographs who are bombarding the world are carrying on a conversation that questions art related topics. I can also imagine that Ferhat sees the lithographic process as a type of graffiti/sculpture/propaganda tool.

      Narcotic Pilot
      100 x 100 cm. image made from stencil and spray color
      a flying suit hung on the wall

      In this picture, the pilot talks about rescuing canvas painting. When I asked Ferhat to explain, he said, “Canvas painting has to be rescued.” Since the first airplane made by the Wright Brothers was constructed from canvas and wood, they are the characters he used in this picture. Spray paint and stencil are the tools for graffiti. Graffiti is an art form advocating freedom from the establishment. Before the invention of the canvas painting, images were painted onto the walls using the technique of fresco. The paint became a permanent part of the wall. While the canvas painting freed the image from the wall and allowed it to become mobile. When it became mobile, it could be exchanged just like money. Ferhat believes that when artworks become money, they lose all meaning. Ferhat’s work seems to be related to that of Joseph Beuys. But, Beuys was supposedly a real pilot who included his own clothes in his installations. Ferhat’s pilot is from a comic book and could never have worn this pilot suit. But, then perhaps stories about Beuys are also fiction. Everything becomes a story.

      Fatal Bird F4 or Bloody Fingers of a Helping Hand
      2 x 20 m. graffiti on wall
      wire sculpture, candle modified Turkish militarist magazine (Yuzbasi Volkan)
      Installation in deserted building

      Since this work contains many of the techniques and ideas that Ferhat later develops, perhaps this complicated installation is a starting point. As a form of graffiti using letter type often used by graffiti artists, Ferhat stencils directly onto the wall of a deserted building the words, ‘Yeni Anit’. In later works he ‘ frees’ this graffiti from the wall and makes it into a permanent three-dimensional sculptural graffiti. On another wall, he begins his comic book/art criticizing/Yuzbasi Volkan series while on a third wall he installed a wire sculpture.

      230 x 200 x 45 cm.

      This gigantic marble sculpture started from a simple cookie cutter image of an airplane. If one looks closely, one of the wings of the plane has been bitten off. Ferhat said, “The slab of marble arrives in his studio was a flat surface and I transform this into a three dimensional standing object.” To make this object that becomes a permanent outdoor sculpture, he adheres to the laws of gravity and transforms wall graffiti into a permanent street object.

      100 x 100 cm.
      folding ruler, poem

      “Mountains fill up a space in the sky, and water is between ground and sky, form has been born from this.” Dogan Ergul

      Materials to carry heavy sculptures

      Ferhat has written the poem, by the poet, Dogan Ergul, a close friend who died at an early age after a short and difficult life on the folded ruler. In this short poem, Dogan defined form. Ferhat found this particular poem meaningful because he believes that both he and his friend had found a new form of working in their chosen professions. In the work, One Meter Poem, even though, Ferhat carefully wrote Dogan’s poem onto a one meter measuring stick, he does not actually measure a poem. By bending the stick into a peak and arranging it midway on the wall space, he makes a metaphor, but does not really describe the poem. Neither this work nor the piece, Five Tones Three Meters Thirty Seven Letters, installed onto the window of 5533, correctly describe their functions, but Ferhat plays with the concept of tautology. Five Tons Three Meters Thirty Seven Letters is written onto the band. This tool used to lift heavy sculptures can carry 5 tons, it is 3 meters long and the letters written do number 37, but the band does not carry anything except its own weight and the weight of an idea. Of course, by installing this piece onto the glass of the space’s window, Ferhat makes reference to Joseph Kosuth’s early work.

      The Chalice
      35 x 35 cm.
      kitchen knife set container, images of a laptop computer

      A Chalice, a scared cup that contains blood; kitchen knives that are potentially dangerous weapons; a computer, a contemporary sacred object: all are rendered functionless, useless and artificial. Nevertheless, they still feel innately dangerous. Ferhat said, “The computer symbolizes mathematical and analytical thinking whereas I come from a nomadic and aggressive heritage that places importance on knives and blood.” In a way, both are sacred. Ferhat plays with ideas, makes associations, and exposes his way of thinking. He expects spectators to follow his logic and understand his associations, as he allows them to participate in games he creates.

      Provocation 1
      9 x 6 cm.
      knuckle weapon, metal stars

      Provocation 2
      9 x 6 cm.
      Coin machine and bullets

      Both Provocation 1 and 2 show how two powers combine to make an even stronger entity. In Provocation 1, Ferhat adds metal stars from the Turkish flag to knuckle rings to increase the potential danger of a hand weapon. Ideology and brut force together make a super power. In Provocation 2, Ferhat inserts bullets, another symbol of brut force into a coin machine. In this form, the bullets can hurt no one and the money machine contains no coins, but we are reminded that together, brut force and money can rule the world.

      Artist’s Weight
      Thirty seven inch television monitor, video film with sound, baggage cart, equipment, private belongings

      Throughout his career, Ferhat has participated in competitions, made sculptures by commission, received awards, participated in conferences, attended symposiums, exhibited his art work, but all of these activities have become psychological baggage that he carries around. Does their combination really measure his weight or his value? Do they have any meaning?

      Liberty Triology
      50 x 65 cm.
      3 photographs

      Three unaltered photographs of readymade objects lean against the wall of the gallery. Each could stand be exhibited alone, but Ferhat has arranged them side-by-side. Ferhat has said that the title, Liberty Triology comes from the color scheme of blue, red and white, symbols for liberty, peace and equality found in the three photographs. Again he makes associations and combines elements to create his artwork. The letter ‘a’ in the Mcdonalds sign has been packaged. Since the blue garbage bag used for the wrapping is the same color as the sky it is obscured and the word is fragmented. An advertisement, a powerful mechanism in the modern world, has been disrupted. A photograph of Ataturk printed on a piece of cloth has been punctured and pulled to one side by a surveillance camera. It looks like a mask, a veil, and a covering. What do the two eyes see? What is underneath? What functions do they serve? The last photograph made in Germany shows a piece of graffiti, an anti-fascist sign with a flag, stenciled onto a wall. While the meaning is unclear, the combination is provocative. Only by knowing more about Ferhat’s belief system is one able to interpret the meaning of this work.

      Ending words:

      A person can walk through one of Ferhat’s exhibitions and relate to the material presented on a series of levels. Superficially, one can just notice that the work is playful and the images are taken from popular culture, but at a deeper level, one can realize that the work always questions art related topics (particularly sculpture), criticizes modern society (particularly power systems), documents sculptural history/gravity/form/personalbeliefs/personalhistory/transformation/everyday life/thought processes/ego. In Leviathan Paul Auster wrote, “A book is a mysterious object…once it floats out into the world, anything can happen. All kinds of mischief can be caused, and there’s not a damned thing you can do about it. For better or worse, it’s completely out of your control.” The same is true for an artwork. Ferhat exhibited his work at 5533, it inspired me to do research, to enter into a relationship with the work, and to write these words…another type of documentation.

      Nancy Atakan
      Artist, art historian, coordinator at 5533
      December 20, 2008