KEZIA DAVIES TALKS TO ART AWARDS FINALIST TUGBA TIRPAN
Tell us a bit about yourself and your practice
Whether it’s visual image/footage or performance, my practice is almost always born from a desire to understand the complicated human condition and look for meaning & context in the fast changing world of our capitalist era. I am very interested in translating localized cultural codes into images and movement. My work aims to tackle gender expectations, Orientalism and the limitations of language. I have a strong compulsion towards self-portraits and the image in this year’s exhibition includes a self-portrait of me wearing the burqa. I find self-portraits an ‘intimate monologic revelation of the personality’. I was born in Turkey and lived in the US and Spain before finally settling in Britain 8 years ago. I am a dual citizen of Britain and Turkey. I work in photography, film/video and performance. I have recently won the Visitor’s Choice Award at the 21st National Art Open with my photograph ‘Eye’ taken from an ongoing multi media series called ‘Prosopagnosia’. I have performed on stage in London’s West End and have been featured in film and TV projects.
What made you decide to apply for this year’s Winter Pride Art Awards?
I was instantly captured by the theme of the exhibition. My entire practice revolves around the binaries. After reading more about the exhibition and its background I knew this was a great platform for freedom of speech and I had to be part of it. Exhibition spaces are, in many ways, still very conservative and it’s amazing that people like Simon [Tarrant] are taking the initiative to challenge this.
Why do you think it’s important that art is used to open up the discussion around LGBT+ issues and how do you think your practice interacts with these issues?
When a baby is born in Turkey they are given a pink or blue identity card depending on their gender. I was given the pink one and had to carry this ‘symbol of polarisation’ everywhere I went. We learn from a young age what we can’t and shouldn’t do as females. The identity card is a constant reminder of these limitations; boundaries that we cannot cross in public spaces but also in our minds and desires. Language tells a lot about a country and society. When there is a sudden silence among a big group of people, they say ‘a girl is born’. Because a girl’s birth brings grief, -silence. While gay women are not taken seriously enough; (because damn they are only women!), gay men are outcasted by their families, workplaces and public spaces, trans women are being attacked and in some horrible cases killed even today. Coming from such a place, gender and sexual identity oppressions are interwoven with me and my practice. I believe that art has the power of transcending words, taboos and beliefs even for the most conservative minds.
Can you tell us a little about the piece you’re exhibiting in reference to this year’s theme of ‘Beyond the Binaries’?
‘Eye’ aims to look at the female body and identity from the perspective of a West and East binary. We live in a polarized world defined by economic and cultural binaries; West and East, North and South, rich and poor, old and young, sane and insane, heterosexual and homosexual etc. From birth we are conditioned to see and think within these binary systems and my work tries to tackle this, starting from a very personal experience to ultimately confronting ‘the system’ we live in. Our idea of freedom is also conditioned and most of the time we don’t even question if we are really free or not. Most of us spend a lifetime trying to fit in to one, or more, of these binaries and creating ‘others’ unconsciously. I like to challenge my thinking and find new ways of seeing the world within and around me.