Hakan Kırdar

Hakan was born in 1963 in Aydın. Lives and works in Izmir.

Scrolling through the cyberspace with the hopes of spotting some
photographs from the Early Republican Era, when I came across Ali
Artun’s essay in which he write “History for Benjamin, is not looking
for traces of the past in the present but discovering traces of the
present in history, in the ruins of the past,” I said to myself, “Here it
is! This is what I want to do.”

Since I am not a historian I have no obligation to look into history as
they do. If what I am genuinely interested in is the present, the time
I live in second by second, i.e. today, I can learn from the past only by
looking for and finding “traces of the present in the ruins of the past.”
When trying to make use of history, two different approaches
outshine: First, embraces history without developing any empathy
for which it presents as the “other.” Second, approach refuses history
altogether without addressing it in all aspects or developing a sense of
belonging. The refusal keeps us from getting to a grounded reality yet
the opposing argument raises the danger of getting stuck in nostalgia,
keeping us from reconciliation and progress.

When looking into history and turning the data it presents into
artistic expression I never intend to deduce results that lead us to
nostalgia. Perhaps it would be comforting to console in nostalgia, but
what’s the good of it?

Yes, but on the other hand, which history correctly supply us with
what we demand? Correct for whom or according to what? How can
we trust these history(ies) especially when recited cases and concepts
intermingle and their interpretations are upset; when they are what
we learn (or memorize, even force fed according to some) in this foggy
climate inducing bad psychology, showdown and loss of direction; this
climate, which Western societies experienced in their own struggle
to modernize and yet we are only recently subjected. As this stands
before us as a separate issue…

As I stared at thousands of photographs running in front of me I
was able to clearly see the mainframe of a project of modernization
where the dominant authority provides constructions of daily life and
undertakes plans according to their designs. I must say that the ones
that moved me the most were those in which official ideology and the
civil live intermingled and appeared simultaneously: Woman smiling
to the camera in her modern frock with her vote at hand in front of
a ballot box in an Anatolian city; group of students posing with their
teacher in front of a statue of Ataturk and the flag pole. Souvenir
photographs of citizens or visitors posing in front of a monument, an
Ataturk monument in most of the cases, which can be found in almost
all cities in the country, makes the explicit example among these and
many other possibilities.