Laila and Majnoon & Bordello
Artvarium – Proje4L/Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art, Istanbul
June – August 2006

“Religion”, “inequality between two genders” and “death”: these are the keywords used in the research conducted by Sukran Moral. The artist presents violence and the contradictions of marginality through her skin. She puts herself into situations that are provocative and unexpected and aims to receive a critical reaction from the viewer. She deconstructs the passive role of the viewer and takes the masks off of the sovereign powers that control the social system. Moral stresses on female identity issues within the freedom of artistic choices. In Leila and Maajnon, Sukran Moral starts off with the idea of an Arabic legend that takes place in the desert. Sukran, as usual in her works, then alters the space and time of the story by carrying it to a hamam (public bath) in Palermo.

Hamam, as a theme, has been shown in Sukran’s artwork not only as an image belonging to her own country, Turkey, but as a visual collective space. For the first time in the world, as an artist, she has taken over the immunity and the privacy of the men’s hamam and abolished the mystery of it. She, herself, washes in Galatasaray Hamam and through arousing, she creates an interior scandal.

Now she is telling us an innocent story, but it is actually ready to explode: tableau vivant, for death. It’s a legend, a love story, carried into our time, in which in the end, Leila and Maajnon die from cocaine overdose in a hamam. Sukran takes us into a great seduction and purification. It’s all around a contradiction that is cruel and romantic. Two lovers, Arabic and Muslim girl and Christian boy, don’t die from love but from drugs. Contradiction, actuality, and death… these themes are not fictional. They are rather visual choices that are sarcastic, elegant, and conscious.

The artist here is at the same time a director and a photographer. She refers to the great masters of romantic painting. She is an Ingres and a Delacrois. This video undresses us and leaves us nude.

The other fundamental ritual which Sukran expresses is that of the prostitute, which she offers in connection with the façade of the Museo d’arte moderna: it is Bordello. Sukran the artist dresses up as Turkish whore with a blonde wig (globalist, we’d say now), and she stands at the entrance of a real Turkish Brothel. While she stands there a real client starts to sing.  In an interview Sukran stated, “I used it as the background voice and sound for the video I made later: It was great, and quite unexpected! In my country there is the hypocritical and medieval problem of virginity; girls have to keep it until they get married. There are punishments for nudity, for kissing, etc…” Crossing the prohibited threshold of the sex ghetto (the area in Istanbul that is carefully protected by the police against women and mad people), one discovers hideaways, malaise, prohibitions, and contradictions.

Text: Simonetta Lux

Artist graduated from Ankara University / Faculty of Fine Arts in 1995 and from Roma Fine Arts Academy / Painting. She has joined to several international exhibitions including, 1997 Istanbul Biennial, 1998 World Wide Video Festival, StedeljikMuseum, 1999 Roma Film Festival, 2003 Art Live3 Fondazione Sandiretto Re Rebaudengo, Torino, 2004 Apocalyps, Roma Museum of Contemporary Art…

images © Sükran Moral