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The Small Room of History, general view from Karşı Sanat, Photo: Burak Delier

The Small Room of History, 2022

 

Focused on the trial of Festus Okey, a Nigerian refugee shot to death in 2007 while he was in custody in Beyoğlu Police Station in İstanbul, The Small Room of History invites the audience to return to the crime scene. By dismantling the technologic, human, historical, political and juridical assemblage that is considered a distributed perpetrator and re-mounting it to reveal unrecognized possibilities, the work proposes a different kind of mourning and witnessing.

For this, a room used as a storage space at Karşı Sanat (an art initiative in Beyoğlu) is emptied and used as a set to shoot a video essay, The Small Room of History: A Speculative Video Essay on the Murder of Festus Okey (2021). Referring to the missing pieces of evidence, such as CCTV footage from the room where the murder took place, the video had been shot with a CCTV camera.

 

The video essay has three parts: The first part is a setting with objects and images; it explores the relation between "the small room" and "the great hall/gallery" of history. In the second part, we see performers' hand gestures; this part concentrates on the process of the trial. In the third part, the room is dark, images of Okey found on the internet are projected; and the narrator speculates on the relation between images, persons and narratives. (Please get in touch with the artist for the full video.)

And the fourth setting is the exhibition itself. It consists of displaced and repurposed objects, such as fluorescent light, CCTV screens, blue chairs, blue paint that can be found in police stations in Turkey and Kevlar, a fabric that is used in bulletproof vests and helmets.

In Turkey, usually indoors of public buildings are painted from the floor to approx. hundred and ten centimeters high with the adequate color of the specific institution. In this case, the room of the murder was painted in blue which is the institutional color of Turkish Police and which happens to be the blue of a clear sky. The work is Untitled (Sky painted by the police blue) (2022) and consists of changing the place of the painted area and style of painting.

The Small Room of History: A Speculative Video Essay on the Murder of Festus Okey (excerpt from the end of the first partshot by CCTV Camera, single-channel, color and sound, 28' 12'', 2021, Burak Delier
The Small Room of History: A Speculative Video Essay on the Murder of Festus Okey, video still from the second part, shot by CCTV Camera, single-channel, color and sound, 28' 12'', 2021, Burak Delier
The Small Room of History: A Speculative Video Essay on the Murder of Festus Okey, video still from the third part, shot by CCTV Camera, single-channel, color and sound, 28' 12'', 2021, Burak Delier
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Bulletproof Festus, portrait of Festus Okey made by UV lights on Kevlar, 170x130cm. 2021, Burak Delier

Kevlar is sensitive to UV lights, which is a concern for the police and military (that is why when used in vests and helmets, it is protected against sun lights by covering with another fabric.). This concern is turned into a lucky encounter in Bulletproof Festus (2021), a portrait of Festus Okey made on Kevlar using UV lights.

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Missing, shirt made by Kevlar, 2013, Burak Delier

Okey's shirt was crucial to determine the shooting distance, however, it was lost when he was taken to Taksim hospital after being shot. Missing (2013) is a replica of one of Okey's shirts made by Kevlar.