[ISEA2011] Panel: Chan­tal Za­kari – The State of Ata

Panel Statement

Panel: Mind the Gap

The State of Ata is a vi­sual book about the so­cial themes that de­fine con­tem­po­rary Turkey and that specif­i­cally ex­am­ines the im­agery of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, its rev­o­lu­tion­ary leader after World War I. This is an artists’ book in its con­cep­tion and de­sign that weaves to­gether pho­tographs, in­ter­views, artists’ in­ter­ven­tions and archival im­agery. It is a crit­i­cal vi­sual ex­plo­ration on the mean­ing of Ataturk’s im­agery and how it is used in Turk­ish so­ci­ety today. Dur­ing a twelve year pe­riod be­tween 1997 and 2009, Mike Man­del and Chan­tal Za­kari, two artists, one Turk­ish, one Amer­i­can, have be­come en­gaged in this pro­ject to bet­ter un­der­stand this con­flict. In the tra­di­tion of Robert Frank’s ex­po­si­tion of The Amer­i­cans,The State of Ata chron­i­cles our ex­pe­ri­ences pho­tograph­ing the peo­ple in Turkey as we found them: stu­dents, fam­i­lies, cou­ples, friends, on the street, in the of­fice, or in the coun­try­side. We pho­tographed peo­ple, sec­u­lar and West­ern, or re­li­gious and con­ser­v­a­tive in ap­pear­ance. We made thou­sands of pho­tographs, con­ducted in­ter­views and col­lected found ma­te­r­ial from archives, gath­er­ing pop­u­lar his­tor­i­cal il­lus­tra­tions and other ar­ti­facts. Many graphic rep­re­sen­ta­tions of Atatürk that were orig­i­nally based on pho­tographs, were later in­ter­preted by many dif­fer­ent artists along the way, each one more re­moved from the orig­i­nal. This has cre­ated a body of pub­lic im­agery that is often far re­moved from the like­ness of Atatürk, but has be­come an image short­hand, an iconog­ra­phy sim­i­lar to the im­agery of other cult fig­ures. The book is con­ceived as a col­lec­tion of books within books; a photo book, comic book, school book, album of mil­i­tary por­traits, a diary… Like other artists’ books made by Bill Burke, I Want to Take Pic­ture, Clifton Meador, The Long Slow March, Jim Gold­berg, Raised by Wolves, Susan Meise­las’ books, The State of Ata is an art ob­ject in­formed by the de­sign, the lay­out, se­quence of im­ages, and the re­la­tion­ship be­tween image and text.

  • Chan­tal Za­kari is a Turk­ish-Lev­an­tine, a mem­ber of the Chris­t­ian mi­nor­ity. Her ed­u­ca­tion since child­hood was filled with pro­pa­gan­dis­tic im­ages of Atatürk de­signed to per­son­ify a sense of na­tional iden­tity. As an artist, now liv­ing in the U.S., she has a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive. Za­kari was trained as a de­signer and an artist. She pub­lished The Turk & The Jew, in 1998 with Man­del, a book based on the web-nar­ra­tive by the same title, which was launched in 1996. In 2005, using a pseu­do­nym, she self-pub­lished we­bAf­fairs, a doc­u­men­tary of a web com­mu­nity. She has had solo shows of her work in the U.S. and in Turkey. She has given book read­ings in the form of per­for­mances in the U.K., Nether­lands, Canada and the U.S. Za­kari is a fac­ulty mem­ber in the Text and Image Arts Area at The School of the Mu­seum of Fine Arts, Boston, US.