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.