Nilbar Güres’ settings play a pivotal role catalyzing her reenactments. Her selected locations are embedded with different meanings from her past. The open-ended narratives she scripts are shaped by the settings which the former aim to deterritorialize. The artist investigates ways of changing the grammatical constructions of her memory and thus the collective unconscious via her personal reminiscences and their connotations. TrabZONE, one of her recent series, takes us on a childhood journey to Black Sea region, one particular city, Trabzon, notorious for its fanatic attachment to religious and national values. For Nilbar Güres always looks for the hidden and the uncanny taking place behind the protection of traditional structures, this city where she used to spend some of her summers as a child proves to be a productive setting.
Trabzon is a place with many paradoxes; strongly attached to a Turkish Muslim identity, it is also one of the historic centers of Pontus (during Hellenic and Roman times) whose inhabitants are known as the very first converts to Christianity. Today, one of the strongest associations of the city is being the hometown of Ogun Samast, the boy who assasinated the Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, an unforgettable symbol for the fraternity among the peoples of Anatolia. Shortly, Trabzon is a tense and intense city. The social visibility of women is very poor, similiar to many Anatolian cities; that is women may not appear in public spaces unless they are accompanied by their fathers, brothers, male cousins, fiancees or husbands. Yet the lives of men and women are quite separate; while men work or gamble with their pals in coffeehouses, women carry the whole load of household and family.
Yet such restrictions under such circumstances fire Nilbar Güres’ imagination for other possible scenarios that may develop in closed socialization process among women. She humourously forces her viewers to pass beyond the patterns they are taught to think in. And through an honest translation of her wittnessings, she may catch them unaware in a process of identification and/or confrontation with their past. In Worship, the artist makes a unique taboo breaching portrait of two women praying in the men section of a central mosque in Trabzon behind each other with latter’s head under another former’s skirt, revealing desire in the most unexpected second to where it actually belongs. Worship was realized in a daytime in the mosque trespassing the controlled gender division of public religious space. Nilbar Gures believes such a ‘radical’ performance of usually restricted gendered body may deterritorialize the space, break the foundations of these restrictions and change how she remembers the restrictions she has experienced herself. The scarf tightened between the heads of two women, one younger one older, going to opposite directions in Junction visualizes the tensions built around the restrictions about how an ‘honorable’ woman should be, the heavy burden of womanhood on the shoulders of women in small conservative family circles of Anatolia. It is a sort of tension that one may come across anywhere in Turkey, in center or periphery, in east or west, in different shapes. Gures’s choreography hints at the difficulty of the moment of decision either to break apart from where you are taught to belong here and now or to allow the regular partiarchal system’s take over for the rest of your life.