Tapestry made of pieces of textile covered with drawings or messages in many languages, sown together in the name freedom and unrolled in a room: the project 'Silsel, letters to Turkey') by Kutlug Ataman was presented at the 18th International Theatre Festival, in progress in Istanbul until June 5. Ataman is one of the most important contemporary Turkish artists (who held an exhibition, 'Mesopotamian dramaturgies', in Rome's Maxxi gallery last year).
Silsel (which means 'wing beat' or 'sky' in Aramaic) is a special project in which the actors are the spectators, who are involved in the scene created by Ataman. Literally. The artists explains that he was inspired to make it when he was in Mardin, in the south-east of Turkey, during a business trip. ''I was headed to Syria to make a video, shortly before the uprising started. Everybody told me not to cross the border, so I had to stay in Mardin,'' he explained to ANSAmed. This town in the south-east of Turkey was the seat of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch until 1930. ''A local intellectual showed me the house of one of the last remaining Syriac-Christian families." After entering the house, Ataman was a peculiar ceiling painted in turquoise with a zigzag design. ''It struck me, it was very graphic and had a contemporary look. The woman, Nasira Hanim, told me that members of the Syriac Church stayed indoors in the past, fearing attacks by other ethnic groups. Trapped in their houses, they painted their ceilings to distract them from their desire for real life. That particular design was called 'Silsel', an Aramaic word, the original language of the Bible that was spoken in the region at the time." Unable to shoot his video during the developing events in Syria, Ataman decided to present the 'Silsel' project at the Festival of Istanbul. The public is invited by the artist to bring a piece of textile with them, no larger than 45 centimetres, on which they can write a message in any language, make a drawing or simply leave it as it is. The patches of textile will be taken to the hall of the Greek elementary school Galata in Istanbul, where exhibited as 3-dimensional structure. So far 300 pieces have been collected and sown together by the spectators themselves, creating a textile mosaic, a sort of metaphoric sky. After the Festival, the artists hopes he will be able to take the result to other Turkish cities and overseas.
''The idea was to involve the public in creating something together,'' said Ataman. ''I haven't presented Silsel to send a message. I prefer asking questions. I know from experience that the public appreciates this. Art is made of ideas and concepts, and that is sufficient." ''Of course,'' the artist explains, ''Silsel is no theatre production in the literal sense. In my experience the project has not only artistic value, but becomes an historic document,'' like the ceiling of the house in Mardin. (ANSAmed).