Fikret Muallâ’s statue in Moda, Kadikoy, in Istanbul. (c) Brian Awehali

Fikret Muallâ’s statue in Moda, Kadikoy, in Istanbul. (c) Brian Awehali

Photo EssayAvant-garde painter Fikret Muallâ (1904-1967) was born in Istanbul, but lived most of his life in France. Muallâ was a soul tortured by circumstance and self-abuse, but he understood his pain as a crucible for the perfection of his art, which he testified to in one of the last letters he was to write:

“In my opinion every artist should suffer hardship, anguish and hunger. Only after that should they enjoy life. After the age of fifty, people start to seek comfort and health, and to think. That is my fate. My life has passed in a struggle against poverty. Now in this quiet village I submit to living peacefully by myself waiting for the final period of my life as ordained by God. Apart from this I have no problems! No pretensions. We have seen every kind of circumstance the world has to offer, we have tasted very few of the pleasures of life. Today what is left but for my tongue to recall the past and my brush to paint?”

Fikret Muallâ’s statue in Moda, Kadikoy, in Istanbul. (c) Brian Awehali




Photo EssayHagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey - (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Spiritually speaking, I’m fairly described as an atheist anarcho-Buddhist, and I didn’t want to go stand in line to look at the Hagia Sophia, one of the oldest and largest monuments to monotheism and feuding totalitarian religious dogma in the world. But F. really wanted to go, and I didn’t have any better plans for the gray and rainy day.

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» NEW MEXICO NOTES #1: Santa Fe Differs

Photo Essayby Brian Awehali

On by far my most memorable winter stroll around the then-deserted College of Santa Fe, on visits to the Santa Fe Art Institute, I peered around a corner into a courtyard, looking for some mundane scene to exoticize with my camera when I heard what sounded like a theremin being played. Perhaps some artist was noodling around with one? Then a low-pitched thrum and bright light settled overhead and seemed to move closer.

Just prior to the unfortunate alien incident while visiting SFAI. - (c) 2012 Brian Awehali

Just prior to the unfortunate incident in the courtyard of the Santa Fe Art Institute (SFAI). – (c) 2012 Brian Awehali

When the hatch opened, I heard music that sounded a lot like the cantina music from the first “Star Wars” movie. Despite associations with the needless bloodshed of that scene, where Han Solo kills a business associate with his blaster, I was excited. Stories of alien visitation are common in New Mexico, especially around Roswell, but I didn’t take them very seriously, and I definitely didn’t imagine I’d be having any such experiences first-hand. I imagined, mostly because of the music, that there was a grand party going on inside, and that I’d soon be dancing, knocking back shots of oddly-colored liqueurs, or smoking alien herbs through exotic pipes with new friends.

Unfortunately, the visitors had traveled all these light years merely for the purpose of collecting stool samples.

* * *

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» LONG LIVE THE OUTLAWS: The Great Art and Forgery of Elmyr de Hory

by Brian Awehali

Most petty crime is dull, in both motivation and execution. But I have always wished I could be a great outlaw. Consider the outlaw, and the merits of his or her avocation: the perpetration of grand, spectacular, and/or marvelous crime. A widespread and enduring fascination with outlaws, hucksters, escapists, charlatans, and rogues of various ilk has always harkened to embrace the heroic combination of focus, ingenuity, bravery, determination, and intelligence needed to rise to a level of criminal infamy.

“I love the trite mythos of the outlaw,” wrote Tom Robbins, in his comic novel, Still Life with Woodpecker. “I love the self-conscious romanticism of the outlaw. I love the black wardrobe of the outlaw…The outlaw boat sails against the flow, and I love it. Outlaws toilet where badgers toilet, and I love it. All outlaws are photogenic, and I love that…There are outlaw maps that lead to outlaw treasures, and I love those maps especially. Unwilling to wait for mankind to improve, the outlaw lives as if that day were here, and I love that most of all.

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» YES, BUT IS IT ART?: Clever Monkeys, Banksy, Kea (蔡孟达) and Thierry Guetta

by Brian Awehali

When we look at monkeys…we can see ourselves. Memory, morality, politics, depression? Monkeys have all of these, and more. But do they have art?

Kea, Planet of the Apes: EinsteinThe images in this (disjointed & metaphorically mean) post are by a talented Taiwanese “graffiti” artist named Tsai Mengda (蔡孟达), AKA Kea. One aspect of his aesthetic reminds me of Banksy, and Kea seems to want people to think of him in the same category. Imitation may be a form of flattery, but Banksy must be annoyed by how many of his “imitators” – Kea and Thierry Guetta, the documentarian-turned-art-monster depicted in Exit Through the Gift Shop, chief among them – seem so thoroughly to miss most of the political substance of his work.

In fact, the entire celebration of “street art” and graffiti by the art establishment must drive someone like Banksy up a very dark wall. You know something’s amiss when the Los Angeles aristocracy host a street art celebration at MOCA, even if this kind of appropriation is just Capitalism 101. (For more on this process, see Thomas Frank’s fabulous “Conquest of Cool: Business Culture, Counterculture, and the Rise of Hip Consumerism”)

Mark Frank, writing for Modern Art Asia had this to say of Kea and the phenomenon of gallery graffiti while blurbing an exhibition of Kea’s work at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai in 2010:

KEA bills himself as Taiwan’s most famous graffiti artist, but he lacks the street-cred of true masters like Banksy. His modest reknown comes more from hanging his work on walls than defacing them. His work is a celebration of pop-consumerism that embraces everything the international millennial generation really drools over—sex, pirates, dinosaurs and name brands.

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