Memed Erdener

I Remember – 2012

1970 The doctor says, ‘this child is dead, let’s remove it’. My father doesn’t believe the doctor, he gets angry and shouts at him, and they go to another doctor with my mother, I am born at 10 months.
1975 I pile up the cushions in the living room, and shout ‘Independent Turkey’, my mother and father laugh. The crowd out in the street below is marching from Kabataş to Taksim; and the flags and the sound from the loudhailers attracts my attention. I watch them from the window. My grandmother calls me ‘deli zottik’.
1979 My mother tells me, ‘It’s not going to hurt a bit.’ I trust her. It hurts a lot. I cry, saying, ‘You told me it wasn’t going to hurt.’ I find out that circumcision hurts.
We are walking to my grandmother’s house. Suddenly, my father hurls us to the ground, and lies on top of us. It’s night in Esentepe, and we remain on the floor until the sound of machine gun fire drifts away. My 3-year old sister exclaims, ‘enemies, enemies.’
We are at sea, and there is a storm. My father asks us, me and my friend Aykut, to take the 8 m. Black Sea-type fishing boat back to the harbour. The waves are almost a metre high. And I know that the poyraz, the north-easterly wind, of Çınarcık is strong. Along the coast, all the mothers and older girls shout, ‘come back, come back!’ We manage to safely bring the boat in. I remember entering the neighbourhood with Aykut as 9-year old heroes.
1980 There is a man sleeping in the bathtub at home. Because the curfew begins at 12 o’clock midnight, and since almost every night our home is full of my mother and father’s friends, and since they drink and talk and laugh all night, this doesn’t seem too unusual to me and my sister.
1981 I enter Saint Benoit, the French High-School. The school building is next to the street of brothels in Karaköy. My father grins nastily. Sometimes, our ball bounces off into the street of brothels while we are playing basketball; we ask for it back from the older sisters and brothers, and they tell us to ‘fuck off’.
1982 We’re watching a football game with my father at home. One of the guests, and what’s more, a male guest, says, ’22 people running around, and you watch it for an hour, that’s absurd.’ It’s the first time I’ve heard such a thing from a man.
1983 It’s summer, and we’re staying at my grandmother’s bed&breakfast in Çınarcık. Only we have a television set. On summer nights we eat together as a family in front of the TV. On the nights when Dallas is on us, all the staff and guests of the b&b, and even the people in the building next door, watch Dallas on our 31 cm. screen TV, everyone watches JR’s debauchery and intrigues without a sound. On almost every Dallas night, there is an electricity cut, followed by a chorus of boos. When the electricity comes back on, the whole b&b and the neighbourhood applaud. In one part of the series, there is talk of JR being impotent. I ask my grandfather, ‘Granpa, what does impotent mean?’, and the guests at the b&b and the neighbours all laugh out loud.
We come out of class. Saint Benoit is a boys’ school, but the school is, for some reason, full of dressed and made up women. Us, the little men, look at the women in amazement. The school fails to disperse. Congestion at the gate. The headmaster warns us, saying, ‘Don’t keep waiting, get out.’ I later find out that the police raided the brothels next door to the school, they were beating up the women, and the French headmaster, who was also my favourite teacher at high-school and taught me Kant, opened the school gate and took the women in to save them from being beaten up by the police.
1984 I kiss for the first time. The girl is 2 years older than me, ‘Is this the first time you’ve kissed someone?’ she asks me. ‘No, this is the third,’ I reply.
In the shop where my mother sells antique furniture, I meet Müjde Ar. She is very beautiful. I can’t take my eyes off her, and I’m embarassed.
I’m at a friend’s home. His father is in the living room, working with colour pens at the dinner table, designing a poster for a Kemal Sunal film. I’m filled with admiration. I decide to become a graphic designer.
1985 I don’t understand the lessons at Saint Benoit. All my grades are terrible. My mother talks with the headmaster, and asks him, ‘What can we do?’. The headmaster very silently whispers something like, ‘He will only pass if he takes private lessons from the class teacher,’ into my mother’s ear. I take private lessons from the class teacher. I pass without having to repeat my exams.
1986 My father comes home late. Very late. We know he sometimes goes gambling. A big fight between him and my mother breaks out when he comes home at midnight. Me and my sister wake up to the noise. Shouting, crying. But one night, long after midnight, at the sweetest poing of my sleep, I start hearing sounds from the living room. I think, ‘they must be fighting again,’ but it isn’t, it’s not a fight, I hear loud laughter from the living room. I get out of bed, and silently go to the living room. I look into the living room from the door left slightly ajar. This is what I see: My mother and father are throwing bundles of money up into the air, the notes float down. There’s money everywhere, on the carpet, on the couch, and on the coffee table. This time, my father has won. I sleep soundly.
1987 We perform the namaz prayers in class. We take off our shoes, we climb on top of the desks with our socks on, and perform the prayers. The video on procreation the French biology teacher showed in class turns into a problem in the religion class.
1988 There are students in our class who are said to have been married according to Islamic matrimony.
1989 The special talent exam of the Mimar Sinan Fine Arts Faculty. A student I know from Saint Benoit, who is a follower of Adnan Hodja, sits in front of me. On the board in his hand, there is a pre-prepared, perfect drawing of the subject we have just been asked to draw. I have no idea where he got this, or who he had it drawn for him.
1990 Miracle! I’m at the academy. But the teachers who favour peinture –figurative painting- and those who favour abstract painting are at loggerheads. The teachers in the peinture camp, Özer Kabaş and Neşe Erdok, teach at the graphic design department. I don’t understand their disagreement at all.
1992 With the help of a medium from the Spirit and Matter Association, I talk to my girlfriend who died in a traffic accident. ‘Don’t think of me anymore, I can’t leave if you do, let me be. To understand life better, always be superficial,’ she tells me.
1994 I work at the weekly humour magazine Deli. An enjoyable period begins. But the graphic designer who has been recruited and is supposed to help me is a bit strange. I have never seen a graphic designer like him. 1,85 m.s tall, hefty, and he wears a gray, shiny suit. It takes a few weeks until we understand he is a plainclothes police officer.
1995 I work as a waiter in Kaş. The Kaş police chief comes to the restaurant with his wife. I served them their food. For no apparent reason, the Kaş police chief starts hassling me, ‘are you a draft evader, who are you, where did you come from?’ he asks me. His wife turns to him and says, ‘Leave the boy alone.’ He shouts at his wife with such force that I am afraid. I can’t understand anything, but then things become clearer. The restaurant I’m working at belongs to an amazing woman who previously worked as a cook on Coco Chanel’s yacht. It turns out the Kaş mafia wanted this restaurant to close down. There was a toilet only at the restaurant I worked at, at other restaurants the customers have to go to the mosque to use the toilet. In winter, one day, the toilet of our restaurant is destroyed with sledgehammers. Now there are no restaurants at all with a toilet. I never go back to Kaş again.
1996 I produce some linoleum prints in the Graphic Design Department. My work features Cem Sultan, a mausoleum and a vibrator. Süleyman Saim Tekcan, our teacher, tells me, ‘instead of all this, do portraits of Koç and Sabancı.’
1997 We have a teacher called Bülent Erkmen. For the first time, I understand what being a teacher is, and also what design is. I record everything this man says into the empty parts of my brain.
2000 I’m in a courtroom that resembles a bad, patched up theatre backdrop, me and my wife are getting divorced. Then the teaman enters the courtroom, and tells the judge, ‘please my judge, don’t put the files there.’ The judge mumbles a few words to the teaman and divorces us in two minutes.
I’m fulfillinf my paid-for military service. 28 days. There’s 120 of us in a single ward. Around 100 of them are police officers. We go to bed at 9 pm, but it’s difficult to sleep. The police sleeping in the bunk-bed next to me, asks me for a book. I have Bunuel and Sait Faik. ‘I don’t want the communist, give me Bunuel,’ he says. 5 minuets later, with great boredom, he says, ‘forget this, give me the communist.’ He reads the book, grinning and laughing. Eventually he adds, ‘He writes beautifully, this communist.’
2003 I work with Serdar Erener as an art director at Reklamevi, an advertising agency. We work really hard. I can’t describe you how hard, you can’t imagine it. In the end, the stress causes a stomach illness. Loads of medicine and an endoscopy… Serdar’s energy and intelligence, and his interest in almost everything, makes me feel lucky in this country of averages, despite his obsession for work that has made my stomach ill. I don’t care that much for my stomach.
2007 June the 4th, Monday night, 6 o’clock, I text my friends in our art group Hafriyat, saying, ‘The 4th song on Hayko Cepkin’s new album is great.’ I immediately get an e-mail to my computer. It’s like a scene from a movie. The mail says: ‘It’s a shit song, couldn’t you think of a better song!’ The address it came from is ananın_amıhotmailcom. A friend who has connections does some research and tells me, ‘yes, your phone is tapped.’
We organize an exhibition titled ‘Fear of God’. There are around 70 participants. The Vakit newspaper begins to threaten us. We don’t manage the process well. We even censor some of the posters from the exhibition. In addition to our ineptitude the way Vakit newspaper and the police act is difficult to forget. There is a criminal complaint about 3 posters and 3 artists. I explain the posters to police officers carrying machine guns. When we come to a poster depicting Atatürk performing the namaz prayers, the police officer gets very angry, and asks: ‘what is this, what kind of thing is this?’ I reply, ‘In this poster, Atatürk teaches how to perform the namaz prayer, nothing else.’ They fall silent. Later, we talk to a journalist from the Radikal newspaper about one of the posters we censored. After a long conversation, the journalist threatens me, saying ‘I’ll expose and humiliate you.’ She’s a journalist. I know she can. I fall silent, just like the police officer who fell silent in front of the Namaz Teacher Atatürk poster.
2009 Following many e-mails that contain threats, swearing and humiliation from unidentified people of a religious background, I receive an e-mail from another address: ‘What is your aim to present a place like Anıtkabir the place where the person who founded this country rests what kind of orgasm does it give you to you morons. Show your true colours act properly. Your site might get hacked soon.’ [sic] And it turns out to be right, a short while later, my site goes down. And it is quite an effective hacking, it takes a very long time to mend. I then think, the Kemalists work much more professionally than the Islamists.
2010 The Tophane attack. A mob of lowlifes attack the guests at art gallery openings, hitting people over the head, sticking broken bottles into their eyes, and using tear gas. The Prime Minister makes a statement on television: ‘I know Tophane very well, there is no neighbourhood pressure there.’ The shameless police arrest no one.
2012 A team of police officers from the anti-terrorism branch come to Gallery NON, and say, ‘Remove the Apo sculpture.’ What is a team from the anti-terrorism branch doing at an art gallery? God knows. Yes, I did make a sculpture of Apo.
I have been teaching for 3 years at Bilgi University, the university that also happens to be the one to which the Prime Minister made a personal phone call to ban the sale of alcohol. Then, at the beginning of this academic year, they cancel my dinner card without notifying me. I mail the dean and the rector, it’s a polite e-mail asking, ‘please could you explain why,’ they don’t reply.

The human brain is such a miracle that all our bad memories, and feelings such as fear, anxiety and other negative stuff does not remain there for a long time, they can’t, and we don’t remember them. They have no value. The fact that Ebru is an angel, that my mother always committed all her time to me, my father’s bravery, and all the beautiful things he taught me, and my grandmother’s great love, are what remain in my mind. If this is not a miracle, then what is?

Translation: Nazım Dikbaş