Aykan Safoğlu

Feeling Indebted, Passing as German: Affective and aesthetic regimes of indebtedness as a 20th Century German educational product of Istanbul.
Leaning on my personal biography, this project will explore the aesthetic and affective codes of a certain notion of ‘indebtedness’ as an outcome of German educational efforts that were institutionalized in Istanbul over the course of the 20th century. I want to interrogate the extent to which, and the processes through which, “indebtedness” in this context compels the production of subjects desirous of ‘emancipation’ and, generally, citizenship models conforming to western ideals. In this project, I grasp ‘indebtedness’ as a sense of guilt that both follows from and constitutes western hegemonies within our selves. Inspired by Eve K. Sedgwick’s elaborations on ‘shame’, this conceptualisation includes a potential to shift directionalities and re-direct positionalities in 21st century subject constructs and power relations. My interest in this nexus of dependent education is thus not only critical in orientation but also genuinely affirmative of its possible manipulation. Ultimately, this artistic and academic discussion is meant to explore feelings as exchange value – considering their algorithmic character and emotive shortcomings – so as to better reflect upon how they contribute to our understandings of identity formation as a quality of constantly shifting citizenship constructs. Through the notion of “indebtedness”, I want to also ask how notions of ‘supremacy’ are constituted and maintained between culture – especially in these times characterized by a constant sense of global crisis – how they operate on a macro-level, and with which tools they descend into the micro-levels. In particular, I want to investigate these economies of feeling along the lines on a very specific career track, that of my self: becoming German (European) through a (Turkish-)German curricula at the İstanbul Erkek Lisesi public high school. Based on the details of this recent past, but also leaning on my own biography as a newly naturalised German-Turkish citizen, I will devote myself to extensive research and reflecting on the emotional landscape of “indebtedness” along the path of my personal upbringing, German education, artistic formation, and naturalization in Germany. But where does one start with artistic research on the aesthetic, cultural and moral imperatives to construct a desired ‘German’ (European) citizenship model? This will entail tracing a feeling that is very familiar to me, a feeling of “indebtedness”, to deconstruct it from a materialist perspective, and also to emotionally and mentally assess the above described histories of this cultural hegemony. I then ask: Is this feeling of ‘indebtedness’ that I knew from my high school years the lost twin brother of German resentments, which is the fuel of right wing populism?
Aykan Safoğlu was born in Istanbul and graduated from the Art in Context MA program at Universität der Künste, Berlin. He received his MFA in Photography from the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College, NY. His works cultivate relationships and even friendship among cultural, geographical, linguistic, and temporal boundaries. Through his work in multiple media including film, photography, and performance, Safoğlu conducts open-ended investigations into cultural identity, creativity, and kinship.
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