Blog Post #9

In the introduction of Claudia Pederson’s 2012 PhD thesis, Gaming the System, she writes “The cross-cultural mobilization and ultimately the redefinition of the avant-gardes’ conceptual and material legacy as a transnational phenomenon informed the rise of play as a technique central to critical intervention in response to the economic and cultural transformations associated with globalization.” Of all the writing I’ve read in this class, this was one of the statements which made me sit back and think on why we haven’t specifically devoted time to talking about the notion of “playing.” Much of the critique we’ve seen discussed approaches its subject by treating it as a serious statement attached to the current state of feminism, so it’s integral we shift our focus to what it means “to play.” Because at the end of the day, that’s what video games are created to do: They may make clear arguments about the world, but the whole point is to convince others to climb along for the ride through playing. I didn’t have time to read Pederson’s entire thesis (it is nearly 320 pages long), but a large part of those 320 pages traces how the history of “playing” has evolved, fractured into more indirect statements about the environment in which it is created.

Arzu Ozkal’s work ties into Pederson’s in the way it examines how human bodies interact with the confines of an oppressive environment. “Playing” is a large part of that interaction, and it feeds into the discussions we had at the start of the term about objects that had been designed/engineered with an inherent sexism. Unsurprisingly, the ones that came up most often were video game controllers, toys, and other pieces of technology that are typically associated with “play.” The way these two ideas tie in together suggests a measure of truth in Pederson’s assertion about how the idea of “play” itself must be analyzed when studying feminism in its context within a changing social climate.

Gün is Ozkal and Pederson’s attempt to use an old Turkish tradition, where women meet and hold discussions while eating traditional Turkish food. The overt goals of these gatherings is to foster a sense of community within the women, but I think it is also Ozkal and Pederson’s way of gauging how often these women bring up issues related to sexism, in this context of “play.” More interestingly, it might be an attempt to examine how certain gender roles influence the meetings. Is there anything that happens suggesting the interaction of these women is influenced by living in a male-dominated society? Would they react to each other differently if a male was present? These are the intriguing questions that Gün seeks to bring to the forefront with its meetings, all tied together with the workshops Pederson and Ozkal offer toward the end. It will be illuminating to see how the interaction unfolds in their following meetings.

Questions:

To Claudia Pederson: In what ways do you think the notion of “play” affects a non-globalized community, as in one not directly in tune with instantaneous communication?

To Arzu Ozkal: How do you think the body would interact with technology in a non-oppressive world? Would the differences be apparent immediately?

Blog Post #9

Ozkal and Pederson’s research delves into the history of cultural exchange and feminism in Turkey.  Their primary topic of interest was the Turkish tradition of the gün. A gün is a ladies gathering that involves conversation, festivities, and the sharing of traditional Turkish foods.  They serve as natural centers of cultural exchange, allowing women to discuss and learn recipes, skills, opinions, remedies, and the overall concerns of the community.  Because Ozkal and Pederson were interested in how media might facilitate cultural exchange and strengthen women’s networks, they decided to create a collection of media collaboration that would serve as a poetic investigation of the informal networks of Turkish women.  They wished to cultivate femininity through an investigation of Turkey’s historical and current cultivation of femininity.  What they created combines images, poems, interviews, personal anecdotes, and scholarly research.  Very appropriately, they named their collaborative book Gün.

As an exploration of women’s networks in Turkey, Ozkal and Pederson’s book Gün involves much discussion of the historical evolution of the gün in Turkey.  One anecdote recalls how, after World War II, the gün freed women in higher social positions from an old Turkish tradition that expected them to drop whatever they might be doing to feed and entertain any guests that might stop by during the day.  It also facilitated new cultural exchange through the spreading of some watered-down Western culture, etiquette, and dress.  A scholarly article details how the growth of the middle class in the 1980s spread the practice of the gün to even more households as a means of recognizing the social status of women and maintaining equality through reciprocity.

Ozkal and Pederson’s Gün also documents various examples of feminist activism.  One of the first pieces in the book is an old pamphlet printed and distributed by a women’s activist group in 1925.  It protests the nation’s infringement on women’s rights.  The pamphlet is followed by pictures from the blog of Nazmiye Halvasi, who walked nearly 300 miles on foot in order to protest the sentencing of a woman in North Nigeria to death by stoning.

Questions for Ozkal and Pederson

1.  Would a man ever be allowed to participate in a gün?  Why or why not?  What might be gained from allowing the participation of men and what might be lost?

2.  This one is far more specific, because I felt that I understood most of the images included in Gün, but felt somewhat perplexed by page 6, which features a birdlike creature with what looks like a ball of yarn attached to its beak/nose/mouth.  Why did you choose this image and what does it mean to you?

Blog post 9

According to the materials posted, a Gün is a ladies gathering that involves conversation, activities, and festivities, accompanied by the serving of Turkish food. ISEA (formerly called Inter-Society for the Electronic Arts) is an international nonprofit organization fostering interdisciplinary academic discourse and exchange among culturally diverse organizations and individuals working with art, science and technology. During ISEA Istanbul 2011, Claudia Pederson and Arzu Özkal brought together sixteen women from Turkey, Europe, and the United States. The women came from all different fields, and they were all there to share ideas. They then produced a limited edition book based on the experience. The event was intended to pay homage to the 1848 First Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York. The conference in Seneca Falls has been called “the single most important factor in spreading news of the women’s rights movement around the country in 1848 and into the future”.

The main purpose of this event was to gain mutual understanding of the conditions impacting women’s participation and to activate creative collaboration among women working on related topics. This event was very interesting as it created a safe space for these diverse women to share their interests. In the book, the passage entitles “My Mother’s Receiving Days, the author states that during the  during the güns her mother held, there never were any real relationships developed. This seems to be very different than the one held at ISEA 2011. She claims that they were for show and fulfilling social obligations, but the one that was facilitated by Perderson and Özkal was largely about cultural exchange and the sharing of ideas.

1. I was wondering how exactly the women were selected for this project. Were these all women that Pederson and Özkal had known prior to the event?

2. Was this more of a facilitated conversation, like the one we will be having tomorrow, or was it more casual?

Blog Post 9: Gün

Arzu Ozkal and Claudia Pederson have been working on a project named Gün, which is the Turkish word, meaning day, but also can be a social gathering. They worked to create a diy book named Gün: Declaration of Sentiments, where they celebrated Turkish tradition of an all female social gathering, where women would share knowledge and discussions about recipes, remedies, and share opinions and concerns related to their communities. In this social gathering, which they held at ISEAIstanbul in 2011, which is a large symposium in Istanbul in conjunction with the Istanbul Biennale, where they discuss the newest in arts and science, they created a safe and open space for women to have an open discussion. Participants came from many different professional backgrounds, including the leader of a punk band, artists, professors, and politicians. This project began on KickStarter, which is a popular crowd-funding platform, where it was successfully funded, and now a limited amount of books about their experiences during this gathering has been produced. The title references that of a document created in 1848 also named The Declaration of Sentiments, which was a result of a gathering at the Seneca Falls Convention, with 100 signatures from men and women, written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

In this class we have discussed a lot about creating “safe spaces” where women (and men) are able to speak their mind, without fear of retaliation. Gün, seems to me to create this notion of a safe space where the women who participated were able to discuss their experiences and share knowledge with each other.

Questions:

  1. I understand why the participants were so carefully selected, but I am interested how you think the outcome would have changed if the participants were not so heavily curated, if more regular people, not scholars and artists?
  2. Why only produce a limited amount of the books, why not try to get these books that share these experiences to anyone who wants it?
  3. A lot of your other projects are ongoing? Would you consider reproducing an event like this, to see how the outcome is?
  4. I am sure that it was a beautiful experience to be in a space where you can have a discussion with people who have similar experiences and interests. I am curious to how you would imagine this becoming normal. How could you imagine recreating this experience for more to experience? Could you imagine using social media to emulate something similar, or I there really not a chance for there to be a “safe space” like this in a digital environment?

Blog #9: Declaration of Sentiments

The Declaration of Sentiments is a project established by Arzu Ozkal and Claudia Costa Pederson, which draws upon the Turkish tradition of “guen” (the umlaut can be replaced with an e, I believe-apologies if that’s incorrect!) in order to create a new type of cultural exchange. The word “gun” has several different meanings in the Turkish language, but this specific use describes a ladies’ gathering of conversation, food, and activities that create a festive and welcoming environment for women. A guen is essentially an informal social network, and this project’s intention is to investigate how that extends into media culture. As the introduction to the summary of the project explains, “The aims are to gain mutual understanding of the conditions impacting women’s participation and to activate creative collaboration among women working on related topics.” The project’s intention was to pay homage to one of the earliest steps in feminism, “The Women’s Rights Convention” of 1848. This not only provides Turkish women a platform with which they can share their means of cultural production, but also an opportunity for women in the United States and Europe to connect with the women of Turkey. Ultimately, traditions of storytelling and craft-making in Turkey collide with forms of contemporary media interaction to create a feminist network.

An interesting point in this project is that guen, in the Turkish tradition, is associated with a traditional practice of femininity. However, this project appropriates the term as feminist, due to its exclusively women-only network. Guen explores the cultural positions of women in Turkey and Turkish women abroad, who are active in various creative and media-related fields including visual arts, journalism, and ethnography.

One piece that I found particularly engrossing was the one entitled “My Mother’s Receiving Days” by Gueneli Guen, where she describes her experience growing up with a mother who established the tradition of guen in a particular province. What most fascinated me was that historically, Turkish women were expected to receive guests, unannounced, at any time of the day entertain them. The writer’s grandmother was expected to, and did do so often. However, her mother, the wife of the director of public health and welfare, sought after a more rigid schedule for such visits. In their province, her mother and the Governor’s wife were both admired for their elegance, charms, and generally impeccable appearance. The two of them felt they could teach lessons to the provincial women about etiquette, proper dress, and conversation. Unlike the modern guen project which promotes dialogue about women’s rights and cultural value, this guen was somewhat demeaning to lesser women, on focused only on areas of ideal “femininity” instead of the empowerment of women. As the writer describes, “Receiving days were for show; they were for returning visits made, for fulfilling social obligations, they were modeled after Western European salons, so they were like empty shells where the substance was gone, leaving behind the form without the dream.” The fact that this project, “Declaration of Sentiments” works towards a practice of guen which is meaningful and substantive is such a great way of modernizing a tradition for cultural, political, and societal betterment.

My questions for Pederson and Ozkal’s visit are as follows:

1. Have you seen similar initiatives, great or small, develop after your curation of this project? If so, what do you think of them?
2. Have you kept in touch with the participants of the Declaration of Sentiments, and have they kept in touch with one another? Have you witnessed or participated in other collaborations between these people that propel new thoughts on feminism in media and culture?
3. Have you experienced any interest from men in participating in a guen, or wanting to develop their own?

Blog Post 9

Arzu Ozkal is a Turkish-American artist and designer.  She has an MFA in visual studies from the University of Buffalo and a BFA from Bilkent University.  She taught at Oberlin College for three years before joining San Diego State University as an assistant professor of graphic design in 2011.  She produces work across a wide variety of mediums ranging from print to video and live performance.  Claudia Pederson has a Ph.D. in art history and visual studies from Cornell University and is currently working as an assistant professor at Ithaca College.

Both of these women are working together on a project called “Declaration of Sentiments”, also known as “Gün”.  A gün is a traditional social gathering for Turkish women.  The women of different households gather to discuss various topics, typically related to their communities, and engage in other social activites.  There also seems to be a noticeably strong emphasis on the serving of Turkish food (specifically) at these gatherings.  Güns are also described as “informal hubs of social networks” where women can share skills and ideas with one another and learn from each other.  In addition, the host receives gold or money from participants of the gün, which helps to support the host’s family.

The project (“Declaration of Sentiments”) will bring together multiple women for a new sort of gün, one focused around cultural exchange.  It is the hope of the facilitators that the gathering will provide an additional platform for the “cultural production” of Turkish women.

Questions:

  • As a facilitator, to what degree are you involved in the discussions? Do you actively participate or do you simply help everyone get started by using a specific topic?
  • With so many people of different backgrounds and experiences, it seems like normal conversation could easily turn into argument.  In order to avoid this, do you typically create/define any boundaries for the discussion? In other words, are any topics taboo and off the table?
  • The project description states that you plan to produce a book based upon the meeting in Istanbul. It doesn’t seem like this kind of discussion would translate well/easily to print.  How exactly will this book be formatted and how thoroughly will it follow the events of the meeting?

Blog 9 – Pederson and Ozkal

In terms of feminism, there is one specific example  that sets the tone of feminism in this piece. Although the backstory that the Turkish translator Güneli Gün shares is not directly “research” on feminism, I feel as though it ties together these preconceived feminist ideals. The güns that her and her mother attended with her mother’s friends catered to a feministic atmosphere. The nice dresses, the delicate candies, and the chit chats on well being all cater to these preconceived ideals. Not only were these ideals practiced, they were published. When Pederson and Ozkal’s obtained, processed and shared these findings, it was finally research.

Claudia Pederson begins to make these connections when she interviews Basak Senova, asking a question regarding the emergence of women’s roles in the digital arts. The answer she provokes, mimics the idea mentioned previously by Güneli Gün. Five Canadian artists, all women, were involved in scientific research regarding “[the] merging [of] local women artists, curators and groups” within the cities of Belgrade, Sofia, and Istanbul (31, Interview). Not only did her documentation of these women coming together influence her acquaintances with artist groups and artists, but it gave her the opportunity to view a presentation from the members of the Filmmor Women’s Film collective. This presentation “greatly put into view the different feminist perspectives and conditions for women from Turkey and Canada” (32, Interview). These ideals were apparent to Pederson, and through her research she has been able to tie connections between the Gün scenario and the Filmmor Women’s Film collective. These groups of women came together to educate, learn and grow together. These feministic ideals are clearly highlighted through these two examples, and the research involved brings about this sense of community.

The final works conclude the experiences of women, and their endearment towards empowerment within the realms of their beliefs. The research of Pederson and Ozkal highlights this idea of a freedom of thought and expression. They embrace a sense of ownership in their sexuality, knowledge and customs. Through this research, they have embraced and educated a large group of Turkish women, and have been able to resonate a sense of pride throughout Istanbul.

 

My questions for Pederson and Ozkal:

How has this sense of empowerment affected your technological work in recent pieces, and do you feel as though without this knowledge of the Turkish women in Istanbul that your work would have gone in a different direction?

Where do you see these advances in knowledge taking your work in the future, and if these advances are once again influenced by your work in Istanbul, is there a new direction for these ideas that would further drive the empowerment you’ve discovered through your technological research in feminism?