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Q&A: When life imitates art in Turkey's Covid-19 quarantine

  • 7 Apr 2020

How a young television producer made a debut in performance art enacting the artworks of various Turkish artists while coping with the coronavirus lockdown. She also gave it an interesting twist.

( TRTWorld )

Elif Bulut's Instagram posts have become all the rage in the past few days as she posts photos of her enacting the artworks of several Turkish artists. But here is the catch: As the Instagram page admin of Turk Ressamlar Karantinada, which means Turkish painters in quarantine, Bulut started a challenge on the social media platform, asking people to recreate artwork while coping with the ongoing quarantine at home. And that particular aspect has come under the public spotlight.  

TRT World spoke to the 35-year-old debutant in performance art. 

TRT WORLD: Where did you get the idea to start this page? How did this come along?

ELIF BULUT: On March 14, the Rijksmuseum, the Dutch national museum, shared a recreation of art from another Dutch account which read “in between art and quarantine”. I was impressed by the idea and saw it as an opportunity to make Turkish painters’ work more visible. When you ask people to name a few artists, they would tell you Van Gogh or Caravaggio, very few people know any of the Turkish painters and if they can name any, it would only be the Ottoman painter Osman Hamdi Bey. So overall my intention to set up such a page is to get to know more about Turkish painters’ work, and make them more visible.

Can you tell us more about your page and your engagement challenge?

EB: I was thinking of what can we do at home as a family during our time indoors in quarantine. So on March 20 I created turkressamlarkarantinada account and posted the first pictures where I recreated the art pieces together with my family. 

Then I challenged my friends to post too and made the account public- so you just need to pick a work of a Turkish painter, recreate the piece and send it to us for everyone to enjoy, have fun recreating artwork and reduce stress levels during a time of isolation. 

How do you recreate art with kids? Can you tell us about your experience as family, as a mother? 

EB: I usually go by theme, like sometimes I search who drew cat pictures, or who are the Turkish painters that are influenced by the West? Then we search online together with my eight-year-old daughter. She’s usually interested in learning more about the play as she takes it like an activity we do as a family. While we are looking for items in the house to illustrate the original artwork, she participates in the search. She asks about the painter and gets familiar with his/her work. My other child is two years old and only follows instructions to pose for pictures in front of the camera. 

In the beginning, my eight-year-old was really bored, switching from one screen to another. I was also searching for activities as a mum to cheer them up or keep them busy indoors. I would sit and do painting with them if I felt I actually had some talent. Then I thought, I might not be able to paint pictures but surely I can take photos! So I turned it into a fun family activity. 

Snapping a picture may sound very easy and you may ask where is the fun activity? But the actual work lies in the background when we are setting up the stage and recreating the artwork. I ask them ‘what can replace the trees in the pictures?’ Then we start searching around for plants, then for clothing in similar colours, then finding carpet or curtains that resemble the ones in pictures. And sometimes my two-year.old will not stay still in her role. So I wait for her to get in the mood and come back to stage her part. Sometimes all these take up to an hour which is such a relief from the boredom that quarantine life puts you in.

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