Against the image of Gökçeada island, photographed wrapped in clouds by Larissa Araz, is a letter. Its author is fictional, a character study by Araz who critiqued multiculturalism in Turkey, as minorities, such as Christians, have had to replace their names with Turkish equivalents. The letter, addressed to one Julia, is signed by Hülya, and muses on the emotional impact of the last century of intercultural history in Turkey.
The unsent letter, a curious epistolary literary form, speaks to a kind of nostalgia about histories that have gone unrecorded, everything that might have been. The individual becomes a reflection of the island itself, which until the 1970s was known by its Greek name, Imbros. The appellation goes back to Homer’s Iliad, in which he wrote of the island, Turkey’s largest, as part of a mythical region where Poseidon’s winged horses stabled.
I know you wait for me. I know you need me. Don’t wait for me. I won’t come.
You didn’t understand me and the others didn’t understand us. I am not you. Neither of our stories can keep up with this kind of exhaustion. We have tiredness in our story, disappointment in our past. With this disappointment, we’re able to create problems, not solve them.
I don’t know who decided that you need me and I don’t know his reason. I guess it’s a fear. There are some streets that I can enter but you have to avoid, there are some words that I can shout but you have to close your ears and you have an accent that I never get used to. This togetherness seems to become destructive, isn’t it?
Don’t get offended by my words. Ask yourself, when you look into the mirror every morning, do you see yourself or do you see me? Have you ever seen us side by side in that reflection, or do you turn your face away from me? At the end, these thoughts tear me down. While solidarity must be the only way to think, they forced us to stand apart. But we are far beyond belonging to the same breed. You minority doesn’t have to be in need of my fake majority. My only mission doesn’t have to guard our identity against evil eyes. Moreover, I am you and you are me. This separation, this falsity tires me. Perhaps your mother’s name at school or your father’s name in the military service didn’t rebel but I don’t want to be your savior name anymore, I want to become one with you.
My resentment is to all people with a single name who force us into this obligation. Perhaps people with a single name sound funny but what’s not funny is the circle that they draw to their periphery. Like that great song says, that circle that they force us to stay either in or out of. You need me to enter into their circle and your own name to stay within your circle.
I am out. Believe me, this will be much better. Didn’t you get tired of being partially me and partially you for more than 60 years? My departure doesn’t mean you’ll be alone. From now on, you are one. One mind, one soul. At least, that’s my wish.
Please don’t wait for me anymore; it will just become your defeat against time’s show of strength. I won’t come. Enjoy your own name.
I wish for a world where you don’t need me.
Larissa Araz (Istanbul, 1990) began her studies at NYU's Steinhardt Media, Communication and Culture and completed her undergraduate studies at the Department of Media and Visual Arts at Koç University in 2014. Through a personal viewpoint, Araz focuses on the topics of history, identity, memory and belonging that are included or not included in social memory. She produces works in a variety of media including text, video, image and sound, yet she primarily assumes photography for artistic expression. Araz has taken part in many artist programs and group shows in Turkey and abraod, most recently at Arter Research Program's edition of 2020-2021. In parallel with Words Don't Come Easy at Öktem Aykut gallery in Istanbul, Araz will present her installation Begin To See Through The Darkness at Bilsart. Begin To See Through The Darkness was produced when Araz was a resident at Saha Studio's initial edition in 2019-2020. Araz is also running Poşe, the independent artist initiative she founded in 2018. Dear Julia is a fictive letter, written as part of the show, Words Don't Come Easy.