Interwiew Bedri Baykam: AN ASSASINATION IN THE SHADOWS

Bedri Baykam’s new exhibition “8 Seconds That Changed The World” which opened in 22 November 2013 at Piramid Sanat Taksim, explores deeply the assasination of USA’s pacifist president John Fitzgerald Kennedy. The exhibition unravels this one of the most important events in recent history, with a strong politic discourse and a precision of a detective is a result of Baykam’s detailed researches, started in 1994.

Baykam in front of the Texas School Book Depository in 1995, the year he started his “serious” researches on the JFK case
Baykam in front of the Texas School Book Depository in 1995, the year he started his “serious”
researches on the JFK case

This is an exhibition that takes you under its influence, from the very first moment you enter the exhibition space. All the walls and even the ceiling is covered with the local or foreign newspaper pages, and on the walls hangs Baykams large size artworks; these are artworks made in different techniques, covering the JFK assasination in various ways.

“Find the 12 Mistakes in the Assasination Scene” which is forming the backbone of the exhibition with its 180 x 360 cm size is the artwork that you see when you enter the exhibition place. On this artwork in which appears Elm Street, where the assasination happened, there are 12 mistakes hidden especially by the artist. At the moment you start to explore, it becomes alive. Yes, this is Baykam’s 4D technique that he uses in the most of the artworks of this exhibition! In addition to the 3 dimensions, the fourth one is obviously the time and when you stare at the artwork in various angles, you start to discover new details on it. Historical process is undoubtfully the pivot point of this exhibition because Baykam, artistically, questions historical events considering its past and future, leaving the decision to the viewer.

‘Hands Off Cuba!’: Bay of Pigs and The Cuban Missile Crisis
‘Hands Off Cuba!’: Bay of Pigs and The Cuban Missile Crisis

When visiting the exhibition you become a part of the event, sometimes political, sometimes military, economic or sociologic, through the artworks. In one side there is JFK sword fighting in Bay of Pigs, in another Lee Oswald whos identity is questionned and suddenly you start to hear the theme song of the movie From Russia With Love in Matt Monro’s voice.

I visit the exhibition with Baykam’s assistant Öykü Eras and informs me about the artworks; we stop in front of each artwork and discuss on it. Öykü assisted Mr. Baykam also on his recent trip to Dallas, therefore she knows all the names involved in this complex event in history. After our tour of the exhibition, comes Mr. Baykam, we shake hands and greet each other. Then we head to the upper floor, to his office and begin to our conversation.

Agent Clint Hill reaching the presidential car as Jackie crawls on the trunk, 4 seconds after the fatal shot
Agent Clint Hill reaching the presidential car as Jackie crawls on the trunk, 4 seconds after the fatal shot

“I’m doing this research since 20 years.”

First of all, I ask him why and how he started to investigate this event. He begins to explain that he’s remembering very well the assasination, happened when he was 6.5 years old: “This is a puzzle, a bottomless pit and ther are lots of people who are fond of it. The pieces of this puzzle appeared in my head in 1963 forming a big question mark, the day the assasination occurred. Until 20 years ago, I was reading every bit of news that I found about it. I’m doing this research since 20 years.” Baykam, underlines the fact that this event is gravely important not only for himself but also for the world.

His research started in 1994. The possibility of using internet in that year is no doubt not easy like today. When I ask, how this situation affects Baykam and which strategies he followed, he replies saying he simply gathered all sources of information he could find. “Mostly the documentaries, movies and books.” he says. Using those sources, he explains that he considered both points of views concerning it was an inner reckoning of United States or it was Lee Oswald all alone. He states that even believing to the conspiration theory, he’s analyzes the opposing theory with same care; that means thousands of page to be read, hours of video and movie to watch. Even this effort only, helps to understand the caliber of this study.

Find the 12 Mistakes in the Assasination Scene
Find the 12 Mistakes in the Assasination Scene

“The reflections of the assasination, can be seen mostly in the political and military domains, in today’s world.”

Naturally the projections of the assasination are clearly visible nowadays. Then I ask which of the effects come to the fore with the others, that forming the backbone of them, between social, economic or political. His face become serious, “Political and military effects are more perceivable, above all.” he says and starts explaining the impact of the event that changed the world. He calls attention the the fact that after Kennedy, in United States, the political strategy of his successors Johnson and Nixon, focused on more to warfare. After two Bush presidency period, today, he believes that Obama is trying to change this perception, however his efforts have not reached their potential. For example the war on Iraq, for him is simply a result to the United States political vision, formed as a result of the assasination. “While I was doing this research, I felt clearly that almost the half of the people who sells their magazines and newspapers accusing Oswald, were connected with CIA of FBI. This is the situation you are facing and you can feel their panic and terror thinking ‘Even though this complete stranger, knows the topic much as I know.’ he underlines and adds: “It’s possible to see how the museums which has the official statement, are still controlled by the American Establishment system, having neither any video, any evidence, poster nor any book in their possession. Yo can even realize that the people before defending the conspiracy theory, now become curators of those museums!”.

Vietnam: The wargame that Kennedy wanted to quit as soon as possible
Vietnam: The wargame that Kennedy wanted to quit as soon as possible

This time I ask a more personal question to Baykam: “You are making artworks using 4D technique, since 2007. How do you develop it?”. He says that he started to experiment on using the transparency first in paint then in photography, in early 80’s. At this point he hands a bunch of catalogs and continues to reply me showing some examples of his artworks on that field. After using the transparency in paint layers, with the same principles he worked on transparency in photography using layers. As a consequence born the 4D technique he uses now. “This is a period of a 25 years on experimenting for me, however I couldn’t have done that 25 years ago. I had to achieve this level of knowledge with time and experience.” he adds. “I could discover 4D works that suits very well wih this exhibition and brought to daylight, through the moments that I look upon myself, upon paint and material.”

I remind him that the most of the artworks of the exhibition are done by 4D techniques. “Can we say that the topic of the exhibition Is in a perfect harmony with this technique? Did you have an idea to create an artwork about the Kennedy assasination, when you discovered it?” I ask. He explains that this technique wasn’t at the first place born to be used in this exhibition saying: “However, I know it suits perfectly to the exhibition.”; then states with a shine in his eyes, that one of the first artworks using this technique was about the assasination and this event became an obsession in mind.

“If no one comes to watch it, I will do it by myself!”

Baykam in 8 Seconds That Changed The World, is giving a speech about the assasination through 2 screens placed to the 2 different places in the exhibition place. It’s almost impossible to watch them entirely because of their duration; nearly10 hours for the English version and 7 hours for the Turkish version. When I ask to Mr. Baykam, if he’s planning to make a session entirely about those videos for the interested people like me, he replies that they will be a screening in 19 January, at the last thay of the exhibition and adds, smiling: “If no one comes to watch it, I will do it by myself!”.

Who Are You Lee? Mixed media on canvas
Who Are You Lee? Mixed media on canvas

“Sometimes I felt myself like a secret agent.”

2013, is the 50th year of the assasination. I ask to Mr. Baykam do he believes there is a parallelism between the assasination and the recent events occurred in Turkey. “There is no parallelism, there is sameness.” he replies swiftly, almost like he was forseen it and continues talking about the trials of the military personnel and the journalists in Ergenekon and Balyoz investigations. Those occurences are in similarity with the diversion and deception strategies excercised in United States in 1963. “Unfortunately in Turkey the politics works like that: The people on top of the political pyramid thinks who can stop me? The media. I threaten, buy them or get them fired. Who can stop me? The military. I judge them, bring down internally, I blend my men into their community. Who can stop me? The jurisdiction. I make a coup under the name of democratization using referandum. What about the young generation? I cosh them, I use tear gas on them. Then finally there is no opposition left for me, I can do whatever I want.” Subsequently continues to comentate and says: “In any countries in the world relied on so called liberal economies, nor in United States, nor in France, nor in England, nor in Germany, even if the %10 of the situation happening now in Turkey, concerning economical scandals of the government, occurs, none of the governments wouldn’t have tried to stand against but resigned. They wouldn’t have tried to stand against because they simply couldn’t. Maybe it could be allowed only to the prime minister to retrieve his personal belongings from his office with police guard… as a last favor. However what is done in country, is restricting the journalists to enter police stations and even obstruct them to take their stuff from their lockers in those stations.”.

The Kennedy assasination is a such black box, such a bottomless pit, that requires to consume lots of time and efforts in order to obtain right information. I ask if Baykam felt himself like a secret agent during this investigation type research. “Sure.” he says. “This event is very important for United States and was attempted to cover up. Sometimes of course I felt myself like a secret agent.”.
“I have to bring order to the course and inside of my own ship.”

Finally I ask “What will Baykam share with us in near future?”. “You will not see, for example an exhibition about World War I or Ergenekon and Balyoz investigations. I prefer to return work more on material, paint, my studio, my innerself, after that kind exhibitions as a result of deep and large studies. After 2 or 4 years another subject of the same kind reveals itself. If you continue to make this kind of researches one after another, you simply destroy yourself, your ability of improve yourself with contemporary thinking. Now I have to look upon myself, my studio, my archive, world and paint. I have to bring order to the course and inside of my own ship.”

In 28 December 2013, Saturday, there will be a panel within Bedri Baykam’s “8 Seconds That Changed The World”. The exhibition can be viewed until 19 January 2014.

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