2012 - 2016
The ‘Parallel’ State is a documentary series that takes place in Turkey from 2012 to the winter of 2016. Each year passed with a mixture of beauty, chaos and extreme violence. Turkey is a complex story to tell, all too often reduced to simple narratives and visual cliché. I have devoted the last four years to building a multi-layered body of work that chronicles the massive and often violent events unfolding on the ground. Since those halcyon days of summer 2013 and the infamous ‘Gezi park protests’ Turkey has ceased peace talks with Kurdish militants that re-ignited a de-facto civil war, overseen the largest influx of Syrian refugees, it accidently shot down a Russian jet, had four elections, three prime ministers, two Presidents, one failed coup attempt and an unprecedented purge of intellectuals, doctors, military personal and law makers. It ignited the torch paper with its own sleeper cells of ISIS suicide bombers who unleashed carnage at Ataturk airport and the nation's capital Ankara and has now finally been dragged into the proxy war games of Syria trying to push Syrian Kurds back over the Euphrates.
Running parallel to all of this, I have documented the fictional world of Turkish TV and soap opera sets that mirror Turkey’s recent history. Adding this additional layer has enabled me to delve deeper into the story and reveal the powerful relationship between a TV, a computer screen and people’s actions on the street. I have been a witness to tragic events, but left wondering whether anything has in fact not been carefully stage-managed. Physical and virtual worlds overlay, conflict, betray and manipulate each other.
On July 16th the day after a failed coup, as I stood alongside a tank in the heart of Istanbul and watched my twitter feed replay C.C.T.V footage of helicopter gunships strafe and bomb civilians in the nation’s capital, the analogy between Hollywood fiction and reality were all too apparent.
‘The Parallel State’ is a term first coined in the early 1950’s when NATO implemented various cells into Turkey to act as ‘provocateurs’ to destabilise and undermine any communist threat that Turkey might face in the post-war years. It was encouraged and recognised by successive military and political leaders in Turkey as a way to always have a ‘useful enemy’. However in recent years, as Tayyip Erdogan swept to power at the turn of the century he was increasingly convinced that powerful and dark forces were being unleashed against him, primarily by a secret network of fanatical supporters led by an exiled cleric and former ally, Fatullah Gulen, now based in the Poconos, Pensylvania. The judiciary, the police, the army the media, embassy’s and ‘foreign powers’ were always to blame for all of Erdogan’s and Turkey’s ills. What was once a uniquely Turkish phrase, perhaps only known to a handful of policy wonks is now a sublime and intimate reference to the internal and regional geopolitical entanglement that Turkey finds itself in. It’s a byword for unchecked power, populist rhetoric, coup attempts, a burgeoning police and surveillance state hunting useful enemies that have disappeared into the shadows.
I hope this body of work now transcends Turkey and can act as a timely, dark and paranoid vision for what happens when men in power implement divisive narratives, dividing the population with fearful stories and creating a vacuum of a truth-based reality.