2019 - Ongoing
My hell is your salvation. (Chapters 1 & 2)
Istanbul, Turkey, Summer 2019.
On the Asian side of town, a soccer team is rallying after their yearly event was cancelled on a whim by the police. The reason lies in the name: Queer Olympix. For three years they have been offering a multisport safe space for queer people to come together and be themselves while playing sport for a weekend. But in 2019, they had grown too much, were too visible, too disruptive, who knows.
This is Erdogan’s Turkey. Queer isn’t part of the vocabulary. Pride has been banned since the Gezi protests, in 2014. LBG… What? There are no protections, you should feel lucky it’s not illegal to be immoral, be happy you get to live. But what kind of life exactly? Two options: stay and fight or leave. As a whole, the team fights. But the reality on the ground has forced some members to leave, in search of a more peaceful way of being themselves.
On the European side of town, A. tells me his story. He’s a rapper. Not the most accepting genre when it comes to homosexuality. He left Palestine a long time ago, traveled, but life and the reality of his identity and passport caught up with him. N. has also been in Istanbul for a few years after running away from Morocco, where life as a trans woman had become unbearable. At least here, she can be herself.
Turkey, the gateway to Europe. No visa needed if you come from the Arab world. Much of the discourse surrounding the migratory flux coursing through Turkey focus on Syrian refugees, displaced by war. But many LGBTQ people born in countries where their sexual orientation and/or gender identity make them criminals turn to this bridge between life and death.
For the second half of 2019 (and pre-pandemic 2020), working with photography, video, and audio, I have been following, the Queer Olympix team, focusing on certain members who are staying and fighting for their rights and others who choose to grab a breath of fresh air elsewhere in Europe. I have also met several LGBTQ refugees from countries where they are illegal, and who see Turkey either as a safe haven or a limbo on the way to that – where, at least their lives are less at risk.
Migration has been at the heart of European politics at least since 2015 but queer lives are but a footnote to the main narrative –a poor one that frames these movements as an invasion where Europe is under siege, and thus leaves little room for nuance. “Enough of identity politics they say”, as if there was a default point of view we could all resort to – which would conveniently be that of a cisgender straight white male.
“My hell is your salvation” is a three-part exploration of the very real, sometimes dire consequences that one’s identity has depending on where one is born, and how people navigate the sea they have been put on. Paying homage to Dante’s Divine Comedy, and framing these flux and stories through a religious vernacular and structure, given how religion is almost always used to justify homophobia, the aim is to question it, is there even a heaven?
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