– Spring/Summer 2019

Around the Tree: Notes on Gülsün Karamustafa's Jail Experience and Its Resonances with Argentinian Cultural Production

Ana Longoni

Gülsün Karamustafa, Prison Paintings 14, 1972, mixed media on paper, 40 × 42cm. Courtesy the artist and BüroSarıgedik

I am inside time and time is inside me
- Gülsün Karamustafa1

The following text draws parallels between some works by Argentinian cultural producers active during the last military junta (1976–83) and Turkish artist Gülsün Karamustafa, whose works on trauma, nation-building and civil rights witnessed the 1960, '71 and '80 military coups in the country. These and other more recent works discussed give accounts of imprisonment and disappearance of people under dictatorship. They touch upon distinct approaches to these experiences. In bringing political scientist Pilar Calveiro, photographer Adriana Lestido and architect Gustavo Contepomi into dialogue with the installations, films and paintings of Karamustafa, the aim is to offer a glimpse into their shared will to survive, sisterhood and solidarity despite terror.

While hesitantly digging into Karamustafa’s archive, I received a generous message from the artist. In it, she suggested that there were a series of connections between her story and that of Latin America, my birthplace and often my research subject: the dictatorships during the 1970s and 80s and Latin American cinematographic, musical and literary references that then resonated in her own context. She finds echoes of her own history – and that of her generation – in the protest songs of Chilean teacher, director, singer and song writer Victor

  1. Title of a 1982 work by the artist, mixed media on paper.

  2. Carlos María Domínguez, The Paper House, London: Harvill Secker, 2005. Quoted by Karamustafa in our email exchange, 4 August 2018.

  3. Email from the artist, 4 August 2018.

  4. See Ana Cacopardo, interview with Liliana Cabrera, in ‘Historias debidas VIII’, Canal Encuentro, Buenos Aires, 2017.

  5. Mariana Tello Weiss, ‘La ex cárcel del Buen Pastor en Córdoba: un territorio de memorias en disputa’, Iberoamericana: América Latina – España – Portugal, vol.X, no.40, December 2010.

  6. Guillermo Saccomanno, ‘Mujeres sin hombres: Las presas de Adriana Lestido’ ( ‘Women Without Men: Adriana Lestido’s Prisoners’), in Adriana Lestido, Mujeres Presas, 2nd edn., Buenos Aires: Colección Fotógrafos Argentinos, 2008.

  7. See Michel de Certeau, La invención de lo cotidiano, Mexico: Universidad Iberoamericano, 1999.

  8. Putting Karamustafa’s and Lestido’s works in dialogue has inevitably brought to my memory a song that we used to dance to in Argentina at the end of the 1980s, which claims: ‘Todo preso es político’ (‘all prisoners are political’). Patricio Rey y sus Redonditos de Ricota, ‘Todo preso es político’, 1987.

  9. Michel Foucault, Genealogía del racismo, La Plata: Editorial Altamira, 1981.

  10. Mariana Tello, ‘Narrar lo “inenarrable”, imaginar lo “inimaginable”, comprender lo “incomprensible”. Aproximaciones las memorias sobre la experiencia concentracionaria desde una perspectiva antropológica’, Eadem Ultraque Europa: Revista Semestral de Historia Cultural E Intelectual, vol.9, no.14, 2013, p.26.

  11. Ibid.