Hasan Aksaygın (born 1986 in Nicosia, Cyprus) lives and works in Berlin since 2009. His focus of work is founded on the exploration of (post-)memory through queer-feminist and post-colonial perspectives. More specifically, he examines the Cyprus dispute, the myths around cisgendered Homosexual "oriental" bodies in different contexts, or how they keep being perpetuated. Aksaygın's research-based conceptual visual art practice consists of wooden-panels and site-specific wall paintings, as well as supporting sculptural objects and short stories.
Frenk Bey, Fortress and the Thing
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Neo-Iconoclasms (Prototype), acrylic on wood and brass plate, 16x16x16 cm, 2020
The Text on the Work
Forever into a Non-fungible Token (NFT)
Date of Digitalisation and Cremation
depicts a self-portrait of Hasan from an era where Germany ruled by AfD (Alternative for Germany, a right-wing populist political party) under the name of United States of Conservative Germany or in short U.S.C.G (Vereinigte Staaten von Konservativen Deutschland oder V.S.K.D). Hasan's visits to the "anatomy department of the hospital Charié and revisiting Germany's brief colonial history related to this hospital in Berlin, were the reasons of his artistic clash within the contemporary German Post-Truth Politics.
(My Portrait in) 2071, acrylic mural, life-size, 2017
So here you are. Another visitor... You stare at us with your curious eyes and wonder why on earth we are not buried underground. You are probably wondering whose bones we are. Who is or was the poor dead person, whose organs, muscles, and veins have had to decompose under the hard light of scrutinizing gazes? You might think that corpses need the protection of dark earth. And if you are a Muslim, as this poor dead painter used to be once upon a time, you'll know that your bones need the bugs, the worms, and all the beautiful creatures of the night if they are to rest in peace.
So there is no peace for us. We are trapped in this fucking cold glass vitrine. Each gaze is torture. Particularly the gazes of those who torture us, the ones who voted for those that created a monster called Vereinigte Staaten vom konservativen Deutschland.
If you look up, you will see a hole in the forehead. A fractured os frontale... Out of all of us, the one who suffers most in this show is os frontale. She would do anything to be able to hide from your gazes, to hide that little dark hole on her surface.
A fatal stroke... That hole might seem little, but it was created by a deadly stroke. A small but fatal impact... which killed the painter.
Since you are here, looking at us, please let us at least tell the truth: We are not just any old pieces of the Charité's collection. We are not the remains of corpses of people without families, without lovers, without friends or without stories... There is a story behind us. There is story behind the broken os frontale. You need to hear that story.
The painter was killed by a German guy called Jan... You probably don't know Jan. But if you had have ever met him, you would have seen how he hated and feared people like this painter. But it wasn't just hate or fear that filled his eyes, but also desire and love for people like the painter. For people who migrated to this land from the lands of dark skinned hairy men, like this painter used to be once upon a time. Jan was a painter too. In one of his works he painted the painter in front of a concentration camp. He was nostalgic for the times of concentration camps. That must be why he celebrated the second Annexation of Austria in 2030. That must be why he couldn't stand seeing the success of the painter, who he hated publicly, and loved secretly. Love and hate. That must be why he bought that little hammer from Bauhaus in Neukölln. That must be why he followed the painter secretly one dark Thursday night. That must be why he called out to the painter, "Hey du Dreckstück!" as they passed through an empty street. That must be why he hammered the os frontale, which gave way immediately. A small piece of os frontale stuck into the delicate, soft, pink tissue of the brain. The painter fell down on the snowy street. The blood turned the snow into red cotton candy. Jan stayed for a couple of minutes next to the dead body of the painter, and then he went home, as if nothing had happened; as if it was just any old Thursday night.
Collaborated with Yener Bayramoğlu 2017
"Im Fokus: Zypern, Insel der Aphrodite"*
These murals shall be read as crystallization of uncontrollable meanings about certain bodies. As another self-portrait of Hasan's, this work invites his audience to correlate their knowledge of mythologies circulating around the archeological finds and the "unfamiliar" people around them.
*"In Focus: Cyprus, The island of Aphrodite" is a name of a permanent collection in Neues Museum of Berlin. The collection displays archeological finds from Cyprus. Hasan used this name as a "ready made title" for the project.
In Fokus: Zypern, Insel der Aphrodite, acrylic mural, life-size 2017
(My Portrait on) Reichskanzlei-Marmor I and II, oil paint on wood, 40x30cm, 2017
"Ich bin Jhad. Ich bin ein Verteidiger und Beschützer der deutschen Existenz, indem ich das wesentliche und unabtrennbare Andere zur deutschen Gesellschaft repräsentiere. Für diese Mission wurde ich von deutschen Schwulen erschaffen. Mir wurden fabelhafte sexuelle Kräfte verliehen. Hasan und ich leben im selben Körper zusammen; er als Künstler und ich als Kämpfer."
"I am Jhad. I am a defender and protector of German existence by representing the essential and inseparable Other to German society. For this mission, I was created by German faggots. I was given fabulous sexual powers. Hasan and I live together in the same body; he as an artist and I as a Struggler."
Jhad is a superhero, who carries Hasan's particular social, economical and sexual codes in Germany. They co-habit the same body and learn from each other. The 6-year-old Jhad is religious (an unknown sect of Islam) and his understanding of devotion is shaped by the sexual prejudices of the white German gays, who must be sexually satisfied by him through his sexual superpowers. Jhad does not oppose these prejudges which brought him in to existence; on the contrary defends them as he is the image of the Orientalizing gaze.
The performative part of this project has never documented. As it is still an ongoing project, Jhad appears in gay bars, dark-rooms, and clubs of Berlin and creates its oral history within the city.
Jhad, oil paint and acrylic on canvas, 140x240cm, 2015
JHAD Loves a Prologue Too
That postmodern irony embodied in superheroes has been mostly responded by an anarchist humor in German modern culture. To trace it back to cartoons, comics and political satire, the weekly Simplicissimus published between 1896 and 1967, with a hiatus from 1944-1954, is a highlight with contributions by Hermann Hesse, Gustav Meyrink, Fanny zu Reventlow, Frank Wedekind, Alfred Kubin, Otto Nückel, Robert Walser, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Heinrich Mann and Erich Kästner. The Simplicissimus caricatures mainly addressed Prussian military figures, and rigid German social and class distinctions. Comic books were not published in Nazi Germany because such literature was banned under the "Smut and Trash" decree. And the post World War II comic sphere is shaped by translations like Tintin, Asterix and Marvel characters even though there were figures, with critical attitudes towards superheros, like private detective Nick Knatterton in the 1950s or Werner in the 1980s. The Marvel database has a long listing of its Germans characters and some of the popular figures such as Max Eisenhardt, also known as Magneto, is an outcome of many atrocities of The World War II that transformed his youth.
The superhero character JHAD appearing in the context of Berlin is not a coincidental proposal and should be read with such a critical cultural background. JHAD shares the body of the artist Hasan. In his painterly work, Hasan has re-thought about the icons - religious superheros- and their interrelations within personalized narratives and through cross-cultural hues. Today's anti-Islamic turn, its constructed mythologies, the globalized 'Other' and the consequentially re-orientalized bodies of desire have formed his thinking space for a while. Though he resists to label his work as queer art or use 'queerness' as his sole symbolic capital, his work desires a new form of politicization in queer perspective and looks for different means to make such a new form possible.
Superheros are agents for shifting imbalances of power structures with a moral urgency. JHAD, on the other hand, carries a Foucauldian agency that looks for different tools to transform the self and redefine the limits of the physical body and its pleasures. His name may provoke and has many colloquial references too. He is a Berliner phantom; he has a fashionable glam taste, he loves to appear, disappear and re-appear in the dark corners of places where erratic bodies find comfort and pleasure. He wants to operate with that absurd humor Germans use to respond to superheros and to play for a shift of taste in that respect. He has his personal and phantomatic reasons in his desire to be more than visible only towards Germans. And he wants to be popular just like any other superheros secretly do.
As they share the same body, when JHAD is there Hasan isn't and when Hasan is there JHAD disappears. At the moment we can only imagine and speculate on how the particular body that hosts both Hasan and JHAD will be transformed in this process and how two embodied characters will affect each other, what kind of traces their future adventures will leave for each other. This is a brief textual introduction for the curious as among many things mentioned above JHAD loves a prologue too.
Övül Durmuşoğlu 2015
The Empowering Costume, Polyester, Collaboration with Fashion Brand Sadak, 2015
A Superhero Jhad at GSL Projekt
The eye is the organ of vision. According to some superstitious beliefs it is also a metaphor for jealousy. The eye is the gaze; the male gaze, the gaze of the museum, gallery visitor or, the orientalist. In the last scene of George Bataille's pornographic novel Story of The Eye, the fetching protagonist Simone carves out the eyes of the priest. The anti-clitoris-doctor Freud links the fear of losing the eye to the fear of castration - this makes sense considering the act of Simone. The radical protagonist - I see her as a queer-feminist - not only destroys the eye, but also the gaze of the power that is generated through the body of the priest.
The neo-orientalist/imperialist gaze upon the body of the artist Hasan Aksaygın is presented through the cave of his superhero alterego Jhad. As a result of Aksaygin's unfortunate experience under the gaze of a neo-nazi student and the subsequent apathy of the largely white school where he studied, Jhad came into being. I know Hasan, but never met Jhad. I saw a painting of him. Like most superheroes, he has a strong body that induces desire. I/we encountered the traces of Jhad at GSL Projekt between May 22nd and 29th.
The meaning of the word jihad is to resist or struggle. What Jhad does is not struggling at all. The superhero accepts the situation. Rather than carving the eyes out, the artist Hasan Aksaygin mocks the neo-orientalist gaze and mirrors it back. Playing with the connotations of the word jihad, Jhad's understanding of hetero-normative notions such as nation and religion is different than what we would imagine through the sheer reception of his name. Jhad is not angry, on the contrary he is thankful to the ones who created him by othering Hasan. As the other, he reinforces the ideas and existence of his creators and and gives back to them what they desire.
"I am Jhad. I am the defender and protector of German society's existence as I embody the integral and inseparable Other. I was created for this mission by German homosexuals and marvellous sexual powers were bestowed upon me. Hasan and I cohabit the same physical body; him as an artist and I as a Jihadist."
In front of an art nouveau motif, Jhad mimics the hand gesture of Jesus in his stylish outfit. Reminiscent of women in the history of art, arranged as the object of desire without a gaze, Jhad has no eyes at all. His eyeballs are turned, we only see the whites of them: did he ever have pupils, or color in his eyes at all? Since he doesn't have eyes, you would never know if he even considers your existence or not. In Aksaygin's painting there are several temporalities appearing on one plain surface or in a space. The non-existing look, the background and the hand gesture in such a contemporary outfit creates this uncanny timelessness. Jhad does not belong to any time we know.
On the contrary to what one would imagine, Jhad is not a fighter superhero. His life is unpredictable: we don't know and cannot even guess when Jhad will appear. His costume, as a trace of him, was hung at the opening, while Hasan was flirting − a drink in one hand − with the spectators in the space of GSL. A book covered with the same pattern as Jhad's costume was standing on a pedestal. The book was Arabian Sands written by Wilfred Thesiger about his travels in the Arab Peninsula in the 1950s. Besides his travels to these 'othered' lands, the 20th century orientalist traveller talks about Arab boys, the "love of his life". Reminiscent of 1790s bibliomania, not only the lands but also the boys became the white traveller's object of desire.
In a time where the notions of past, present, and future are blurred, Jhad appears. He embodies the religious gestures and spaces of modernity, names himself with other religious symbols and by this way deconstructs their values or symbolic overtones. In a queer-hybrid time that is difficult to pinpoint, the superhero/artist criticizes the notion of desire generated by hetero-normativity as well homo-normativity.
Göksu Kunak, 2015
Code of Arms of Nicosia
Influenced by the north-European cities' Code of Arms, this mural represents Hasan's divided city of birth, Nicosia, with three figures to symbolize masculine and militarist authorities of Turkish / Greek Cypriot governments and United Nation as the "Peace Keeper" force in the Cabinet or the "Buffer Zone" pleasing both sides at the same time. A perfect glory hole scene for the last divided city...!
Coat of Arms of Nicosia, acrylic mural, life-size 2013
Untitled (Doch!) , acrylic mural, life-size 2011
(My portrait in) Extinction , acrylic mural, life-size, 2011
Hasan's self-portrait as an endangered species Karpass Donkey (Equus asinus) of Cyprus. It shape-shifts his "coming out" experience playing with the commonly Latin rooted words terror or terrifying (terrere).
These series of paintings come from some of the idioms found within Cypriot-Turkish dialect. Their aim is to contradict the "elite" accent and dialect of the Turkish language of the "Motherland" (Turkey) with its invective attitude. To Hasan's mind, these idioms rebel against Turkish dominance and occupation on the island of Cyprus. By reclaiming these words and keeping them core to the development of his practice, he turn them into artworks that simply reflect his visual memories.
(My Portrait as an) Idiom I, acrylic and oil paint on canvas, 40x50cm, 2011
Idiom II, acrylic and oil paint on canvas, 180x280cm, 2012
(My Portrait as an) Idiom III, acrylic and oil paint on canvas, 100x80cm, 2011
Idiom IV, acrylic and oil paint on canvas, 180x280cm, 2012
Idiom IV/i, black leather, steal-chain, aluminum, aluminum-screws and hand-fan, 2012
The Family is a series of work deals with Hasan's relationship to his family members and how their post-memorial images from the history of (yet not divided or dividing) Cyprus mishmashed with his memories of the economically isolated North-Cyprus.
Offering to the Son, acrylic mural, life-size, 2010
(My Portrait as a) Dead-Brand III, signboard, 100x60x20cm, 2011
The Father, acrylic and oil on canvas, 180x300cm, 2009
(My Portrait as a) Dead-Brand I , signboard, r=45cm, 2009
Annunciation to the Grandpa, acrylic and oil on canvas, 180x300cm, 2009
(My Portrait as a) Dead-Brand II, signboard, r=45cm, 2009
The Grandma (1974), acrylic and oil on canvas, 180x300cm, 2009