The 2007 Istanbul Biennial with Matthew Schum

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The Best Offense is a Good Defense: Burak Delier’s PARKALYNCH Part 1

The figure was vaguely Middle Eastern though possessing a ‘global feeling’ of any protester anywhere. I first encountered PARKALYNCH on Istiklal Caddesi, Istanbul’s main street. Artist Burak Delier’s poster stood out as a kind of advertisement for rebellion, depicting a protester in a black and white checkered mask and a blood-red overcoat, holding an archer’s pose—slingshot drawn. A threatening look askance drew the viewer in to the theater of a generic struggle. The makeshift soldier’s body was poised and taut in a way that crystallized something more iconic than real. A sharp and edgy typeface complimented the tableau vivant over a black background.

The complete concentration of the figure relayed something familiar, as though staring into the abyss of injustice itself. Yet, the protester’s earnestness was dissipated by the professional lighting and staged look of the print. It could have been an ironic ad—like Benetton’s infamously savvy campaign capturing third-world turmoil to sell first-world comfort. A facetious and catchy sales pitch announces, There are certain things you can do within the system, for everything else there’s PARKALYNCH. The poster combined graphic alertness and wry humor—something as serious as it was sarcastic.

Burak Delier’s PARKALYNCH

PARKALYNCH is an ongoing multi-media project with a jacket as it centerpiece. Though designed by Istanbul native Delier, PARKALYNCH is a collaborative in the form of a company (ReverseDirection: Counter-Services) catering to a politically engaged clientèle. As the name suggests, the jacket is meant to protect against mob violence such as lynching and anti-march police raids. A limited number of parkas were made for the 10th Istanbul Biennial and hung in a storefront at the World Factory exhibition. This makes it one of the most seamlessly site-specific projects at the IMC venue.

In fact, Delier began PARKALYNCHwith the poster series. Since then it has morphed into a clothing line that the artists sees as a protective as well as commemorative. Lynching is a part of the political past of various countries—the racial violence in America’s South is a modern-era icon of intolerance and barbarity—and a history of regional lynching attacks has inspired the artist. By treating mob violence as an international and inter-regional trope, Delier addresses a ‘marginalized’ history that draws attention to the experience of minorities. The artist sees the jacket for all users, but especially the disenfranchised to the extent that it acknowledges how violence coupled with impunity is the parchment of modern history, as nations transformed into nation-states. When asked, the artist refers to incidences of lynching in his country, where protesters or minorities were attacked that date from the 1920’s to the 1990’s (see interview found in pt. 2 of this post).

Burak Delier’s PARKALYNCH

The PARKALYNCH ‘costumer’ is thus a figure rooted in historical risks still alive today. More than a protective suit, the garment puts the wearer in a memorial role as well, much like traditional forms of armor. Delier’s art stresses sensitivity toward political history. His brand is a collaborative in the form of an outfitter in which ownership and production merge with consumption. Promotional material, such as an infomercial at his installation for the biennial, is a pilot screening of what other product-lines could bring. He has plans for a fireproof jacket commemorating the infamous 1993 Madimak Hotel attack where a group of religious minorities were burned to death in a mob attack.

With PARKALYNCH Delier proves a verve often missing from the glut of political imagery in contemporary art. His 2005 Guard inclusion in the 9th Istanbul Biennial’s Free Kick exhibition was another example of his command when it comes of political material. His showing in the 2007 biennial establishes him as one of the most promising artists emerging out of Istanbul. Delier avoids the opportunistically social side of contemporary art condoned by biennials with mordant humor. And the Warholian mockery incorporated into the posters inadvertently critiques the predictable political schlock other artists cook up.

PARKALYNCH is also the most direct realization of the biennial’s desire to address war and offer a new (business) strategy—which I assume would be essential to rekindling optimism. It is a collaborative strategy that reappropriates an iconic value that once corresponded to political struggle. It is as much historical as it is contemporary, as much capitalist as it is communist, as much Turkey as it is Palestine.