"Variations on a Portrait of Two Ladies" by Oğulcan Ekiz
For the last two months, I have been working on the same image, a portrait of two ladies that I found in a junk shop. I bought this photo alongside with a bunch of others, possibly a little over a hundred images. My intention was to start a new series out of this bunch, but I was stuck with this particular photograph. Returning to the same image almost every night, while being busy with my recently started PhD-life in the daytime, became a therapeutical routine.
As it is the case with these found images, I don’t know who I am looking at. I don’t know who took it. I don’t know when was it taken. Little comes out of an online search of the image and the word ‘Foto Armağan’ in the lower-right side of it. All I have is assumptions based on this extremely limited observable data. Each day I returned to these images. Each day I felt the gaze of one of them while the other averted hers. Each day, I rewrote the image’s story.
There are great artworks made with found images. I think of the conceptual reinterpretations of John Stezaker and Joachim Schmid or the aesthetic multiplicity of Julie Cockburn and Kensuke Koike. In copyright discourse, the found images would be referred to as ‘orphan works’ as their creator or the rightsholder are near impossible to find. Fittingly, Schmid uses the word ‘adopting’ to define his reconceptualization of found snapshots. I don’t like the paternal connotation between the images and the artist, myself. For me, these found images are more akin to a new friend, who you think has a crazy story to tell; but never tells you the whole of it. You hang out for a while, have some fun. Then, when you publish it, they move on to a new journey, so do you. You keep in touch from time to time. But the magical weekend is over. All you can hope for is a fun and safe journey for them.
Oğulcan Ekiz is a London-based visual artist and copyright law scholar from Turkey. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Queen Mary University of London, conducting empirical research on photography and copyright law in the UK, titled ‘The (Impossible) Journey of Photography: How Copyright Affects Meaning-Making in the Process of Circulation’ (working title). His work has previously been exhibited in Istanbul, Amsterdam, and London. His collages are currently represented by FAM Illustrations, an Istanbul-based illustration agency. He has made it to the third round of the FOAM Talent competition in 2019 with his work «Layer Zero» in which he is remixing found images from an unknown Turkish military zone and designs of British textile designer William Morris (1834-96) reconsidering legal notions on the cultural assumptions of authorship, ownership, and originality. Morris was one of the key figures of the Arts & Crafts Movement, which was on the frontier of getting the works of artistic craftsmanship protected under copyright law in the UK. Ekiz is also on the advisory board of Art/Law Network, a UK-based organization focusing on interdisciplinary practices on art and law, where he is conducting a series of artist interviews. Do read his conversation with Turkish artist Bager Akbay and Akbay's poet robot Deniz Yılmaz who was constructed with the goal of having one of his poems published in the Turkish Posta Newspaper’s Yurdumun Şairleri (Poets of Our Country). Oğulcan is also the last member to join the EEP Berlin team, currently working on a series of interviews with photographers and researchers from Turkey such as Şeyda Özdamar and visual art historian İrem Gülersönmez.