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BIPR | An Artist in a Time of Authoritarianism
An Artist in a Time of Authoritarianism

November 13, 2023 - 18:30

Gaye Su Akyol - Sebnem Altunkaya

Event Recap

An Artist in a Time of Authoritarianism

Supported by the Associazione di cultura e di studio italo-americana Luciano Finelli Friends of the Johns Hopkins University
hosted by Professor Lisel Hintz

Gaye Su Akyol
Turkish Rock Musician and Artist
Sebnem Altunkaya
M.A., Department of Social and Cultural Anthtropology, Gutenberg University of Mainz, Germany

Gaye Su Akyol is an Istanbul-based musician and artist. Born in 1985, she has a background in social anthropology.

In her work she redefines the concepts of power, desire, change and rebellion, along with tight-knit solidarity with women, queer and outcast communities. She rebels against societal gender roles, patriarchy, censorship and oppression and creates a universe of imagination, in which she constructs her own "counter-reality" against the stifling realities dictated by the power. Without alienating herself from the land where she was born, she questions its representations, defines new symbols, and while struggling with the complexities and political chaos of the concrete world, she chases after the practice of transforming a conservative world through collective dreaming.

Akyol has created her own unique language, taking the contrasts of traditional Anatolian music, classical Turkish music, psychedelia, surf rock and post-punk and combining them with her futuristic approach. In 2014, GSA released her first album "Develerle Yasiyorum" (I Live With Camels), written and composed entirely by herself. Aykol defines her music as "universal in concept, local in spirit". She has expanded her audience through numerous concerts and festivals in Turkey, Europe, the Middle East and the Far East, with her first international album, "Hologram Imparatorlugu" (Hologram Empire) released in 2016, by both the German-based record label Glitterbeat and Dunganga Records, a label co-founded by Gaye Su Akyol and Ali Güçlü Simsek. She has received rave reviews for her music and creations from major media publications such as The New York Times, The Observer, The Guardian, The Financial Times, Pitchfork and The Wire. In her third long play, "Istikrarli Hayal Hakikattir" (Consistent Fantasy is Reality), released in 2018, a record which she names "a practice of dreaming", she not only writes and composes the entire album, but also takes on the role of producer in the stages of production, arrangement and recording, and art director of the visual aspect of the record. With this album, she became the first musician from Turkey to be featured on the cover of Songlines, one of the top music magazines in England and was awarded the "Best Artist" title in 2019.

With the same album, she remained at #1 on the Transglobal World Music Chart Europe for several months. Akyol released her EP "Yort Savul: Isyan Manifestosu" (Manifesto of Rebellion), which she fully produced in 2020. She released her latest album "Anadolu Ejderi" ("Anatolian Dragon") at the end of 2022, and the album's world tour continues. Following her single, released by Sub Pop in August 2023, she toured the United States in September for the first time.

Sebnem Altunkaya is a research fellow and PhD candidate at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthtropology (ifeas) of the Johannes Gutenberg-University in Mainz. After completing her BA degree in North American Studies in Turkey with an interdisciplinary focus on different subjects (including political science, philosophy and sociology), she moved to Germany in 2017. She completed her Master's degree in the same subject at Georg-August University, Göttingen in 2020. She is currently doing research in the anthropology of music and her dissertation project deals with a cultural and political understanding of Anatolian Psychedelic Rock music from Turkey since the 1960s. She is a member of the Anthropology of Music Research Group at ifeas, where she is investigating personal and political expression through music and how the dimensions of musical movements (cultural symbols, lyrical expression, concert environments and stage personas) contribute to meaning making and the collective understanding of identity. She has recently worked as a production coordinator and academic consultant for an Anatolian Rock documentary project with the France 3 ViaStella channel.
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