Events , San Francisco


“Sözün bittigi yer” is a common phrase used by Marxist militants in Turkey in reference to the hunger strike as a weapon of last resort: “the place where speech comes to an end.” The phrase is sufficiently commonplace to pass by without drawing attention to itself. But it is also opaque as it puts forward a thought that remains incomplete: What or who comes after speech? And whoever or whatever takes the place of speech, does it give way to violence or, rather, suspend it?

Death/Fast is an experimental video documentary concerning the 2286-day mass hunger strike undertaken by prisoners affiliated with outlawed Marxist-Leninist organizations to protest the introduction of high security penal institutions in Turkey. It circles around this ontological silence that solicits and puts into question ideological narratives from a place that is neither outside nor inside the political.

Death/Fast weaves the narrations of the surviving hunger strikers with scenes from their imaginary tours of urban Istanbul. Turning the narrators into ghostly bearers of a clandestine promise of renewed sociality that may never be fulfilled or relinquished, the film surrounds the garrulousness of the strikers with an ambiguous silence in which their narrations reverberate and let be heard what is still muted in that reverberation.

Death/Fast flashes glimpses of scenes that are just perceivable yet remain elusive in detail, along with fragmented and looped portions of the screen image to bear witness to the effaced figure of survivors suffering from the Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome. An irreversible damage of the brain brought about by the depletion of thiamin, Korsakoff’s psychosis is an enduring amnesia, which not only covers with oblivion indiscriminate parts of the past, but more troublingly, dispossesses the survivors of the future by making it impossible to register events in the present. They cannot recognize people they have met, places they have been, conversations they have held, emotions they have felt across an indefinite lapse of time, even though they have the sensation of having seen, having been, having spoken, having felt.

In their unfaithful fidelity to the narrators, Karl and Serin will perform a series of live, voiced interruptions in order to make a discreet gesture toward a force that is named—but also exceeds—political violence.