Code Unknown: Emre Zeytinoğlu

Creating a number of phases in life means breaking the time into fragments that their beginning and end is determined. It also means making scenes from each one of those fragments.

The next process realizes with naming each of these scenes and transforming them into meaningful stories. Such stories come to us as a language in certain forms and frozen images.

Each phase has its own narrative language and frozen image to help us identify the phase. The definitions of these phases are all in different codes. Perception in the first place and the language of compromise in the second (images are also involved in this language) is nothing other than the codes themselves.

In fact, each code surrounding us tries to explain itself and transmit deeper meanings than it’s self. However, what they can tell us doesn’t go beyond what we can understand since we have already determine how to understand a code, and what to take and what to leave out. As the number of processes in continuous attack on our perception and their codes increase, perception constructs a defense wall for itself; the only possible consequence of this increasing number of attacks is a higher and thicker defense wall. In this case, perception applies to prejudices with a “preservation request”, and prejudices do not reject this request of perception.

Making an easy judgment with the codes attributed to the processes, that is, referring to prejudices, is not only due to the lack of perception, of course.

We are taught when, in which case, and in what form to build a defense wall, and under what conditions to raise and thicken this wall; years of education keeps our perception under strict control.

Thus, we learn the ability to create a shield against the attacks of the codes as well as the ability to decode or not to decode, to what extent to decode or how much to leave as it is.

To blunt the desire for decoding, naturally, prevents us from thinking that there may be “something” behind the walls surrounding our perception, and the training of this allows us to have a “unity of faith” with codes.

It is obvious that life would be very easy from that moment on; each process would make one another meaningful only by means of codes, and that meaning would be reflected in our ears as one shallow voice in accordance with the training given to us.

But is this how life really is? In other words, is time really flowing in forms of scenes that we name from a personal point of view, that we fictionalize, and in doing so, that we change into a language format and frozen images?  Is the dominant voice that we hear in those scenes really a single voice? And is each code that we create regarding life limited by a defense wall, only belong to us?

Curated by Ebru Yetişkin and participated by Mehmet Ali Boran and Mehmet Çeper as artists, this exhibition, entitled “Code Unknown” is exactly about these questions, and it is based on the magnificent film “Code Unknown: Incomplete Tales of Several Journeys” shot in 2000 by Michael Haneke.

The film is about short and simple stories of several people with different jobs, in different social classes, and completely detached from one another. None of these stories have any surprises, and they don’t have a beginning or an end, at least an interesting one. However, as they start to have extremely blurry “crossroads” among themselves, the “intersections” gain importance and those independent scenes (process codes) start producing new meanings. That is a feeling that we are not very familiar with in our ordinary life: going beyond the codes, breaking down the walls of prejudices, and moving towards generating new meanings in gaps between those codes… 

While we wander around the “spaces” between scenes, frozen and “anaemic” meanings imposed by the coded language and images will be replaced by a life that we need to think over and over again.

The last ten minutes of Haneke’s film is full of metaphors that can only be achieved by a genius. At the beginning and the end of the film, there are two scenes that look as if they were unnecessary “ornaments” added to the film at a first glance: A group of children play trumpets and drums, and repeat the monotonous rhythm; this monotonous rhythm of the children is used as “background music” in the last ten minutes. The woman walks down the street for a while. When she comes in front of her house, she types the password and opens the front door. Then she gets in the house. A few minutes later her boyfriend appears in front of the house. He also types the password, but the door does not open because the password has been changed. Being surprised, the man waits for a while. He calls home, but the phone does not respond; we understand that the woman does not want to see him anymore, and she leaves him. This is a very ordinary scene that we may come across in almost any movie. However, the “background music” reminds us those two scenes in which children play trumpet and drums: When we go back to those scenes and watch again carefully, we realize that none of the children makes the same movement, so they do not play the trumpets and drums the same way. However, it sounds as if they do.

If there is monotony, it is not created by co-movements. This deceptive cadence indicates that there is not only “that scene” in the ordinary last scene and that the truth cannot be seen so easily. The codes of other scenes lie underneath, and they cannot be separated from each other.

Videos and photos of the artists in the exhibition are a reflection of their own fiction-scenes. Known by the scenes they create out of their own geographical conditions in particular, these two artists will certainly transmit some codes to the viewer with the help of their materials; however, the viewers have their own walls to shield or transform those codes as well (it is inevitable to activate prejudices or at least acquired habits).

At this point, the thing that will help the viewer should be Haneke’s film that this exhibition gives as a reference: A form of perception wandering in gaps among known codes…

When codes are mixed with other codes beyond sight, in deeper and deeper, the defense walls of perception will lose their functions. These codes may even unexpectedly reach the codes that the viewers have already adopted:

A unique and independent scene in the exhibition is likely to include the viewers. Making different movements while playing trumpets and drums does not always lead to different sounds, sometimes movements generate the existing codes by completing each other.   

If the thing that matters is to think about the relationship between the existing codes and to perceive that no codes can exist in pure form, then we can have a chance to reach new findings when we watch Haneke’s film many times.

Scenes are not only ”themselves”. Moreover, language forms and images also tend towards to have meanings beyond them.

In the final scene, the war photographer, who is not allowed to enter the house by his girlfriend and has to leave, returns to Paris from the war in Kosovo in another scene. He is shown while eating at a restaurant with his friends. There goes the following conversation with his friend:

So you need to take photographs of the war to tell me what it is. And the photographs of children suffering from hunger in order to explain hunger…

For you it may be a theory, but for me, it’s an experience.

But you cannot explain this experience with photographs.

True.

Then what is the use of these photographs

The war photographer does not respond because his friend tells the truth; war photographs do not reflect a war experience. However, after a while, there comes another scene, which completes this conversation:  A letter that he wrote from Kabul to Paris is voiced showing the photos taken by him: “I think a life in time of peace is not for me. At least what you call peace…” So, even if those photos cannot explain war to others, they can teach that the word “peace” (the code “peace”) does not mean “peace” all the times.

Lastly, the following has to be said for this exhibition: The processes that we name, define, put into language forms or visualize are shared as some codes. And if we have to do this for the sake of communication, then it is easy to start a war between codes:

What we prefer and what we do not prefer… Yet, to wander around in gaps between codes, “in betweens”, will put us into serious trouble.

Each time you watch the film leads us to find new code intervals, and life turns into an unbearable pain. Each scene in front of our eyes reappears with a thousand kinds of details previously unrecognized. For example, all the “unimportant” events in two-to-three-minute scene just at the beginning of the film (coincidental encounters of the people in the background, a car passing by, a child coming out of the corner and so on) are thought to be suspicious data, which is likely to reach a meaning later on.

However, this is what life is. And another thing, which relieves our pain, is the codes, which make each event really unimportant. 

Attention: Please don’t abandon the codes while looking at the works in the exhibition. We don’t want you to suffer “in-betweens”.

Translated by Eylem Altuntaş