back to

e-flux conversations

Fighting Repression in Turkey with Cosmic Pop Music


Gaye Su Akyol is a Turkish musician who takes a surreal, whimsical, and politically potent approach to pop music. Her most recent album is recent album is İstikrarlı Hayal Hakikattir (Consistent Fantasy Is Reality), and it mixes modern electronics, traditional Turkish music, and rich cosmic imagery. In the web journal Blind Field, Kenan Behzat Sharpe reflects on how Akyol uses psychedelic tropes to revitalize the politcal imagination in an increasingly restrictive and anti-feminist Turkey. Here’s an excerpt:

Both in the production side of her music and in its content, Akyol imagines dreaming as a political practice. Unlike a superficially similar figure like the musician Grimes, who has seen no contradiction between her feminist spaceship aesthetic and defending the union-busting philosophy of Elon Musk, Akyol is committed to a radical vision of equality. Specifically, her video imagines a way out of the current polarization and violence of Turkish society. Of the people who are traveling on her minibus to space, all are visibly from different social strata. There are workers, women wearing the headscarf, a gay man, a woman with dyed hair and a beanie, a man with a religious skull-cap, hipsters, a trans woman, and–thrown in for good measure–a group of strange black-shrouded monks from space. This message of togetherness may be simplistic. It certainly does not put forward practical strategies for thinking about what forms feminist, anti-capitalist struggle will have to take in today’s terrain—but that is not the point.

In a situation where women are being progressively pushed of public space and, in the case of last week’s March 8th protests in Istanbul, physically attacked for assembling, we need all of the fresh transfusions of imagination that we can get. Akyol doesn’t provide any solutions, and it would be unrealistic to expect blueprints from a cultural producer like her. What İstikrarlı Hayal Hakikattır does is provide the soundtrack for our collective fantasy–which, like other art forms in our absurd world, must sometimes be surreal in order to be realistic

Image: Still from Gaye Su Akyol’s music video for the song “İstikrarlı Hayal Hakikattir” (Consistent Fantasy Is Reality). Via Blind Field.