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Hande Sever: 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her

November 27, 2020 8:00 am - December 10, 2020 5:00 pm

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2 or 3 Things I Know About Her

Hande Sever

Before dawn on September 12, 1980, a right-wing military junta took power in Turkey.
During the nine years that followed, the Turkish Armed Forces persecuted over three
million people from the revolutionary movement. Between 1980 and 1985, the military
government arrested 750,000 of them; blacklisted 1,683,000; tried 230,000 in 210,000
lawsuits; sentenced 7,000 to death; revoked the citizenship of 17,000; and denied
388,000 the right to obtain a passport. The government admits that 400 people
disappeared (the true number is certainly higher); another 400 died in prison. This coup
was leveraged by the Carter administration, and then supported through military aid by
the Reagan Administration.

2 or 3 Things I Know About Her is an exhibition by artist Hande Sever, who recalls her
mother’s experience of the junta in Turkey through reconstructed memories, walnut
frames, and oral history. After the coup, prisons became synonymous with torture
centers – the most notorious of which were Metris, Diyarbakır and Ulucanlar. The
artist’s mother was kept in the Metris Military Prison – now known as Metris Closed
Penitentiary. Taking up her mother’s memories of being a political prisoner, the work
tackles subjects such as military violence, censorship, and mass incarceration. Turning
to the past in order to make sense of the present, 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her
unearths the historical processes that led to the extermination of a generation, and
replaces within the scale of bodies the violence perpetrated by US-backed political
interests in West Asia, reminding its audience of the consequences of actions taken by
military officials for national domination, and what the dominated was left to witness.


“They would give me a batch of flyers. The flyers contained anti-facist and
anti-imperialist information. My task was to get to a crowded public square, or
preferably to a bus, then toss the flyers in the air. I would run away as the flyers dropped
on the floor. I needed to get out of there before the cops arrived. We aimed to find new
allies and supporters through this. They would find us through the flyers.”

— from a conversation with the artist’s father.



“She got out of the house early that day to stop by the florist to pick up some golden
daisies and newspapers. We were going to meet at the building where we held labor
meetings. I was about to leave when I got the phone call from Azad. He said that
someone gave our names and citizenship numbers to the military. All of us. He told me
to leave Istanbul now because he didn’t know when exactly the military got the
information. After he hung up I started calling your mother. No one answered. I tried a
couple of times but couldn’t reach her. No cell phones back then you know. I left
because if I stayed no one would be able to find a piece of me. You know what happens
if you’re not Turkish or not assimilated enough. So I had to bet that she would pass…

Only once the coup was over I learnt that she left home early that day to pick up flowers
for me and a newspaper to read on her way. Once she arrived they handcuffed her from
the back and took her to military prison. She stayed there for four years. Still there isn’t
one day that I don’t feel guilty for not showing up.

Once things calmed down I looked for her in Istanbul and found her. I also looked for
my friend Azad everywhere. I couldn’t find him. Over the course of years I found his
father. His father told me about everything that happened to him. How he was
captured… I have never felt such sorrow. After hearing all the details my heart turned
into ashes.”

— from a conversation with the artist’s father.



“I was first imprisoned in Selimiye Military Prison in 1980, then, in 1981, I was
transported to Metris Military Prison. Selimiye was barracks hurriedly converted into a
detention center to accommodate the mass incarceration of political dissidents. You
know Ataol Behramoğlu. The poet. I was in the same ward with his partner. She
believed that we would be released quickly because they couldn’t find enough evidence
to press charges against me. It cost me four years of being detained. At the end of four
years I was released.”

— from a conversation with the artist’s mother.



“In Selimiye beds were often in short supply. When I arrived there were no beds for me.
Only a bed frame was left. I slept on the floor until I was transferred to Metris. Metris
Military Prison was built specifically for political prisoners. Detainees from every other
military prison were transferred there in the months following its opening on April 22,
1981. I was kept in Metris without trial for three years.”

—from a conversation with the artist’s mother.



“Once I read that there are over one million victims of military torture in Turkey. I
thought, what an understatement. The number is definitely higher. After I was detained
I was immediately blindfolded and handcuffed by the military. They left me for hours
like that. What they called “Palestinian hanging” was the most common torture method
the military used againt political dissidents. I couldn’t stop thinking about the torturers.
Did they have loved ones? Can someone with such an appetite for cruelty have loved

— from a conversation with the artist’s mother.



This exhibition was hosted by Actual Size, as part of HRLA’s TSM Residency program

November 27, 2020 8:00 am
December 10, 2020 5:00 pm
actual size
741 New High St.
Los Angeles, CA, CA 90012