2/5 BZ or Serhat Köksal – a living legend of the Turkish underground on a monthly residency at TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art in Szczecin. His solo show is scheduled to open at the end of June!
The legendary British journalist and BBC radio host John Peel, whose “Peel Sessions” had featured, Joy Division, The Cure, PJ Harvey and Ultravox, among others, invited Serhat Köksal to do three music sessions for his show. “Of all the music I heard in Turkey, I liked 2/5 BZ best” (John Peel, BBC World Service). Köksal’s activities in the following years have remained in the cultural and political avant-garde in Turkey. According to the prestigious magazine “The Wire”: “One of the first protesters to face down the riot police in Taksim Square was 2/5BZ, the pioneer of politically charged Turkish electro music and a favorite of the late John Peel”.
The multimedia artist Serhat Köksal is a pioneer of the Turkish underground. He works at the intersection of visual arts and music, creating conceptual collages of sounds and images. The name of his project 2/5 BZ dates back to 1991. Fascinated by the roots and contexts of Turkish culture, Köksal began with conceptual punk art, combining electronics with the Turkish string instrument saz. He referred to the Anatolian traditions of art critical of the authorities, to Sufism, dervishes and wandering artists, 60’s rock, Anatolian post-rock (Derdiyoklar) as well as exuberant Kurdish wedding music. Köksal’s ideological mentor was Aziz Nesin, a writer of satire, educator, social activist, the Turkish equivalent of Janusz Korczak – a man who spent most of his life in prisons, standing in opposition to the military junta and religious fundamentalists.
The early aughts marked Köksal’s first experiments with samplers as well as his first trips abroad. In 1994, he was recorded by John Peel during his music research. In 2001 and 2004, he was a guest on the BBC radio, for which he recorded two Peel Sessions. He played in Europe and the USA, in art galleries, squats and major festivals (including Death Grips and Omar Souleyman). He performed at the avant-garde SKIF festival in St. Petersburg, and took part in the first multimedia exhibitions of contemporary art in Tehran.
The visual layer of 2/5 BZ is a raw, uncompromising collage reminiscent of the aesthetic of Negativland or the video art of the American group Emergency Broadcast Network from the early 90s. In his work, Serhat Köksal incorporates fragments of Turkish trash movies, B-movies from the 70s whose characters appear in new, political contexts. The artist’s flagship slogan is “No Turistik / No Egzotik”. For years, Koksal has presented the meanders of contemporary Middle Eastern geopolitics to foreign audiences, playing with the stereotypes of Turkey in the Western tourist narrative. He loves to create puns such as ” ISIStanbul”, “Gazionalism” or “Nottomanski / Sobieskullah”, he processes official government announcements. Köksal had created memes long before they were invented. He comments on cultural clichés and stereotypes about the East. He deconstructs the oriental, idealized image of a tourist paradise. The message 2/5 BZ sends to the European audience makes it clear the “exotic” perception of countries such as Turkey is a manifestation of fundamental ignorance and post-colonial mentality.
In the sound layer, Serhat’s work incorporates break core samples from Turkish psychedelia of the 60’s (mainly electric sazas), beats based on Turkish and Kurdish percussion with the addition of heavy industrial electronics, dub bass reminiscent of early Fun Da Mental productions, lines from film dialogues, TV news or politicians’ statements.
For over a dozen years, Serhat Koksal has hosted conceptual radio shows from the Gozel Radio series, where Turkish, Kurdish, Iranian or Palestinian sounds meet Polish or Russian productions in surprising playlists featuring core folk alongside noise and avant-garde sounds, modern dubstep and grime with garage archives from the 70’s and 80’s.