Christian Kracht

lskender Yediler and the doors of Tatary

One day, many years ago, someone rang the doorbell at my house in Bangkok. I opened the door and found myself facing a man whose age and origin were hard to tell. He said his name was lskender and he wanted to stay at our house, because he was an artist and had some work to do in Bangkok. I asked him to come in. He took off his shoes, touched the frame of our front door gently with his hand, bowed slightly and stepped into the kitchen where we had a couple of beers together. He knew how to tell a story, and got quite carried away by it. At the moment, he was sculpting mushrooms out of fibreglass, the size of a man.

Originally he was Tatar, from a tribe inhabiting the Crimea, in the Ukraine. Stalin had deported almost all of the families by force, but now, after the breaking up of the Soviet Union, the Tatars were returning home. That was where he would be going soon, back to the family he had never known, back to his forefathers, to reflect upon doors, to work on them, on the doors of Tatary.

So, Yediler went back and the country took him back. Working with young artists in Simferopol, he is focussing on the Tatar doors, these magnificent, historical, anonymous works of art, uniquely representing – in nuce – a more than thousand-year-old tradition. The Tatar door is decoration, every-day object, cipher and symbol at the same time.

There is something distinctly shamanic to lskender Yediler’s works. However, or maybe for that reason, he chooses his subject by formal criteria of composition – by what it looks like rather than by what it has to say. Whereas his creations seem to be a door to his Turkish-German-Tatar origins, the effect he aspires to is to sever the invisible membrane that leads through that door to other worlds. Schooled and influenced by Beuys (who after his WWll plane crash was saved by Tatars wrapping him up in felt and fat) and in a broader sense by Kippenberger, Yediler is not least a great humorist, an emigrant, a nomad, a drifter, a wanderer between the worlds.

To understand Yediler’s art is to walk through doors. He asks for no less than an opening, an uncovering, a letting-in. His work at Simferopol may be understood as a process of reindividualization, indeed, the returning of something that was lost by giving back sense to the world – and to the art inherent in it – against the background of his own, Yediler’s, history.

The lintels of Tatar doors have chains attached to them, the “Zincirli Kapu”, that make you bow your head upon entering. One bows down, hunches one’s shoulders – only then does one walk in, after this humble gesture of self-deprecation. This respect is due to lskender Bey.

Christian Kracht
Bangkok, 10th of march 2005