Publications


Meltem Arikan, Memet Ali Alabora, Pinar Ogun – "We want the audience to see that the decisions they make are effective more than they assume. We call them to realise that there are no rescuers and it is time for each one of us to take our own responsibility."

Meltem Arikan is a prolific writer, playwright and internet activist. We had the pleasure to have her as our first interviewee last year, when she shared with us her avant-garde ideas and analysis on the importance of digital freedom in reshaping societies at the individual, family and peoples levels.
Meltem is back with a thought-provoking, technologically cutting-edge play – Mi Minor – that will certainly be remembered in the history of theatre as the first play to fully integrate digital technology and social media, with digital and 'physical' audiences and actors continuously interacting both inside the theatre and on social networks. Expect to experience the power of self-reinforcing information-feedback loops similar to those that helped fuel the Arab Spring revolutions and unseat well-rooted dictatorships.

Meltem is accompanied in this interview by Mi Minor actor and director Memet Ali Alabora and actress Pinar Ogun (biogs at the end of the interview).

Enjoy your reading:

Meltem Arikan

   

– Interview by Mehdi
- First published on 19-11-2012

Meltem, can you tell us what you have been working on since our interview last year?

Meltem Arikan: Mostly on the play Mi Minor and my last novel – which I'm still writing – Erospa.

A word on the novel?

Meltem: This one is quite different from my previous novels. It is a fantasy novel based on a female hero who is a hacker.

What is the story of the play Mi Minor about? And who are the main characters?

Meltem: Mi Minor is a play that is set in a freedom-in-a-box country, Pinima. The moment you enter ‘the playground’ you also enter Pinima. Pinima is a country where, despite being a democracy, everything is decided by the President. The President sleeps neither day nor night, and he does so in order to find out what is right and what is wrong for his people. The smart, handsome President is also the candidate of both parties in the forthcoming presidential elections. Since the treble sounds of her piano are forbidden to be played in Pinima, the Pianist, with other musicians who unite with her, may introduce you to a completely different experience during the performance. Through social media, the Pianist and her team will broadcast live all the country’s affairs to the world. The moment the Mi Minor performance starts it can be followed live from anywhere in the world, with digital actors and a worldwide digital audience also able to participate. Memet Ali is playing the handsome President, and Pinar is playing the Pianist.

Mi Minor poster

Autocratic president vs. Free-spirited pinanist: this time you will have YOUR say!

What inspired you for this play?

Meltem: As you know, I've been very much involved in social media for the last two years... and I guess the events I witnessed all around the world through Twitter and Facebook inspired me to create this play.

Alright. Can you tell us more about the digital aspects of the play?

Memet Ali Alabora: As opposed to the usual theatre experience, in our play we advise the audience to use their smart phones during the play. There are many layers of Mi Minor. The theatre audience come to watch a show, where they watch the things happening in the country Pinima. As they witness what is going on, a pianist and her musician friends, together with teenagers who join them, try to make the audience be aware of what is going on. And they try to pull the audience to their side. They try to do this by interacting with the audience and by using social media. They Tweet and Ustream the audience's reactions and share them with the world and also with the theatre audience, who can follow the social media while watching the play from their smart phones, tablets or laptops. So Mi Minor has an actual audience and a digital audience.

There is going to be digital actors who will join the Pianist and her team during the play from ten different countries all around the world. They will help spread the word of the Pianist and her team about what is going on in Pinima. The digital world will be a medium for the Pianist, her team and the digital audience who joins them to stand against the oppressive Pinima government, where the oppression comes in sugar-coated boxes. So we invite the digital audience and digital actors from all around the world to stand for freedom of speech and freedom of thought in solidarity, not only for Pinima but for all the world.

Excellent. Can you just clarify "sugar-coated boxes" please?

Memet Ali: It can be better understood by visiting pinima.miminor.net, where everything seems perfect. Pinima and its President promote their democracy at every chance they get. Pinima is a sugar-coated democracy where everything is decided by the President. Pinima is proud of not having equality between men and women because all men are equal and all women are equal within themselves in Pinima. Everything is free in Pinima as long as the President approves. In Pinima, you can even buy freedom of thought, so you can think freely although expressing your thoughts is not on sale yet.

Okay, thanks. Since the play will be very interactive and will depend on the participation and influence of the audiences, does this means the outcome will be different every time?

Memet Ali: Most certainly, yes. Mi Minor is a play that at every stage invites the audience to make a choice.

Doesn't that put a lot of pressure on the actors who have to adapt to the audience's reactions and improvise?

Memet Ali: That was the biggest challenge that we tried to deal with during the rehearsals. We noticed new things each time we had guests during rehearsals. It was not a typical rehearsal period. Each actor had to discover their presence and status regarding the audience. We still have to assume most of the reactions until we have our first preview. We are going to make a preview in order to understand how the play works with the audience two weeks before the premiere. The actors of Mi Minor are prepared not just to act their parts but to become players and gamers. We will try to construct the play every time we have a show.

Pinar Ogun: In Mi Minor the audience are also the players. So we can say they will find themselves involved more than they're prepared to be. My character is standing against the oppressions using music and dance. Because she is not allowed to express herself with her piano, that makes her furious. So she tries to attract attention and demands freedom of expession.

Mi Minor rehearsal

How far are you going to let the play detach itself from the script, and what sort of controls will you have during the play?

Memet Ali: As I said, there are many layers to the play. Text is the major one. The show which the audience is supposed to watch derives from the text and it might have slight changes. However, the play which the Pianist and her team call people to join will change in every performance. As in all plays or games, there are certain rules for the actors and the audience, which will be shared before each performance.

Okay, that's clear, thanks. According to the military, all future wars will be conducted both on the battlefield and in cyberspace. Because of the widespread use of the internet (more than two billion users worldwide), do you think all future revolutions will also have a significant digital dimension to them? Is it a powerful democratic advantage?

Meltem: We are in a transition period from an analogue world to the digital world. The analogue world was defined by a patriarchal system. The digital world will terminate the patriarchal system and establish a new system. The patriarchal system used the game of so-called democracy in order to maintain the analogue world during the last century. However, it is now being understood that democracy is a big lie and we need new types of political, economic and social solutions using intelligent platforms for human beings.

Mi Minor rehearsals

After the UK police surrounded and threatened to invade the Ecuadorean embassy in London, Julian Assange said that the only thing that stopped them from entering and seizing him was the fact that his and Wikileaks' supporters were outside live-streaming what was happening for everyone to see. Will the actors play this role of digital 'watchers' and citizen reporters in the play, or is the audience?

Memet Ali: There are two teams of actors in our play: one team consists of the happy inhabitants of Pinima; the second is the Pianist, the musicians and the teenagers who join them. The Pianist and her team will be the digital 'watchers' and citizen reporters and they will try to recruit people from the audience to do this as well. 

Meltem: As you know, I support Wikileaks and Assange and I agree with what he says. Just like abuse and incest are kept as secret in the name of 'the sacred family', governments do such violence and censorship to their peoples and cover it all up with the use of media under the name of 'the sacred country'. That’s why I believe in the importance of social media where people fearlessly speak out the facts and corruptions they’re facing in their countries and societies, and where people seek freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

Does the internet infrastructure in Turkey allow you to easily broadcast such an event?

Pinar: We don't know yet, we'll see! (smiles)

Alright, fingers crossed! Where and when will the premiere be?

Pinar: The premiere will be in İstanbul/Macka, KucukCiftlik Park, on 1 December 2012. It's a concert venue where they will build a huge tent in the park. The other sessions will be on 2, 5, 9, 13, 20, 26 and 27 December.

Did you get financial support from public or private funds?

Pinar: Not yet, we're still working on it. We need it, of course. We have a sponsorship guide on miminor.net, for would-be sponsors.

What is the origin of the names Mi Minor and Pinima? Pinima seems inspired by the mathematical number Pi, is there a reason?

Meltem: You are right Pinima is inspired by the mathematical number Pi because Pi is an absolute coefficient number and unlike democracy you cannot empty the essence of it. Mi Minor means the music term E minor in English and for me, the E sound represents the sound of women and rebellion.

Pinnish president receives award

The Pinnish president, played by Memet Ali Alabora, receives the CONOVER award.

What country(ies) inspired Pinima?

Meltem: I was inspired not only by one country but by the patriarchy that rules the world. Freedom is a problematic issue all around the world: East, West, South, North. Because we are all united and we are all entering into the digital world. People in the West are living under the same specifications and institutions belonging to the analogue world as people in the East. The only difference is that the West says yes to the transition to the digital world under the technological perspective, but says no to its sociological, psychological and philosophical perspectives. When I shared the script of Mi Minor with people from various countries they responded almost the same way saying "I am living in this country" or "You've described the conditions of the country that I live in." Even though it is often suggested that there are huge differences between countries, in fact the whole world is ruled by the same fearfulness and censoring techniques of the patriarchal system.
I wrote the script of Mi Minor after spending two years on social media and after I witnessed the oppressions all around the world.  

What is the status of theatre in Turkey? Memet Ali, you told me a few months ago that many theatres were closing...

Memet Ali: In April 2012 a debate started on publicly funded theatres. The government announced that they'll shut them down. After several protests by the artists and the audiences the government realised that it’s not possible to completely demolish them. However, new legislation was made and the publicly funded theatres are in a transition now. Turkey is transforming into a more conservative state day by day. And publicly funded theatres are intended to be made part of this transformation. A concept of conservative artists was brought into discussion. Theatres are likely to be placed under the conservative mindset.

It's quite surprising for a country that is getting richer to close cultural spaces. Do you think this is due to a neo-liberal policy that wants to close anything that doesn't make money in the short term? Is it a recent trend in Turkey?

Memet Ali: There are such cases which are due to neo-liberal policies, but this one is not. This is about the conservative transformation of the country. Publicly funded theatres are considered theirs by the goverment and they don't want controversial works to be staged.

What do you wish the audience of the play to learn from this experience?

Memet Ali: We want the audience to see that the decisions they make are effective more than they assume. We call them to realise that there are no rescuers and it is time for each one of us to take our own responsibility.

Do you have special comments and other things to add regarding the play or digital freedom?

Meltem: Freedom of thought and freedom of expression together with digital freedom are necessary for the transition period from the analogue world to the digital world. As a result of technological progress, the digital world has grown, with lots of opportunities in communication, networking and data and knowledge sharing. This process has spontaneously grown to a level that has a potential to disturb the power of the patriarchal system. The social media have provided individuals with alternative sources to access information which are different from the main media. So now, patriarchy is trying to take control of this medium by censorship, filtering and banning. Therefore, digital freedom is vital for freedom of thought and freedom of expression. Using all the resources of the digital world, the content of Mi Minor is showing that the transition from analogue to the digital world can happen if the male dominant culture is demolished. Through this interview, I'd like to thank all the people who are supporting us on digital media, sharing their ideas with us and who accepted to become one of our digital actors. Without them Mi Minor couldn't have turned out the way it did.

Memet Ali: We believe that we are in a transition period from the analogue world to the digital. This transition will be provided by digital freedom. I believe that today digital freedom is not something that will be given by the authorities, but something that people will grab themselves. Today, we see that whatever the authorities do to quash digital freedom, people somehow stand up and protect it. The oppression is growing by the day and I believe that the only remedy is that people be aware of this and stand against it. So the choice is ours, are we going to be content with what is offered to us in the digital world, or are we going to search for new ways and tools to become free? That is what we are trying to achieve in the play through our relationship with the audience.

The Pianist

Pinar: As Meltem says, people from all around the world are in a transition period from an analogue to a digital world. Since thousands of years, people have been frightened by the oppressive governing of the patriarchy. Today, through the main media, this projection is getting more and more effective on people because the patriarchal system doesn't want to lose its power and presence. Now it's time to demand freedom of speech and freedom of expression and be aware of the deceptive projections of main media and the fear that is projected upon us. Now it's time for each and every one of us to struggle to stop all the censorship of the digital medium where people can access information freely and express themselves freely. I guess the most important statement in Mi Minor is:

"I’m guilty! I know that running away from realities is running away from pain. I confess, all kinds of escape are generated by fear, nurtured by cowards. I do not accept to be frightened."

As an actress, I feel privileged to have the chance to be in this play, which hands a mirror to the audience and the actors to look at their own faces in the crowds.

(End of interview)

Visit the official websites of Mi Minor:
http://miminor.net/en
http://pinima.miminor.net/en
Twitter account of the play
Twitter account of the Pianist
Twitter account of Pinima
Twitter account of tech

Biographies:

Meltem Arıkan was born in 1968 in Ankara. She has written two plays and contributes to many periodicals as a columnist and writer. Her first short stories and essays were published in various literary journals during 1992-1995. Her first novel And… Or… Maybe… was published in 1999, followed by Yes… But… As If… in 2000 and Undressing Herself  in 2002. Her fourth novel Enough, Stop Hurting My Flesh was banned in early 2004 by the Committee to Protect Minors from Obscene Publications, with the accusation of “writing about the non-existing fact of incest in Turkey and attempting to disturb the Turkish family order with a feminist approach”. The ban was subsequently lifted and Arikan was awarded the Freedom of Thought and Speech Award 2004 by the Turkish Publishers’ Association. Her fifth novel You Exist In No Way was published in 2005, followed by Hope is a Curse in 2006. After her first six novels, Arikan wrote the script for the play I’m Breaking the Game, which premiered in August 2007 at the Zurich Theater Spectacle, performed by Garajistanbul and awarded the New Unique Play prize from VIII Lions Theatrical Awards in 2007. She published a research book entitled Beden Biliyor (The Body Knows) in 2008. In 2009 another play, Parallel, whose dramaturgy was by Arikan, was staged by Garajistanbul as part of the Linz 2009: European Capital of Culture programme. Her last novel, The Tempest of Yearning, was published in June 2009 and in 2012 this novel was published in Macedonia in the Albanian language. She wrote Mi Minor in 2011 and since then she’s been working on her new novel, called Erospa.

For more on Meltem:

- Meltem's website
- Meltem on Twitter

Meltem Arikan

Pinar Ogun began her acting career in Ankara, where she was awarded a four-year BA degree in the Performing Arts from the MSSF Bilkent University. Pinar then completed a two-year BA Drama degree at LAMDA. In London Pinar has worked on various productions, including the provocative Pacitti Company production The Finale, as well as Return To The Desert at the King’s Head Theatre, All For Honour at Tara Arts, The Vagina Monologues at various theatres in London, Who Will Carry The Word? at the Courtyard Theatre and Pentecost at the Shoreditch Church. She has been cast in films such as Atif Yilmaz’s Borrowed Bride, Acelya Kancelik’s The Mirror, Ozgur Uyanik’s Resurrecting The Street Walker, John Crowley’s Closed and she portrayed the life of Turkan Saylan for 26 episodes in Turkish TV drama Turkan.

For more on Pinar:
- Pinar's website
- Pinar on Vimeo
- Pinar on Twitter

Pinar Ogun

Memet Ali Alabora is a professional actor, working for theatre, television and cinema. He has performed in many productions from the 1990s until today. He was one of the founders of Garajistanbul, a contemporary performing arts institution in Istanbul. He is the president of the Actors' Union of Turkey. Between 1995 and 1997, he worked as a reporter for the TV programme A Takımı (The A Team), broadcast on ATV. His first professional acting position was in the play Acaba Hangisi?, performed at the Tiyatro Istanbul. Alabora then acted in the television series Kara Melek (Black Angel). In 1999, his first movie experience was the lead role in Kayıkçı (Boatman), a Turkish-Greek joint production. Shortly after he graduated from the Theatre Department of the Istanbul University State Conservatory he played the lead role in Yılan Hikâyesi (Snake Story), which brought Alabora fame. He has performed in blockbusters as well as art house movies. He toured five different countries with Histanbul and Reporter, which he performed for Garajistanbul. Alabora also has a great interest in classical music. Together with pianist Emir Gamsızoğlu, he has produced several classical music shows for the stage.

For more on Memet Ali:

- Memet Ali's website
- Memet Ali on Twittter

Memet Ali Alabora

 

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