Lafayette Anticipation associate curator Anna Colin talks to artist Tyler Coburn about Ergonomic Futures, a speculative project engaged with art, design, science, anthropology and writing. In this interview, Coburn discusses the research, production process and network of collaborators of a multilayered project ultimately concerned with the futures of humankind. Anna Colin: When one comes across your museum seats Ergonomic Futures (2016—) in contemporary art exhibitions—and soon in natural history, fine art, and anthropology museums—they look… [read more »]
Bobby Brown had a sweeping effect upon young men in the Middle East during the late ’80s and early ’90s. I remember the boys in Kuwait desperately trying to copy his style to impress the girls, who were all naturally Bobby-obsessed. One Turkish guy went all the way to emulate not merely the style but also the singing of our New Jack god: Ahmet. Wrapped in a black tee; full-length, opened pin-striped shirt (with a white under shirt of equal length); black jeans, and the backward black Kangol hat favored by so many men at the time—including Bobby himself—Ahmet put the finishing touch on his look by frequently pulling a collection of white and black see-through scarves over his head while singing.
Ahmet is, in fact, the Turkish facsimile of ’90s black manhood (minus the “black”, which is pure comedy). He didn’t stop at his look, but took it one step further by magically weaving Turkish classical melodic singing with Bobby Brown’s vocal vision into a strange East-meets-West silk scarf of sound. Actually, the influence can be heard best, and is most unmistakable, around the 4:09 mark of the song.
The title, “Hasret”, means “Longing” in Turkish and it really doesn’t surprise me since 90% of all Middle Eastern music falls under the broad category of love songs. The rest can be filed under “nationalistic anthem” and sadly, only 1% can be check-marked as “other.”
Ahmet’s video takes us into barren mountains: an all too familiar landscape motif for ’90s videos, and I think you know what I’m talking about. This scenario, however, is littered with an array of sweeping silks in orange, black, and red. It also contains seemingly cryptic, talismanic objects and gestures: DIY metaphors of life and death. Ahmet’s silver circular lenses, reflecting the harsh mountain rays, take us back to true ’94 style. It gets a little dance-y in the middle, as the camera swings like a whirling dervish along with Ahmet, reinforcing an already vague semi-Sufi, halfway sacred vibe. Flanked at one moment by a man and woman, each in an open wooden casket of sorts, Ahmet emphasizes his “longing” with unoriginal clarity.
I know Ahmet’s song isn’t great; it’s just a great example of a specific American musical moment in time that was translated into another language and musical tradition (in this case Turkish), by the most competent interpreter available.