Çilingir Sofrası

Çilingir Sofrası by Pose at Hallo Machen.
Çilingir Sofrası by Pose at Hallo Machen.

Inside: Thick, humid air, no breeze, twilight, a projector glowing. Cold beer, iced raki. Through the windows: sunlight, exhaled smoke, early evening, the open town. The food is free, the drinks are cheap. Let’s stay.

Let’s start with numbers. Larissa and Öykü came from Istanbul. They brought a book and they brought data. On the wall, a diagram. Thousands left Turkey in the last years. Most came to Germany. Most of those to Berlin. Most of them between the age of 25 and 29. “And then we realized: That’s us!” Simple mathematics. Individual destinies. Let’s hold on for a moment.

A room full of people, many of them give faces to the numbers. Türkyeli in Germany. They arrived while Turkey went from failed protests to civil war to persecuting academics to staging a coup to persecuting everybody to economic crisis. Many reasons to leave. Öykü and Larissa stayed. But today, they come to visit and to discuss. Should I stay or should I go? Cold beer, iced raki. Let’s talk.

Three artists living and working in Berlin share their stories. It seems they are in a limbo. Not really knowing what they want, feeling strongly what they don’t want. If I go there will be trouble, if I stay there will be double… One speaker asks, “Are we a Diaspora? Are we forced to move?” Nobody wants to answer. Let’s take a break. The evening draws close, the smoke fills our lungs, we order another round.

Maybe it’s the heat, maybe it’s the drinks, but the stories start blending into each other. The ghosts of Turkey’s recent past are conjured. Gezi, the purges, the petition. Names and tales everybody in the room has heard often, in many variations. But nobody gets bored, or angry. A community communicating with itself. This evening is not about information, it’s about ritual. The intimacy, the confessional tone, like an AA meeting for the Turkey-addicted. “My name is X and my story is...” Well. An AA meeting sponsored by Yeni Rakı.

Let’s take a break. Let’s smoke, let’s breathe, let’s order drinks.

Maybe it’s the heat, maybe it’s the drinks, but from the get-go, there is a mild exhaustion in the room, a kind of collective  daze enwrapping us, blunting the thoughts and suspending critical reflection. Twice something like a controversy emerges: Is the migrant artist doomed to be successful? Is Germany racist beyond redemption? Twice, something like a generational conflict seems to show itself: Young people feel pressured, feel excluded. Some fewer young people say that things are not that bad. But twice, no real discussion begins. Mildly frustrating, wasted potential. Shouldn’t we rather take a break?

Peter Handke once wrote about this rarest kind of tiredness, a communion of the exhausted. Workers sleeping in commuter trains, heads on shoulders, enveloped in shared fatigue, each in dreams alone, but all together. Turkey is wearing us down. Germany is wearing us down. So, it’s good to be together sometimes, dozing off.


Photo Credits: Billie Sara Clarken (2019)

Text by: Nino Klingler works in an office, writes about cinema and makes movies, but never alone.