MØJÖ has received a lot of questions about the unaccredited art featured on the cover page. The piece belongs to Annes Bil – a self-taught photographer and graphic designer born and raised in Syria, currently residing in Istanbul, Turkey. Other than these few facts and a modest portfolio of work that can be found online, we at MØJÖ know little else about Annes.
On July 14, 2016,MØJÖ received a message from the artist confirming the time and date of an upcoming interview. Curiously, this was the last we would hear from him.
The very next day, Friday, July 15, 2016, a coup attempt was carried out against the Turkish state. A faction of the Turkish military, or the Turkish Armed Forces, took independent action as it acted against its own government, attempting to seize control of key places in Ankara and Istanbul as well as to forcibly capture Turkish president Recep Tayyib Erdogan. Yet, the coup failed when it gained neither public support nor wider military backing, and it was soon defeated by forces loyal to the state.
Reasons for the coup attempt remain unclear, although indications of corruption within the state and threat of Turkey’s secularism have been recognized as strong themes. Despite blurred motivation for the coup, consequences were sure and swift as thousands in Turkey were immediately detained, most noticeably those amongst the military and judiciary. Journalists and academics were also arrested, and more than 100 media outlets were shut down by the government.
Although the situation has somewhat calmed since the initial outburst, it has since left in its wake an atmosphere of unease and political volatility.
Whether directly or indirectly brought about by the coup, Annes’ silence can be taken as a reminder for all of us to pause and consider the impact such seemingly removed events can have on the lives of those in the afflicted country.
The implications this could have on Turkish society are a point of wider concern. President Erdogan has already seized the opportunity to launch a questionable campaign that seems to have wiped out numerous political and popular threats to his vision — encapsulated by the volume of figures detained. This puts into question the extent of the resulting freedom of expression — and the remaining freedom of speech — available to the public without consequence.
How many are there like Annes who have fallen silent as a possible result of this chain of events?
Behind every artist is a story, and, on this occasion, we were able to share a small snapshot into the fragmented world of Annes Bil. His story, however incomplete, is a reminder for us at MØJÖ of why we take the time to discover artists from around the world — so that we can tell each our own unique stories.
The mystery of Annes continues.
More of his work can be viewed at: https://www.behance.net/davedavid303
Words contributed by Gus Forrester. The above image is Annes’ line drawing underlaid with a representative photo of Turkey.