Fries’s art voices feminist frustrations

START instalment confronts oppression and Turkish politics

After returning from her exchange in Ankara, Turkey, Jeanne Fries was angry – angry about silenced and disenfranchised women, angry about homeless Syrian refugees, and angry about global oppression. Walking into her START instalment, titled “Building Bridges,” one can feel this palpable energy: Scavenged scraps of twisted metal, dim red lighting and splashes of red paint confront the viewer, invoking both the Turkish national flag and the “spark” of political rage that ignited Fries’s exhibition.

“That was just how I felt; I just felt red, all the time,” she said.

Although her experiences at Bilkent University were generally positive, Fries said she often felt unwelcome in male-dominated studio spaces, and said this is part of a larger issue of patriarchal culture in Turkey and in other countries around the world. The title of the exhibition, for example, is derived from a popular televangelism program – also called Building Bridges – which airs in Turkey. The show, devised by Islamic fundamentalist Adnan Oktar, co-stars four women – referred to on the show as “kittens” – who function as objectified cheerleaders for the program’s religious and political message.

Fries said the show is just one example of misogyny in public media.

“No one in Turkey takes [the show] seriously, because it’s completely ridiculous,” said Fries. “But people watch it because [the female stars] are ‘hot.’”

After returning from her exchange in Ankara, Turkey, Jeanne Fries was angry – angry about silenced and disenfranchised women, angry about homeless Syrian refugees, and angry about global oppression. Walking into her START instalment, titled “Building Bridges,” one can feel this palpable energy: Scavenged scraps of twisted metal, dim red lighting and splashes of red paint confront the viewer, invoking both the Turkish national flag and the “spark” of political rage that ignited Fries’s exhibition.

“That was just how I felt; I just felt red, all the time,” she said.

Although her experiences at Bilkent University were generally positive, Fries said she often felt unwelcome in male-dominated studio spaces, and said this is part of a larger issue of patriarchal culture in Turkey and in other countries around the world. The title of the exhibition, for example, is derived from a popular televangelism program – also called Building Bridges – which airs in Turkey. The show, devised by Islamic fundamentalist Adnan Oktar, co-stars four women – referred to on the show as “kittens” – who function as objectified cheerleaders for the program’s religious and political message.

Fries said the show is just one example of misogyny in public media.

“No one in Turkey takes [the show] seriously, because it’s completely ridiculous,” said Fries. “But people watch it because [the female stars] are ‘hot.’”

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