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Wild Olive Games (2017-2019)

Collective writing performances, changing duration and locations, artist books that document the performances

Wild olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) is a deciduous tree with silver green leaves that produces small, but abundant pale yellow flowers in early summer. According to some sources the strong smell of these flowers have the power to increase women’s libidos! Wild Olive Game is a work wishing to spread this speculative information to facilitate provocative encounters between women and Wild Olive trees to incite joy and stimulate Eros. In the game, players write sentences with words they pick randomly and share them with each other. The word pool created together with sociologist, writer and poet Meltem Ahıska, are associated with desire in its broadest sense. 

In spring and summer 2018, I organized games with small groups of women in Istanbul and Zurich. In these games, every time we wrote our sentences, we read them out loud to each other. The gatherings and the randomness of the words in the game possibly enabled us to talk about our desires and other things evading dominant patriarchal and capitalist formulations. I made a book containing one line from every woman who played the game in Istanbul and Zurich in small groups in 2018. Alev Ersan translated the book to English. Authors/players were: Aslı Çetinkaya, Aslı Hopa, Alev Ersan, Ayşe Aydın, Ayşe Boren, Balca Ergener, Banu Karaca, Büşra Soycan, Ceyda Özdemir, Dilek Winchester, Elif Kamışlı, Ferhan Özenen, Gülin Ekinci, Gülşah Mursaloğlu, Günsu Özkarar, Hande Ortaç, İmre Tezel, Katarzyna Nowak, Linda Straehl, Lisa Biedlingmaier, Meltem Ahıska, Nurhan Özenen, Seda Hepsev, Su Başbuğu, Sibel Horada, Yasemin Özcan, Zeynep Baylan, Ziqi Jiang. 

In May 2019, we played the game with twenty women under the Wild Olive tree in the garden of the Women’s Works Library in Istanbul, an institution that “frames and constitutes the memory of women and the women’s movement” in Turkey. The game was hosted by Merve Elveren from K.E.K. sevenler, a group of independent woman curators who organize events to support the Library. Players were family and friends, many of them artists or working in the field of arts: Asena Günal, Ayşe Boren, Balca Ergener, Banu Karaca, Dilek Winchester, Eda Gecikmez, Eda Sezgin, Evrim Kavcar, Ferhan Özenen, Gülcan Deniz, Gülin Ekinci, İmre Tezel, Melek Aksoy, Meltem Ahıska, Nalan Özsoy, Nalan Yırtmaç, Özden Demir, Sibel Horada, Tilbe Saran, Zeynep Ekmekçi. In this game, each time we wrote our lines individually, we passed our notebooks to somebody else, who would continue to write by picking new words. The result was a long poetic text with continuities, repetitions and gaps. The Turkish edition includes a full documentation of the performance and the English a translation of selected parts. At the end of the game Tilbe Saran, an actress present among the players read the notebooks outloud to the others. The original recording can be listened to here.

Many thanks to all women who played the Wild Olive game; to Meltem Ahıska, Dilek Winchester, Ayşe Boren, Yasemin Özcan, Suna Kafadar, Alev Ersan, Merve Elveren, Tilbe Saran, Esther Schena, Linda Strähl, Lisa Biedlingmaier, Ziqi Jiang, Denise Schwab and Piär Amrein who helped me conceive and realize it.

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