Two weeks ago, a member of the group called Avareler (the vagabonds) shared on Facebook a new photo album called “Pembe serisi” (The Pink Series). One of the pictures became popular almost instantly. It showed a portrait of Prime Minister Erdoğan on a billboard that has been painted pink and the inscription: “You’re so sweet”. This member is a young street artist living in Ankara. Together with his friends he created the group called Avareler that has been covering Ankara’s walls with ironic artworks. He answered our questions.
Who is Avareler and how did it start?
Avareler was born in a spontaneous way among a group of like-minded people. We have been active for around two and a half years. Our first work was on a 14 metre-long wooden billboard located on the Eskişehir Road. We wrote: ”Doors dinle içki iç Ankara” (Ankara, listen to the Doors, drink alcohol).
Most of the works are related to Ankara, why?
We got drunk in this city, we fell in love in this city, we lost here and we won here. If we were in Yozgat, we would do something related to Yozgat. If we were in Bursa, we would do something related to Bursa. We see the city where we live as a kind of testing ground ; in fact this is where we try out our actions. Besides, Ankara’s people are good people. Sharing, helping one another, good intentions — you can find them all here, easily.
How was the ‘Pink Series’ born?
We just said let’s go outside and paint things pink. It was a reactionary act against bad city planning and all those unaesthetic buildings. Pink is naturally an attention-grabbing colour; we also wanted it to grab people’s attention. Beyond that there was nothing sexist about it.
For four or five nights in a row, we went out between midnight and 3.30 a.m. During this time, we painted non-stop in places like Yüzüncü yıl, Beşevler, Batıkent, Eskişehir Road, Konya Road, Tunalı Hilmi Street, the Armada footbridge, electric transformers. Our work was easy due to the aesthetic of the places we painted and the fact that they weren’t appealing to the eye.
Your works are both humorous and political, what is your inspiration?
If you’re from Ankara, you know it well. You are born into the very heart of politics, and it touches every aspect of your life. On a very elementary level, if you want to take the bus, you get a card. If your card is a student one, they’ll ask you for your student pass; if you don’t have your pass, they won’t accept your student ID in its place. That’s politics for you! Funny stuff happens. We like this political aspect. You have to speak up when something wrong is going on. If you do so amusingly, it stays in people’s minds.
Did you have any trouble with the police?
We did not encounter the police during our “Pink Series”; we had no problems, but of course we’ve been caught before. When the police catch us red-handed they don’t take it seriously and they release us. I guess they take us for aimless eccentrics … [laughs] Policemen’s perceptions!