Interview: Gizem Oruç On OneBeat, Art, LGBTI Life In Turkey

Gizem Oruç is a longtime LGBTI activist in Turkey. She is also a musician, multimedia/video artist producing, performing and collaborating with the OneBeat Festival in Seattle starting today and running until Friday, November 7, 2015. Her musical and artistic inspirations reflect the beauty and struggles of her home country. The OneBeat Festival is an amazing multi-cultural celebration of music, art, light and color that proves the perfection that can happen when we join together in art and life. To learn more about the world music of OneBeat or attend any of the events click here.

How did you originally get affiliated with the sit-in at Taksim Gezi Park?
There has been an ongoing unease since the last elections in 2012. The Gezi Riots were sort of the peak on this clash, which was initially a reaction against gentrification politics and ecological destruction. Gezi Park is one of the very few green places in the city center. There is almost no green areas left in Istanbul, and it’s getting even worse due to projects like the 3rd airport and 3rd bridge. I was in Gezi Park to protest yet another gentrification plan. But then it turned into a much wider social movement, including many disadvantaged communities like LGBTIs, Kurds, feminists, anarchists, anticapitalists, Muslims etc.

Gizem Oruc

Gezi Park Riots

How would you characterize Erdoğan as a leader?
Anyone with uncontrolled power gets despotic, intolerant and concerned only with their own prosperity.

Were you able to change your twitter screen name to çapulcu or was the government able to tamper with / shut down the internet and social media sites?
I think that every government controls the media and freedom of speech to some extent. During and ever since the Gezi Riots, censorship has been increasing in Turkey. But oppression makes people become more creative to find new ways to get organized and get informed. The slogan of the LGBTI parade just after Gezi was “Love is to get organized.” I think getting organized is the most beautiful thing we learned during the Gezi Riots.

How did this affect your LGBTI Pride Parade?
The LGBTI community was one important igniter of the Gezi Riots, mainly because the community was already active and functioning, in solidarity with other left-wing and ecological politics together with LGBTI issues. As a beloved friend, Boysan Yakar, who we lost a few months ago put it, “We simply took our commune and placed it in the middle of Gezi Park.” Gezi Riots made a great improvement on the visibility of the LGBTI community. Soon after the eviction of the park, we had the most highly attended parade ever with 100,000 people marching together in 2013 Pride Parade. Since then, the oppression on the LGBTI community has risen even further. In many ways, the LGBTI community is considered an enemy by the government, as they don’t fit into the “idealized” system of family. The last parade was attacked by the police, due to the fact that it overlapped with Ramadan (the month when Muslims fast). However, last year we were allowed to peacefully march, notwithstanding Ramadan. Most people understand that the reason for this attack is mainly to suppress LGBTI and pro-LGBTI individuals. Because they are colorful, they make music, they dance, they kiss…they are denigrated, but in the end police couldn’t stop that 🙂

How do you think that the government affects LGBTI life in general?
It affects people deeply of course, not only LGBTI individuals, but everyone. As the government promotes gender duality, fertility, inferiority of women, no one is excluded. But specifically, the LGBTI community needs hate crime laws immediately.

Do you feel that Turkey’s oppressive government with a general lack of freedom for press and expression has affected your art? If so, how?
What I produce originates from what I experience. So the setting I live in is somehow reflected in my works. Music is a medicine for me. When I feel emotionally sick, which happens quiet often lately, I make noise.

Do you still view Turkey as a beautiful and historic country or has the government and its politics ruined this idea for you?
This land, that is called Turkey now, has a very long history. It’d be very unfortunate to characterize Anatolia and Thrace with the Turkish Republic that is founded less than a century ago. Anatolia is always referred to as a bridge. But a professor of mine said once that it is in fact not a bridge, because whoever came here just stayed here. It is beautiful, it holds a diverse culture. We have to preserve it, like every spot on this beautiful planet.

What can we do here to help cultivate artists (maybe musical) in countries like Turkey?
Support us! Financially and promotionally. There are great minds with no access to resources in order to realize their ideas.

What made you jump from a degree in chemistry to go back to school for multimedia and electronic arts?
Honestly, I don’t see it as a jump, I just kept on learning. Music was always and still is the most precious thing for me. I also very much enjoy combining things I’ve learned from science, and things I can musically produce. Science and arts embrace each other in my works. For instance I have an audiovisual piece based on Fibonacci sequence. Numbers have an important role in the music I produce.

How do you stay creative?
I can say that I’m a curious person and I’m open to new experiences. I feel a drive to bring things together that seem independent, unrelated from each other. I love experiments. Life is so inspiring anyway.

OneBeat Stage

OneBeat Stage

Is there an artist that you dream of collaborating with?
Sooo many 🙂

Who is your favorite musical artist right now?
All of the Fellows in OneBeat. I’m mesmerized by how talented, genuine and humble these folks are.

Which video/multi-media artists most inspire you?
Ryoji Ikeda, Robert Henke, Adrien M / Claire B, Klaus Obermaier

What excites you most about the OneBeat festival?
OneBeat might be the most beautiful thing that happened to me ever. It is just gorgeous to make music with precious artists from all around the world, to get to know each other, to travel together, to perform… It is like a magical meeting, and what comes out is therefore magical.

To learn more about the world music of OneBeat or attend any of the events click here.

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Earle Dutton

Earle Dutton

Earle Dutton is the Chief Blogger and Editor of He founded in 2013 to provide information about LGBTQ friendly events of interest, and to support LGBTQ entertainers and supportive artists who visit our community. Earle is a successful businessman in the Pacific Northwest with a long history of support for and involvement in, the Northwest LGBTQ community. His personal interests include: music, theater, pets, culinary arts and technology.

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