THE KARAGÖZ VARIATIONS
2010 European Off-Network Festival. Sponsored by Turkish Ministry of Tourism and Culture
MAY 8, 2010. ISTANBUL, TURKEY
The Karagöz shadow theater tradition dates back at least 500 years and is still actively performed in Turkey. The plays originally portrayed the layered cross-cultural hierarchy of Ottoman Imperial life, creating a comic ethos filled with shape-shifting, class conflict, cross-dressing, deconstruction of language, and the clash of cultures. Although its stock characters reflect the costumes, language, and historic context of a bygone era, the characters themselves – Karagoz the trickster, Hacivat the intellectual, Celebi the romantic, Tiryaki the addict, etc. – remain timeless and relevant.
As visiting artists at the 2010 European Off-Network Meeting, PAW led shadow-puppetry workshops culminating in a night procession of illuminated figures along the famed Istiklal Cadessi. Adapting techniques and character archetypes from Karagöz and Hacivat, we worked with EON participants and local artists to fuse traditional characters with contemporary imagery. Starting with transparent plastic "silhouettes" of original Karagoz forms, participants re-imagined Karagoz characters in light of their own disparate cultural perspectives. The resulting puppets were animated collages of sampled web-imagery, hand-drawn artwork, and overlays traced from original Karagöz designs. The 26 assembled puppets were backlit with high-powered LEDs and rear-projected on 60" diameter white umbrellas. On May 8 a serpentine line of translucent figures emerged onto the crowded Istiklal in a procession of movement, light, and improvisation.
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