Amidst the ‘catastrophic success’ that was the Turkish language revolution or Dil Devrimi, the Turkish translation of the call to prayer, or ezan, traditionally in Arabic was perhaps the most controversial of all. Enforced from 1932 to 1950, and the only significant reform to be reversed, the Turkish call to prayer was yet another attempt to define Turkish identity apart from Islam but perhaps also within it. For starters, translating Allah to Tanrı, problematizes the very central tenet of the faith–the unicity of God (tawhid)–through a pre-Islamic, shamanist term.
For the 8th Berlin Biennale, we decided to revisit this particular episode through an unwieldy re-staging of the ezan. In collaboration with Jace Clayton (DJ /rupture), we recorded the Turkish call to prayer with Vocaloid™ for an entirely computer-generated, acappella summons or chant.
Two outsized speakers set up in the form of a rahlé (or stand for holy books) invite visitors to sit, lie down, relax and consider translation as a form of linguistic hospitality, both granted and denied.
Ezan Çılgınları—literally, the ‘call-to-prayer crazies’— was the term used for those who defied the authorities’ enforcement of the Turkish ezan by climbing minarets and performing the call to prayer in its original Arabic.