NOWNESS | The Ludicrous, Surreal World of the Mustached Poet

Xia Qi Man, NOWNESS, January 2, 2019

Double Fikret is the second part of Wang Haiyang’s three-part animated series. In this short animation, two mustached figures exist in a strange, peculiar, surreal world. In history, indeed, there exists a Turkish mustached poet named Fikret identical in appearance to the mustached figure, Fikret, in the animated film.


01. Who is the mustached figure?


First, let’s discuss the mustached figure (Fikret) in the animation. The Turkish poet was born into a complex life as the child of a middle-class family in Istanbul. As a child, Fikret lacked a father figure in his life as his father was exiled from the country as a revolutionary. Fikret’s Greek-born, Muslim mother passed away when he was just a child at 12 years old.


Although Fikret still received a strong education and upbringing, he spent the majority of his time alone. Perhaps his complicated background contributed to his awkward and difficult personality as he grew rebellious through his melancholy and creativity. Fikret believed that poetry created through human conceptions is better than poetry created through spiritual revelations.


“A person becomes human only by knowing this, so do I believe

We are Satan, and jinn,

there’s no devils, no angels

Human beings will turn this world into paradise, so do I believe.”


In Fikret’s poems and essays, religion, philosophy, ideas of destiny, and reincarnation are linked through various connections. Simultaneously, his childhood experiences of alienation and loneliness coexist with his fervor and faith. As such, the mustached, Turkish poet has become the protagonist in Wang Haiyang’s animated film Double Fikret.


In an interview in 2016, Wang Haiyang mentioned the character Fikret does not refer to any one specific person, but is a fictitious character he envisioned. Furthermore, Wang Haiyang stumbled upon the name, Fikret, through a random, online search. This imagined, fictitious character was born on July 24, 1976 in Istanbul, Turkey.


Perhaps the mustached figure is a culmination of his own experiences and complicated relationship with his own father. As a result, the mustached figure becomes a symbol of patriarchal systems in society. Wang Haiyang even fastened a brooch of the mustached figure to his clothing.


“There is a universal power, supreme, and limitless

Holy and sublime, with all my heart, so do I believe

The earth is my homeland, my nation all humankind.”


02. Double-sided Mustache Figure


Coincidentally, in Double Fikret, a protagonist appears similar in appearance to Tevfik Fikret in a thematically related gesture of religious and reproductive symbols via an interconnected web of chemistry.


The imagery begins in the upper left hand corner as a symbol of reproduction - a  botanical flora (fruit?) - and gradually transforms into a ram’s testicle. As the ram’s belly is cut open, outwards grows branch-like structures with green leaves as a pomegranate eventually emerges. Fikret picks the pomegranate, breaking it into two halves. Using his tongue, he consumes the pomegranate seeds as the agate-colored pomegranate seeds simultaneously mirror Fikret’s nipples, after which two rooster’s heads emerge from Fikret’s chest and are quickly swallowed by the second Fikret, identical in appearance.


Immediately afterwards, the animation transitions into a surreal, multi-dimensional space as objects organically grow like cells or organs. Both the space and regenerative scenarios are unthinkable situations presented to the viewer. In the scene, arms grow and extend like branches, masses of geometrical shapes roll, rotate, and collide as organic bodies. Afterwards, two teeth fall into the lower half of a man’s body as both a male and female figure emerges outwards from the lower half of the initial body. As the two figures mate through their underarms, they transform into a frog which jumps onto an adjacent canvas containing two Fikret’s wearing shoes as masks staring at a plate. Eventually, milk descends from the sky, landing on and filling a pomegranate similar to the pomegranate at the beginning of the animation.


In the short time span of 3 minutes, the scenes in the animation repeatedly transition into various, abnormal situations causing viewers to be unsettled. The viewers thinks they are watching the film, but they are simply viewing it; unable to predict even the series of events occurring in the next second.


“At the beginning, there is no assumption

There is no score, everything begins randomly from a single point

Like the butterfly effect, a chain reaction moves the animation forward”


03. Butterfly Effect


A commonality in many of Wang Haiyang’s animated films is the use of the butterfly effect created through limitless streams of consciousness and free associations. Regardless of which animated film, from Wall Dust to Freud, Fish, and Butterfly and Double Fikret, Wang Haiyang employs symbolism to challenge traditional views on gender, psychology, and religion.


On the one hand, these works are a reflection of the artist’s own subconscious mind and psychology. On the other hand, the influence from artists such as Salvador Dali or screenwriter Terry Gilliam is undeniable. Wang Haiyang’s animated films have clear connections with the perplexing imagery presented in Salvador Dali’s The Transparent Simulacrum of the Feigned Image and Dali’s Lobster Telephone. Similarly, parts of the animation have connections with Terry Gilliam’s films. Speaking of Terry Gilliam, he is the director of films such as 12 Monkeys and the 1960’s British sitcom, We have Ways of Making You Laugh.


In an underground New York film that Gilliam watched, an image of Nixon’s head appears with a foot stuffed in his mouth preventing him from speaking. Gilliam, inspired by the film, a pair of scissors, and ancient cards, formulated his own stream-of-consciousness style. Like a roughly created flip-book, Wang Haiyang also employs a similar technique of stream of consciousness to create his animated film Double Fikret.


There is no story background, numerous organic and inorganic matter interact randomly with each other. At the same time, it records a piece of Wang Haiyang’s thoughts.


Returning to Wang Haiyang’s relationship to religion, he was inspired by Mandala sand paintings in the creation of Double Fikret. In Tibetan Buddhism, monks spend considerable lengths of time to create mandalas using thousands of colors of naturally colored sand. Ultimately, the mandala is reduced by hand into a pile of sand and returned to the river.


Wang Haiyang uses colored chalk to draw on sandpaper with each image being photographically recorded. Afterwards, the drawing is erased and the process repeats itself. The process for creating Double Fikret took a total of more than 1000 hours spent over the course of a year. All the images are drawn on several pieces of sandpaper.


Similar to the process in creating Mandala sand paintings, the process for creating Double Fikret took many different iterations. Perhaps creating the work is a form of Wang Haiyang’s own spiritual practice.


In the five precepts of Tibetan Buddhism, pigeons, snakes, and pigs sharing the same mouth and tail are used to represent the entanglement of greed, sorrow, and ignorance. Without practice, nirvana is impossible to obtain. In the same sense, perhaps the imagery of being swallowed and reincarnated is a symbol of the wheel of life.