Eser Erzurum: Brainwashing. Tackling Ignorance in Post-Truth Turkey

The ideological struggle around education in Turkey through the story of an unconventional academy, the Mathematics Village, and its struggle against state bureaucracy, facing prison sentences and accusation of teaching without permission.

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Brainwashing is a documentary about the struggle of two Turkish citizens to establish an independent and unconventional academy in Turkey for teaching mathematics despite all the hindering efforts of the bureucratic apparatus. Ali Nesin is a professor of mathematics and Sevan Nişanyan is a controversial linguist of Armenian descent, as well as a self-educated architect. Back in 2007, Nesin and Nişanyan began to establish a village to teach mathematics to realize the will of the departed Aziz Nesin, the world-renowned humorist, and the father of Ali Nesin. Due to the disincentive state bureaucracy, their 12-year struggle turned into an Aziz Nesin story itself. 

Inspired by “Washing children’s brains but with mathematics” a witty expression used by Ali Nesin in an interview to describe his work, Brainwashing aims to tell the story of the Mathematics Village in a Nesinesque humorous fashion as well as to expose the contemporary mainstream discourses which praise and manufacture ignorance. 

Artist Statement: "The spread of ignorance in the core of the post-truth discourse, already supports a large academic conversation about the recent rise of right-wing populism, but I believe this debate still needs to reach a broader spectrum through more practical means and more so in Turkish context. In my opinion, a documentary that sets anchor points between a “lost” utopian past and the heterotopic actuality of the Mathematics Village, can help society to regain its capacity to organize its past and future into a coherent experience. The spread of ignorance may be peculiar in its form in Turkey, but it is not unique in the threat it poses to the democratic functions of society."