[-empyre-] Layers of ISEA2011: Corporate/Financial

Machiko Kusahara kusahara at waseda.jp
Sun Sep 18 14:20:54 EST 2011

Hi Nick and everyone, and thanks for Tim's great summary! 

Although I haven't finished Biennale (one warehouse done, the other I will go through today), there are in fact many things we have to think about regarding this year's ISEA and Biennale. 
One thing we might need to think about is the social/cultural/historical issue behind the art scene and museums.

Last year I came to Istanbul for the first time as a part of Japan Media Arts Festival in Istanbul. i was  invited by Pera Museum, and had a chance to exchange ideas with the director and a curator. The museum is rather new,  but the collection consists of historical paintings and scientific items.  Its galleries mostly show contemporary art. (I think it currently shows street art.) The director is an old friend of the family who owns the collection, and a successful businessman himself. He believes his business sense is a great asset in steering the museum into a contemporary, popular place for  younger generation.

The museum is nice and working with them again will be more than welcome for me. Still it was rather striking for me to learn from them that  in Turkey cultural activities have been supported mostly by rich families and enterprises they run, rather than by the government or public organizations. At least that's their understanding. (Borusan may be the best example.) They regarded public museums as venues with shorter history and lower quality collections. 
The "infrastructure of art" seems to be different from what is considered standard in "the West" since modern era. Art history is different in each culture.
This may at least partly explain why Biennale (which is contradictory to the idea of showing a collection) could be more experimental (in past years) or intriguing (this year with strong messages) in Istanbul.

This is still a tentative and personal view of mine.  It will be great to hear from others, especially from Turkish artists! 

Machiko Kusahara

On 2011/09/17, at 22:52, Nicholas Knouf wrote:

> The issue is not one of exoticism.  In each of the binaries you mention
> below, I would chose neither: I'd rather have public transportation than
> cars, no x-ray machines and metal detectors (I could care less what they
> are wearing), non-profit conferences (ISEA is a non-profit, if I
> remember, and I have posted many times on this list regarding my
> distaste for ACM conferences), and a non-militarized presentation
> location.  Perhaps this is cultural insensitivity; on the other hand, I
> consider it necessary for the construction of a more sustainable and
> more just world, and I am unclear about how Mercedes and financial
> conglomerates contribute to that.
> Tim's description and comparison of things is quite apt; thanks for the
> detailed observations.  After
> returning from both the Modern and the Biennial I was struck by exactly
> the things Tim mentioned: the simultaneous lack of security (in the
> Biennial, at least) and the
> digital.  This contrast is something we ought to ponder carefully.
> I have immensely enjoyed my time in Istanbul, my concerns regarding ISEA
> notwithstanding.  From finding an anarchist-run cafe, to discussions
> with artists involved in the Gun project by Claudia Pederson and Arzu
> Ozkal, to the pleasure of good conversation and excellent food, Istanbul
> has been wonderful.  But this shouldn't prevent us from continuing our
> discussion of the problematics of ISEA this year and its resonances (or not) with the Biennial and/or global capital.
> nick
> On Sat, 17 Sep 2011, Cynthia Beth Rubin wrote:
>>  HI Nick and all
>> Thanks for posting and for opening up the discussion to include the layers
>> of meaning of simply being here. Thinking of the experience itself as
>> layered, I find your description of the experience of being in Turkey to be
>> more problematic than the actual experience.
>> We are in another culture.  Think about the semotics of the elements of this
>> experience.
>> We are in a culture in which the expectation is that office workers and
>> staff members wear "business attire".  Many of the people guiding us around
>> are students.  You might be more comfortable with the student volunteers at
>> SIGGRAPH and other North American conferences, who dress in the right
>> balance of grunge and hip, but you are not in that culture.  You might
>> prefer security screeners who wear ordinary street clothes.  But that is not
>> done here. We are in Turkey.
>> We are also in a culture in which business contributions do not get filtered
>> through a heavily bureaucratic government system of taxes and then metered
>> out by a minister of culture, or one in which corporate sponsorship is
>> filtered through foundations which are regulated for conflict of interest. 
>> Sabanci Holding donated the use of their meeting center for ISEA, and since
>> we are in Turkey, we may take note of the way in which funds for academic
>> "non-profits"  reach their destination.
>> We are in a culture in which driving a Mercedes is an important sense of
>> pride, and where the semiotical meaning of driving the equivalent of a
>> Toyota Prius might be very different from what it is elsewhere.
>> I am not there yet in my learning about and understanding of Turkish
>> culture.  I do find it interesting that so many people consider
>> "contemporary" and "modern" to be a full adaptation of global mainstream
>> culture. We come here looking for difference in the bazars, the historic
>> mosques, the food.  But when we find difference in modes of dress, in what
>> is considered the best way to fund academia, or in how successful business
>> people choose to spend their money, we feel uncomfortable. 
>> Do Turkish cultural differences have to stay on the exotic side?
>> best wishes,
>> Cynthia
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