[-empyre-] The maze of Istanbul.

linda carroli lcarroli at optusnet.com.au
Mon Sep 19 10:36:49 EST 2011

Artworlds can sometimes feel safe until someone throws a brick through your
gallery window, or until you come up close and personal with shadowy
interests, or until the police drag you away for a sideways utterance ...
Such things do happen in Istanbul. Only a few years ago, frieze reported
that there was a protest outside the grand opening of a contemporary


I wonder if this discussion is tending towards conflating site and territory
– ISEA as a site within a site (perhaps, the reason for the oversight of
local artists/art), somehow disconnected from the territory (as a political
assemblage) – and I think that could be what Cynthia is referring to. I find
it disconcerting that there is such complaint when there is an opportunity
to reimagine, remake and rethink the city, and share strategy and solidarity
with other artists. Did anyone really think that the oldest city in the
world with a population of 13 millionish that has endured such major
cataclysms would be easy to get around? Did anyone really think it would
fold or roll out seamlessly? The city is heavily contested and complex, as
is its culture - the commentary here is evincing that in nuanced ways. 


I visited Istanbul last year to track with the European Capital of Culture
program, write and holiday. So as a kind of curious cultural tourist, who
experienced many of the things that have been mentioned here that I
considered to be ‘part of the territory’ or indeed other aspects of
geo-politics. Ripped off by shoe shiners who tricked me into have my shoes
shined, struggling to learn the lie of the city and its movements, thwarted
by cartographers, lured by the hospitality of carpet sellers, discomforted
by the obvious police presence (including at an event supporting disability
rights in Taksim Square), delighted by the community consultation on public
transport, grateful for the kindness and generosity of people, moved by the
meaningfulness in both the contemporary and historic (and so many other


The guidebooks and websites I read and the people I spoke to all said to be
wary of taxis; they also say there is an overt security forces presence.
That doesn’t give me any insight or authority to speak – however, one of the
things that I did pick up when I visited and listened was that there was a
healthy, even haughty, cynicism about the state and the bureaucracy and that
many of the art spaces were sponsored by private wealth, sometimes through
foundations. Speakers, including Beral Madra, who spoke at one of the
symposium I attended also offered perspectives about the emergence of
Istanbul as a cultural/art destination (a territorial issue I suspect). She
has written about this in Third Text too. The voices can be radical and
impatient, even longing.  I intended to write about it but didn’t get there.
I did, however, write this journalistic piece on issues around urban change
http://flytrapper.yolasite.com/istanbul.php ... and also more recently wrote
about biennials for empyre which addressed how events like
international/global art events could be more engaged. 


However, please let’s remember to support our colleagues and applaud their
efforts (and maybe encourage future ISEAs to consider the logistics of
transport and mobility). 







From: empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
[mailto:empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au] On Behalf Of Ana Valdés
Sent: Monday, 19 September 2011 12:02 AM
To: soft_skinned_space
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] The maze of Istanbul.


Patrick, I have been in Istanbul recently attending a literary conference
and met some young Turkish writers and artists. They were very concerned
with the lack of State funding and the issues of censorship and control.
Famous writers as the Nobelprize Pamuk are often in trial because zealous
civil servants or military find their writing or their Art "anti-turkish" or
"difamatory" or "obscene".
Turkey is still in deny about their role in the Armenian genocide and in
their treatment of the Kurdish.

On Sun, Sep 18, 2011 at 3:48 PM, Lichty, Patrick <plichty at colum.edu> wrote:

Great discussion here about the symposium.  I think that my major crtiticism
abotu ISEA is that in many ways it seems like the local culture isn't deeply
represented enough.   I realize that I have a bias toward Turkish Art, but I
feel liek the projects that have dealt with Near and Middle Eastern art
seems really underattended.  From this, I feel like there are times that if
you just attend ISEA, you could drop the bubble anywhere from New York to
Kuala Lampur.  But then, this is also not entirely the case with Istanbul.
The shock of a deeply privatized, oligarchic culture and the political
issues of free speech have evidenced themselves in terms of firewalls and
the corporate environment of the Sabanci Center.  Not that the US does not
have its own problems, like blocking Wikileaks, but these differences seem
to be most visible here in Istanbul.

So far, I have found the conferenxce pretty difficult to attend, from the
dispersed nature of the venues (I will not get to the communications
center), and the distraction of the bienalle just create a lack of focus.

What I would hav eliked to see is a concentration of regional work and
discussion more than it is.  There is good stuff happening, and I'll talk
abotu that soon
empyre forum
empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au


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