[-empyre-] After ISEA: Traveling Artists

Tamiko Thiel tamiko at alum.mit.edu
Fri Sep 30 18:02:37 EST 2011

Hi Cynthia, Hi Y'all,

This issue is very dear to my heart, and to my art practice too. I 
maintain that if you are only in a location for a week, or a month, you 
are of necessity a tourist, whether you want to be or not. I think that 
the only way you can go deeper is by spending more time researching the 
place, the culture, the history and politics, making friends and ideally 
also learning the language. People often use the distinction "traveller" 
to oppose "tourist," but I don't think this is a distinction one can 
achieve in the course of 7 days, and any "traveller" is still a 
"tourist" in a new location until they work their way in deeper. This is 
the reason why my previous works, large interactive 3D VR installations, 
took 5 years each to make. I am working now with AR (sorry Cynthia!) and 
experimenting to see how I can make meaningful content about a location 
in less than 5 years!

If you are on a short time schedule, I highly recommend working together 
with people who have lived in and studied those areas a long time. I 
believe that otherwise you can only do works that are impressions and 
intuitions of an serious tourist (which of course we all hope in the 
best circumstances might also be glorious and insightful).

This was my 4th time in Istanbul, and I wanted to make a work for ISEA 
and the Istanbul Biennial that went deeper than what I could read in the 
guide books, and specifically addressed the area around the Istanbul 
Biennial venues. Galata/Tophane/Karaköy/Beyoglu has only become 
interesting to the tour guides in the last 5-10 years - the Lonely 
Planet from ~1996 wasted only 4 lines on it. I found very little 
information, history, stories on it in languages I could read. In June I 
met and began a collaboration with the young architects of PATTU - Cem 
Kozar and Isil Unal - in order to learn from them more about the city, 
and because they wanted to learn AR. They showed me sources of 
information about the city, some of which I could have perhaps found 
myself online, but it would have taken me much, much longer. They showed 
me their favorite texts on the area - only available in Turkish. We 
spent a long time talking and walking through the area, and discussing 
how to deal with aspects of the city that interested us.

The result is two very different AR works. My "Captured Images" deals 
with the history of Tophane, where the Istanbul Biennial was held this 
year, as a munitions factory and military barracks. It relates to the 
current use of the area for art displays rather than military displays, 
but also plays with the theme of the Biennial - and relates to 
censorship issues that are relevant to Turkey and other countries.

PATTU's "Urban Dynamics" is a walking tour that illuminates the past, 
present and future of the areas covered. The viewer is in a "box" where 
the floor is the past, the walls the present and the top the future 
(mostly shopping malls and hotels!) They have made a webpage for each 
location with historic photos and descriptions, and later will upload 
screenshots taken at those locations as well. Everyone who went on their 
walking tour said it was the highlight of their time in Istanbul. They 
live in the city, studied architecture and urban planning in the city, 
and spent the last 3 years researching in detail how the city had 
changed over the last 2000+ years. How can you compete with this depth 
of knowledge as a tourist or traveller who has spent a week, a month, or 
even 3 months in the city?

Our mutual website has links to both our projects. I have put up 
screenshots of my works inside the Biennial venues on my "Images and 
Documentation" page. PATTU is in the middle of horrendous deadlines and 
hasn't put up screenshots of the artworks yet, but I have put one 
screenshot on my server so you can see what their artworks look like - 
please do not publish with their permission!

Invisible Istanbul: http://www.invisibleistanbul.org/

"Captured Images": http://mission-base.com/tamiko/AR/ii/images.html

"Urban Dynamics": http://www.invisibleistanbul.org/ud/

Urban Dynamics screenshot (do NOT reproduce without permission!):

Yours, Tamiko

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