ISTANBUL, DAYDREAMING IN QUARANTINE
This project is a projection of a particular period in the recent history of Turkey via Istanbul. It is such a period that is blurred with the terror imposed by the harsh dynamics of politics and economics that shaped life. It is also such a period that is neglected by the consequences of these dynamics. From political climate to IMF-dependent economy; internal migration attack; and a constant cultural schizophrenia fed by conflicts between East and West, secularism and fundamental Islam, left and right, and eventually nationalism and separatism. By departing from that flux of political and cultural conditions, the whole project addresses the visual and aural representations and productions of a targeted generation that was stuck in between two generations -that of early 70's as highly politically engaged and has been severely punished for it and 80's sleeping generation that has been totally apolitical. Yet, the production mechanism and the assembly of this in-between generation was either neglected or dissolved in the fast pace of life before.
In its consequential level, a breakdown of this cacophonic yet treasure like sub-cultural mass reveals the suppressed resisting mechanisms of the period veiled with black humour and parody. It also aims at providing substitute modes of readings of the urban contingent culture developed on or after 80's.
The exhibition will focus on the visual notes, remarks and traces of the city as the reflection of the inner-world which is trapped in the mundane and untamed realities of the streets.
The whole project is an outcome of a collaboration of five people. As the curators of the project Erden Kosova and Basak Senova inspect the potential and the outcome of such a research on this particular period and generation. Thereby, the project consists of several inter-related parts as the artistic productions; cultural artifacts; and visual and verbal information via comics and fanzines. The project has developed together with two graphic designers as Özlem Özkal and Erhan Muratoglu. In addition to the design and the implementation of the exhibition space, Erhan Muratoglu is giving consultancy on the sociological phenomena in late 80's and 90's in Istanbul as "comics" and collaborates with Kemal Aratan. Ozlem Ozkal designed the graphicallanguage of the exhibition and also as an architect Emre Erkal is giving consultancy on the acoustical issues and the architectural concept. As an architect Emre Erkal gives consultancy on the acoustical issues and implementation.
Born in 1968, Denizli. She studied fine arts in Turkey, attended artist in residence programmes in Berlin, Munich, and London, studied in Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Arnhem, master of fine art, Arnhem and Willem de Kooning Academie, master of fine art, Rotterdam. She is currently in Jan van Eyck Academie, research programme of fine arts, Maastricht. Her films orbit around the mental states of the suppressing social conditions. She associates these hard-hitting physical conditions with mental states.
Born in 1961, Istanbul. Her works renders an elaborated concern in the conceptualisation of the negotiations on gender, space -public and/or private- and on the (im)possibility of the artistic agency in the Turkish context.
Born in 1968, Istanbul. Since 1986, serhat köksal aka 2/5 BZ has been performing with tapes, samplers, saz, darbouka, electronics, drums, vocals and spoken word. The style varies between traditional music via experimental electronic sounds to improvisation with elements that stem from Turkish cinema. He also makes audiotapes, photocopy fanzines, stickers, CDR, flyers, posters, and video cut-up works as collages of 70s and 80s Turkish melodrama and action films, political propaganda and media imageries of social phenomena.
Born in 1970, Istanbul. In mid-nineties he worked for a Turkish humour magazine, deli as a cartoonist. He transfers his graphical visual language to alternative modes of visual production. Thereby, he produces imageries as an amalgamation of national and popular signs, codes and symbols with black humour.
Born in 1969, Istanbul. She studied painting at the Academy, Mimar Sinan University, Istanbul. Her works employ the underground iconography of Istanbul both in terms of form and content.
A pioneering band of the alternative music scene in Istanbul which has fused the energies taken from the various bodies of radical inputs of the modern era as dada, punk and psychedelic together with Sufi transcendentalism, Turkish folk music, gypsy tunes, historical and contemporary music schools embedded in the city's memory. The band started to perform its improvisation-based music in the year 1989 and after a couple of bootlegs produced its first legal album in 1995.
Born in 1965, Istanbul. His fanzine mondotrasho was widely influencial in the underground scene throughout the mid-nineties. He has also collaborated with zen by designing and producing visuals for their live performances.
Draining the Poison
Contributors: Basak Senova, Erden Kosova, Erhan Muratoglu, Özlem Özkal
Location: celery's_the juice bar, Graz
April 23, 2003
Via cumulated political and cultural conditions since the end of 1960’s in Turkey, this workshop will probe into the visual and aural representations and productions of an in-between generation that was poisoned during 80’s and has been drained this poison since the beginning of 90s. Thereby, the focus of the workshop will be the substitute modes of readings of the urban contingent culture developed on or after 80s’ in Istanbul.
THE SCHIZOID STORY OF THE DRIVE FOR ACTIVATING THE PROJECT
Istanbul. A city of divergent flows which are constantly interrupted by the ruptures of socio-economic, politic and cultural confusions and fusions. The Recent Past. A period that is blurred with terror imposed by the harsh dynamics of politics and economics that shaped life. As the backdrop of this terror, through an unstable political climate, IMF-dependent economy and internal migration attack, there is a constant cultural schizophrenia fed by conflicts between East and West, secularism and fundamental Islam, left and right, and eventually nationalism and separatism. Amnesia. The short and long-term memory loss of the nation. The memory has always been replaced with dreams and predictions for the past through popular culture and paradoxical symbols. Identities, thoughts and lives have been systematically lost and fragmented by the system of an axiomatic power. Life is a chase between illusion, fiction, fantasy and reality. Looping in the vortex of schizophrenia with dualities, conflicts, similarities, and oppositions. Life perceived through dreams of Yesilçam (Turkish) Melodramas with a constant delay of desire, and sometimes almost an action film in which the hazy poetic justice is in charge. Whenever there is despair, black humour veiled with dreams comes into stage. Dreams. Simple dreams. Missing details. Obscured secrets and concealed beauties. Dwelling in the present through dreams and recalling the past as the intricate part within the mise-en-scene of a melodrama. An in-between generation. Stuck in between two generations -that of the early 70’s as highly politically engaged and severely punished for it, and 80’s sleeping generation that has been totally apolitical. Has been poisoned during the 80’s and has been draining this poison since the beginning of the 90’s. The production mechanism and the assembly of this in-between generation was either neglected or dissolved in the fast pace of life before. The project. Reflects on the substitute modes of readings of the urban contingent culture developed on or after the 80’s in Istanbul and the furtive stories of this particular period and generation.
A DRAG-ON TAIL
"Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist.
Children already know that dragons exist.
Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed."
G. K. Chesterton
She had a different kind of relationship with letters. Shapes of each and every letter were fully tempting for her, mostly the enchanting curves. Perfect circles. Straight lines. She was gifted in tracing these shapes. She was seven. Always alone. Always cautious. She was hiding a secret about letters and managed to hide it for a long time.
These were the days when the night was always fused into noises of gun-fire and screams and the day was veiled with silent and fearful intent looks. Years of unspoken words and forbidden acts.
Every morning on her way to school, she detected new graffiti on the walls. It was a forbidden game. She knew that there were graffiti fighters who only came out at nights. She knew that they also had secrets.
One day, her secret was embarrassingly revealed: She drew letters well but could not read a word. She was punished severely. She hated school. That night she cried all night and did not sleep just like the graffiti fighters. The next day, she woke up with her mother’s voice telling her that she had to stay at home for a while because of a word called “coup d’état”. Soon after, she realized that the graffiti fighters were also punished because of the same word. She could never manage to read what they wrote but that was not the point.
She knew that they loved letters as much as she did.
ISTANBUL DREAMS IN GRAZ
interview with Basak Senova by Süreyya Evren
Graz, in Austria, The 2003 European ‘Capital of Culture’, is hosting a remarkable exhibition from the 26th of April to the 28th of June. Called, ‘ Istanbul, Daydreaming in Quarantine’, the exhibition was prepared by the rising stars of Turkish arts management, Erden Kosova and Basak Senova.
Originally shown at the Gallery as a part of the ‘Balkan Konsulat’ series, the exhibit focuses on the generation of artists who lived and worked in Istanbul during the 1980’s and 90’s. The curators believe that the artists represented in the display belong to a generation that is still begging to be defined, and which falls between the firmly political class-based perspectives of the 70’s and the apolitical 90’s. ‘ Istanbul, Daydreaming in Quarantine’, published a fanzine rather than a catalogue in order to reflect the spirit of the forgotten generation.
The artists included in the retrospective were: Hatice Güleryüz; Aydan Murtezaoglu; 2/5 BZ (Serhat Köksal); ExtraMucadele (Memed Erdener); Esat Basak; Nalan Yirtmaç; and, the ZeN, comics artists Galip Tekin, Suat Gönülay and Bahadir Boysal.
Consensus talked with Ba ak €enova, one of the two curators of the exhibition.
Süreyya Evren: You created the exhibition with Erden Kosova, how did you develop the idea?
Basak Senova: The adventure of creating the exhibition started in April 2002, the < rotor > Gallery organised a closed seminar for a group of young curators representing institution in Eastern Europe, < rotor > has been interested in Eastern Europe for nearly eight years. Erden Kosova was one of the participants in that seminar, and along with almost all of the other participants was asked to collaborate in the ‘Balkan Konsulat’ exhibitions.
Erden has no official link with any institution, and thus chose to present ‘an analysis of a generation of artists’ from Turkey. After Erden was invited to curate a section of the ‘Balkan Konsulat’ correlated to his presentation, he came to me with the idea of creating the current exhibition, which is derived from his original presentation. From the beginning, we weren’t interested in making the package representative of ‘ Istanbul’ or ‘Turkey’… that has been done many times over the last couple of years. We wanted to stress cultural works which were fed, challenged and shaped by the reality of the Istanbul that we have all experienced. During the period of the development of the conceptual framework of the exhibition, I was in The Netherlands attending the Curatorial Training Programme of Stichting De Appel. For my part, this process provided an answer to the expectations created by the problems of ‘representation’, and the constantly accelerating schizophrenic reactions to it reflected in the tough political pressure on foreigners, especially Turks, in Europe.
Süreyya Evren: How would you sum up the main theme of the exhibition?
Basak Senova: It is the story of a stage in the social, cultural and political history of Turkey, as experienced by my generation. It is a period that was eclipsed by the cultural schizophrenia of the nation, which had many consequences ranging from political confusion and a turbulent economy, to emigration and East-West tension. This was a generation that was stuck between two vastly different generations: that of the early 70’s, which was highly political; and ‘sleeping’ generation of the 90’s which was totally apolitical.
The generation in focus witnessed a great deal, and was totally conscious of previous experience, yet never revealed much of it’s own world. It was common memory which united and guided us in the realisation of the project. Although our memories formed a base and mood, the whole was centred on a communicative structure, since there is actually no definitive documentation of the era. It represents the lost records of a lost era. The more we discussed it, the more we realised that this ‘common memory’ points to a ‘gap’ generation that was subject to a wide range of cultural influences during the 1980’s, and which reflected them with a series of aural and visual works that had developed their own language. In their unceasing drive to reflect the toughness and cruelty of this city, the generation developed mechanisms of resistance demonstrated by their black humour and the use of parody in response to traumatic events. It is possible to understand the situation as a mode of survival and of continuing existence. So, the focus of the exhibition was to follow the changes in this ‘between’ generation, that was so poisoned by the 80’s, and which was then drained of the poison during the 90’s, in a spectrum of visual and audio presentations, as well as through the comics and fanzines and other artistic creations of the era.
Süreyya Evren: How did you prepare the display and choose the artists?
Basak Senova: When we began the planning, we had some names in mind. For instance, ZeN’s video piece ‘Derdimi Anla’ (Understand Me) immediately came to mind, as did the images Erden had seen in Memed Erdener’s work. It was also certain that work by 2/5 BZ had to be included.
We soon realized that the project would be enriched the input of other collaborators, Erhan Muratoglu was the first to join us, and he was followed by Emre Erkal and Ozlem Ozkal’s. We did our first research in Istanbul, and then moved on to Ankara where we formed a kind of forward base to examine the era, and to discuss the exhibition. There were no resources, not a single book or an article had specifically focused on this area, our guide was our shared memories. When we came back to Istanbul we went on working on the historical, cultural and artistic research. Then, 10 days before the exhibition opened, a crew went to Graz to set-up the exhibition and prepare the ‘fanzine’. They also hosted a held a panel discussion, and the event’s opening night was marked with a fabulous performance by Serhat Köksal.
Süreyya Evren: How was the gallery set out for exhibition?
Basak Senova: We worked on creating a specific visual language that was in synch with the works in the exhibition. The project, which serves as a backdrop to Istanbul, manifested itself in several ways: the main gallery was laid out to facilitate the provision of audio, visual, and written information about the era. The Comic room conveyed information by the usage of space on a perceptual level. The two biggest rooms opened into each other, and contained works that were conceived as partly cultural commentary, and partly as artistic works. The gallery was totally transformed by architectural interventions, the aim of which was not to change the identity of the gallery but to articulate the layering and abstract elements present in Istanbul. To this end, we worked with Emre Erkal on the design. In order to remind visitors of the corrugated iron sheets that cover the facades of Istanbul’s empty buildings, we used semi-transparent plexi-glass that was highlighted by the dominant fluorescent lighting that is so favoured in Istanbul. We also constructed a corridor to divide one of the major rooms into three, this created a ‘between’ space for the photographs of Aydan Murtezaoglu.
The first sights in the gallery are the giant drawings on the comic room, the walls of which are covered with comics whose effects is accentuated by 2/5 BZ’s soundtrack lifted from film fight scenes. The walls of the main hall contain some information on the recent political and cultural history of Turkey. Through the overall spatial design of the exhibition, both physically and mentally, a feeling of pressure and frenzy is created: in the main entrance Hatice Güleryüz’s film was projected on one side of the corridor and Esat Basak’s work on the other. Nalan Yirtmaç’s work cuts in front of that of ExtraMücadele’s (Mehmed Erdener), and at the end of the corridor there was a spacious area where ZeN’s video music piece was screened on a huge, diagonal, transparent surface.
While the feeling of pressure and frenzy was one of the points of reference in the visual language of the exhibition, it also signified a visual feature that was relevant to both the ‘fanzine’ and comics in general. While Erhan was guiding us through many aspects of comics, he was also reflecting the overall visual design of the exhibition. Ozlem designed a special font to be used in the information on the walls and on the labelling. She was also responsible for the design of the Comic room itself, this revealed the most significant features of the exhibit’s visual language: there were no right angles except those of the floor and ceiling; one of the 4m high walls was tilted; the drawings were black and white, and covered the walls; and, the ceiling and floor were black. The Comics room materialized the idea of a 3D frame that had been extracted from a comic strip, and transformed the visitor into a character from the strip. There was soundtrack by 2/5 BZ which operated to convey the rhythmic noises of Istanbul, a city illustrated by comics.
Süreyya Evren: What was the reaction of the public?
Basak Senova: This year, Graz is the Cultural Capital of Europe and is hosting some 3000 events over the year. On the same day as our opening, another show was opening every half hour. Frankly, I was not expecting many people to show up, but it was visited by hundreds of people in the first 4 hours. Artists, curators and critics from Eastern European cities such as Zagreb, Belgrade and Budapest showed great interest in the exhibition. Austrian TV, ORF, and Bavarian television covered the exhibition, and the interest in the show was greater than expected. Belgrade CCA (Contemporary Arts Centre) wants to host our exhibition, and we are discussing the possibilities.
This interest was not reflected in Turkey, only Fulya Erdemci, the director of Proje 4L, and Prof. Ayla Ödekan, Chair of the Art History Department at Istanbul Technical University, showed any interest. We would like the exhibition to be transformed every time it travels, we also plan to add new works such as that of Comic artist Kemal Aratan.
The interview was published in Consensus 2003, Issue 8, p.36-40