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Why art is taking off on the shores of the Bosporus.

Art and culture have traditionally been in high esteem in the most populous city of Turkey. Nowadays things are changing as the formerly westernmost gateway to the east is setting a new political course. However, upheaval has always been an interesting motif for the arts. While some artists opt for alternative destinations out of caution, it is precisely for that reason that other artists go to Istanbul’s traditional artists’ quarter Cihangir Beyoglu where the Federal Chancellery operates its studio. How do artists currently experience life in this city that recently positioned itself as an important centre of the arts through Contemporary Istanbul and the opening of numerous galleries?

"1st month: Ramadan. Month of fasting mixed with political propaganda. Campaign event with Erdoğan in Yenikapi, a mass rally with 500,000 AKP members, the euphoric female supporters are striking. Second campaign event with Erdoğan in his home district of Kasımpaşa. Heated atmosphere, terrifying mob. The police apparatus becomes more and more visible.

2nd month: Election night on Taksim Square – 20 to 40 policemen armed with machine guns and two armoured water cannons have continuously been stationed at the Gezi Park since 2013 — this evening, the police is completely absent, but an AKP mob occupies the underpass of the metro station and causes panic attacks with horns and firecrackers. The political state of emergency is lifted. OHAL ends, but O HAL begins (the state of emergency ends, but “this state” begins). The far-right MHP party – an offshoot of the Grey Wolves – participates in government. My internet access is blocked. Omnipresent orchestration of the celebrated second anniversary of the failed coup of 15 July, Day of the Martyrs – 15 Temmuz Şehitler. Inauguration of many public memorials.

3rd month: Dramatic devaluation of the lira, censored media reports, all media criticism is stifled and persecuted. Symbols of the Grey Wolves become more and more visible in public space. Even policemen display the logo of the Grey Wolves on their state uniforms.

 

In spite or precisely because of the state of emergency, my residency was a very intensive and productive time that I would not want to forego. I was able to gather a lot of material for installations (especially with regard to marked nationalism and the right-wing, nationalist Grey Wolves)."

franzkapfer.wordpress.com

 

1. My stay in one word:
  A relaxing retreat.
2. Things I miss since I am no longer there:
  Bosporus, the sun, the sea and Istanbul
3. Dos & don'ts in this place:
  Shorts
4. Where to buy great supplies:
  At the big bazaar Kapalı Çarşı
5. What you should definitely bring with you from home:
  Warm clothing and rain protection in winter and books, in particular books on the history of Turkey.
6. Concerning art at this destination:
  Dirimart (Dolapdere and Nişantaşi), Depo (Tophane), Salt (Galata and Beyoğlu); Thomas Buesch supported me very well and gave me personal feedback.
7. Around the studio – where I shop, drink my coffee and get the best lunch deal in walking distance:
  Café Savoy (with Turkish dailies), bakery at Depo
8. Where I like to spend the evening (dinner, drinks and best sound):
  Sanatkarlar Parki (lawn with a great view of Bosporus)
9. What would have been useful to know before coming here and starting my residency:
  The advanced level of marked nationalism and its taboos (religious, cultural, political minorities). Taking photos in public space is very problematic – especially when it comes to policemen and construction sites. Wikipedia is blocked in Turkey (can only be accessed via VPN codes). In the current situation, Wi-Fi is disabled when you research on the police, the military and the political situation. Artists-in-residence should not write badly about Turkey on the web, the posts are monitored.
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