A blog for selected texts of Basak Senova in various books, catalogues, and magazines. Some of the texts posted are copyright, and their holders are indicated.

30 March 2010


published in User's Manual: Contemporary Art in Turkey 1986-2006 / Kullanma Kılavuzu: Türkiye'de Güncel Sanat. Ed. Halil Altındere and Süreyya Evren. p.124-129.
ISBN 978-3-86588-423-7
(both in English and German)
© User's Manual, 2007

Turkey is still spontaneously confronting diverse socio-political realities, demographically unbalanced economic hardships, and replacements of collective amnesia patterns with implanted sequences and narrations of history enclosed by televisual lenses. We are also unquestionably experiencing social transformations explicit of the new ontological conditions brought forth by global conditions based on rapid technological developments.

This picture points to a new generation of Turkish artists, who propose new channels for the global interaction of economy and information. They consider inquiries about these social transformations as their new territories of research, to be approached with different mentalities, strategies, perspectives and modes of production. In this respect, an attempt to define the local digital culture, which is the domain of these artists and their projects, would present an additional perspective in grasping the state of contemporary art in Turkey.

Primarily, the actors/producers in the local digital culture are artists and designers; art and design schools; digital video, animation, interactive design companies; software developers; production companies; database developments in specific professions; the music and entertainment business; architecture, music oriented cultural publishing such as magazines and web sites; and music production labels. Their common conceptions are around issues such as open source (dimensions and perceptions of open-source, authenticity versus anonymity, copy-paste culture, and hypertextuality); a constant act of re-editing and re-defining of art-production in multiple ways (designing perception, digital modes and thinking of production); technological disembodiment; and networking. Clearly, both the actors/producers and their conceptions display a similar picture to that of many European countries. Nevertheless, the production mode of the local actors/producers, (re)sources, and the way they define themselves and interact with each other are quite exceptional.

First and foremost, these actors merely define themselves as “artists”. Due to their various educational backgrounds and proficiencies, they portray interdisciplinary approaches with their production modes. Ranging from graphic design to architecture, from electronics engineering to sociology, the vast array of view points and methods allow them to investigate the interactivity conditions between art and other factors - such as politics and science - by considering the fact that technology is already ubiquities in any possible practice. Cutting across the issues and forming new methods help these artists to make their statements through works, which communicates in multi-levels.

Stemming from the open source mode of thinking and sharing (by giving priority to develop and produce autonomously, rather than authorship), most protest the mainstream contemporary art production methodologies. Within the contemporary art scene, local digital art production distinguishes itself with a unique self sustained mode of production. The lack of regular subsidies and technical infrastructure drive the local artists into inventing alternative solutions and ways of producing. Owing to the increasing accessibility of digital tools, productions in or around the digital realm have grown in number. However, this mode of production has not brought out a collaborative spirit while spreading amongst a comparably younger generation. Although the digital media is natively habitant in networks and carries its culture and know-how online, it is quite astonishing to discover that the local actors of digital art are extremely introverted. It is obviously due of the lack of the social networks in the overall art scene in Turkey, which has accumulated hostility rather than solidarity for many decades. This self-oriented artistic culture motivates individuals in breaking through the local bottleneck situation and reaching out to rather well established art networks abroad. While this attitude seems to be an effective remedy for artists seeking for wider audiences and global prominence, it hampers emergence of a local digital milieu, thus the global recognition of an art scene.

Another privation in Turkish digital art realm, however, has led to development. Since an institution or faculty dedicated to digital art education still does not exist, the local artists have emerged from various other disciplines, mostly design and engineering. This has evolved digital art, as other educational backgrounds provide the artists with a much more organized attitude for researching, information gathering, analytical thinking and good handling of the tools that aid them in production. Compared to the graduates of art schools, digital artists with other backgrounds show up with their deliberate techniques. The quality of technique not only communicates the proficiency of the artist in the digital media, but also helps to convey the idea through the artwork.

I base these assumptions on NOMAD-TV.network’s (2004-present) three specific projects*: the implementation of the Canadian Festival HTMlles (2006) in Istanbul along with the active local women artists who produce in digital culture; and Upgrade!Istanbul (2004-present).

In 2004, in the course of new media technologies, economic and political orders, geo-political movements, changes and cultural inputs, NOMAD instigated a project which aimed to map a new generation of Turkish artists, their sources, domains, production and digital culture. This project, called NOMAD-TV.network, was designed as a long-term project which observes, detects and establishes links in the network that facilitate local digital culture. For the first time, not only artists, but digital-minded communities and bodies in Turkey also started to contribute to projects in order to make their productions visible to each other. While establishing the local network on digital culture, the project has put local knowledge, expertise and mode of production together with international connections. The first snapshot of this network, .01, involves more than 70 people. Amongst them are many artists with significant projects which render constitutive elements with narrative that forms the digital culture by opposing to the ignorance and inefficiency of the mainstream drift.

Evrensel Belgin, with his web-site anti-pop.com, is an example for the reaction towards mainstream productions. In a rather activist tone, he combines severe critique with parodies through a distinctive graphical language. anti-pop.com also leads the viewer/user to navigate similar projects on the net.

Demonstrating rather a submissive response to mainstream art production, two young artists, Pinar Yoldas and Simge Goksoy, with their web-art projects where they gather animations, artworks, text, and video-works, challenge the perception patterns based on interactivity and navigation. Within the same track, another very young name with the pseudonym tofu, is interested in experiences based on navigation paths in the city. Bending what digital technologies have to offer, her online interactive animations and narrations explore the mechanical structure of daily life experiences, while questioning the nature and levels of interactivity. Another similar case, Ansen, works with various media such as photography, x-ray, and video to reproduce mundane daily life realities and urban life with references of cyberpunk narratives. His works also portray the infrastructure and mechanisms of the operational logic of these realities and the urban mind-sets.

Quite a number of artists in the digital field take the city as the center of their research and productions. Their projects are mostly executed through collaborations, and they give importance and the utmost emphasis to the realization of the projects rather then authorship. In this context, two on-going projects, the K34 project by Ceren Oykut and Selda Asal, and the Istatistiklal project by Ertug Uçar, Simge Göksoy, Erhan Muratoglu- exemplify continuing processes orbiting around projects. These two groups consider the city to be a kind of laboratory, which gives all kinds of data to be processed within the framework of other disciplines. The basis of their research is the polyphonic cultural structure of the city while the fast flow of life covers the city’s historical and geographical characteristics with borrowed images.

Apart from these two groups, there is an artist group called “Casus Production”. By hiding their individual names and labelling their activities as anonymously as possible, two young artists are deliberately working on the country’s social issues with the techniques and metaphorical outcomes of copy and paste culture. Through the alteration that technology has brought to our daily lives, they question relations between communication and power in the society.

Another significant project is the HTMlles Export 2, the extension of a Canadian festival focusing on the position of women in cyberspace by including all facets of new media and web art technologies. The project travelled to Istanbul in 2006, and developed and took shape based on the local contributors. The Istanbul phase of the project not only fostered dialogue and collaborations amongst Canadian and Turkish participants, but also brought new perspectives, practices and research investigating the ethics and aesthetics at the intersection of art and the biological sciences; cultural transactions with online projects; taxonomic approach for urban studies while collecting information and constructing database as art projects; communication-based sonic researches; experiments on wearable electronics; and documentaries about technological and scientific interventions in art practices. The foremost importance of implementing this project in Istanbul lies on the vast interest and contribution of the local women participants, opposed to the insignificant male input. Furthermore, the project clearly outlines the huge gap between the subsidised research-based, high-budget and hi-tech western projects with the low budget local projects in terms of production mode. Apparently, the local projects have more potential to engender social reactions with their activist approaches only if they have the chance to encounter a bigger audience through public presence in Turkey.

Nonetheless, Upgrade! Istanbul, as an ongoing network project, aims to create public presence for digital culture in Turkey. Through monthly gatherings for new media artists, academicians, practitioners, curators and other actors of digital culture, Upgrade! Istanbul also links local producers with the active international network groups related to art, technology and culture through 23 nodes all over the globe.

The Istanbul meetings include prominent local examples, in link with this international network, such as Anabala, Burak Arıkan and Murat Germen.

Anabala is a multidisciplinary project concentrating on Istanbul's sounds and cult. The project consists of two artists: Murat Ertel and Ceren Oykut. They blend sound and visual representation modes in real-time on stage. Their multi-disciplinary pieces take the aspects of humour, parody and surprise as the basic elements of their performances. Anabala has developed collaborative projects with various international artists through this network.

As an artist, Burak Arıkan creates systems that evolve with the interactions of people and machines. He shows the instances of these systems through diverse media including prints, animation, software, electronics, and physical materials. Burak Arıkan collaborates with the Istanbul and Boston nodes of this network while teaming up with Murat Germen in Istanbul. With his impressive educational background and academic studies in the fields of photography, design and architecture, Murat Germen develops art projects by merging these fields. Both Burak Arıkan and Murat Germen focus on the “informational space” or “cognitive space” by working on the assets, facilitating around the re-construction of space. While Burak Arıkan pursues this process by creating pieces involving computer networks and using the concepts of connectivity and collectivity, Murat Germen follows a similar path within the realm of digital photography and computational design studies.

In a significantly short period of time, UpgradeIstanbul has managed to kick-start an archive for the newly emerging digital art scene in Turkey. This will maintain the lacking referential information and form a memory for the local actors of digital culture.


* I took active parts in all of these three projects, initiated and developed by NOMAD. NOMAD is an Istanbul based association, focusing on experimental approaches in digital art and sound-art. It was founded in 2002 as an independent formation and registered as an association in 2006. The core of the association consists of designers, engineers, architects, curators and writers. http://nomad-tv.net



printed in Urbane Realitaten: Fokus Istanbul. Martin Gropius-Bau Berlin - Küstlerhaus Bethanian GmbH, Berlin, 114-125.
ISBN 3-932754-57-3

(both in English and German)
© Martin Gropius-Bau Berlin - Küstlerhaus Bethanian GmbH. 2005

A set of short notes, records and quotations for Istanbul’s sonic-scene extracted from research periods of NOMAD projects

the launch

By 2002, several online projects had already emerged out of a loosely defined, virtually connected and geographically scattered group consisting of curators, artists, graphic designers, architects and engineers. Slowly stratifying out of a cloud-like collective over a series of 'physical' projects, NOMAD was solidifying. A project in Graz, Austria became the first practical proof of this mindset as a working condition. We produced the exhibition of this project together; NOMAD physically became alive.

At that time, most of the group members were living abroad -as nomads move with various flows; then we started to go back to Istanbul one by one. It was already 2003, and we were willing to implement a project on sound. It was easy to do a visual project, it was even easier to just put an ordinary show in one of the “art spaces”, but it was hard to talk about sound-art within the local network. At a certain point, we even felt that we had already lost our track with the geography. When we completed the project, calling it “ctrl_alt_del”, it became “the first sound-art festival of the city”. Yet, we managed to realize this project by pushing the nodes of our international network and linking them with the local actors and situations.

ctrl_alt_del by NOMAD

The project was developed by Paul Devens, Emre Erkal and Başak Şenova in collaboration with Hedah, Marres, MIAM, and Istanbul Technical University. All through the month of September 2003, the project manifested itself in two cities, Istanbul and Maastricht, in multiple formats: CD release, panels, workshops, performances, web site presence, exhibition, and CD-ROM. ctrl_alt_del aimed at introducing sound-art to Turkey through the combination of pioneering names and experimental new approaches. More than 30 people from 16 different countries contributed to the project.

As a multi-layered analogy, the title ctrl-alt-del has been chosen to underline several interrelated phenomena that indicate new possibilities which emerge out of the current situation, standing on a new plateau of freshly flattened and compressed ground. This new plateau dictates redefinitions of sonic processes, together with the re-mapping of geography with regard to new modes of production and performance.

In the same line of thought, ctrl_alt_del has also aimed to occupy uncharted time-zone of restarting that signifies a rupture, which dilutes knowledge from technology by blurring the boundaries of perceptual habits and aural experimentation.

pioneering and guiding local sources inhabited in the fabric of the city for NOMAD

ZeN is a ground-breaking band of the alternative music scene in Istanbul which has fused the energies taken from various bodies of the modern era’s radical inputs such 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. It was an alternative band founded in the 80’s, and in the mid 90’s shifted to a music group called BabaZula. Their work is an amalgamation of recorded natural sounds with both traditional and modern acoustic and electronic musical instruments with electronic effects. Starting out by improvisations, later fixed into musical elements, the group has developed their unique method of “defined improvisation” for their production.

Fairuz Derin Bulut was founded in Istanbul in 1996. Initially, their music was a mixture of rock, oriental, funk, and arabesque. However, the band later started to compose from all the sounds they recorded on the streets and in their studio.

Anabala is a multidisciplinary project concentrating on Istanbul’s sounds and cult. The project consists of two artists: Murat Ertel and Ceren Oykut. They create multi-disciplinary pieces by taking the aspects of humour, parody and surprise as the basic elements of their performances. Anabala took its name from a passage in which they recorded actual and modified sounds to produce tracks by mixing them on a daily basis in central Istanbul at the beginning of the millennium. All those mixes formed their first album. They are still proactive in the sound-art scene of 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 from traditional music with experimental electronic sounds, to improvisation with elements that stem from Turkish cinema. He also makes audiotapes, photocopy fanzines, stickers, CDR, flyers, posters, and collages from cut-up video works of the 70’s and 80’s Turkish melodrama and action films, political propaganda, and media imageries of social phenomena. He is especially very proactive in the circulation of European sound festivals and events.

Zafer Aracagök, aka SIFIR, has been influenced to a great extent by contemporary French theory, which he reflects in his sound-works. At some point, he has worked towards the deconstruction of the image/speech hierarchy. Along with sound installations, he has performed in various national and international festivals and projects. He has also released numerous electronic music CDs.

two schools

Yıldız Technical University, Audio Design Department

brief information by Alper Maral, the Head of the Department: Yıldız Technical University Audio Design Department was founded in 1998, and since then, the department has had an important role in the contemporary academic life of Turkey regarding music technologies and composing through the focus it has placed on electro-acoustic music and new trends such as audio/sonic arts. Ahmet Yürür, one of the founders of the faculty, established the “İlhan Mimaroğlu-Bülent Arel Archives”. I Alper Maral, am a composer and musicologist, and I have started to lecture on the course “Audio Arts” in 2003, as an introduction to new media and its concepts. I have also been giving a series of seminars regarding different topics of electronic or environmental music since 1999. Eventually, the whole faculty has been introduced to sonic arts, and various collective exhibitions, performances, events, and publications have been realized by the faculty members and students.

ADD is also a center for regular concerts and events focusing on electro-acoustic music. In 2003, I developed the project DTP – Ensemble in which students participate. This ensemble aims to realize perpetuum mobile by combining theories on musicology with creative and productive compositions in order to obtain a non – stable performance unity.

Istanbul Technical University, Center for Advanced Music Research (MIAM)

a brief information by Pieter Snapper, director of the recording studio at MIAM: MIAM was founded by Cihat Aşkın and Kamran İnce in 1999. The international faculty arrived in Istanbul about two weeks after the earthquake on August 17, 1999, which set a very dramatic, serious tone for our first months in the city. In general, MIAM was established to provide graduate (masters and doctoral) education in areas that were underrepresented in Turkey - for example, forward-looking acoustic composition and electroacoustic composition, recording technology (which became SED), ethnomusicology, historical musicology, music theory and performance.

The SED (Sound Engineering/Design) faculty – Pieter Snapper and Reuben de Lautour – consists of sound artists who are also audio engineers - and that is an unusual combination. Generally there are people who record and there are people who do the artistic content, and frequently the two sides do not appreciate each other (to say the least). One of the original ideas then of MIAM was to bring the two sides together – and it has worked out better than anyone even expected.

Besides faculty and students, the third critical player at MIAM/SED is the studio complex. It was designed by me with Recording Architecture of London, and is housed in the original TRT television studios from the 1950’s (on the ITU Maçka campus). It is set up for music recording with a very large live room (which doubles as a film scoring and THX projection space), and a large 5.1 control room with a glorious ATC monitoring system. It is an unusual facility in that it is used for sound engineering and sound art classes, as well as commercial sessions. The goal is 50/50 educational/commercial, but at the moment it is in such demand that the commercial use has the slight advantage. Fortunately, however, the students learn immensely from their interaction with commercial clients, and the engineers who wish to enter the industry upon graduation already have the necessary professional contacts. For the sound artists it shows a multitude of perspectives about what constitutes good sound, and teaches production values which may or may not be employed in their creative work.

a platform

Phonem by Miller
It is an electronic music platform organized annually by KOD Müzik and Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts. By bringing outstanding musicians and groups from abroad, it aims to form an international platform for electronic music in Istanbul since 2003.

young ones

Many young groups and sound-artists have started to perform in alternative spaces in İstanbul. Their style varies from analogue to digital; industrial and noise-based experimental sounds to improvisation. Among these groups and young people there are Tolga Tüzün, Aykut Şahlanan, Attila Kadri Şendil, Serkan Emre Çiftçi, Batur Sönmez, Unit, Analog Suicide, Extreme Parking, Dadaloop, Radiophonik, Audio, Werk, Dead Frequencies, Subjekt, AVST, B/S and Teletrans. Also the academic stuff and students of YTU, Audio Design Department –Alper Maral, Cem Ömeroğlu, Emre Can Öziş, and Eray Düzgünsoy- and ITU, MIAM and SED –Pieter Snapper, Reuben de Lautour, Kerem Aksoy, Murat Yakin, Zeynep Bulut, Deniz Arat and Aykut Sahlanan- are taking part in the sound scene of Istanbul with their performances and CD releases.

extracts from interviews with sound-artists

Erdem Helvacıoğlu is an electro-acoustic composer and sound designer, and Emre Erkal is an architect, sound-artist, and electronic-engineer. The city has a central role in their approach and works. While Erdem uses the soundscape of Istanbul as the basis of his compositions to explore the city, Emre, through his sound installations, overlaps and reloads the acoustic aspects with spatial parameters of the given space in the context of the city.

Erdem Helvacıoğlu
question: How does the urban landscape of Istanbul affect your work? In other words, what is the potential sonic material of Istanbul for your work?

Erdem Helvacıoğlu: Soundscape is one of the most important aspects to define a city. It is possible to get cultural and sociological information about the ciy by investigating its sound data. Each city has its own soundscape characteristics, such as Mexico City has completely different characteristics compared to Belfast or New-York. In this respect, to detach details among these differences inspires my work.

My investigation always starts with recording the city with my microphone. Yet, my aim is to discover ‘actual sounds”, therefore, I use various techniques to record secretly in public areas, and most of the time in weird corners of the city. This process also teaches me how to listen. I used this experience for my “a walk through the bazaar” album which was realised by Locustmusic.

I believe that soundscape will be the source that will shape the authenticity and future of Turkish Electronic Music.

Emre Erkal
question: How do you consider the development of the sound-art scene in Turkey (specifically Istanbul) in terms of timing?

Emre Erkal: September 2003 was a hot point in the timeline because of a couple of concurrent events. The first, ctrl_alt_del, was the inauguration of NOMAD, -a dual-city project with legs in Istanbul and Maastricht. The Istanbul part could be taken as the first sound art festival proper in Istanbul. From my point of view, the second event was our artwork ‘Content’ featured in the 8th Istanbul Biennial, a collaboration with Cevdet Erek. Being the only exclusively sound-based work, it was about the city from within the city. This work was about spatial sound: juxtaposing the sonic spatial character of two kinds of spaces, the main hall in the Hagia Sophia and a common shipping container. We wanted to explore the potential of creating a peculiar kind of public space, cohesive around this vessel of juxtaposition.

question: What does it mean to produce sound works in the city of Istanbul?

Emre Erkal: The city itself is a bombardment of sonic material. The variety and amount of sonic output and conditions are baffling, to the point of numbing the dweller. Semantically, the city seems to be over-saturated with all sorts of emission, on the spectrum of sound – noise. Therefore, Istanbul mostly remains indifferent to new infusions beyond the immediate social bubbles.

Given these conditions, circulating tidbits of semantical nuggets would not yield much. It is not wild to conceive of one of the possible modes of operation as one of ‘carving out’, an act defined by utmost physicality. A low-fidelity approach that is almost tactile, literally stealing attention by forced tactility. Another approach is the high-fidelity one: a zenith of perspectival clarity and refinement in hearing. Yet, in the final analysis, both modes boil down to the same ground: refusal of semantic material and desire of physicality.

question: Are these sensibilities coming only from the city?

Emre Erkal: There’s probably more. My interdisciplinary background, both in the fields of study, and modes of reaction, seems to be responsible. More than a practicing architect with a license in electronics engineering, I also had further experience of various levels of academic depth in graphic design, computer graphics, cognitive psychology and music. I conducted scientific research as well as design and curatorial work. It is natural for me to circle around issues of perception and structure.

wrapping up

NOMAD, along with carrying out projects focusing on sound, also establishes a regional-based sound-art archive. Each log assigns another possibility to process the city as a standing reserve for exciting discoveries and perception modes through sound.


printed in Camera Austria, International. No. 94, p.49-56.
ISBN 3-900508-62-3
ISSN 1015-1915

(both in English and German)
© Camera Austria, International. 2006

Banu Cennetoglu is a photographer. Her vocation is to freeze »uncertain« situations. Implementation practices of her projects deploy every possible presentation mode as the main concern of the uncompleted processes of documenting and framing. This act magnifies the state of »uncertainty« by emptying the codes of each and every space that inhabits her works.


Whatever singularity, which wants to appropriate belonging itself [rather than belonging to], its own being-in-language, and thus rejects all identity and every condition of belonging, is the principal enemy of the State.

She had been monitoring and recording the same spot from a distance for months. She spent hours each day uncovering the alchemy of this unusual area, inhabiting three distinct divisions: a lavishly designed brand new beach; Turkish State Railways Recreation Camp; and the Military Zone. Haunted by curiosity, she recorded like an agent, floating through the retrograde flow of the overlapping imageries of her past. The closer she got, the more she realised the segregated realities that didn’t belong to anything, but existed only in the course of their own transitory states.

In the exact sense of Agamben, these singularities communicate only in the empty space, without any link to a common property or identity. This corner in Istanbul designates an empty space without a significant codification. Yet it is almost hidden beneath the posh area that hails the monetary politics of escalating capitalism. The first segment is the beach with 39 imported palm trees. The area was converted into a private beach club after the demolition of a leisure centre that existed illegally for twenty years. The second segment is the derelict Turkish State Railways Recreation Camp, which has been inhabited by 160 Chechen refugees for the last six years.

Finally, the third segment is a typical Military Zone: the soldiers are in a constant cycle of standing guard, but the shell of the segment looks the same due to their uniforms and locations; it is impossible to detect the changes of this organism with static camouflage. These three segments are located side by side without any connection or interference with each other. The strict borders between them imply socially determined mental gaps. There is no direct communication, opposition, or negotiation. These segments simply exist in their own language. The most »uncertain« segment is the Recreation Camp with its invisible and unrecorded inhabitants. The semi-presence of the refugees denotes a redundant situation, which the system seems to tolerate temporarily. Therefore, being expropriated from the system turns this segment into a real threat, also foreshadowing menace for the users of the system.

»Are there any palm trees in Grozny?« (2005) tracked the log of the uncertain and unpredictable developments in a specific time-frame. Nonetheless, the log creates a sense of timeless voyeurism, which could be extracted from any other geography. In like manner, Cennetoglu rendered a series of photographs in a book entitled »False Witness« (2002). Although the starting point of the series was the Asylum Seeker Registration Centre in Ter Apel, The Netherlands, the book was diversified with cumulated photographs of parallel cases. The sense of uncertainty blended with the depicted states of »not belonging« and »not possessing«. Once again, such unregistered states imply a potential threat. Controlling someone is only possible through an attached belonging. Once an entity has nothing to register to the system, it acquires the stigma of an uncontrolled energy.

It is not a resistance at all. It is the situation itself which has the potential to generate unpredictable and unwanted gestures, conflicting with the constructed collective behavioural codes through the operational logic of the system. At this point, what is at stake is the positioning of Cennetoglu as the agent to convey this information to us. The act of representing this potential threat constitutes a second degree of threat, and even the manifestation of the evidences in multiple formats starts to challenge the viewer as the witness and accomplice. As Grzinic states, »In the Lacanian analyst discourse, the agent reduces itself to the void, provoking the subject [in Cennetoglu’s case, it is the viewer] to confront the truth of its desire«.2 It may easily be read as a trap for the viewer.

In »False Witness«, the photographs hide their stories beneath their identical grains: the buildings, the interior, the architecture, the scenes, the people, the gazes of these people. Everything occurs in its own language, hence it is totally obscure. Repetitive collapse and replenishment of »uncertainty« blurs the time-space coordinates of the frames. Although Cennetoglu photographed and restored these scenes from Chamarande, Quito, Otterloo, Batumi, Ter Apel, Amsterdam, Istanbul, Glasgow, Mardin, New York, Egin, Sanli Urfa, Antwerp, Rize, and Tbilisi, these stills can address any node detached from the signifier of its co-ordinates. The broken link of the time-space coordinates of these nodes can be epitomised by borrowing terms from quantum mechanics: the effect of »non-commutativity« manifests itself as an external, constant magnetic field (Smailagic and Spallucci, 2003)3. In this respect, the »non-communicativity« (as the result of being-in-language of its own) turns the node into a separate being with its own energy. If a part is capable of producing its own energy without any connection to the outer world, it indicates an autonomous field within the system, alias a threat for the operational logic of the system.

Furthermore, »False Witness« duplicates the question concerning the »state of belonging« on two other extended levels. The first level is the format of »a book«. While the format itself poses critical questions about »re-presenting« photography, the structure of the format indicates an inquiry into the capability and the limits of the medium itself. The second level is the text in the book, which formulates the order of the photographs into the manipulated version of the corpus-based data4 for the word »measure«.

Cennetoglu always experiments with different formats in order to underline the limits and the vagueness of borders in conjunction with the uncertain time and space co-ordinates of her photographs. A similar approach is seen with »Determined Barbara« (2004), which was exhibited in different formats in a different context. The exhibition and screening route also duplicate the work: »Determined Barbara« is a voyage from Belgrade to Glamoc via Banja Luka. Barbara, located in Glamoc, is a temporary military training ground zone constructed for SFOR units. It occupies the land of 704 pre-war inhabitants of Glamoc. Their land was expropriated for construction in 1998, and in 2001 pre-war inhabitants were allowed to move back. But now, Barbara was awaiting them. Barbara itself signifies an enigma hovering around the definition of »the land« and »the inhabitants« in the course of political conflicts, territorial arrangements, and geopolitical debates. Finally, Sarajevo adds another dimension to this enigma by disguising itself through the uncertain signifiers of the exposed photographs.

Despite her clash with uncertainty, Cennetoglu deals directly with the most visible occurrences in politically, socially, and economically charged situations. Yet, the »sharpness« of her questions unfolds her stance as a photographer: What is the limit for uncertainty? What is the limit for blindness? How can pure energy be controlled? How can a disconnected temporality be documented? And how to betray art?

time and space coordinates of the nodes:
Amsterdam - Latitude: 52.3500, Longitude 4.9170 (2002)
Antwerp - Latitude: 51.2167, Longitude: 4.4167 (2002)
Banja Luka - Latitude: 44.7758, Longitude: 17.1856 (2002)
Batumi - Latitude: 41.6386, Longitude: 41.6372 (2001)
Belgrade - Latitude: 44.8186, Longitude: 20.4681 (2002)
Chamarande - Latitude: 48.5167, Longitude: 2.2167 (2002)
Egin – Latitude: 38.4000, Longitude: 38.0167 (2000)
Glamoc - Latitude: 44.0458, Longitude: 16.8486 (2004)
Glasgow - Latitude: 55.8620, Longitude: -4.2450 (2003)
Istanbul, Kalamis - Latitude: 40.966, Longitude: 29.0333 (2005)
Mardin - Latitude: 38.5333, Longitude: 35.7333 (1999)
New York - Latitude: 40.7140, Longitude: -74.0060 (1999)
Otterloo - Latitude: 52.1000, Longitude: 5.7833 (2002)
Quito - Latitude: -0.2167, Longitude: -78.5000 (2001)
Rize - Latitude: 41.0208, Longitude: 40.5219 (2001)
Sanli Urfa - Latitude: 37.1511, Longitude: 38.7928 (2001)
Sarajevo - Latitude: 43.8208, Longitude: 18.3803 (2004)
Tbilisi - Latitude: 41.7250, Longitude: 44.7908 (2001)
TerApel - Latitude: 52.8833, Longitude: 7.0667 (2002)

1 Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press 1993, p. 87.
2 Marina Grzinic, »The Spectralization of Europe«, in: Nebojsa Vilic (Ed.), State-Irwin, Skopje: 359 Degree Books 2000, p. 88.
3 Anais Smailagic und Euro Spallucci, »UV divergence-free QFT on noncommutative plane«, published 17 September 2003. IOP Electronic Journals: Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and General. http://www.iop.org/EJ/article/0305-4470/36/39/103/a339l3.html
4 A corpus can be thought of as a collection of information gathered according to particular principles for some particular purpose; which is a collection where several kinds of information are stored simply because each individual one is of interest in itself. By interfering in the source data the corpus does temporarily claim to exist as a whole although the parts that make the body were not supposed to co-exist. From: Banu Cennetoglu, False Witness, Amsterdam: Idea Books 2003, p 4.


printed in Camera Austria, International. No. 92, p.31-38.
ISBN 3-900508-59-3
ISSN 1015-1915
(both in English and German)
© Camera Austria, International. 2003

Immune cells may cause serious damage in order to protect the body from any medical intervention by triggering rejection episodes. The occurrence of these episodes is totally instinctive. In alike manner, a social rejection may also be instinctive and beyond reasoning. Osman Bozkurt’s works are quiet explicitly orientated to detecting these social rejection episodes. Since he started working with photography and video, he has been investigating bizarre situations that demonstrate the nexus of social paradoxes, ironies and parodies as modes of rejection. All types of social rejection mainly operate along with and against a dominating system; in Turkey this is usually the State. Amongst many governing systems, the State has been the epitome of power demanding obedience. Factoring the nation’s history with ruptures, short and long-term memory losses, it is evident that nothing but only “the idealized notion” of the State has embodied the sole credibility of the nation as a whole. In this respect, each and every social rejection episode occurs without conscious control, and can therefore not be considered conscious resistance towards the dominant system, but appears as a reflexive act in various modes. While such modes indicate temporary and ephemeral states, Bozkurt’s works also trigger troubling questions about memory. They resonate between the act of covering and the act of revealing: forgetting and remembering –a cyclic pattern of denying (ignoring) incidents and recreating the memory.

In "Marks of Democracy / Portrait of the Voters", (2002) Bozkurt presents a series of portraits documenting this cyclic pattern. The permanent indigo dye especially imported from India for the general elections in Turkey is a paradoxical sign for the progression of democracy: After casting their vote, each citizen is obliged to have the left index finger marked with this paint. Originally, this method was used by the Indian Department of Health to mark the corpses of epidemic victims. The dye oozes under the epidermis (outer layer of skin), so that the duration of its complete removal for depends on the speed of the metabolism of the body. It only fades completely when the skin is renewed.

The indigo dye mark is also a public “spectacle” until it fades away. This process corresponds to Foucault’s perception of torture as an externalized punishment illustrating
the “truth of the crime” in public (through marks on the body). Similarly, the process of being marked and carrying this mark internalizes this act of voting as the “truth of obedience”, seen as a debt to be paid to the governing system which stabilizes its own power through this collective obedience.

Bozkurt personalizes each finger by taking a portrait of it in front of a white background. Each finger signifies a unique face. Yet, all of them are forced to carry a spot of paint on them, either on the finger or on the neck. Ironically, The Supreme Council of Elections declares that “if a citizen is disabled and has no finger, the mark should be put on the neck”. Each face is different. Each mark is different. But the consciousness of this debt is the same. It is the imperative dept to the governing system: the State. The very act itself indicates an acceptance of an axiomatic power, a mental violence in its most subtle form. It is a voluntary accepted act that is repeated millions of times. It is an act that causes millions of different shapes/marks/wounds on each citizen –to establish a collective consciousness acknowledging the same authority.

On the other hand, “Auto-Park: The Highway Parks of Istanbul”, (2003), a project in two formats: a series of photographs and a documentary video), operates as an outstandingly vivid example of a social rejection episode: the use of strips of greenery between highways as areas of leisure. It documents unexpected and unorganized actions that penetrate through the dictated imperatives of globalized urban situations. Every single inhabitant of the city is expected to circulate within the territories of the domain defined by the governing system. Inhabitants, living at the outskirts of the wealthy and extravagant zones of the other urbanites, subtly resist these territorial decisions that overlap their factual needs. It is an instinctive act and addresses a transitory dangerous haven (a secretive zone) bordering on the mechanized and globalized urban reality. The work documents of happy people in the city’s most unexpected location. While hopes, passions, and dreams are all embodied in such a zone, it always carries the potential to turn into a nightmare any time. As the artifacts of the dominant system, it constantly demands a sort of courage that blends with unresponsiveness.

Paradoxically, since the design of the authoritative system lacks a prediction of a possible defect and is hence unable to counter it, the penetrators are able to legitimize such transitory zones. The system lets the unexpected situations exist until it damages the “the perception and reputation” of the idealized values attributed to the system, but not its operation. Another photograph, Tomurcuk (Bud), (2000), records this feature in its most apparent form. Again the system tolerates the existence of all kinds of self-sufficient formations and structures -despite their similar (dys)functions and connotations-, as long as they do not present a threat to the system.

In both works, the authoritative system, presents itself as the defender of the values that bond the society, form the culture and enable people to live in harmony The system seeks new economic upheavals with the same intention by trying to overcome its dead-weight, such as traditional neighborhood, old districts, religious and historical buildings and ancient cemeteries. New highways, flyovers, viaducts crisscross the city all over. Many old districts and mosques around the Golden Horn are long forgotten under the towers of the highway bridges. Not only the historical sites, but also the districts that were lively and active in local economy just a couple of decades ago are already extinct. The new market economy covers the ageing city’s wrinkles with concrete bandages.

From a different point of view, it can be observed how the system attacks the city with blades to dissect and open up new areas of economical activities. In Bozkurt's "Untitled Urban Scenery", (2005) a photograph series depicting these common occurrences in the city, concrete fillings serve as the treatment for the amputated parts of the city geography. The frames display a cut-out view of large volumes of hillsides facing over-crowded dwellings, covering it all over and below. These series of operations conducted by the system hold control over the memory. The memory inscribed to each and every building and district is permanently removed along with all of its experiences and marks. The interesting correlation with enormous bundles of papers stacked on top of one another, displays another sign of the memory loss induced by the system. Paper documents, which still hold the memory of all sorts of inscriptions of the activities carried out in society, are waiting for their imminent end, where all their memory will be erased. Holding the memory and/or erasing it at its own, grants the authoritative system great power. With no proof of memory, individuals have no other choice but to believe in the narratives given to them. Manipulating or controlling the masses on the neural level enables the authority to act more smoothly and swiftly.

Rest in Peace, (2004) follows the same tension between the acts of covering and discovering, forgetting and remembering. This specific photograph is the starting point of another on-going project which explores cultural frames of approaches to death in the urban context. In Istanbul, in the course of intensive urban development, cemeteries are encircled by residential areas. Yet, it is not an awkward situation, since the relationship with the dead is a highly internalized fact of life. Both the Muslim and Christian communities regularly visit the graves of their ancestors and ancient holy figures, spending long hours there, showing their respect for them, praying and feeling peace in the silence. Having a picnic or resting around the greenery that surrounds the graves is also a normal practice. The word for grave is “kabir”. It is Arabic in origin, meaning the "highest", which denotes the celestial bodies. On the other hand, the word "grave" itself has the morbid and gloomy heaviness of the underworld. That distinctive approach to the remains of the dead defines social activities that take place in conjunction with their symbolic residences. In this manner, the dead are not only visited but also invited into the daily routine of life. This specific photograph of this extreme case indicates the distinctive association of death from a culturally framed perspective. Furthermore, it underlines once again the hidden potential for the occurrence of rejection episodes with any system despite its authority and control mechanisms.


published in Camera Austria, International. No.84, p.113-114
ISBN 3-900508-48-8
ISSN 1015-1915
(both in English and Turkish)
© Camera Austria, International, 2003

Now it seems as if there is no time and opportunity to digest whatever is being experienced and witnessed. We still need evidence and real life experiences to see, to grasp, to digest, to avoid and to fight against what is “really” going on, and for sure, we need to understand for whom it really means “real”. By scanning the last decade via the large-scale exhibitions and art activities in Europe –such as Documenta X and 11, Venice Biennials, and massive Balkan Shows-, it is possible to detect the lack and excess of the understanding of these realities. Not only the actors and the end-products, but also the whole circulation of the discourses around these large-scale shows bring us to a point where art operates as a sceptical mode of message conveyer for socio-political facts shaped by the neo-liberal economy. Yet, the crucial question for the contemporary art and its actors is what is being sacrificed while questioning global socio-political problems by deeming in geographical disparities, facing different realities and being parts of giant infrastructures. At this very moment of this question, with the 8th International Istanbul Biennial, Dan Cameron has come up with rather romantic, thoroughly poetic, yet armed proposals, which have been already inhabited in some of the significant approaches and practices of contemporary art. Most of the works of the biennial are processing global issues through individually driven means of rhetoric. This time the works are not necessarily ugly; although they operate on a functionally determined poetic plane, they are totally enriched by the aesthetics of this realm.

Under the beauty of this poetic texture, the biennial also appears as an experiment that tests modes of presenting art works and media in various spatial and social situations. The former customs warehouse at the port, Antrepo 4 provides a solely massive space for the Biennial. While the top floor enables diverse dialogues and interactions among works, the ground floor operates as a proposal for presenting “video works” with architectural interventions. The dim white void of the space challenges the audience to search for art-works in gigantic cylindrical forms. These two floors are connected both physically and metaphorically by a strapping “sculpture” installation of Monica Bonvicini.

The second venue is the historical buildings of Tophane-i Amire Cultural Center; with the relics and the sovereign memories of manufacturing cannon and barracks , the space gives a frictional dimension to the works. On the other hand, another venue Yerebatan Cistern (Sunken Palace Cistern) used to provide water to the Byzantine Palace. The humid, huge shining columns, the spell of rain water, slippery ground of stones, the greenish shallow water dwell the audience in a dark and wet zone of dreaminess and without a doubt, works such as of Fionna Tan duplicates this sedactive effect. Haghia Sophia Museum; The Church of Divine Wisdom is the most difficult and dominant historical venue which gives only a little room for the works it hosts. Yet the works such as Tony Feher’s fuses into the layers of this magnificent building. Garanti Platform: Contemporary Art Centre introduces the works of Shahzia Sikander which confronts the inhabitants of the city with a nonconforming yet mysterious visual language. The city is also mutually tested by the works produced for public space such as Minerva Cuevas, Bruna Esposito, Lucia Koch, Rogello Lopez Cuenca, Cildo Meireless, Oda Project, Doris Salcedo and Mike Nelson. To find the way for Mike Nelson’s setting at Büyük Valide Han is an adventure by itself. The hectic streets with cut-and-paste decors, crowded corners and overlapped historic references take you to the work, which is intertwined between the space and a spell-like poem.

Last but not least, there is another segment of this experiment with a significant work called “Container”, (2003) based on the interactive sound field that is dormant with the reverberation of the Hagia Sophia Museum. This work by Emre Erkal and Cevdet Erek begins with precise calculations and measurements in the Museum, and then the sound field of a container placed along the Bosphorus beside Antrepo 4 takes over and initiates a chain reaction.

The 8th International Biennial once again works as a mode of knowledge. This time it transmits tactile interactions, modest proposals and intently promising objectives for the global contemporary art scene. Parallel to this remark, Dan Cameron states that “one of the most important objectives of the 8th Istanbul Biennial is to create a lively and engaging public forum for responding to the ideas of artists whose work embodies a form of commitment to the goal of making art a vehicle for reconciling these two facets of life” which are poetry and justice.


used for 8th International Istanbul Biennial,
curated by Dan Cameron
(both in English and Turkish)
© Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts, Istanbul, June-August 2003


Basak Senova: Cuba is always the starting point to read your works and performances. Nevertheless, the concerning issues constantly overlap with its doubles and/or variations all over the world. Especially after taking the conceptual grounding of Documenta 11 and Venice Biennial into consideration how do you consider the Istanbul Biennial and Dan Cameron’s approach -especially in connection with the current social and political climate of Europe?

Tania Bruguera: It is true that Cuba has being a starting point for reading my work. But in the last few years, Cuba in my work has being less of an existential scream and more of a place where I see contradictions clearer that in other places, like in a laboratory. Those contradictions are not the sole property of Cuba; they can be found in other societies as well. My previous approach to Cuba as a starting point may have been simply because I knew that reality better; it was home, after all. But that reality has lately been devastated and not that fertile; it may even be exhausted for me, at least for now.

In recent years I've being travelling, with my eyes wide open, and I think my newer work actually owes a debt to other places I've been to, like Germany, India, or more recently, Turkey. In these places and others I've found interesting associations and situations as well as ways to construct new metaphors and materials for pieces I'm working on now.

It may have to do with several things. One, of course, is the way people see you as a Cuban when you travel. They want you to be an ambassador for information they don't have. That causes problems because sometimes I have to balance their opinions for good or bad; generally, everything is in black and white, because for many people Cuba is not a place but an idea, where a lot of lost pieces of the puzzle reside. More than anything, it becomes a political position, and a passionate one (with Cuba everything becomes emotional). Other reasons are more personal. Sometimes it may be that I'm resolving some issues with Cuban society that implicates my personal decisions. Also, at first, I was afraid to talk about other realities where I didn't belong. I've seen that happen in Cuba, foreigners who come for a week and after that they write an article telling us, Cubans, and the rest of the world what we are like, or sometimes artists go for a week or even less and do art work about Cuba without understanding anything. I didn't want to be like that in other places.

My work has always tried, from the beginning, to be more humanistic than political. I mean, I'm of course interested in political situations, but the way I wanted to deliver this is always from the point of view of the impact of those situations on a human being. I think that has allowed me to make an easier transition from Cuba as a departure point to other places.

Documenta was by far the best art exhibition I've ever been in. This has a lot to do with the incredible efficiency for which Germans have deservedly earned their reputation but also because of their sense of responsibility. Let me tell you that, without the volunteers, my piece would never have happened. They were absolutely amazing and never missed shifts. That also had a lot to do with Okwui Enwezor, the Documenta director. It was easy to connect with him since we had worked together before in the Johannesburg Bienale, but most of all because we are both very interested in political issues. I really like how he works as a curator. I always remember that in both, Johannesburg and Documenta, he visited each artist daily to check every detail himself and make sure things were working. This is something as an artist in a big show you appreciate.

During the process of conceiving my piece, he was constantly communicating with me directly and we discussed every detail. I really liked that because it was a real collaboration. In the process I had to think through more of what I was doing, and I grew as a result. Moreover, Documenta for any artist is a challenge, it makes you think big; you dream of being part of a piece of history, to have a platform from which to deliver your ideas and that they will actually be heard, and maybe even have some impact. But on top of that, I owe Okwui for opening my eyes. At the start, he sat me down and, when he commissioned the piece, the message was clear: I needed to think bigger and look at the world, and work from there. I will always be grateful to him for this. I was also very lucky because Stephanie Mauch, the person responsible for a big group of artists that included me, really understood my work and was very helpful.

Venice was another story. It came before Documenta, so it was the most important show I had been in to that point. Working with Harald Szeemann was also a great and unique experience. Seeing him work was a lesson. His passion for art combined with his practical experience of how art works for audiences. His complete control in the middle of the hurricane that was putting up that show in Italy.

Turkey, so far, I was telling Dan Cameron the other day over the phone, is precisely a combo of these two places, Germany and Italy. So far they have been extremely professional, responsible, respectful with the artists' work, working every little organizational detail -- like the Germans -- and, at the same time, they are as charming and enthusiastic as the Italians. I think it's the best combination possible. Let me tell you, I'd come back here any time for another art project. I got a lot of inspiration for future works while I was here for a site visit.

This biennial is also special for me because of Dan. He is a curator I met in 1994 in Cuba. I had no idea who he was. We did an interview for an article on Cuban art for Art and Auction. At the time I had just graduated from art school, but he was very respectful. Later on, I saw his show "Cocido y crudo" in Spain, an exhibition that was very important for me. This is the first time I'm showing with him. I'm really happy because I respect him a lot and think that he is a person who takes risks with young people and who has a clear point of view in his shows. I also think he is the one curator, whom I know, who, without being Latin American, has worked the most with Latin American artists and has had the most impact. He is totally committed to Latin American art, beyond fashions or flavours of the months. He sees Latin American art not as an exotic practice but as part of the whole discourse in the art world.

Documenta is indeed the one exhibition where people kind of go to see the proposals of the moment, the vanguard, the possible future orientation of the art world. It was like a thermometer or crystal ball. The work is what really counts. Documenta gave all of us the same opportunity, the well-known and the less known, and same space. Venice I found to be more related to the market (maybe it was just the one I was in). It was easier to see which artist had the best galleries by the size of the work and the money put into it. Turkey has an advantage, being from "the margins" (although it is not really), and has the opportunity to take more risks and show a different point of view. In my experience so far it's a serious event, and with Dan Cameron and Emre Baykal leading it, I think it's definitely become an indispensable art world event now.

BS: And how art operates with and for these situations?

TB: These venues are really good for exposure of the work and to legitimise artistic discourse. The most immediate impact of being part of these events is that, later, you can be more radical and experimental in your work, since you have been "chosen", you have the "approval" of the mainstream, you're a "real" artist to others.

Often these shows have a theme and it is interesting to try to respond to those in your work. Sometimes the result is really surprising and you can discover a new edge to your work.

BS: What do you think about the performative aspect of this work?

TB: I've been trying lately to incorporate the audience in my work more and more. Usually they just walk through the piece --Untitled (Havana 2000), Untitled (Kassel 2002)-- but their reactions are part of the meaning of the piece. I'm planning a new piece in which the audience is the performer in a more evident way.

In "Poetic Justice," rather than performative, there's a participative involvement in the production of the piece, from the people to whom I gave the tea to drink to those who come to stare at and smell the finished artistic product. I think this is a more subtle (the aesthetics) and, at the same time, a very strong piece (especially because of the documentary fragments I used).

BS: Last but not least, I would like to ask a late question about your work in Documenta 11: In comparison with your former performances and installations and also your work in the Istanbul Biennial, the interaction of the Documenta work seemed to be totally different. Generally, your performances and works position the audience as the witnesses: The heaviness of witnessing a violent but passive act; the difficulty to digest what you see and what you think. So, you were performing intensive silent-acts as strong towards what is being ideologically consumed, what is being experienced and the ignorance. But in Documenta 11, as if the act was more aggressive; it was physically absorbing the audience rather than being symbolic. So, was it a kind of reaction towards the tentative political stance of Documenta 11?

TB: The involvement of the audience in the Documenta piece was crucial. The fact that it was German volunteers carrying the "loaded" guns, the fact that more than half of the audience was German -- those were very important elements. Here the audience was, at the same time, witness and victim and perpetrator. I think what worked the best in the piece, as you mentioned, is the balance between the violence and the passiveness; the overlap between living a moment and being totally aware of it at the same time. I did want for people to stop for few seconds (when the lights were out and all was totally pitch black, so they had nowhere to go or move) and think, think about all that is happening now, not of what happened before but what should be our immediate responsibility. Would we even recognize it?

Unfortunately, the opportunity to show and produce my work is not always linear. I mean, the piece I'm showing at the Istanbul Biennial was conceived long before the one at Documenta, so you'll see that it is back to symbolism and representation rather than presentation like in Documenta. So it was a different investigation.

The Documenta piece was not at all a reaction towards any tentative political stance on the part of Documenta 11. It was my personal reaction after interviewing Germans who were old enough to have experienced WWII and they told me that did not know anything of what was happening there at the time.


used for 8th International Istanbul Biennial,
curated by Dan Cameron
(both in English and Turkish)
© Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts, Istanbul, June-August 2003


Basak Senova: To begin with, what is the story behind the project that will be presented at the Istanbul Biennial? 

Runa Islam: The project is a film/ video work that I’ve just completed. It is the result of a commission, based specifically in the NE of England, that required an artistic response to the region. I located a significant building, which still lives off it's reputation from it's cameo in the early 70’s cult film, Get Carter. I discovered it to be in almost exactly the same state as it was in the film.  The building was a purpose made multi- storey brutalist car park. Officially, it is known as the Gateshead Shopping centre and car park, or aka ‘Get Carter Car Park’. Amongst other things, it was set to be the paradigm of modern architecture in the mid-60's, something very avant garde for the NE of England.  At the top of the 13 storeys structure was a pavilion like space designed to be a restaurant with a 360-degree vista of the region.  It really has an impressive view, which fulfils the vision of modernist architecture; to function as a vessel to house in very formal materials, an interior that minimally intervenes between the natural environments. It is particularly the large curved edged, mostly, square windows that epitomise the feeling the design of the late 60’s early 70’s. The restaurant, though visionary for that time in the region, was never created. Neither was the nightclub, also intended to be sited within the top floor.

In the film there is a scene where architects are consulting the proprietor concerning the interior décor. The very famous consequent scene, is a classic, where Micheal Caine, who plays Carter, intrudes and throws the proprietor from the top of the car park. The restaurant seems to be left incomplete in both the film and in its’ subsequent history.

BS: Both as an unfinished modern architectural utopia and a setting for a cult film, Gateshead Multi-Storey Car Park -with its never finished restaurant on the top- is an unsettling landmark for the Newcastle/ Gateshead. Thereby, there are always generic codes -time and space based- of the building inscribed in the common memory of the region. So, there must be many storylines about the building, how did your research develop?

RI: There are many strands and stories that opened up in my research of the space. I spoke at length with the architect, Owen Luder, who is now retired and based in London. He described how the building, monumental in scale, was one of the first multi-storey car parks in the country. It was to be a modern symbol, of mobility, consumerism and leisure. He explained how the shopping centre at the base of the car park was created for a new class of shopper, but the types of retail outlets desired only opened up in nearby Newcastle. Almost from the beginning the complex became a ‘peripheral’ town ‘centre’. The dereliction also began early on, firstly, the place was closed for many years for lack of use, (later opened with no real renovation). Secondly, as the materials used in the development were poor the building showed signs of premature decay. There are also stories of corrupt councillors of the time embezzling and misdirecting money and resources meant for the construction. I didn’t follow these trails of investigation as I felt they were obvious in what could have emerged as a documentary of the many tales.
I actually took up a line of inquiry, asking Owen Luder to let me have a look at the original plans for the restaurant interior. I became very intrigued in the incomplete vision he’d had of a restaurant up in what now seems, an unsurmounted plateau. Surprisingly, the venture of the restaurant never reached a point where interior designers were asked to make plans. In my film/ video, the mock up film set of the restaurant was made as part hypothesis/ conjecture and fiction between myself, the architect and the reference books that are available on design of that era. Owen Luder pointed me towards Robin Day, the interior designer of the Royal Festival Hall and the Barbican in London. The luminous orange chairs are his very famous trademark polyprop chairs designed for mass production. Ubiquitous throughout the 70’s in public places like canteens, function halls and classrooms. They are very functional and despite being reminiscent of school, I thought they looked quintessentially stylish and formal in my hypothetical restaurant.

The strand that really influenced the work, though all the aspects have significance was when I was told that the original maquette of the building still existed. The almost perfectly in tact nature of the maquette instigated my interest to make a piece that could shift and project between comparisons of the model, the actual/ real and then the imaginary (of how the restaurant should have been). The piece is actually titled after the details written on the side of the model ‘Scale (1/ 16 inch = 1 foot)’. The model is the miniture, incarnate from the architecture imaginary. Scaled up, it becomes the real, and from that position I have returned to the imaginary, by creating a open-ended story which works like a wish fulfilment of the architects vision. I actually see it as a wishful daydream of the building itself. The installation, presented at the Istanbul Biennial, will become a meditation on a series of film passages that concentrate on the maquette, on the real building and a set of non- narratives that occur in a fictional restaurant, which is a film set (another model).

BS: Your project puts forward three mirror-like narratives on building up the restaurant: (i) of the building, (ii) of the film “Get Carter”, and (iii) of the plot that takes place in your project. Basically, you are re-creating another cinematographic time and space realm, which develops in synch with the other narratives in the common memory. How do you define the parameters of this realm? (In other words what is your referent to use/create the differences and the similarities of this new realm?)

RI: It’s important to mention that the installation engages two screens in it’s presentation of the edited filmed material. This already creates a doubled time, and in effect a type of reflexive mirror. Though the screens are made to emphasise the element of projection rather than reflection. One image is smaller and placed in the way of the larger screen. From some positions the smaller image can look larger than the main screen in the background. My idea was to muse on the how the real is often diminished by the imaginary. Or how the model can out scale the real. The large screen has mainly scenarios of the restaurant in which waiters are preparing to serve two old diners. It also represents images of the maquette in comparison to the real building, which in effect is smaller in scale. The installation from a side perspective is set up to mimic a projection. Looking similar to a small image in a film projector, magnified by the distance it is thrown.

The shifting perspectives and meanings are important in what you consider the multi-narratives involved in the work. It is certainly multi-referential. The waiters and the diners playing out rituals of an idealised restaurant are underpinned by the other stories. The socio-political history of the building as an undermined and failed venture are interplayed with the architects prototype and the consequent empty ‘relic’ like nature of the building. The real time is weaved with a fictional and bygone time. And of course the cinematic time you mention. The iconic legacy of the building’s appearance in Get Carter, overshadows its abandoned present state. If the building is demolished, as is rumoured, the maquette, the cameo in Get Carter and the small fictions I have created, will out live the ‘actual’ site.

BS: What do you think about experiencing different periods of time in the same space? How about constructing fictive spaces in sync with periods of time?

RI: This is very much the nature of the work. Especially, the work is divided across the screens to promote the associations and disassociations between the separate times/ images. In one passage during the 16 or so minutes of the entire piece, both screens are filled up with same image of a 360 degree camera turn in the empty restaurant space. At this point a very lively composed music track takes over and the sync of pictures are disturbed by the incongruity of the image and sound.

02 June 2007


published in Biennial 7+ Egofugal: 7th International Istanbul Biennial,
curated by Yuko Hasegewa (catalogue)
(both in English and Turkish)
ISBN 975 - 7383 - 22 ­ 7
© Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts, Istanbul, 2002

Istanbul. Whenever this very city closes her petals, she captures the blowing winds within herself. The reminiscences influenced by these winds have shaped the loaded memory, cultural structure and even the architectural texture of the city. To come across “accidentally” with any of these reminiscences is just an ordinary and repeatedly experienced intersection. Nonetheless, tracing these memories is not as easy as it seems, yet the city consists of many superimposed layers and maps having translucent zones with overlapping borders. While physical boundaries are diminished by any short-term memory based information, physical relations block mental boundaries. The fast flow of life covers the historical, cultural and geographical characteristics of the city with borrowed images. It assesses its beauties by hiding them; the city grows like a giant puzzle by being fragmented.

This time the Biennial fuses into this crowded and spinning city, like an agent, along with the concept of “Egofugal”. The revealed intention of the Biennial is to open up fields of collective consciousness via the city and her habitants, rather than an attempt to conquer the venues. The biennial takes place in an extremely tough period where the economic crisis, hard life conditions, restless and knotty future narrations block the perception of daily life. “Egofugal” lays emphasis on the healing facility of art: it proposes a more positive and productive mode of in a mere definition of metaphysical sharing. It makes obvious that the good will that is eclipsed by daily life greed is still “there”. It also reminds us that we are always capable of struggling against the axioms of financially oriented politics triggered by the male-dominated culture and the capitalist logic. It simply relies on “collective intelligence” to enlighten the corrupted visions.

“Collective Intelligence” also operates as a key concept to generate the venues of the biennial. “Egofugal” spreads out mostly to the same venues as the previous biennials, hence, the way it communicates with the venues operates in a different level. On the one hand, it utilizes the spatial memory of the venues, one the other hand it exploits their historical and cultural characteristics without touching them. It does not have any intention to cover the identities of the venues or to transform them. Neither do the venues face manipulation, nor do the works aim at being the extensions of the venues. Through the alike approach with the layered structure of Istanbul, the works become positioned among these layers along with whatever they carry. “Collective consciousness” generates the interaction between the spectator and the works. The only way to share the information which the works carry is to be equipped. The Biennial presents the development and transformation processes of the structure, language, dynamics and agents of a culture that has been produced by the overriding technologies in progress.

A lot of the works are surrounded by the relics of the machineries in the Imperial Mint as one of the main venues of the Biennial. Having been built just after the conquest of Istanbul, the Imperial Mint had developed into a centre which controlled the state politics for economics, and also followed the up-to-date technological innovations of those days. In the late 19th century, the latest technology of minting machines and devices were ordered and the major staff were recruited from Britain, and a mint similar to the one in London was set up with the new machinery. The steam engine installed here is one of the foremost in Ottoman Empire. Thus, the most significant design and the symbol of the Industrial Revolution had arrived in Istanbul long before the industry itself. The Imperial Mint had always been the focal point where technology was highly admired.

This time, the Imperial Mint is hosting an exhibition which acts parallel to its history. Works of art presented here track the traces of collective beliefs in a retrospective approach: from the optimistic “New Age Futurism” of the late 60’s and early 70’s to the opposing disaster theories which can transform this belief to a catastrophe; Via the works, the products of both technology and the politics of economy that dominates the world as such from sci-fi narrations that forecasts utopias to dystopia, to cyberpunk literature that was shaped by the man/machine integration; from the comics culture that merge the genres of suspense, horror, pornography, black humour to the culture of information technologies.

For instance, “Futuro”, the renowned ski and vacation cabin, designed by Matti Suuronen in 1968 is located in forecourt of the Imperial Mint. Recalling the New Age myth UFO, this cabin is one of the cult designs of the extensively optimistic vision of the late 60’s, which perceives the World as a spaceship travelling in the space-time continuum and the humankind as the big family of passengers on board. Another work interacts with this vision: David Noonan and Simon Trevaks reflect the anxiety for a possible accident that can be easily turned into a dreadful technologic catastrophe with their work named “99”. Chris Cunningham displays an extract from the popular culture in his shocking and terrifying videos. These videos are the mere synthesis of the narratives and image production schemes such as comics, music promos, science fiction, fantastic cinema and horror movies. They are alienated to the places they are displayed as much as the images they reflected. An alternative kind of alienation can be observed through the anime character “Ann Lee” which emerges in the works of Phillipe Parreno, Pierre Huyghe and Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster: she also indicates a specific segment in time. Without having any “memory”, Ann Lee brings in a misery almost similar to the “Blade Runner” movie character Rachel-the replica- who yearns for the reality of her fabricated past. Every single new story adds up Ann Lee’s memory, cuts her off, eventually isolates her from the surrounding world. Just as the shell metaphor of “Ghost in the Shell”, memory modules are uploaded, downloaded and are even deleted on to her awaiting image. As Ann Lee manifests “I’m not a ghost, I’m just a shell”, she does not only outline the conceptual frame of the Biennial, but also describes the correlation of the exhibition with the space.

Another venue, the Hagia Eirene Museum, is one of the first churches built up on a basilica plan in Byzantium. As the daylight concludes its domination on the interior, the works in here become much more legible. They commence their statements one to one with the spectators, offering experiences rooted on personal levels. Originating from his own body and using the discourses of the human body as the basis to his works, Magnus Wallin visualizes the fragility of the ideal human myth established in western culture. The interrelation of the geometric forms within Tomma Abst’s paintings indicate a similar conflict to the spectator who can enter this territory. The plain and sterile video of Hussein Chalayan and his designs where personal experiences are expressed through the envelope-clothings also takes place in this church. Ana Maria Tavares prepares the spectator for a solitary journey. Frédéric Bruly Bouabré assembles an alphabetical line of pictograms in which he projectes the collection vast knowledge of both material and spiritual worlds. Jan Fabre’s work awaits to be discovered by it’s spectator’s instincts, in a distant corner, Fabre forces the spectators to get involved in a collective experience where the senses are directed to be used in extraordinary ways. Hagia Eirene Museum hosts 22 artists.

Yerebatan as a basilica cistern (Sunken Palace Cistern) is a perfect match for cyber punk narratives with its historical references, architecture and mysterious atmosphere. Most of these narratives take place in dark, gloomy and multi-layered cities under the heavy rain pour like the flow of overloaded/uncontrolled information data. The greenish shallow water reflecting on the huge shining columns and on the moistened dorms with the continuous sound of the spelling of water prepares a ground for cyber punk sequences. Lee Bul’s cyborgs designs, bodiless beautiful semi-ghosts, and many screens displaying “Ghost in the Shell” covers most of the space. With all the works installed, the cistern refers to a quite rich archive such as the drawings of Masume Shirow, William Gibson’s fictions, Philip K. Dick’s replicas, city descriptions of Bruce Sterling,, Tarkovsky’s infamous movie Stalker, the film-noir atmosphere and dark designs of Blade Runner. The plot organization of “Ghost in the Shell” appears as the most dominant theme of the space. In the story, “augmented” humans wired to an Electronic net and cyber spirits are drawn to track down an uncontrollable cybernetic ghost in dystopic darkness, so as to find a memory and identity for themselves. At the end, the cybernetic ghost frees itself from the body by cloning itself infinite times.

This time the cistern operates as an “inter-zone” which is charged by Lee’s approach and imagination. Lee produces “cyborgs”. She reanimates manga and anime stereotypes with the most generic feminine poses. However, each time, these cyborgs, which erect as the sign of advanced technology, are incomplete: either they appear as one organ or a body with “lacking” organs. Lee, who merges power with vulnerability, criticizes both male-dominated discourses stimulating the popular culture and the one sided myths uplifting technology. On the other level, she codes these cyborgs as a “new mode of being” generated from the integration of two mechanisms (human and prosthesis). Just like her mutant monsters, these cyborgs give various references to the human body which forces itself to transform in order to adjust the pace of daily life. Also, these cyborgs project the effort of the body to be free from its limits as it struggles to adapt properly to the extensions of communication technologies devices and the grotesque appearances it takes as it the body tries to unite with mechanic modules. On the other side, Hinterberg’s work of “aeriology”, beneath copper wires, holds the pulse of the Cistern by gathering the resonation. The enchantment of the light reflects on the copper wires and the mood it creates gives another angle to the sci-fi atmosphere of the cistern. Meanwhile Guillermo Kuitica and Omer Ali Kazma’s works, like techno-agents, interrupt the narratives of the space.

Platform: Ottoman Bank Contemporary Art Centre introduces the exhibition “snow.noise” by Cartein Nicolai. It is rather a distinctive venue from the others. A sterile, clear gallery with a blank memory. The exhibition transforms this white gallery into a chemistry laboratory with a combination of works on the formation of snow crystals. Hence, chemical attraction, intuition formations and emotion layers are processed as subjects of an experiment.

Beylerbeyi Palace points the footing of the Biennial on Asian part of the city. Colonnades of the Palace welcomes Evgen Bavcar’s photographs, as well as Leyla Gediz’s works and Okisata Nagata’s sword. Embracing a transmission of collective sensibility and communication, Bavcar’s photographs reveals new unspoiled terrains of perception and cognition: they illustrate new spaces within the space via collective experience.

The Biennial also unveils another interzone which is constructed upon a platform defined by “sleep”. Francis Alys’s slides which imply the theme of “sleep” through a collection documenting the streets of Mexico City are projected in an atmosphere of comfort in the Imperial Mint. Watching a being asleep demands an altered state of “existence” and “non-existence”. The performance of Ma Liuming derives the spectator with an intense purity into a distinct state of conscience, in which he leaves his physical substance to the hands of the spectators. Each and every time sleep constructs its own spatial definition.

The Biennial swathes the city like a spider web throughout the locations of Tower of Leandros, Bosphorus Bridge, Turkish Bath in Çemberlitas, Maçka, Findikli, Besiktas, Tophane and Sultan Ahmet Square. It fuses into the transparent layers of the city. Istanbul appends the Biennial into the amalgamation of techno-surreal imagery, a wonderful scenery, sterile and hygienic gigantic shopping malls, night clubs with cut-and-paste decors, crowded centres, districts of the rich and the poor with anarchic street aesthetics, skyscrapers and overlapped historic references. “Egofugal” traces the hidden beauties in the city while inscribing a map for alternative ways of cognition, sensation and existence.


published in Regrets, Reveries and Changing Skies curated by Fulya Erdemci.(catalogue)
"Chapter 3: Treasure Hunt"
(both in English and Turkish)
september.23.2001-october.27.2001 in Karsi Sanat Calismalari, Istanbul.
ISBN 975-93621-6-3
© Karsi Sanat Calismalari, 2001.

“There is a memory of the future inside the mirror,
and memory from the past, everything meeting
in the present as a phenomenon of
existence and also the acceptance of life as it is”
Michelangelo Pistoletto*

To stop abruptly in the midst of action accelerated through adrenalin of the rush brought about by breathlessly consumed successive days. Trying to grasp the true experience. Seeking for a clear vision after being detained for a while by the vision of others. This is the starting point of everything. The moment in which everything is frozen. It is a time frame which turns out to be an adventure along with the joy to control the sightline.

Making predictions for the past rather than the future. Discovering new curves, waves, missing details, obscured secrets and concealed beauties. Dwelling in past readings with the full excitement of a treasure hunt.

How can one be sure of what really happened? To what extend is it possible to experience something without revealing its layers? How about the ones lost in memory, did they really happen? Does everyone remember the same thing? What was the whole story? Did everyone feel the same thing? How sharp can the distinction between a reality and a daydream be?

Readings of the past. Dreams. Memories. Reality. As if a hazy path to a sun-drenched texts by Proust. The odyssey becomes deeper as the blur between “reality” and imagination becomes more distinct in his writings which open both the mind and the heart of the reader. A sentence from “Regrets, Reveries, Changing Skies” activates the compass for this treasure hunt: "There is no great difference between the memory of a dream and the memory of a reality"**. Along with the memories, many paths extend to the past. Most of the time a prediction starts the journey. There is always one or more reading inscribed in all of the journeys. Each reading guides towards a reality and each reality illuminates a new path to the future. These is no anxiety of getting lost in these journeys, they change their route towards discoveries free from regrets.

Moving forward through spirals. Re-living everything over and over but each time recording it from a different angle. Finding new clues of the treasure inside details. Converting life into something legible. To be able to become surprised again.

A calculated, written past created through a distant stance taken towards life defeats and castrates life. What is being spent is an abandoned life. Everything is perceived with the vicious manner that of a small child with lost enthusiasm towards a game never played. Maybe the solution is traveling into the past, following a dream that flows towards the call of the treasure. However this call never implies an escape; these journeys go beyond the effort to change life, by operating as a “mirror” which reflects every detail about life as it is.

* Stallabrass, Julian (a quote from an interview with Michelengelo Pistoletto)
Tate: The Art Magazine. Issue No.25 2001 Summer, page 45.

** Proust, Marcel “Regrets, Reveries, Changing Skies”
Pleasures and Days. no. 3 1896; tr. 1948.


published in Trans Sexual Express Barcelona 2001: A Classic for the Third Millennium, curated by Rosa Martinez. (catalogue)
on Ebru Özseçen's work.
"Falling Upon a Parallel Life"
"Ensopegant amb una vida paral-lela"
"Trapezando con una vida paralela"
(both in English, Spanish and Catalan)
june.27.2001-september.18.2001 in Centre D'art Santa Monica, Barcelona.­

Which one is the real challenge? To live an ordained life with the heaviness of its strict and predictable pattern or to try to build up a new independent life out of what remains from the struggle of that prearranged life.

Which one is easy/painless/undemanding? Which one needs more patience/endurance/ tolerance?

And how can someone compare them or tend to measure the “rectitude” of such a decision? There is no such situation of “being in between them”. It should be truly difficult even for the most probable schizophrenic mind-set to easily comfort itself to adapt and experience both situations without any blankness.

And how can someone be sure about the stability of such a decision? No matter how solid the formation of a life is, the whole ground can be distracted and shifted at any time.

It is a familiar shot from a familiar exposé of life. At first sight, veiled with a cultural shade: A young girl who is believed to be “virgin” offering herself through the legitimised fragility of the coffee cups with envelopes on a silver tray in the company of the confirming witnessing of her parents. Offering herself as a unique gift. Offering fidelity as a promise. Offering the continuation of a secure ordained life as a commitment.

The shot, sooner or later, comes into view as a collective act, which is orbiting around “offering” and now it strikes beneath its cultural coverage.

It is about a basic code inscribed in that very vision: everything has been constructed according to that code. Regardless of its origin, it is strictly and heavily there to shape an average life. It is an immense effort; preparing and to be prepared for it all throughout a lifetime. Like a common hallucination that has been believed truly without a doubt. Like an allegorical play that has been performed plentiful times. It is an old but cerebral play.

In that play, each time, the protagonist is in a hidden conflict with the rest of the manor and flat characters of the play including the spectator of the work itself. In a possible and subtle way, she is carrying inner conflict as a suppressed struggle against herself. The shot “as the identical scene”, she “as the identical subject” simply bends to the taboos with a 45 degree angle. And the spectator of the work responds to this very act by standing in front of it.

And ignoring.

Nevertheless, ignorance never overshadows the feeling of curiosity towards the secluded corners. What is found beneath is the striking fact: a reflection of yourself on the wall and the reflection of an official governmental form for application in order to become a legal prostitute. It is placed inverted at the back of the photograph as the other side of a coin. The recognition is fair enough. Telling so many things about appearances…about common truths/lies…about decisions…concisely about life. It is not a simple case of the clash between sweet illusion and bitter reality. Nor the guilty consciousness. It is not even emotional violence. As part of life, it is so basic, so familiar, and so predictable. Still, something bizarre comes out of it.

And suffocating.

Whatever the costume or the set-up, the real motive is not “to live it”, it is all about its construction. Hence, it is the very question of coping with a “decision” which has registered as the destiny of life.


published in Unlimited.Nl #4 curated by Vasif Kortun. (catalogue)
"On the artist and 'the works' "
"Obscure reminiscences of the Mind"
"Embeded Phases"
­on Ebru Özseçen and her works.
(in English)
january.26.2001-march.18.2001 in De Appel, Amsterdam
ISBN 90 73501547
© De Appel, Amsterdam, 2001

Something that empties the mind. Is it you?

It is a snow-like gallery in the heart of a saturated city. It is the place where the three works are in operation. It is the place where someone can feel as if falling in love at the intersection point of those strong attraction waves. The chemistry of the works slams into the eye in which the same images being reflected with a guilty pleasure. The pleasure is brusque. There is always fear to lose it; it is so strong. Are you brave enough to play it fully? The novice levels are not enough to prove your chivalrous spirit, though. You should go forward. You should face with the fact that surrounds you. Are you being armed? But still feeling insecure as if trying to control unrehearsed, loaded words of praise that slip out to ground. The magnet-like attraction through the images; feeling disturbed by being gazed while looking at them.

An acute pleasure. A sense of hysteria. Paranoid crises without experiencing the preliminary requirements understand it. Violence and aggression seem to be the only stimulant for the warped mind. Destructive.

Movements of mind swimming with the tide of the looping images. The screens are swinging; passionately operates; marble grapes shine on the tray; wooden staircases evokes the fantasies; the gracious chandelier constantly brightens and darkens; the fish net waves while dressing the old, lonely facet; the innocent boy plays with his wicked toy; the transparent feminine glass object glitters. Thousands of stories to remember, to tell, to hide and to forget.

And fears.

Remembering a devoted attachment to anything. Realizing the fact that it is all about love, nothing but simply about “love”.

Just few steps ahead, it is totally assured that the session of déja-vu is in charge with its full productiveness. As if the white dust turns you on. The memories are all over your vision. The inscription of the memoir is clashing with your frustration. Facing with the engraving of the wall in synch with the inscription of your memory. Your mind is fooling around the motives of the inscription. Looping and looping; as if re-experiencing the same thing with the same responses. A motive on an old glass; it is old enough to keep the track of the deep marks of the past. The glass that felt the heath of the lips. Then the moment that you feel the glass breaks in your mouth. A semi-hallucination of the nightmares that crashes the ground while the pieces of breaking glass blinds your eye with the sparkling blue of the dress of the top girl. It is the blade in between being “the precious being” or the “worthless bitch”. It is your time to give the right designation for the one who is thoroughly in love with you. You can leave her in the bed alone or you can simply say how easily you can take a risk. But she is just a top-girl. That familiar type. Everyone knows, sometimes adores, sometime ignores. She is simply a top-girl whom you never dare to comprise her with your life. Any way, she must have learned to take the mistakes with her while eclipsing by the shadow of your cruelty. She is a total mistake by her own. So your conscious is clear and ready to consume the nearest, next another “thing”. There is always a short-term memory loss, which can make your life decent again.

Are you confident now?