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Self-Organized & Pedagogic Art Projects, pt.1 Istanbul

Pt1. 11 Mai – 23th Mai: Istanbul and Ankara

I am conducting a practical investigation into artist run spaces and/or alternative pedagogic strategies. At this early stage I am trying to find interesting models which I can connect to. For now the parameters are still very broad, but I am interested in 1. knowledge platforms for international and local participants 2. projects located within a city with social/political tension 3. projects that are trying to find a balance between western canonical ideas and theories, but that are also trying to merge and negotiate these ideas with local traditions and histories 4. projects with focus on experiential understanding. I am meeting people/organizations/collectives which has at least on of these characteristic traits. These places can exist in fixed building, or it could exist as a nomadic platform where the site is the conversation and critical exchange which takes place. At this point in time I would describe my process as spontaneously jumping into the cold water. I will learn to swim as I go. There are so many collectives and initiatives, not all as relevant, but as the project develops I think the playing field will get smaller. I trust to instinctively recognize what is valuable for my own interest. That of starting an alternative pedagogical art project in Bangkok. It is important to mention that this project is a timely accumulation of my continuous interests in the blurring boundaries between art and education, and the intention of engaging with different communities over time. Alternative pedagogical projects can afford certain kinds of knowledge which conventional academic education cannot. For the past seven years I have been interested in the distinction between so called passive experiences (for example of seeing or waiting), and active experiences (such as embodied knowledge through performing activities) as a manner of creating empathy and affect.

At the moment I am in Istanbul visiting Aciliyet Mektebi, Here you can read about Aciliyet Mektebi’s principal structures. I talked to Asli Saracoglu Cetinkaya who had her own tandem research with partners in Berlin on Expanded Art School (Learning Together). Here is a link to the PDF publication, it is edited by Aslı Çetinkaya and Marina Sorbello. She is also contributing to developing a summer school project initiated by Işın Önol (curator based in vienna), sort of a preparatory school before entering bachelor levels in art, the pilot of which will take place this summer in Nesin Matematik Köyü in Izmir Turkey. This conversation was particularly interesting as she is facing some of the challenge which I can foresee for my own project, that of bridging different reference bases and values (European versus Asian, conceptual versus craftmanship). I had breakfast with Özgür Demerci, one of the founding members of Pasaj. Pasaj is an artist collective of around 5 member, and they work with community based projects, they host local and international project withs focus on community engagement and participation: Making a free food stand during art fairs, trying to organize exhibitions and holding workshops. I met Onur, Özgür, Belkıs and Nihan from Kaba-hat at Kamp Armen. Kaba-hat is a local artists collective working with observations and through interactions in the urban space. Kamp Armen used to be an orphanage for Armenian orphans in Tuzla, at the outer edges of Istanbul. I was told that it was built around 1962 by children between 8 and 12 years old with help from one 17 year old contractor. They had started the demolition on the building on this Mai 6th, but a group of Turkish, Armenian and Kurdish are now occupying the building trying to renegotiate with the land owner. I observed artists and locals from different background debating and discussing the future of this building and what it stands for. This years’ Armenian Genocide’s centennial is lighting peoples spirits.  Tonight I will meet Ha za vu zu, another artist collective working with music and performance and public interventions, one of the few that seems to stand the test of time.

Below selected atmospheric images of my explorations in Istanbul so far, it has only been four days now, but I felt like sharing some fragments of the experience. I am writing and recording sound as I go, however it has already become clear that whatever it is I am collecting at this stage, it does not live in video, the sound recordings or the pictures. I will need some time to chew over these new experiences to put things in perspective.

Yesterday evening I met the fantastic Günes and Güclü from Ha Za Vu Zu collective. Ha Za Vu Zu is working with sound, music, performances, appropriated objects and banners. The five members value group consensus, and a playful mind. Making sounds or jamming for them is a way of communicating, a manner of talking. They tend to set some rules for working, not unlike in game-situations, the limits help to create and act in the world. Ha Za Vu Zu like to spontaneously ‘make’ work with people they encounter. At the moment they are working with textile-factory workers, rehearsing a performance which will be shown to a public at the end of the month. For them the collaboration is more a life project rather than an art project: Maybe that is their secret to a long lasting working relation.

Now I have arrived in Ankara, to have a presentation at Hacettepe University, on my own practice but also to give a small introduction to Bergen based artists. I will visit Torun, an artist run space and try to talk to one of the people involved. More about that and pictures coming soon.

In August I will explore Bangkok, and try to connect to local initiatives, to try to map what is there, what is lacking and what can be done. In the course of coming half year, I hope to visit a few other cities and to try to find relevant organizations, ideas, models…

My research is generously being supported by UKS, Unge Kunstneres Samfund. The result will be shown during a group exhibition in a year from now.