WHILE C.R.I.S.I PROJECT WAS DEVELOPED IN BOLOGNA, IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD (LIKE BRAZIL OR TURKEY) OTHER CRISIS HAS EXPLODED. HERE A CONVERSATION WITH ODA PROJESI COLLECTIVE ABOUT THE CURRENT SITUATION IN ISTANBUL.
ETCETERA: In 2005 both collectives we met when we participated together in the Collective Creativity exhibition in Kassel curated by curators collective WHW. Already at that time you were working on the effects of the gentrification policies in urban areas of Istanbul, taking as an example the Galata quartier at the Beyoğlu district (where Oda Projesi has their office). At that time, the discussion about the loss and privatization of the public spaces and the gentrification wasn’t the favorite subjects for the mainstream media and public debate (like today). Since then until now, how do you interpret this process of mass awareness about these problematic?
ODA PROJESI: The period we started to work on these problematics in 1997, public space and gentrification was not a hot topic, there were small discussions but a more routine expectation that things will get better “somehow”. At that period there were changes on the city scale but comparing to the last years they were considered as “small scale”. But now there a “big” plans, “big” money and “big” dreams from the ruling ones on the top of the city. The use of techonologie to get “correct” information, news; such as the source of twitter and the impact of networking also quickened the mass awarness. Before it was more that you recognize the changes at the silent parts of the city, whereas now the battle field is at Taksim; at the spot of “freedom” in everysense. Gezi Park affect has moleculazed all that the region contains as a potential of different togetherness.
ETCETERA: How Gezi Park works as a symbol and how do you understand this amazing level of social participation?
ODA PROJESI: Gezi park has become a symbol once the unpredicted resistance occured and became permanent. Gezi is the people’s movement above political parties and agendas; it is at the street level, that means it is fresh and lively and unpredictable. Has a potential as a reply that can not be ignored. Gezi caused a new look to oneself and to city space; public gardens, public talks, public gestures all occurred from the individual “will” to resist. Nothing will be the same…
ETCETERA: In 2009 we meet again when we were participating in the Istanbul Biennial, and you were curating the Cultural Agencies project (together Nikolaus Hirsch and Philipp Misselwitz). In that occasion you bring us to visit the project office which was established in a little kiosk located in Gülsuyu-Gülensu, an extremely stigmatized and criminalized neighborhood since its population is mainly Kurdish and with an intense story of political struggles. Then in 2010 we made a residency and we work there for two months. We learn that those neighborhoods (called “Gecekondu” which mean built at night) were established informally as land occupations when immigrant groups from eastern Anatolia arrived in the early ‘60s. Since then it was one of the main targets for real estate speculation and the gentrification process on the other side of the Bosphorus. Based on the born of this new public space, anti-gentrification and resistance movement which explode in the epicenter of the town (Taksim) and not in the peripheral areas. How this current political situation could affect the life of the so call “minorities”?
ODA PROJESI: This rather varies, there can be many affects but the positive affect we feel is the blurriness of the borders in between the so called “minorities”; more coming close together; to resist together. Gezi gave the chance to look up to yourself from the eye of the ruling and to see that it is not that “you are” but it is that “you have been put into that category “ for the advantage of the system and the ruler.
ETCETERA: If you still are in touch with some of the neighbors, what do you hear from their perception about the current context?
ODA PROJESI: We are in touch with some of the neighbours from Gülsuyu; most of them are part of the demonstrations and even one of the old ladies we had interviewed for the oral history was on the headlines of the newspaper throwing a stone to the police, half covered face; and she was accused for being a supporter of an illegal party. Also now as long as there are forums taking part in the squares of many neighbourhoods, they are also taking part. As Gülsuyu Gülensu is quite a “conservative left wing” neighbourhood; they now have the tendency to discuss what other ways occurred to resist, what is the new language of resistance. But as we hear, this is rather difficult, cause this situation also made visible many more fractions from 70’s to wake up and rise up their voice also; the platforms at the parks will hopefully help these stand side by side for a new commitment.
ETCETERA: Finally, the endless protests which are currently happen brings together an amazing level of creativity and artistic interventions which are shared and socialized with the whole society breaking the parameters and frontiers of the field of contemporary art. How do you imagine that this new context could affect the relationships and production of Turkish artists? And what about the role of the cultural institutions?
ODA PROJESI: With Gezi Park actions there occurred the public creativity, which is anonymous. This being anonymous means or will mean a lot to artistic production and being the author of a work. For instance when there was still life at Gezi Park, people were discussing “at this moment what is the use of Istanbul Bienalle, thinking on the issue of public?” Bienalle is on the street in many means. Cultural Institutions can act as spots of meeting and discussing and remembering what has happened and what can happen. More in an archive mode… Artistic production needs to be discussed after and during Gezi Park movement.
ETCETERA: From the level of support and solidarity front of the State repression, do you see this moment as a kind of resurgence of a new social commitment?
ODA PROJESI: This is absolutely a resurgence. This new commitment found out that thousands of potentials that occur to resist the system and to claim the rights of citizen and the city; were just sleeping. Now they are awake and hard to go back or sent back to sleep.
ETCETERA: From those images, social performances and spontaneous interventions, which ones look more interesting for your perspectives as forms of response and/or as artistic practices?
ODA PROJESI: Actions with musical and lyrical humor out of the routin of classical left wing actions and slogans are being created and these ones are the ones that have the potential to create potential perspectives. “Twitter” that has quite important impact on bringing prople together and producing the “news” has been seen as an enemy by the prime minister Erdoğan. “Duran adam” so called “standing man” was one of the most effective and strong performances. The day that the governor of Istanbul has made a call to the mothers of the protesters to call their children back home; that night many mothers came to the square to support and stay with them at the park; was also a very strong reply. The famous football teams of Istanbul; Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray supporters came together under one uniform and even created a uniform carrying all the colours of the football clubs as a sign of togetherness; that was a big event even considering the history of these teams… So to all the brutal, violent acts of the government there was a “reply” which was unpredictable and strong. And also now that we are replying you ( 8 july 2013 ) Gezi Park still has its new “owners” as the police; they “open” and “close” the park (entrances) as they want. So since 27th may 2013, the timeline of Gezi Park as a whole is the most strong artistic practice, one can learn a lot from.
Oda Projesi is an artist collective composed by Özge Açıkkol, Güneş Savaş and Seçil Yersel. They live and work in Istanbul, Turkey. http://www.odaprojesi.blogspot.com