Art and Discovery of the Past, Present and Future in Istanbul

By Şebnem Keçeli

Istanbul, the beautiful city I was born and raised in, is a bridge between past and future, historic and modern, Europe and Asia. It is the most developed city of Turkey and the homeland of many civilizations that are set layer by layer on top of each other throughout its history.

Although I want to give you some information about the contemporary art scene in Turkey, at first I want to begin with an archaeological finding that has changed the history of the humanity. Gobeklitepe, the first Temple of the world, was built 12.000 years ago in southeastern part of Turkey. Archaeologists found T shaped stylized rocks of human beings with heights changing from 3 to 6 meters and weight between 40 to 60 tones. It predates Stonehenge by some 6000 years. Animal carvings also occurred on these mystical rock statues. In the world of hunter-gatherers, people who had not yet developed metal tools or even pottery, these temples were built and buried under soil to ensure its survival for thousands of years. This discovery changed the history of civilization; it’s worth seeing.

Newsweek Magazine chose 15th Istanbul Biennial as one of the five art exhibits that is worth visiting in 2017. Istanbul Biennial will take place between 16 September and 12 November 2017 and will be curated by Scandinavian Artists Elmgreen&Dragset . The title of the biennial is ‘A Good Neighbor’.

“The exhibition will deal with the multiple notions of home and neighbor at a time when society is becoming more polarized every day and when we feel the need to reimagine living and sharing spaces together,” says Bilge Ozer, the director of the Istanbul Biennial. Not only in Turkey, but also all around the world, we need to find new ways of communicating and negotiating to make the world a more peaceful place for us and the next generations. To observe the works about ‘A Good Neighbor’ in the biennial is a chance to face the point of view of others. With the Music Festival and the Film Festival approaching, Istanbul has even more to offer.

Last but not least, both Nesin Art Village and Nesin Mathematics Village in Şirince, Izmir are new promising alternative education programs for young people. Nesin Village was established in 2007 and launched in 2015 as a utopic village offering a learning environment through workshops and seminars to be carried out by artists, writers and curators aiming to maintain an approach that focuses on criticality and independent production processes. Thinking of art under the olive trees and observing the vineyards in this nature-friendly architecture is a Mediterranean way of inspiration.

Despite its political turbulence, Turkey is a source of inspiration for many artists with its natural beauty and rich historical and cultural heritage.

My experience of living in a country full of history, dreaming of all these civilizations set on top of each other, makes me think of the genes and memes that survived and created who we are and also the civilization that we live in today. My work ‘Memus’ is inspired by the Milo of Venus which is the first naked woman sculpture that is found in my homeland. ‘Gene’, ‘Genome’, ‘Transmutation’, and ‘Nature’ are some of my works that reflect what the past brings to us, through change, and reminds us of the brotherhood of all mankind.