Monday, September 26, 2011

Friday, September 23, 2011

Wild Last Day in Istanbul

Nancy Popp, a Los Angeles public artist and interventionist invited me to her gorilla performance at a very busy intersection in the Nişantaşı district of Istanbul on Thursday. It was on the border of upper middle class and lower middle class neighborhoods. We waited around until she felt the time was right and then Popp jumped up and started to climb a light pole. She struggled for several minutes not being able to get past an obstacle, then passersby offered her help, a hand, a shoulder, a back, until she finally got up. We were worried that the police would try to stop her, but they did not arrive until after she had already climbed to the top and drew a large crowd, including a Channel D camera man who happened to be in the area for another breaking story. When she came down after approximately 5-10 minutes they interviewed her (not sure it made the news yet) and then the police arrived and detained her. They were concerned that she was trying to kill herself, so they ended up taking her to the police station to make a statement. I guess the real artwork, for me, was the engagement of a conversation with the Police about forms of expression in the public sphere and how un-permitted events such as this one, capture the moment in unexpected ways. Of course, if she had tried to get a permit, it would have never happen. As I understand, it was explained to the Police on the ride to the station by an interpreter that this was the artists' response to so many cars and people in the city, that her desire to be free from the congestion was her motivation, not to die.

While we were waiting for the police to discharge Popp, her private camera crew and assistants, students of Kocaeli University, and I walked from the performance site down to Taskim Square to meet her there. She returned with a copy of the Police Report, which will now become a part of the work, a documentation, which she signed along with the Police Chief. My reward for going was that we had made plans earlier to go to a Hamam that Nancy knew about through a friend. Built in 1454 for a Sultan, we washed off with silver bowls, laid on a large heated marble platform, then were taken to a private room where they scrubbed our bodies and washed us with Turkish soap and towels, including a brief massage. Felt like I was six years old again having my Aunt Betty bathe me! Left CLEAN and feeling recharged. Since hitting the ground running when I arrived in Istanbul last week, this was a nice way to end a productive trip.  

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Today was a TOURIST DAY in Istanbul! Hagia Sofia, The Basilica Cistern, The Blue Mosque and the Spice Bazaar. So much to see and take in. I have desired to see Hagia Sofia since taking History of Architecture in 1991! It took me twenty years to get here, but it was worth it. I was overwhelmed with emotions walking into the main dome.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Public Art in the Sustainable City, ISEA 2011

Robert Ferry, Glen Lowry, Elizabeth Monian, Patricia Watts, Nacho Zamora
What brought me to Istanbul was an invitation to participate on a panel at ISEA called Public Art in the Sustainable City. Here I am with my panel mates above, after our 9am panel on September 20th. It was a nice turn out for day 7 of a jammed pack schedule of speakers and especially the first panel of the day (it was in fact the first one that I made it to). Elizabeth and Robert presented information on their upcoming Land Art Generator Initiative design competition for 2012 at a site within Freshkills Park (the former Fresh Kills landfill) in Staten Island. Glen Lowry presented a project he is working on with a large team of architects and artists linking Dubai and Vancouver called The Maraya Project (the website is not current - soon). Both cities have "false creeks" and have tall buildings on waterways. The two cities will be connected through digital technologies as public art. Nacho Zamora from Spain gave a talk about Solar Art. He is a public art researcher and doctoral candidate and shares his research online through his Solar Art Projects website. My talk consisted of sharing examples of sustainable public art projects in North America including references for developing public art master plans that focus on ecological systems (more info HERE).

Following we had my birthday lunch together with a couple of our panel guests. Then it was a visit to Galata Tower and a trip to the Asian side for dinner + CAKE.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Day 4 feels NORMAL

Day 4 and I'm feeling like I live here. Through a friend of a friend on Facebook, I was put in touch with a young fashion/costume designer, Ayşegül, who has been so gracious inviting me stay with her in Şişli. Being on a budget can put you in touch with some amazing people in the world, in really wonderful ways. I now have a new friend and know what it looks and feels like to actually live here. It is a safe and quiet area with a very LARGE MALL nearby where I pick up the subway. I've been riding the Metro each day and tonight stopped on my way "home" from the symposium at the grocery store to pick up some yogurt and lavash (have not seen another American in the area anywhere nearby). Went to three sessions today, the first was really fun, with mostly artists (my favorites) including MIND THE GAP creator Alexia Mellor who I met a few days ago. I learned about her project to create a portable open source country which operates online called Lokönenie! Downloaded my application this evening to apply for citizenship. This country is the new corporate Babaylon, a self policing, open state, of non immigrants where they speak esperanto! Crazy, right?

My second panel was actually a set of presentations for upcoming ISEA symposia. For 2012 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Andrea Polli invited me to describe Getting Off the Planet for the audience as one of their collaborators. Updates on ISEA 2013 in Australia and pitches for both Toronto and Dubai for 2014 were also discussed. Everyone was very intrigued with the idea of going to Dubai for a conference . . . . what would that mean? what would that look like? I suggested that they do both locations, creating a simulcast event. We will see where they land on this. Following, ISEA administrators asked participants to stay and give input on what they liked and did not like about this year's conference. It ends up that this one has had the best attendance ever with approximately 1,300 attendees including 300 local people. However, with a group of artists/curators, critique is our forte, so they got an ear full of the most minor details!

Tomorrow is another full day of sessions with Sarah Diamond speaking on Data Visualization in the morning and an Urban Ecologies panel in the afternoon. Am also planning to go back to Taskim to see the ISEA exhibition Uncontainable and again to the Galata Tower area to participate in an all day workshop on Food Interactions. Pre-warned, no blog post tomorrow and the next day, it is my birthday. Look for a recap on Wednesday!

Here is some more eye candy from the Biennial:

Marwa Arsanios
Mona Hatoum
Dani Gal (historical record archive, ongoing)

See all the 12th Istanbul Biennial works online HERE

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Back at ISEA today

Finally, three days after registering for the symposium on Wednesday, I made it back up to ISEA to catch two panels. The first was FARFIELD1: New Environmental Art Practices on Landscapes of the Polar Regions; Politics, Emotion and Culture. Lisa Bloom a culture historian from San Diego presented an updated version of her Disappearing Ice and Missing Data paper from last year with Contemporary Art and Climate Change: The Aesthetics of Disappearance at the Poles, which was very captivating. She focused on three women who have participated in residencies at the poles including Judit Hersko, Anne Noble, and Connie Samaras. Her interest is primarily gender although she questions all interventions at the poles, which has always been my concern about "going there."

The second panel was titled Nature, Human, Machine and included 4 presentations mainly by artists. After talking about anthropomorphizing nature with the second speaker, a German artist couple,
Haike Rausch and Torsten Grosch
presented the most humorous human projection project I've seen in quite awhile. The project is called BotanoAdopt and they are promoting the capture and rehabilitation of neglected plants. They give them names and "human" identities with characterizations projected on them based on their vitality. This seemed to bother one of the participants who went on to call this a hobby and not art. They also used the news media to deliver their message, doing a satirical television report about the project focusing on the value of plants, whether medicinal or environmental, and how it is lost on most people today; knowledge that many people used to know and now seem to have no need for. That would be called baseline shifts.
Contemporary Art and Climate Change: The Aesthetics of Disappearance at the Poles
Contemporary Art and Climate Change: The Aesthetics of Disappearance at the Poles
Contemporary Art and Climate Change: The Aesthetics of Disappearance at the Poles

I then took the Metro, which is so clean and easy by the way, to Taskim Square to meet up with my panel chairs Robert Ferry and Elizabeth Monoian and fellow panelist Glen Lowry (not the director of MOMA, he uses two nn's). We walked to Galata Tower and winded down very small streets that were chez hip to a Georgian restaurant Galeta Evi. There we met up with Treehugger contributor Jennifer Hattam from the Bay Area who has been living in Istanbul for three years now. The food was really great, wine excellent, felt like we were visiting a family residence (which I believe it was). Definitely want to return to this area of Istanbul.

Istanbul l Dome Central

Spent most of yesterday at "home" with swollen feet from the day before walking around with dress shoes that I haven't worn for probably six months or more. However, I did make it out for an extended evening of one very unique exhibition opening and the Biennial opening party! After stopping back by the Biennial to view the second building, my first stop was a dome exhibition at the historic site of the Ottoman military industry,  an old cannon factory in Tophane-i Amire (across from the Biennial site) now the Amire Culture and Arts Center. The building is an 8-domed, stone and brick compound most recently reconstructed by Sultan Selim III in 1803. There were three installations in cisterns and one in a tunnel and the main digital dome presentation was in a larger adjacent dome. The exhibition titled Affective State and produced by Parlor X was presented for a younger audience who are interested in digital arts (somewhat non existent in the Biennial). As many of my friends know, I have become a "domie" of sorts lately while spending time in Santa Fe, working with Ethan Bach who runs the digital dome at the IAIA on my current project Getting Off the Planet. Being in Istanbul is like being a "domie" as they are EVERYWHERE (mosques)! I was a bit let down, thinking that it was a viewing of 5 digital dome videos, but there was only one and the other four were digital arts installations. And, even the main digital dome work was really more of an installation with an architectural feature under glass below the dome and "sculptural elements" in the dome space itself. In the cisterns, there were pod like spaces that gave you a feeling of being transported to other worlds with images and sounds projected on both architectural and constructed surfaces. Overall, I think the potential for artists to create work in a dome is huge in terms of digital projections and other sound or performance based works. Affective State was an excellent start!

From Amire, where I again met up with Ar Zu and Nancy Popp from Los Angeles, we crossed the street over to the Biennial opening party, staying for a couple hours and walked through the second building of the exhibition (a second time for me). Below are a few of my favorites (artists names and titles coming soon).

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Preview to Istanbul Biennial

Thursday and Friday this week are Preview days for the 12th Istanbul Biennial. Receiving accreditation from the Press Office prior to my arrival, I was one of probably around 500 people who had access to see the show before it opens to the public on Saturday. This year's Biennial is located at a single site, the Antrepo complex, located at two former warehouses on the Salipazari Harbor in the Tophane district where the massive cruise ships dock. This has not been the case the last two or three events, which were dispersed across the city with several interventions in the public sphere. I will be writing an art report on the Biennial for an online publication, so will not get into details of the show here now.


Met up with performing public space artists Nancy Popp and Arzu Arda Kosar, both here from Los Angeles representing OUTPOST for Contemporary Art, who I have come to know over the last six months. We had lunch at the Istanbul Modern, rode the historical Tünel funicular and trams, and Ar Zu performed one of her "yarn bombing" gorilla DIY knitted interventions in Taskim (images below). We also visited an alternative pop up space in the textile district where Project MIND THE GAP artists were operating this past week to do public interventions around the theme of borders. Brain child of this one Alexia Mellor is now a new friend, and is also a fellow occasional resident of New Mexico and September 20th birthday (wild)! Went to the opening reception of Dream and Reality at the Istanbul Modern, a Turkish version of WACK! where I met up with Berin Golonu, former Bay Area curator who grew up in Istanbul before moving to the USA when she was 8 years old. She is an art writer and occasional contributor to Art Practical and Art in America (recent interview in AIA with Biennial curators HERE).

Also, saw Ralph Rugoff at lunch and suggested to him that The Hayward create a sister museum program with the Berkeley Art Museum. He is already on it! Of course, great minds think alike . . . . (wink).

Tünel funicular
historic tram along the Grande Rue de Pera
Arzu Arda Kosar public intervention on Grande Rue de Pera

 Arzu was caught in the act, but security turned there heads after some talking in Turkish

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My First Day in Istanbul, Turkey

Registered for ISEA this morning and went to an afternoon session on Critical Approaches to Mainstream and Consumption. Took a boat tour of the Bosphorus this evening, WOW!!! The people are great, the food very good, I'm settling in . . . .

kurusu or dried prunes & creme 

Every Day is A Good Day! Says John Cage

Every day in London is a good day, rain or shine. Went straight to the Southbank Center on Tuesday September 13th from Heathrow for the afternoon/early evening before heading back to catch my flight to Istanbul. This is my second time in the last year that I have devoted a full day flying through London to go to the Hayward Gallery. Last year it was Ernesto Neto's Edges of the World (my kind of world, of the senses). This year, John Cage. With Ralph Rugoff's return to London from the Bay Area a few years ago, as Director, they are doing really great programming there. Kind of reminds me of the Berkeley Art Museum, cement, brutalist architecture, both built in the exact same year, 1968. Last year Neto placed a large rubber swimming pool on the balcony of the upstairs gallery. And, this year,  a bountiful roof top garden above Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of The Hayward's Festival of Britain, The Lands summer program. Felt just like being in Berkeley looking at vegetable gardens and native plants with a pop up cafe. There was also an "Urban Fox" made of straw bale, sitting above the entrance to The Hayward.

Inside the John Cage exhibition, Every Day is a Good Day, were approximately 40 randomly selected prints created in the last 15 years of the artists' life, between 1977-1992. He was born in 1912 and died in 1992, so next year he would have been 100 years old! I was curious who curated the show, thinking it was Ralph with his previous access to Crownpoint while at the Wattis. However, it was proposed by a British artist, Jeremy Millar, for The Hayward's traveling exhibition program. And, because the work was developed under the tenants of "Chance Operation" by Cage, the selected works at each venue were randomly decided by using an online random number service called So, not only did the artist not see himself as the full creator of his own work, the "curator" did not even select the works in the show! My favorite work included was "Score Without Parts" with drawing fragments taken from the Journal of Henry David Thoreau.

Artist : John Cage Title : Score Without Parts (40 Drawings by Thoreau) Date(s) : 1978 Website : Credit : © The John Cage Trust

Cage was at Black Mountain College in the late 1940's where he hung out with Buckminster Fuller. He was also a big fan of Marshal McLuhan (who would have been 100 years old this year). Both Fuller and McLuhan offered Cage much influence on his social philosophy. Everyday is a Good Day, a popular Japanese Budhist saying or "Nichi nichi kore koniche,"was his favorite.

Millar gave a talk at Queen Elizabeth Hall at 6:45pm before a musical performance ensued, which I had to forgo to get back to Heathrow. If only there were more time and money to just hang out at The Hayward indefinitely.