Saturday, November 18, 2000


Azra Tuzunoglu
Istanbul, 23.05.2007

Nowadays, the lines of arts and life in pretty much gentrified Istanbul are intersecting. Our maps of mentality changes whilst our maps of everyday life is getting different. We are in the era of reintroducing ourselves, looking at the facades of brilliant stores when we are passing the ruined streets. While everything is changing fast, while Istanbul gets the capital of disaster, we may trace the work of Walter Benjamin who dedicated himself searching for the ‘reality’ within the parts of disaster, waste, or in the ruined, that is, in other words in the remnants of the system.

We are now very much confused of what is old and new, since the disaster of Istiklal Street is masked with the technique of papier mache. This is such a material that it is not only renewing the old substance but also it sweeps everything that belongs to memory. Everything is reduced to the distance of the nameplates. When you change the nameplate, you think that it has never experienced, it becomes as if there was nothing before. When you look at, you see Borusan Art Gallery is changed to Philharmonic Orchestra or Aksanat Art Gallery is changed to Teknosa Technology Retail-Market. We may give far more examples and make a list of them, as well.

Yet, Platform Contemporary Art Center, which has opened its archives and library, on the contrary, comes closer to the streets, for the first time. It is the first time, for the library and the archives, which was; untouchable before except art professionals, artists, and students now has become an attraction, a touchable point for all the city dwellers. It has happened to be an interaction, a discussion now: not as a project of an artist but as an institutional or existential interrogation. Thus, this ‘project’ has opened its boundaries of its past or history to us from which it was produced. Platform now shares everything what it has been made of.

Open Library Project is an instance of art-sui generis- within the times when the urban space becomes more important than the nation space. That is why the project of library/exhibition of Istiklal Street can be considered as the first and the most authentic event not only in Turkey, but also in the world context. Therefore Platform gives us the opportunity to look to and to think about this city where the flow of capital, information, technology, labor and images have become the centers of consumption and violence at the same time.

The library of platform is consisted of more then 140 folders of Turkish artists besides the individual or formal donations. It also involves the Collecting Point project, which had taken place in Frieze Art Fair last year. This is the place where the people –as was in other exhibitions- come and have a look, or just come and make some research with their laptops sitting on the steps resembling the ones in the sports centers. The new design of Superpool crew for Platform, in this sense, reminds us that this is an exhibition but also a library with its seat and shelf style. The exterior of Platform, which was used as a facade in previous exhibitions, now is able to communicate with the street. Open Library with its video projections, talks, books, weekly magazines intends to be a living place that aims not to take after neither a library nor an exhibition.

This exhibition is important in some aspects.

Platform’s library/exhibition is an answer of Istanbul from Istanbul who has lost its significance under the freak flow of brand names or commercials. This means it is striving for a metamorphosis to produce this public sphere without getting into nostalgic trick. This means it was thought within the frames of time and space but it did not fell into a local arena. While we are thinking of the identity of the city now, we may also ask: The city belongs to whom? The ones who have money? this is the structure that constitutes the public sphere which involves the public experience.

It is aimed that the conception of library can be rethought to become an accessible place rather than an intellectual room. In this sense, Platform sets itself as a place where a library is placed and where the critique of itself is possible. This is a system reproducing itself-Platform (whose entity is constructed by the people who belong to a limited minority, that is the founders) with the non-founders and the strangers. This an improvisation which takes its significance with the visitors who are participating in while they are just passing by or stealing books, as well.

Library, in its symbolic meaning, is an “excess” in Turkey where books are unread but the visual consumption is relatively high. Library as a hospitable place exists between the experience of the book and the book on the shelf as an object being looked. In this context, library becomes a different place. Library in exhibition or library as an exhibition is not a place for itself. While Open Library opens up the space for looking into objects, that is the books, it becomes a place for socialization, a place of noise. In this sense, it feed itself with its own noise.

Open Library is the biggest exhibition that has happened in Platform so far. It gives opportunity to access the biggest artist archives in Turkey in addition to the thousands of books and magazines. Thus, it is a place for exhibition with its wondering artists and art-lovers who finds themselves in a library following the library rules.

Library as an exhibition, is constructed as a place that challenges the limits of bourgeois-commercial sense of art which became a commodity as a cliché. The library is a reality, which needs a huge labor to constitute. However, it also calls for a different experience: it achieves what a contemporary art exhibition center is not expected to do. It makes a new ‘now and here’, as it has not been experienced before.

Open Library Project is open to produce a public space as a public event. It is not just in the sense of opening itself, but it is a precious experience in the sense that it creates a different meeting place. It builds the place as the experiences are shared, utilized, while the other is being explored. Therefore, we can say that “it does not occur in the public space but it generates the public”.

Library as a space of potential experience place claims to create a ‘life area’ that of urban art, where the capitalistic relations are inhibited to penetrate. In this sense, it is following the line, which is out of capital and the meaning of public in the Turkish context (which is always equated to statism). Therefore, we may say that it searches for a possibility of public sphere as a struggle space where different voices, colors and ideas are merged together.

Open Library as a counter-public experience, aims to draw its fate rather then play the role it was given. Thus, we see that the critical approach, which makes Open Library possible, has the power to change the things and the meanings.