International Projects

Ottomans and Europeans


Exhibited Works

"Ottomans and Europeans: Pasts and Prospectives" exhibition will be at Tophane-i Amire on March

Realised as the Istanbul leg of 'Ottomans and Europeans: Reflecting on Five Centuries of Cultural Relations' project led by Centre for Fine Arts (BOZAR) Brussels, 'Ottomans and Europeans: Pasts and Prospectives' exhibition is held between 5 - 27 March 2016 at MSFAU Tophane-i Amire Culture and Art Center Single Dome Hall. The exhibition will be open to visit on every day between 10.00-17.00 except mondays and 20 March, Sunday, when the venue will be closed for maintenance.

Organised with the collaboration of Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) and Cittadellarte-Pistoletto Foundation with the support of the Culture Programme of the European Union, the exhibition is curated by Beral Madra and presents the works of Leone Contini, Erol Eskici, Eda Gecikmez, Naci Güneş Güven, Driant Zeneli and Mary Zygouri, which will be on view free of charge. During June and July 2015, the exhibition artists came together for an artist residency programme named "Blind Date Sessions" in Cittadellarte-Pistoletto Foundation's centre in Biella, where they had the opportunity to build theoretical collaborations and dialogue with senior participants Gülçin Aksoy, Ergin Çavuşoğlu, Güven İncirlioğlu, Adrian Paci, Michelangelo Pistoletto, and Igiaba Scego. The works to be featured are the artistic outcomes of these encounters.

Since 2012, the 'Ottomans and Europeans: Reflecting on Five Centuries of Cultural Relations'project proposes a journey through five centuries of shared cultural history between Europe and Turkey to change perceptions of citizens and artists from both sides. Partners of the project are Centre for Fine Arts (BOZAR) Brussels from Belgium, Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) from Turkey, National Museum in Krakow from Poland, Cittadellarte-Pistoletto Foundation from Italy, Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna from Austria, and Witte de With for Contemporary Art from The Netherlands. The project partners organise exhibitions, conferences and artist residencies in various locations. For more information on the project and the other events, please click here.

Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto Project Team

Paolo Naldini
Cecilia Guida
Juan Esteban Sandoval
Curatorial team

Giulia Crisci
Elisa Tosoni

Elisa Pierandrei
Guest journalist

Istanbul Project Team (İKSV)

Tuna Ortaylı Kazıcı, Selen Erkal, Ümit Mesci, Gamze Öztürk, Erim Şerifoğlu, Selin Pervan, Erdal Hamamcı, Mehmet Camadan, Selçuk Metin, Özlem Bekiroğlu, Özge Özgüleryüz, Zeynep Seyhun, Erdem Arda Güneş, Zeynep Toktaş, Ege Yaman

Reflecting on Five Centuries of Cultural Relations

Beral Madra

Ottomans and Europeans: Pasts and Prospectives exhibition is realised as the Istanbul presentation of the Ottomans and Europeans: Reflecting on Five Centuries of Cultural Relations project led by BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts (Brussels), and in partnership with Cittadellarte-Pistoletto Foundation and Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV). In the exhibition, artists Leone Contini, Erol Eskici, Eda Gecikmez, Naci Güneş Güven, Driant Zeneli and Mary Zygouri present their works that were conceived 29 June-27 July, during the artist residency program in Cittadellarte-Pistoletto Foundation in Biella, with the theoretical collaboration and dialogue with senior participants Gülçin Aksoy, Ergin Çavuşoğlu, Güven İncirlioğlu, Adrian Paci and Michelangelo Pistoletto. The second meeting of the artists was held 1-3 October in Istanbul. The residency program was curated and coordinated by a curatorial team composed of Paolo Naldini, Juan Sandoval, Cecilia Guida and myself, while we co-curated the exhibition with Juan Sandoval.

The residency phase of the project progressed in Biella during the ongoing wars, terror, deep social and economic unrest and massive refugee crisis in the Middle East, East and South Mediterranean geo-political context. The initial aim of the project, related to the historical exhibition in BOZAR, had the intention to up-date the artistic and creative relationship between the contemporary artists of the European Union and Turkey; however under the circumstances of the ongoing crisis, the content of the dialogues and discussions expanded to political, economic and cultural contexts, and became more complex.

Invited with the expectation to reflect on historical endeavours and fault-lines, the impact of historical cultural exchange on the present cultural interaction between Europe and Turkey –as suggested by the title Ottomans and Europeans– the artists could estimate interesting and provocative results, but soon they also grew sceptical and dissident. They frequently asked the questions: 'Are we Ottomans?', 'Are we Europeans?', 'Are we historians?' or 'Is this particular history relevant in contemporary art discourse and art-making?' They extensively discussed the values of this heavy and complex memory, and thought with sensibility and responsibility on new ways of communication and collaboration for a sustainable cultural relationship. The works in the exhibition are conceived from these encounters and dialogues.

For the artists from Turkey and Europe, extending their individual ideas to the public through the artworks is –before all other benefits– a contribution to democracy, freedom of expression and human rights. Under the aegis of Michelangelo Pistoletto's Unidee (University of Ideas) manifestation, this project will present an expedient ground for expanding and complementing the opinion of the artists about the existing cultural and socio-political context and problems. As it is based on shared information, interpretation and substantial collaboration, the outcome of the project is much more valuable than expected.

Leone Contini

Born in 1976. Lives near Florence.

Undigested-Gallipoli, 2016
Videos, objects
Editing: Savaş Fatih Doğan

Two national identities sprouted out of the Battle of Gallipoli: the Turkish and the Australian respectively, based on the epic narrations of a victory and a disaster. Leone Contini, whose work was conceived on the former battlefield, articulated his own strategy of remembrance of a past that still affects the present. He took the side of the ‘place’ itself, an ecosystem soaked with an impressive amount of war-rubbish, mainly metallic: bullets, fragments of grandees, sheds of the shelters and rods of reinforced concrete, barbed wire, shrapnels, food cans, cartridges and many more. With a modified handy metal detector –labelled Gold Century, which sounds grotesque for a security device– he investigated the ‘skin’ of the former battlefield: in fact, the body scan can only detect the iron within few centimetres under the soil, while the majority of it is deeply buried, as if the ecosystem is engaging into an impossible attempt to digest the consequences of this modern disaster. His performance was video recorded and accompanied with the original sound of collecting the evidence of war. Leone's strategy can be fully framed within the Anthropocene, the current geological age that begun when human activities started to have a significant global impact on Earth's geology and ecosystems.

Seyhan Boztepe, CABININ - Çanakkale Biennial Initiative, Tuba Elmacı, Deniz Erbaş, Suat Karataş, Ege Yaman

Erol Eskici

Born 1984 in Hakkari. Lives in Istanbul.

Anticline-Syncline, 2015-2016
Topsoil, wood, car jack
Variable sizes

Anticline and syncline are both geomorphology terms. These terms point out to the folds on rock layers, which put pressure on each other because of tectonic plates’ movement. The arch-like shape of the fold is called an anticline, and the downward fold is called a syncline. This work discusses the demographic, politic upheavals; displacements and handovers, while tackling with the geopolitical in terms of geology on a symbolic and indirect representation. It prefers a geological rhetoric instead of using direct references. Within the scope of the exhibition, pieces of land collected from Middle East, Africa and the Balkans compose a geomorphological form that borrows its name to the installation. These pieces of land, which become a close combat field are handed over and intertwine; stretch and squeeze. Each anticline breaths in and out strainedly. This movement of breathing shows that the mechanism is not a structure built on solely strategic fields, but on the contrary, on the axe of geography-human.

Gülçin Aksoy, Ergin Çavuşoğlu, Cecilia Guida, Güven İncirlioğlu, Gerhard Lechner, Eva Lechner, Paolo Naldini, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Juan Sendoval, Elisa Tosoni

Eda Gecikmez

Born 1984 in Istanbul. Lives in Istanbul.

Personation, 2015
Two channel video installation, HD, 31:19 (in a loop)
Camera: Yukio Unia
Photos: Giulio Fossati, JE Sandoval
Editing: Savaş Fatih Doğan

Eda Gecikmez developed her project on the African refugees whom she met in Genoa. The artist asked the tailor Abdou whom she met by chance and who is known for sewing traditional garments to African people, musicians and dancers in town, to make a new dress for her. In her first performance in Biella, Gecikmez experiences what it is like to be a stranger in the city, which is deepened by the cultural weight of the authentic dress she wears. She gets stuck where streets end at the town’s opening to the sea. In her second performance at the Genoa coast, the artist stands still with her back turned at the audience, facing the horizon. She lingers as if she has reached a frontier, where she is not given the chance yet to make a move or to step forward.

Gülçin Aksoy, Giulia Callori, Ergin Çavuşoğlu, Diaw Cheikh Abdou, Güven İncirlioğlu

Naci Güneş Güven

Born 1986 in Samsun. Lives in Istanbul.

Stacked Ottoman Tombstones in Chamber, 2016
Computer generated imagery, fine art print

Ottoman tombstones that are designed considering the representations of the deceased’s rank in social life and the cultural milieu he or she belongs, also stand for the trace he or she leaves behind among the living. At first glance, the elements that constitute Naci Güneş Güven’s computer generated composition in which tombstones are arbitrarily ordered into a mass in an anonymous space, suggest a mimetic relationship to the physical world with their randomness and design. But a closer look will show the hints revealing their artificiality. The structure takes on an appearance that can be classified as absurd with tombstones imagined as indoor objects. Usually considered as historic remains, these particular Ottoman tombstones carry an individual and arbitrary interpretation of a collective image related with Ottoman grave typology and culture of death. Devoid of their sacred halos, the stones tackle the phenomenon of death as an abstract matter of representation that could be read in their traces and connotations beyond personal distinctions and social positionings.

Driant Zeneli

Born 1983 in Shkoder, Albania. Lives between Milan and Tirana.

Venezia, 2016
Single channel HD video, sound, music, colour

Driant Zeneli decides to realise a film involving music composer Said Murad, the director of Sabreen Studio in Jerusalem, to represent the architecture of Venice through moving images and sound. In this film we are not dealing with the Venice in Italy, but another one which has a few years of life and history. This place is situated in Antalya, southern Turkey, where the Aegean meets the Mediterranean Sea. The artist chooses Venice as a symbol that weaves cultures and architectonic influences. What happens when the East meets the West and the other way around? What is true and what is false? Maybe one day, the ruins of Venice will be found in Antalya instead of in Italy. Digging like a virtual contemporary archaeologist, Zeneli’s film Venezia evokes a shift of observation on history, focusing on the image and the imaginary triggered by this newly made structure.

Gülçin Aksoy, Mustafa Bolat, Valentina Bonizzi, Banu Bozkurt & Nergiz Sencan (Venezia Deluxe Palace Resort), Naci Büvet (Masal Medya), Cecilia Guida, Ayça Karaağaç, Said Murad, Paolo Naldini, Sabreen Association for Artistic Development, Juan Sandoval, Ebru Nâlân Sülün (Akdeniz University Fine Arts Faculty Department of Basic Education)

Mary Zygouri

Born1976 in Athens. Lives between Greece and Italy.

The Bath of the Constitution, 2016
Video, objects
Conceived and Directed by Mary Zygouri
Director of Photography: Selçuk Metin
Editing: Leonidas Papafotiou
Sound Design: Andreas Govas

Mary Zygouri has developed her project on a modest but historical hammam founded in 1911 in an Istanbul district of Dolapdere. Zygouri interpreted the socio-historical meaning of this hammam, which according to the three Greek, Armenian and Ottoman inscriptions on its red ochre façade, was called The Bath of Constitution (Meşrutiyet Hamamı) with reference to the Second Constitution Era (Young Turk Revolution). However, after a fire in 1923 the hammam was renovated and its name was changed to Freedom Hamam (Hürriyet Hamamı), again as a reference to the initial name. The linguistic transformations of the name of the hammam were multi-layered political signifiers that guided the artist to the crucial present time complexities of constitutions and freedoms, as well as to the metaphoric meaning of the hammam as a space of purity and purification. The work revolves around a performance enacted inside the hammam on 30 January 2015 with the active participation of people of Armenian, Greek and Turkish origin. The video The Bath of the Constitution and the installation on the show are the leftovers of that collective experience.

Can Aykal, Niştiman Aslan Cemal, Nuran Cilveyan, Hamit Çakır, Gökhan Çelem, Sami Çetin, Ergün Çolakoğlu, Güneş Ökçelik, Andonis Palma, Ovakim Şirinyan, Gökhan Turnalı, Aydemir Yağmur