Studio Bosporus – Curatorial Statement
Tarabya, first known at the time of the Ottoman Empire as Pharmazia, then as Therapia, is not only used by the residents of the Cultural Academy founded in 2011as a quasi-therapeutic domicile, but is also a patient itself. The 18-hectare estate condenses German- Ottoman history and represents more than any other place in Istanbul the interwoven connecting lines of these past empires. This weight of history is hard to ignore, and for many of the hitherto 106 residents from the fields of visual arts, music, performing arts, film, literature and cultural theory, the place and the several months’ stay, often repeated, became and continue to be the starting point for artistic confrontations.
Life at the Cultural Academy is a give and take; each learns from the other in a city and a country that is covering the trap doors of its history faster and faster. The Cultural Academy is a safe space for individual artistic work, dialogue and freedom of expression – for artists from Germany and Turkey alike. Exactly this combination of seclusion of the place, networking with the Turkish scene and open expectations as to the results of the residencies makes for an ideal starting point for a change of perspective and artistic creation.
We are now celebrating the 10th anniversary of Tarabya Cultural Academy at 22 venues. The festival center is Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien. This venue, with its rich history, could not be more suitable. There is hardly a district of the city where the 60-year history of the German-Turkish recruitment agreement can be read better than in Berlin-Kreuzberg. That the connections between the two countries are significantly older than the “history of the guest workers”, however, seldom gets told as part of the canonical story.
The artistic and discursive contributions of the festival participants deal with local contexts, global challenges and current urban tendencies from a wide variety of perspectives. German-Turkish relations at the time of the First World War thus formed an important starting point. Another anchor point is the 60th anniversary of the German-Turkish recruitment agreement, which set in train a migration process that has shaped and changed both countries.
Works on pressing issues such as the climate crisis and processes of urban transformation also show how global issues affect both countries. Turkey, and especially its economic draft horse, Istanbul, have over the past 20 years been shaped by neoliberal urban planning projects: the controversial new airport, to which hundreds of thousands of trees and numerous villages fell victim; the high-rise buildings and gated communities that have led to increased segregation.
The artistic works that deal with women’s rights, LGBTQ and body politics bring social grievances into focus. In 2020 alone, 404 women were murdered in Turkey. Violence against queer people in public spaces is increasing; the Pride parade has been banned for years. In 2021, Turkey withdrew from the Istanbul Convention, which aims to prevent violence against women across Europe.
The festival also includes artistic works that deal with the location and purpose of residency programs themselves and discuss the question of how, at a place that is separated from the neighborhood and the city by a wall, contact with the local art scene and local artists can be established and maintained.
The very first residents at Tarabya already sharply defined the post-migrant profile of the Cultural Academy, especially in the field of theater. Not the least of the Academy’s achievements is that these artists and their new themes, material and formats have become known to a broad public in the Federal Republic of Germany.
The focus of the literature and discourse program is on present-day German society. In 2021 it is Jewish, post-migrant, queer, black and so much more. This is not least the result of migration over the past few decades, which has significantly changed culture and civil society. This new reality also creates the need for a changed perspective on the past and present of the German social order. Literature and essay writing are practices that can map in a special way the complexity of the history and stories of all the people living here.
The search for networks and affiliations, for global issues, history and stories will continue in future to be the work of artists from Germany and Turkey. And in this Tarabya Cultural Academy will continue to do its part.