Barcelona/Istanbul – EuroMed-Asiatic Convergences | HERMAN BASHIRON MENDOLICCHIO


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The cities look at each other, observe, study and analyze each other. They interchange models, ideas and people; they sense, propose, decompose, copy and create concepts in a whirling non-stop movement. The creativity finds its impulse and stimulation in this fold of circular relation and interchange, where artists, curators, cultural investigators, agitators etc. act.

Barcelona and Istanbul, two emblematic capitals of the Mediterranean, share visions and converge thanks to the work and interchange carried out by artists and curators in the last stage of the project Roundabout Encounter Program, curated by Martí Peran.

In La Capella, an exhibition space in the neighborhood of Raval in Barcelona, Mery Cuesta, Cevdet Erek, Erkan Özgen and Montse Romaní exhibited their artworks from September 21st till November 8th 2009.

The aim of the general project since 2001 has been to send artists and curators coming from the metropolitan area of Barcelona to other cities, for example Jerusalem, Bangkok, Reykiavik, Santiago and Mexico City, places that had a leading role in the previous interchanges. In this last phase, marked by the interchange with Istanbul, the exhibition project Roundabout Encounter Program has moved away from its initial concept, that is, a process of searching for multiple different cities of the world and getting into contact with them; instead, it focused on existing programs of interchange and residence in certain centers of creation in Catalunya, like Can Xalant and Hangar, in order to give them more visibility.

The exhibition Centri/Fugacions in the Capella, scheduled to be presented to Istanbul as well, presents the works produced during these interchange programs among Can Xalant -the Centre de Creació i Pensament Contemporani de Mataró- and Istanbul Platform Garanti. Within this program, the protagonists of the exhibition have been successively received by the two centers, between 2007 and 2008. The artists' experience in a new city has resulted in reflections and different artworks, autonomous and heterogeneous, which show how each one of them has wanted to approach the new context, to absorb and to become impregnated with the circumstances experienced and transform them into inspiration and critical creative work.

Different materials and techniques -photography, video, sculpture, installation, painting, comic - compose the works presented in the exhibition space. At a first glance, the only common thing among them is the fact that they come from an interchange program; but, at a closer look, an inquiring spirit, this quest for inspiration, becomes evident.

In the work carried out by the curator Montse Romaní, the same inquiry is the base and the nuclear of the project. Chronotopias of Art is a trajectory through the social changes, the cultural and spatial policies of the city of Istanbul between 1987 -the year of the first Istanbul Biennial- and 2010, the year that Istanbul will be the Cultural Capital of Europe. A deep and attentive research has got Montse Romaní to interview more than twenty people from different disciplines linked to social and cultural subject matters of the city of Bosporus. The compilation of a specialized bibliography and a list of independent centers of contemporary art, a selection of documentaries and video-essays by Turkish directors, the organization of a round table with some of the most prominent figures in contemporary Turkish culture, the edition of a fanzine and the carrying out of an installation in the exhibition space of Barcelona, complete and ground this imposing work of observation, research and reflection that the Catalan curator has accomplished during her stay in Istanbul.

The artist Cevdet Erek produced two different works during his residence in Can Xalant. One of them was an interference in the website of Can Xalant, inserting certain images that substituted the ones that previously appeared in the homepage of the website. The other work was a sculpture representing a text that you can only read if you see the reflection of its shadow. The text is a hymn and a homage to all these artists that left their places of origin "to create freely in this heroic struggle for art".

The videos presented by the Kurdish artist Erkan Özgen, the work Origen in particular, reflect over the delicate matter of cultural diversity and the clashes between local identities and national states. The reference to the kurdish/turkish, catalan/spanish, peripheral/central relation is evident and declared.

Istanbul Zombie 2066, the name of the work that came from the collaboration among Mery Cuesta and five comic writers (Ceren, Goksu, Tan, Emir, Cem) could be defined as a collective comic book emerging from the reflections of various minds and the work of various hands. As Mery Cuesta herself notices: "Istanbul Zombie 2066, in general terms, explains the history of a girl who travels to Istanbul to attend the great event Istanbul Cultural Capital of the World 2066. There she meets some comic writers, who, in secret, still work in "traditional" methods, that is, like today. A confusion caused by the leaking of a zombie comic will make a zombie holocaust break loose over Istanbul. Amidst the chaos and the flames, the protagonist will find love in the putrid hands of a Turkish zombie". Beyond the future fiction story, the comic deals with different reflections over the cultural myths of Turkish contemporary society. What stands out in Mery Cuesta's work is not just the "definite product", the comic, but above all the profound research that she has carried out in the subterranean world of the comic book writers of Istanbul.

The encounter between Barcelona and Istanbul constitutes a striking and suggestive euromedasiatic convergence. They both belong to the common macro-territory of the Mediterranean; Barcelona is known for its balance between the peculiar catalan identity and a global accelerated cosmopolitanism, whereas Istanbul represents an ambivalent crossroads that symbolizes, at the same time, the doorway to Asia and the testimony of strong past and future bonds with Europe.

The artists' and curators' activity flows in these hybrid borders, it gets mixed up, it interferes and communicates in these realms of incitement, provocation and infinite creativity.

For this, the value of interchange and the mobility is absolute. Through this the stimulants multiply and the reflective and critical capacity flourishes thanks to new devices capable of producing new theories and new lines of thought. The hegemonic model meets the opposition of a world of differences: a route you can reach through interchange, cultural contamination and intensification of mobility.