A building ready for demolition in Feneryolu, Kadikoy, on the Asian side of Istanbul, is the unlikely but delightful site of a group exhibition that challenges the notions of displaying art.
“We were told that the building would be torn down in 10-15 days,” says curator and sculptor Begum Tekay. “So we got together and created Mikrotopya in five days, and invited our friends to the opening on November 1.”
As it is, the building that houses the exhibition is still standing and is safe to visit, but has an impending demolition date that is “any day now”.
Tekay is showing TRT World around an abandoned building with no window panes, doors, heating or electricity. The floors are a mixture of broken glass and bricks. You can see the linoleum on the floor of some apartments while remnants of carpet or wood floors remain in others.
Walls on the ground floor and the three floors above are filled with the creative output of sixteen artists, mostly using objects found in the building, with the exception of graffiti and a few other paint-based works.
This is Mikrotopya: available for view “until it’s torn down” to make way for a newer, glossier apartment building, thanks to an urban renewal project. “‘Microtopia’ is primarily a term mentioned in a book, “Relational Aesthetics,” written by French art critic Nicolas Bourriaud. The main meaning of the word “microtopia” is that an artist should arrange ideal but realistic moments instead of seeking imaginary and remote utopian realities”.
Tekay, 29, an artist with a work in the exhibition herself, says it all happened very fast, and that nothing was preplanned. “All the artists came together, worked like bees, and saw each others’ works for the first time at the opening. The exhibition spread by word of mouth, and now we get people stopping by on their way from the grocery store, or who travel great distances within Istanbul just to take a look.”
The former residents attended the opening, and Tekay says the exhibition space held bittersweet memories for them as they walked through their old bedrooms, and hesitated on entering their neighbours’ former apartments.
The building is the furthest thing from the formality of a conventional gallery space or museum, allowing viewers to explore the artwork at their own pace and enjoy their surroundings. Stray cats accompany visitors from room to room, returning affection to those who bend down to pet them.
The exhibition is open daily from 2pm to 6 pm, but if you’re lucky, Tekay may have unlocked the door a few hours earlier. Tekay, whose studio space is in the building next door, says she was able to realise this exceptional exhibition because she hails from the neighbourhood herself, and had relationships with the people who live there.
The contractor allowed Tekay and her colleagues complete freedom. The works do not have a common theme, and are open to interpretation in the best sense of the word. They have been produced using what limited material was found at the site, plus some spray paint and oils. Mikrotopya, in this sense, is an exploratory and experimental space, and the time pressure to see it only adds to the pleasure of having witnessed it.
TRT World recommends art lovers in Istanbul to go and see Mikrotopya at their earliest convenience - after all, the building that houses it is here today, gone tomorrow. Mikrotopya highlights the transient nature of many beautiful things in our lives.
The artists who have contributed to the exhibition are: Batikan Bostanci, Begum Tekay, Burak Cizer, Erdost Yildirim, Esra Enis, Hamid Binandeh, Hur, Mad, Mre, Muhittin Can, Nasa, Serror, Sinem Yeniaras, Songul Girgin, Suleyman Engin, and Pan. The address is Feneryolu Mah. Atilay Sokak No: 14, Istanbul.
Thumbnail photo: The work of Muhittin Can
Headline photo: The exterior of Atilay Sokak No: 14