This year, the Turkish Pavilion, newly established in a large old warehouse space in the Arsenale, takes the city of Istanbul over the last 50 years as its focus, in order to explore Rem Koolhaas’ theme of the absorption of modernity. In this it deliberately takes the very subjective perspective of personal memory as its starting point, in particular those of curator Murat Tabanlıoğlu, an architect, who grew up in the city in the 1960s and has witnessed its changing face.
Choosing three neighbourhoods he has known since childhood, from the dense inner city to another rapidly developing area nearer the periphery, he and curator Pelin Derviş selected five artists, architects and photographers to represent aspects of these three areas, weaving their own experiences and memories onto the city. The resulting installation is a graphic, multi-layered one, from the superscale of Alper Derinboğaz’s three dimensional reliefs of the city fabric, juxtaposed with Serkan Taycan’s large format photographs of urban squares, to Ali Taptik shots of the rich tapestry of adaptation and use, seen on city corners and in modernist office blocks, and Metehan Özcan’s intimate apartment interiors, set against a sound piece from the city streets by Candaş Şişman.
The installation is all centrally knitted together by the history of one building - the Atatürk Cultural Centre on Taksim Square – the history of which is traced along the central spine of the pavilion. Originally planned as the new classical-style opera house for the city in 1946, it eventually opened after many economic and political ups and downs as a showcase modernist cultural centre, with an extraordinary aluminium façade, only to burn down almost immediately, and then be reconstructed. In 2008, it was closed for refurbishment, but the empty building became a nexus of the Taksim Square protests in 2013, with its façade used iconically as a backdrop from which to hang banners. Ever since it has been boarded up and occupied by the police, who have built a temporary police station in front. This brings the collective memory together with the personal, because the architect of the Atatürk Cultural Centre was Hayati Tabanlıoğlu, Murat’s father, who often used to visit the building site as a boy.
We talked to Murat Tabanlıoğlu about how he had approached the exhibition.
– Rob Wilson