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Human societies are intrinsically dualistic by nature, Few cities illustrate this more than Istanbul, which, particularly in it’s 20th century history has often been caught between competing polarities. The unique geographic division, divided as it is between the continents of Europe and Asia, mirrors the competing directions that it’s society and culture is pulled in. The sculpture Istanbul primarily focuses on the period in the cities history from 1923 to the 1970s. The sculpture incorporates selected texts from the novel “A mind at Peace by Ahmet Tanpinar. This novel examines the difficult transitional years following the collapse of the Ottoman empire and the search for direction in the newly re established Turkish nation. After Kemal Attaturk overthrew allied occupying forces in 1923, he founded a modern secular state and decreed a language change in 1928 to the modern Turkish alphabet. The nation struggled with the implications of a more or less complete language change that was implemented in just four years. In the following decades Istanbul struggled with the loss of prominence and empire. Amidst the economic stagnation and urban decline a profound gloom and depression descended on the city. “A mind at Peace” written in 1949 poetically depicts and expounds upon these transitional years.
The section of Istanbul across the Golden horn is comprised of the poetry of Yahya Kemal, 1884 – 1958 prominent Turkish poet and politician, whose works reflected and reworked the Ottoman poetic heritage into the contemporary period in which he lived. He in a sense put forward Istanbul atsthe people’s greatest work of art. The language used is the modern Turkish language in this case and the cut out text on the facing walls reads “I looked at you from another hill dear Istanbul! I know you like the back of my hand” The smaller section of the sculpture is the Asian side with poems in the original Ottoman Arabic texts from Esrar Dede 1748 to 1796 and Sheyh Galib 1757 1799. The facing text by Esrar Dede here reads “In the ruins, in the tavern what is built, endures. Outside monuments, civilizations lie collapsed, destroyed”
The legacy of the Ottoman empire spread into all corners of the middle east, and what is currently perceived of as Islamic and middle eastern art is generally derived and based in the Ottoman expression. The space that is the area occupied by The Bosphorous is filled by a watercolor painting, this painting is taken from the tiles on the wall revetments in the Mosque of Rustem Pasha in Istanbul. Suspended over the top of this is a cut out Islamic pattern which echoes the forms found all across Istanbul and the middle east.Istanbul is city that has been through many incarnations and is currently changing very rapidly, something that I myself have witnessed on several visits over three decades.