‘Istanbuls Today’: A thousand facets of megacity Istanbul

‘Istanbuls Today’: A thousand facets of megacity Istanbul

‘Istanbuls Today’: A thousand facets of megacity Istanbul

In a new exhibition called “Istanbuls Today,” the Pera Museum collates contemporary visual narratives of Istanbul into a creative visual interpretation of the city today.

The exhibition, which opened on Dec. 23, features work by 11 photographers who live in Istanbul and offer striking snapshots of the city in their unique styles. The exhibition touches on the artists’ way of interpreting the city as a personal interaction space while exploring the oddities of a city that are as mundane as they are extraordinary.

“Istanbuls Today” is a narrative about the city’s state of flux and transformation, according to exhibition curators Refik Akyüz and Serdar Darendeliler.

“These last 25 years has been an interesting period during which Istanbul has physically grown many-fold, consequently undergoing a cultural change and losing or surrendering its culture due to internal and external migration, gentrification, urban transformation and political atmosphere - topics explored in the exhibition. And Istanbuls Today is a photography exhibition crafted to collect current narratives about this state of change and transformation in Istanbul, hoping to establish a layered view of the city’s present and create a considerable repository for future retrospective looks.”

According to Akyüz and Darendeliler, the exhibition takes cross-sections of the city to serve as examples of the various Istanbuls experienced today. While doing so, the artists focus not only on the lives of the residents of the city, but also on its topography and built environment, current social/political dynamics, ecological challenges, its mundanely extraordinary oddities, alternative cultures, and the issue of migration, which has intensified in the last decade but was always a part of the city’s story.

Memory and change

Emin Özmen, one of the artists in the exhibition, offers a selection of photographs that examine social movements in the city, from the Gezi Park protests, a key milestone in Istanbul’s urban memory and recent Turkish history, to today.

Documenting social change in Türkiye for over two decades, Kerem Uzel joins the exhibition with photographs taken on the proposed route of the Istanbul Canal, a politically and ecologically controversial artificial channel project that will connect the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara.

Osman Bozkurt takes a look at Istanbul’s relatively new recreational areas, the rural aesthetics that has come to dominate the city, unsustainable urban landscapes, and how people form relationships with these.

Ali Taptık examines the transformation in the middle- and lower-class neighborhoods surrounding Galata, Keçi, and Cendere streams at the intersection of the districts of Kağıthane and Şişli, an area that once served as the epicenter of modernity in the Ottoman Empire and remained relatively ‘pristine’ until the rapid development spurt in recent years.

Ahmet Sel joins with works that deal with the issue of “migration,” a key topic of contention in recent years for both Istanbul and Türkiye at large.

Taking refuge in Istanbul

In her long-running photography series, Cansu Yıldıran focuses on the lives of people - and in a sense, of her own acquired family - who have arrived in Istanbul to find a place where they can live and be as they will free from the pressure of their families and society and the stigmatization they face in the social hierarchy, but ultimately face the risk of being trapped in the very sanctuary they have found in the city.

Silva Bingaz is an artist who treats and interprets Istanbul as a space of personal experience. As a photographer, she dislikes documenting and depicting things as they appear to craft seemingly nice photographs constrained within their own form, relying instead on her instincts and the feelings she conveys through the lens of her camera.

Kıvılcım Güngörün is a collector/photographer who wanders the streets of the city collecting and hoarding volatile, often ephemeral fragments of Istanbul into collections which she uses to describe the highly complex, somewhat gloomy, somewhat playful, but always curious relationship she has established with the city.

Ci Demi is a true Istanbul photographer. In all of his works, he focuses on the familiar peculiarities of Istanbul, chasing an energy he describes as sinister.

With the city of Istanbul as his main source of inspiration, Erdem Varol joins the exhibition with a collection of photos that visualize Istanbul, often humorously, on the seesaw between East and West, tradition and modernity, and crowds and solitude.

Ekin Özbiçer takes an orientalist look at both herself and her city as a member of a relatively westernized middle class, reflecting on the social and political changes that have marked the last 10 to 15 years of Türkiye a time of growing privatization, commoditization, and conservative values, on the scale of Istanbul.

The exhibition will be on display through April 30, 2023.

Turkey, Art,