Monday, February 19, 2007

people sketches 1 - yavuz tanyeli, the artist, part I

yavuz tanyeli is my oldest friend, almost from the times we could not hold our peepee. we grew up together. in my book, "growing up" reads as collecting experiments, so when and if the time and opportunity arrive, one can dive into any experience one wills. we played together, we fought together, we formed opinions together -not necessarily the same opinions, of course-, we chased girls together, we stole my father's car and went joyriding together... we even harassed homosexuals together, during the insecure years of our early teens, and almost as divine reprise for our bigotry, we got mauled by fascists together at the end of our teen ages.

when we were kids, we used to go into greengroceries and while i stalled the shopkeeper, yavuz, using the tip of his house keys, would carve the faces of political personalities on water melons. when we left, you'd see about a hundred green suleyman demirels (who was then just warming up as would-be prime minister) and ismet inönüs (atatürk's comrade-at-arms, the co-founder and second president of the republic who, during the heyday of nazism, declared himself the national chief and who at those times, was serving his final months in any public office as pm - he died as an "ordinary" member of parliament) with green smiles.

i finished the ankara college a couple years earlier than yavuz. i went on to the mekteb-i mülkiye (faculty of political sciences) to study international relations and politics, yavuz finally made it to the sanayi-i nefise mektebi (the istanbul academy of fine arts). i became a journalist (wow, this must be the confession hour) and yavuz started off as an illustrator at the bab-ı ali (the sublime porte, actually, the slope that led to the sublime porte on which during the terminal period of the empire, the sadrazam's office, or the prime ministry was located - naturally the power hooked turkish press/media flourished on that road).

in those years, you were lucky to get back home alive, provided you could reach your place of business in the morning. an average of six people were being murdered daily on what passed as a patriotic war between the nationalists (who aped the nazis) and the revolutionaries (who aped them, pretending they were aping che or lenin' s russians). after escaping three lynching attempts, i decided i'd better switch to the academe where at least i had the chance to know why if anybody would kill me. i was beginning to affect (extra) personality deficiencies because people wanted to kill me not because of who i was, not even because of what i had done but just because i happened to be working in an institution that displeased them - regardless of the inherent silliness of that instituiton!

yavuz launched on his career as a professional painter and sculptor, initially spilling on canvas the plight and struggle of the working man, moving slightly toward abstract concepts and designs (which, incidentally, i hate) but eventually finding himself a course, one meandering through forms and colors which he learnt to combine in a unique manner. yavuz's maternal uncle, the late orhan peker, was a famous painter, too, and he was not only an influence but also a teacher to him. i am definitely not an expert, but yavuz's artistic maturation was the mathematical function of a process during which his political(*) weltanschauung crystallized and through the consolidation of ideas, his color sense that peker taught him to perfect developed into a typical methodology of defining form. yavuz developed a unique style to himself that, if there had been enough talent around to understand what he was doing and saying, could have developed into a school which, for once, would have originated in turkey or the orient.

now i can say what i intended to say from the beginning: yavuz tanyeli is the only modern painter in turkey who is of universal value and deserves to be called an artist.

p.s.: yavuz has a web site where he displays his work but his pictures require viewing to appreciate at all. still, a glance is a glance:

(*) not in the general usage of the word but in its original sense derivimng from the word "polis", i.e., pertaining to the modern, social animal.

Friday, February 16, 2007

tame tot of tint

this is a post i started and abandoned weeks ago during artistanbul 2006, istanbul's yearly art "fair" organized by the metropolitan municipality, art gallery owners association and the dream design factory.

oh, how i hate this twisting and wringing of letters into fartsy fantasy nonexistent abracadabra words! playing installation with langauge, making words, the cornerstones of meaning into scrap junkets of that crap-artsy postmodernist handicraft-ism! just like crashing a semi truck head on with a ferrari and obtaining a vehicle that can supposedly haul things at 1000 mph if only it can move to go anywhere!

while language in the form of words devolves or degenerates into communication by sights, motions and raw sounds, similar to what it was 80 million years ago, such diarrheac verbal creativity is becoming more and more faddish. and what to call this fad? it is not hybridization, it is not even bastardization. it certainly is an abomination and can be called awkwardization, though hardly insulting enough to emphasize the inherent abhorrence.

hear that now: art fair? the word "fair" evokes a crowded marketplace with lots of fun going about - the bearded lady, sword swallowers, fire eaters, pickpockets, midgets and happy harlots where craftsmen display their handy skills and spawn. it calls to mind times when art existed not, or rather when it was not differentiated from the crafts. that is a greek tradition where the shoemaker and the sculptor were both dealing with techne, i.e., art - that is, when the shoemaker worked to produce all answers neatly packed and gift wrapped in his product wrought with the mastery that marked his life. art that did not end with a question mark!

for that, in the end, is what art does: ask questions.

touring artistanbul, i was dispirited and bored from observing works that acquiesced so obviously. no questions hung on the walls, to pull you awake, throw all your lights on, incitre you to probe your mind, squirm with the desire to know and the frustration of not knowing whether what you surmised is the right question to the answer you've already discarded! all the gentle and genteel colored canvas on the walls inspired was shushed reverie, deferent and thankful to exist; silent to the complacency of that existence. yet, that is the last thing art should convey - supplicant existence; that is the last thing colors should paint, hypnosis into gratitude.

tots of tame tint, celebrating what is with no revolt, no rebellion, no surge of uprising and no question to start the avalanche. almost as mangled as newfangled word-ishes like artistanbul...

wonder what it would be called is somebody passed the wind while walking those corridors of colored compliance.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

people sketches

while in bodrum, i had to do a lot of manual and menial work in order to ready sarpa for the sea again. a few t-shirts and a totally machine oil spotted jean are now totally discarded, assigned for dirty stuff alone.

manual labor is like therapy at times. it is good to see what you are doing and coming up with, if you are wrong, to correct your mistakes and literally see how you can solve problems. i did all that in a particular mechanical workshop belonging to a particular mechanical genius called niyazi usta (maestro niyazi). bantering and joking with him i realized what an important person he is. how, doing what he must only, he can influence the lives of those around him. then i decided to devote at least some of the posts here to those people who are unknown landmarks in time. i will start with niyazi usta, but have to ask you for patience, these days are a bit hectic at school what with the registrations, haggling with the students over courses and grades, the international organizations and what not.

niyazi usta's workshop is in the organize sanayi sitesi of course. in addition to its total and perennial chaotic organization, the site is located right on top of what is believed to be the hippodromos of ancient halicarnassos. the site was built in 1986 during the heyday of özalism when anything that made money was legitimate even at the expense of law or culture or history and especially fine taste. at the time, the valid laws said you could not develop any area that is possibly an archaelogical site. to determine whether the organize sanayi sitesi was going to be erected on top of historical remains, a team of danish archaelogists were commissioned. the danes concluded after months of initial surveying that some deep research was necessary to assess what was under the earth - they were not certain it was the hippodrome, but something was there. they had to dig for three years before they could tell what it was.

that verdict practically pulled the noose tight on the site's neck. now, a site is usually built by a cooperative, usually pioneered bu local notables and again usually, it serves to provide some sort of unusual benefits for the members of the cooperative, still usually at taxpayers' expense. during özal's reign any obstacle before business was simply intolerable, especially when such local and constituent-pleasing deals were concerned. a solution had to be found!!!

so what was the solution?

simple, of course... a band of turkish archaelogists were summoned. they decreed after three days of shoveling earth that the area was clear, not a historical site and very suitable for the organize site. see how organized an organize sanayi sitesi is built in turkey?

what did the danes say? "oh it's alright," said the chief digger. "if we had begun excavating the ruins would probably end up half exposed due to lack of funds. exposure ruins archaelogical artefacts. this way, they remain buried to be taken out some day with proper planning and funds".

Monday, February 12, 2007


alas, i have been unfaithful for such a long while, oh my swarm of readers, depriving you of the chance to wallow in my wisdom! should i be flogged for that? normally yes, but i have some good news to ransom my way out of that!

i hereby have the pleasure of notifying you that a new scientific - academic entity is officially born, whose focus is the eastern mediterranean, which historically extends to the mesopotamia area. actually, the new institution is a revival of the former institute of middle east studies (imsam) that also was known as “al mamun”. the new one is called imsam - empiricum.

the opening of empiricum, i think, also describes the purpose of the institute, as well as its founders, professor john karkazis of the aegean university of hellas (my preferred name for greece), professor yosi vanunu of the hebrew university of israel and yours truly from the istanbul bilgi university of turkey, who has the honor of being elected president of imsam - empiricum: eastern mediterranean panepistemic institute for research, innovation, cooperation, understanding and mediation.

as the name suggests, we hope that knowledge and science, all sciences (panepisteme) technical and social can be not only an instrument but also a goal in itself to bring about the desired values listed in the name, which in themselves are nothing but a basic path paved toward a life of well being and prosperity for the denizens of the region.

for capital, we have little more than our science, and to an extent, maybe the support of the academic establishments we belong to. and despite the lazy spell i am cruising through since the new year, imsam - empiricum is preparing to launch itself with a conference in bodrum (where else?) hopefully this fall or next spring. details will follow, not only here but in all appropriate media to announce conferences and calls for papers. the topic, i believe, can be a (re)definition of what problems are (rather than what are problems) in the eastern med - mesopotamia region.

but that is for all of us to decide, not me alone.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

æsthesia is infrastructure


because æsthesia (*), as the infrastructure of life is the measure of advanced evolution in individuals and marks the level of the collective capacity to cogitate, of cognition in social beings.

unfortunately, the rules of evolution apply. it is not the survival of the best, it is the survival of the fittest. the best rarely thrive in infrastructural conditions that favor the fit.

(yes, there will be more coming on this)
(*) gr. sense perception

to pooh pooh indoors

i have made it a habit to sit with my back to any city or town i happen to be visiting in turkey. well, of course exceptions occur. back street coffee shops in ayvalık for instance still bring whiffs of ottoman life when together with lesbos and izmir, the town used to be the hub of inndustrial trade in the aegean. in istanbul, i like to watch the historic constantinopolis or kostantiniyya, the palace and the mosques, never failing to admire the majesty of hagia sophia. in ankara, only at night, when the concrete eyesore ghost town is smothered by lights, do i look out the window. here, in bodrum i turn southward always, toward the sea and the hills, also taking the famous castle into the margins of my sight.

the rest is ugly behind the most evil imagination. indeed, as i commented recently, anything touched by human hands looks incredibly hideous. there is no architecture to speak of , an array of distinct and identifying styles of building, that marks the space interpretation of a culture, because there exists no culture to speak of. instead, the towns are replete with the ravings of various so called architects that horrendously mismatch each other, resulting in an æsthetic disaster that is the visual equivalent of cacophony and also exhausting to the senses.

turkey is the victim of terrible bad taste. and there is no foreign power, no capitalist-imperialist conspiracy or non-secular islamist threat to blame this one on. it is plain, unmitigated, epidemic lack of taste. turks love the ugly!

why else would anyone complement 100 year old specimens of popular masonry with rectangular blocks of cinderblock, whitewash them and turn a historical stone house into something a cow would turn its nose at if it were used as her shed?

we turned bodrum into pooh pooh only because bodrumers wanted to pooh pooh under their roofs! the only way they could conceive, with the aid of raving architects, of moving outhouses indoors was to completely tear down centuries-old architecture and chop the trees.

istanbul's demise is not worth a comment. there will always be hordes of barbarians, some of whom these days carry shiny diplomas from prestigious american universities. that is why a 3000 year old city is beginning to look like a desert village in the u.s.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

organize sanayi

today, a paper reported 1000 eucalyptus trees were cut down in iskenderun to make room for an "organize sanayi bölgesi or an organized industrial zone".

now that term, in itself is a key to its own impossibility. it assumes that outside such a zone, "industry" is, by definition, unorganized!

as a matter of fact, when turkey is in question, it is!

i told you before that 65 percent of the population (45 out of 70 million) live in an area that covers about only seven percent of turkey. this triangle is the most developed, urbanized, industrialized etc. region in the country. since, in normal terms, industry implies production for the market and is therefore a rational enterprise, one expects this to be also a highly organized region. all right then, let us run a cursory analysis:

* the auto industry is centered in and around bursa, together with metal industries, textyles, food and so on. bursa used to be one of turkey's primary, intensive, high yield agriculture zones. now the fertile fields are spattered by thousands of "factories" the best of which supply the big auto manufacturers. there is no railroad access to bursa. therefore, instead of shipping thousand or more cars in a single party by train whether for export or home consummption, the hundreds of cars produced are loaded on trucks by dozens at most, and begin cluttering the already congested highways even before they start to roll.
air in bursa is barely breathable. there has been no study conducted yet but it is safe to assume that pollution from the industry has contaminated the agrarian yield as well. most rivers that cross the area are, anyway.

* adapazarı is catching up with bursa. this is also a fertile agricultural zone that is already half laid to industrial waste. i realize the comparative advantage but have difficulty in understanding why it is so hard to plan a combination of the two. adapazarı was a late comer into the boom, well after the need for urban and regional planning had become obvious. but the main motive for its development was abundance of cheap space to build factories - some of which got their land from the government for free. so much for planning, planned development, organization etc. - at least the train station is nearby.

* the izmit - çorlu (thrace) line is the rhineland of turkish industrialization. although the former developed together with its own sensibility to its physical and social environment, the only reason the turkish counterpart prospered is proximity to istanbul. in the beginning, all capital concentrated in istanbul and was invested as geographically close by as possible. there was a human capital accumulation, too. technical infrastructure was the best in turkey, though nevertheless pathetic: suffice to say that in the 60's, thousands of migrants met their death on the ankara-istanbul road, opening the way for the grand anatolian exodus.
there is no need to extrapolate on the current plight of the izmit-çorlu trail. istanbul's perennial traffic mess is symptomatic enough for the lethality of the disease called disorganization.

* last, izmir... still the third largest city in the country, though badly dwindling. it lost its primacy as an alternative industrial center during özal's crusade against local capital in favor of big money in the 80's and 90's. in spite of that, izmir is a dumping ground for thousands of small scale, labor intense, possibly nonproductive, inefficient, polluting industries and a land development craze that surround the town, devour its greenery, conquer its hilltops and cut its breath off. a total lost cause. an iresuscitatable corpse of a city.

thus, even a cursory glance reveals why an ignominy like "organized industrial zone" may be a viable cocept in turkish.

by the way, for the unititated, let me remind that an organized industrial zone is, in fact, a designated area where blocks of rows of not-really-so-large shops or workshops dealing with mechanical and metallic manufacture and repairs; especially, auto repairs, so that the word "sanayi" (industry) has come to mean a conglomeration of car repair shops.

unless all readers have had the good fortune to take their vehicles to a mechanic in a sanayi, allow me to describe them as the muddiest, worst paved, hottest or coldest (depending on season), dirtiest place in whatever town they may be gracing. the traffic in a sanayi is inevitably abominable, with not just cars but also their gutted carcasses strewn along main arteries, trucks unloading heavy metals and machinery on the roads pockmarked by grave size potholes etc.

indeed, an organized industrial zone in turkey is anything, maybe even industrial, too, but alas, never organized.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

forgive me, oh what few readers i have, for i have sinned against you. i promised posts i have not even drafted yet. i have no excuse. just did not feel like it. or rather, i felt like other things.

however, i shall still write about how i think the crowds at hrant dink's funeral were actually petitioning powers-that-are-not by their bodily presence, as they had done once more 10 years ago. i shall also write on islam's æsthetics -or truly, the lack of it- and how that reflects on social relations as "respectfulness" rather than respect for personality. i hope to write on why turkey has become one of the ugliest places on earth wherever human hands have touched. and a post of how we are already losing enis berberoğlu of hürriyet to ankara-ization.

just bear with me please, till i return to the world. after all, we're just a handful chatting amongst ourselves - almost.

brain is worth less than testicles!

i feel like steve mcquinn in the great escape, being hauled back, bound and chained, to the camp after another attempt at freedom. instead of the magic softball he tosses around, though, i only got my proverbial pen. yes, i'm old enough to have seen the movie and admired the man; just don't forget the motorbike scenes he was in!

anyway, being back blogging is not so much of an arrest either, there is yet the ordeals of istanbul to come... i look out the window at the lights of greece and a town, a winter weary town that has bled the cream of its populace which hits highest at about 40-50 thousand plus the tourists, is brighter than kadıköy, population minimum 8 million, watched from my window in karaköy- gateway to the greatest human bordello in europe!

i've been here just over a week, doing real work in mechanics' shops, carpenters' yards and marine docks. the futilityof the mind and/or doing mental work in turkey has become as obvious as the red behind of a rhesus monkey in a cage... i have always marveled at how, in this country, even in a meyhane (turkish taverna or liqueur house, to translate), brain costs less than ram's testicles as a mezée (appetizer, hors d'ouvre)! i have read the papers here much like a visiting foreigner would and man, do i feel like the whole place is like a meyhane! the only article that made sense was urging orhan pamuk to flee the country a.s.a.p.

i concur. not because he'll be safer elsewhere but because, even while he lives, he'll be worthier as a brain than a horny, hairy, horse humping "hero" ready to shoot him; an aberration who loves his country by destroying its valences who should have remained stuck to his father's testicles.

aberration... oh, i'm coming back

i am almost back. end of next week, we'll be ready for the next term.

maybe it is a way of getting old, maybe it is the start of a new search to find more meaning in life (mine of course, not life with a capital "l" which i don't use here anyway!) but i now realize the significance of all small, unimportant, trivial things. not that i used to ignore the things, but i had gotten used to taking their significance for granted. don't give your beloved the customary good nite kiss for no reason once, and you'll realize what i am talking about. nothing really changes, except the way you feel, which, at the end of the day, is everything that matters.

again, maybe it is getting old, maybe it is just a spell in the trenches lying at ambush but i feel that the fewer and the simpler one's interests are, the fuller time seems to have passed. night time fatigue makes sense, even sleep comes easier. chocolate tastes richer, wine smells more fruity, cigarette smoke is more stinging - all because the senses become alert to normallly neglected scattered details.

the irony is, as a social scientists those trivia should really constitute the essence of my work and hence my interest, because any science worth its name is less about normalcy than aberrations; even normalcy has to be defined in reference to aberrations.

i am almost finished with my dinghy, sarpa, though i probably won't have time this once to sail her. the house in bodrum is in shambles and i did not have the energy or the funds to deal with it either. so, it was not really a trip for fun, but it was a fun trip after all, mainly because i convinced myself of the odd idea that education cannot be a system-matter but only and at best an initiation into a structure. from now on i shall try to imitate what a light at sea does, mark not a way but a point, by which any way can be found -even on to the shoals.

an aberration, after all, is not always a mis-signal but often a mis-read-signal. so, i am coming back...