‘Istanbuls Today’: Pera Museum’s exhibition visually narrates city

Web Desk

ISTANBUL : Pera Museum’s latest photography exhibition unfurls thousand of facets of the megacity Istanbul, playing on memory and change, exploring the extraordinary and mundane

In its newest exhibition “Istanbuls Today,” the city’s Pera Museum collates contemporary visual narratives of Istanbul into a creative visual interpretation of the city today. The exhibition features the work of 11 photographers who live in Istanbul and offer striking snapshots of the city in their unique styles.

The new exhibition of the Suna and Inan Kıraç Foundation Pera Museum, “Istanbuls Today” brings together recent works of 11 photographers under various themes as the photography exhibition touches the artists’ way of interpreting the city as a personal interaction space while exploring oddities of a city that are as mundane and extraordinary.

The themes range from the city’s topography of emptiness, loneliness, eeriness and incongruousness to its socio-political dynamics, the migration issue that has become more evident in the last decade, to young people who took refuge in Istanbul to avoid marginalization.

From the series
From the series “Auto-Orientalism” by Ekin Özbiçer. (Pera Museum Photo)

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

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 city residents, but also on its topography and built environment, current social/political dynamics, ecological challenges, its mundanely extraordinary oddities, alternative cultures, the issue of migration which has intensified in the last decade but was always a part of the city’s story.

Meanwhile, many authors who studied, contemplated, and fictionalized the city of Istanbul in their works, draw inspiration from the photographs on display in the exhibition in their articles, adding yet another layer to both the exhibition and its catalog.

Memory and change

A selection of photographs that examine social movements in the city, Istanbul’s relatively new recreational areas and how people form relations with these, the transformation in the middle and lower-class neighborhoods surrounding Galata, Keçi and Cendere streams at the intersection of Kağıthane and Şişli districts, locations that once served as the epicenter of modernity in the Ottoman Empire and remained relatively pristine until the rapid development spurt in recent years.

From the series
From the series “Auto-Orientalism” by Ekin Özbiçer. (Pera Museum Photo)

Taking refuge in Istanbul

Some works focus on the lives of people who have arrived in Istanbul to find a place where they can live and be as they will, free from family and social pressure, and the stigmatization they face in the social hierarchy, but ultimately face the risk of being trapped in the very sanctuary they found in the city. On the other hand, by collecting and hoarding volatile, often ephemeral fragments of Istanbul into collections the artists unfurl the highly complex, somewhat gloomy, somewhat playful, but always curious bond they have established with the city.

With the city of Istanbul as his main source of inspiration, one of the artists, Erdem Varol has a distinctive style where he gets as close as he can to the animate/inanimate subjects he encounters in the streets of the city, and “blows them out” with the flash of his camera. He 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 – through spontaneous mise-en-scènes – on the social changes that have marked the last 10 to 15 years in Türkiye on the scale of Istanbul.

The “Istanbuls Today” exhibition will be on display at the third-floor exhibition hall of the Pera Museum until April 30, 2023.

Courtesy: Dailysabah