The different traces left by various people and slices of time co-exist as layers in cities that have a particular past. The global trends and economical conditions strain this multi-layered traditional urban structure. An architecture with a language that cannot be considered as local anymore but universal, attacks the old texture of cities during the urban growth. This intervention usually implemented through gentrification supported by big capital, causes the urban tissue and its components to face mutation and even beyond this, undergo metamorphosis. Following this interaction and consecutive natural selection, some constituents disappear and some survive after being transformed.
The concept of “muta-morphosis”, a combination of the notions of mutation and metamorphosis, and the connected artwork series was obtained by reducing panoramic images on one axis. The image compression on the horizontal level points to the dynamics between the urban components that can persist and the ones that give up, vanish in the various historical, residential and business urban districts. The visual urban result obtained after this contraction process points to the much discussed notion of evolution, where stronger components of existence survive the others after a natural selection process and change the course of life.
Muta-morphosis series fits contents of multiple glances into one. These photographs are of documentary kind, there is no conscious insertion or removal of any details during post-production; mere components that disappear are the ones that get lost in horizontal compression. The photographical expression in the series is actually a synopsis of piecemeal words that remain in my mind during the visits to various cities. In other words, it is like a video footage that includes jerky movements of a typical stop-motion study that has dropped frames and no smooth continuity. The lack of a single perspectival structure due to multiplicity of perspectives after panoramic imaging, can be linked to Ottoman miniatures, which in turn, connects the global contemporary representation to its local traditional counterpart.
Web sites, publications, auction, venues, art fairs, events at which Muta-morphosis series is covered:
– Metropol TV channel / http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efugedrEjFY
– TRT (Turkish National Radio Television channel)
– Ekavart TV (online TV) / http://bit.ly/th5rQU
Both previous “Muta-morphosis” and present “Facsimile” series focus on the perpetual transformation of the urban scenes. While the older series, “Muta-morphosis”, maximizes the urban content by shrinking very long panoramic photos into a photographic frame with a typical ratio, “Facsimile”, on the other hand, extends certain parts of cities to attract attention to particular dynamics among various urban components. In this context, it is possible to consider “Muta-morphosis” series as a “broad” body of work, which rather focuses on the egalitarian aspect of all urban zones that form a city; and “Facsimile” series as a relatively “narrower” body of work where certain urban zones disappear in order to make the hierarchy of cities visually more legible.
Cities may seem to grow only upwards, but they actually accommodate two different worlds: First being the obvious Überland, the city over the ground level; and the other Unterland, the underground. Even though soundly developed metropolises have a very intricate and large underground infrastructure, the most lived, experienced and perceived urban world appears to be the one above: Überland. Unterland is usually ignored, misperceived, underestimated and not particularly pleasing by many; since the times we spend in the Unterland is usually temporary and we do not reside there.
The “Facsimile” series is obtained by selecting a single horizontal line, very close to the horizon, which happens to be the threshold between Überland-Unterland and extending this line towards the bottom. The visual result of this extension, composed of thousands of thin and thick vertical lines in numerous colors, refers to the various chrono-layers that a city accommodates in its history. In addition, the same optical effect happens to graphically illustrate the fact that what remain at the top of city skylines are what rule the city. While the individual citizens’ relatively smaller homes get erased and become part of the heterogeneous line entity of the Unterland, institutional and corporate edifices stay intact. The vertical lines also refer to the erratic fax message glitch aesthetic that happens when the telephone line, in other words communication drops. This refers to the lack of communication between the corporatized, gentrified and the residential areas of cities.
“Facsimile Vol.2” carries the presence and basis of existence of cities to a different dimension. The dissolution that existed between the Überland and Unterland in the first version; transforms into a tension in Vol.2, between urban-rural, in other words between human-nature.
People push the city they daily abuse as a plateau of ambitions aside at night and retreat back to their homes, in order to relieve their fatigue stemming from everyday hubbub. It is the city’s turn to take the stage, though it is dark, the city metaphorically shines. The possible ambiguity in timestamping these photos that describe a lucid obscurity is aimed to point to the transience of human beings and the timelessness of cities.
Turkey has proved to be one of the fast developing countries until the end of 2013. The economic boom, that started to stagnate by 2014, was accompanied by a very large construction activity. Turkey is a country where major earthquakes took / still take place. The new intense construction activity was called “urban transformation” by the government and the claim was to replace the worn building stock that cannot survive strong earthquakes. As the transformation developed, it turned out this building activity was more meant for excessive profit and not better urban environments. Cities of high historical significance like Istanbul were affected by this fierce, ruthless construction activity. The skylines of various neighborhoods in Istanbul started to be disrupted by high-rise buildings; some communal green areas were relentlessly sacrificed for inhumane housing projects.
The same government, which laid the foundations to this profit based construction, also allowed many private companies (that are very well connected to the state) initiate hundreds of hydroelectric power plant (HEPP) projects all around Turkey. The strategy is the same: Start tens of projects concurrently at once, including illegal attempts, so that activists who are the only ones to protect the nature can obstruct only a few, due to limitations of time and means. In addition, the unnecessary and superfluous number of HEPP constructions causes excessive man-made land transformation and irreconcilable devastation in nature, therefore leads to disorder and/or loss in microclimate, flora, fauna, agriculture and consequently income.
The government claims that all these HEPPs are built for the energy need of the economically growing country. If we look at the percentage of hydroelectric power generation in leading developed countries from various continents of the world, which started to deploy renewable energy sources like sun and wind, we can see that the fraction of almost outdated HEPP technology in total energy production is quite minimal: 3.5% in Germany, 4% in Japan and 6.4% in the U.S. While the gain is so minimal the loss is massive: Collapse of indigenous ecosystems, deficiency of fertile lands, increase in temperature and humidity due to decrease of water flow rate to the point stagnancy, increase in methane emission as a greenhouse gas, catastrophical aftermaths like demolition of dams after disasters such as earthquakes or floods, loss of motherland, reminiscences and memories due to population transfer after relocation of settlements to be inundated by the huge dam lakes.
The real friends of water, who have direct access to water in rural areas, and activists are convinced that HEPP constructions are mainly intended for privatization of water rights, and not energy production. The hopeful part is that there is fortunately a lot of local resistance originating from native activists and others coming from metropolises to support them.
This series is an ongoing study, it has already eaten a relatively large amount of self-sponsored budget and some geographical locations in Turkey could not be covered. There is need for financial support in order to be able to make this investigation sustainable. The fact that the initial phase of the study was exhibited very recently (exhibition opened on the 25th of March, 2015) gave me the hope that I could be the voice of the local activists, help them disseminate the severity of the situation and finally raise awareness by attracting national and international attention to this matter.
Next wars will be fought over water, not oil.
Shanghai-Istanbul / Erasing memory
Fracture between the past and the present: Deconstruction by construction
China and Turkey are obviously developing intensely and becoming two of the strong economies in the world. The development in both countries is accompanied by a very large construction activity, which is usually seen as the locomotive of economy. Yet it seems that this construction proceeds way faster than necessary and cities, urban cultures of historical significance like Istanbul and Shanghai are damagingly affected by this fierce, ruthless construction activity.
The skylines of various neighborhoods in Shanghai and Istanbul started to be disrupted by high-rise buildings; small communal green areas, parks and small-scale humane streets are relentlessly sacrificed for inhumane building projects. Though the typical alliance of state/capital claims to be conservative, not much is conserved at the end; cities as we remember, integral values, traditional urban corners, natural resources are all gone: This can be shortly described as "erasing memory..."
This series of photographs, mostly taken in 2014, depict the current situation in Istanbul and Shanghai, by trying to show the comparable deep gap in between what China and Turkey used to be and where they are leading to nowadays.
Photography is an opportunity to find things people ignore, bring them forward to make them reconsider their opinions. I am not interested in extraordinariness as it always receives attention due to unending interest in celebrities, sensation. I try to concentrate more on ordinary things and catch possible latent extraordinariness in regularity. I attempt to defamiliarize ordinariness, render it ambiguous by alienating it from its familiar context and finally make people to ‘see it afresh.’
Photography records the surface information, where one can only depict the exterior features of objects and the resulting visual representation cannot always incorporate the internal soul. This is why I sometimes aim to make photos that carry the many traces of time, multiple dimensions of space and finally create photos usually invisible to the naked eye. The basic idea is to form a personal visual accumulation through time, space that supposedly give us more insight than a single photograph.
Murat Germen is an artist using photography as an expression / research tool. He has an MArch degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he went as a Fulbright scholar and received AIA Henry Adams Gold Medal for academic excellence. Works as a professor of art, photography and new media at Sabanci University in Istanbul. Having many articles / photo series published on architecture / photography / art / new media at various magazines / books; he has been accepted to several symposia / conferences like SIGGRAPH, ISEA, Towards a Science of Consciousness, CAe, CAC2, EVA-London, eCAADe, ASCAAD to lecture on pertinent topics. Has opened over seventy inter/national (Turkey, USA, Italy, Germany, UK, Mexico, Portugal, Uzbekistan, Greece, Japan, Russia, Iran, India, France, Canada, Bahrain, Korea, Dubai, China, Sweden, Switzerland, Egypt) exhibitions. The artist is represented by artON Istanbul in Turkey, ARTITLED Contemporary in the Netherlands-Belgium and Rosier Gallery in San Francisco. More than 300 editions of the artist’s several artworks are in personal collections of eminent art collectors inter/nationally, in addition to a few that are in Istanbul Modern’s and Proje4L Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art (Istanbul) collections.
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