Opening: New Cultural Agencies

New Cultural Agencies

Opening on 24 July 2009 at 5pm
Kazımkarabekir Caddesi, Gülensu, Istanbul
A Project by Shahab Fotouhi, Giorgio Giusti, Oliver Heinzenberger, Nikolaus Hirsch, Martin Kirchner, Philipp Misselwitz, Oda Projesi, Kirsten Reibold, Ala Roushan, Ece Sariyuz, Federico Del Vecchio

Curated by Nikolaus Hirsch, Philipp Misselwitz and Oda Projesi

"New Cultural Agencies" seeks to develop contemporary models of cultural collaboration and institutional practice. The project instigates new forms of cooperation between artists, architects, and communities at Istanbul's vast and fast changing periphery. While current planning for the Istanbul Biennial 2009 and Istanbul's European Capital of Culture 2010 celebrations will focus on the historic city center, "New Cultural Agencies" will break out of the cultural bubble and shift focus on the narratives of Istanbulites inhabiting the largely ignored and illegally developed periphery. Here, traditional typologies of cultural institutions – museum, gallery, library, theater - that accumulate in the centre are absent. Hidden to the gaze of an outsider, the apparent void has been occupied by a multitude of new forms of "agency", informal, semi-formal, familial, kinship based, communal, religious, political. The absence of a formal infrastructure has been compensated for through the combined spirit of free agency, self-help and improvisation, or as an expression of simply surviving and coping with.

"New Cultural Agencies" attempts to forge a relationship with local communities, conduct multi-disciplinary field work and eventually develop ideas and visions of how to consolidate specific forms of agency, to imagine and implement prototypes for object collections, oral histories and magazine projects, as well as to plug into the existing infrastructure of one of the major, globally acting cultural institutions such as Platform Garanti in Istanbul's centre. Thus "New Cultural Agencies" will not produce landmark projects of the kind produced in the city centre for 2010. Instead, a multitude of small interventions, new links and forms of mutual access will emerge. The first step is the conversion of a former shop into a quasi-institutional base for multiple agencies in Gülensü-Gülsuyu.

The two neighbourhoods are located to the north of the E-5 highway within Istanbul's Asian Maltepe district. They were illegally established when immigrants from eastern Anatolia (Erzincan, Sivas, Tunceli) arrived in the early 1960s. Soon gecekondus in the area proliferated, forming a dense tapestry, which covers the entire hillside and gradually acquired urban complexity and distinct local identity. Since the 1970s, local activism and solidarity networks formed a unique social tissue, which still endures. This also includes a rich spectrum of collective practices, which provides an insight into the inventiveness, creativity and collective determination to construct alternative cultural infrastructures based on improvisation. Current masterplanning of the municipality seeks to exploit the prime real estate value of the neighbourhood, located within an earthquake safe zone and offering unique panoramic views across the Marmara Sea and Princess Islands. If plans are realized, both neighbourhoods will be replaced with new upmarket housing and most of its inhabitants will be displaced.
Project partners: Platform Garanti/ Garanti Galeri, Mimar Sinan Güzel Sanatlar Üniversitesi, HfBK Städelschule Frankfurt
"New Cultural Agencies" is a non-profit initiative. The project has been made possibly through the generous support of the Allianz Kulturstiftung.