• People

    last stand

    This week Turkey and the world were inspired by one man’s silent, six-hour protest performed in Taksim Square. Standing Man was a truly beautiful statement made by choreographer Erdem Gunduz which went viral within hours of his performance. Better yet it has since inspired thousands of others around Turkey and the world like the woman above. I’ve been thinking a lot about why this protest resonated so powerfully, and I got my answer when I visited Taksim square the other day. Politics, especially in Turkey, is dominated by middle-aged, finger-pointing bullies. It’s less and less about the content of the argument, and more about how successfully you can shout down your opponent. This afternoon the Mayor of Ankara denounced a Turkish journalist working for the BBC as a spy and is attempting to conduct a Twitter campaign against her. One TV station composed a fake interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.…

  • People

    authority vs. creativity

    One of the many things that has been remarkable about this uprising is its ability to unite people from different backgrounds, interests and needs. The aspect that seems to run across the board and unite them too is the humour and creativity that they use in order to rise up and fight back. It’s probably not what’s said about the Prime Minister that really gets to him, but the fact that despite being tear-gassed and water-cannoned, many still won’t take him seriously. His victims find new ways to celebrate and laugh, to take the sting out of his vindictive anger and then share it across the internet. True creativity depends upon finding new ways to express a universal truth. While the story presented may or may not be factually accurate, a successful joke or story gives us a new way to connect with people by allowing us to feel the…

  • People

    a friendly revolution?

    Could this be the most civil of civil uprisings? Not that I have a great deal of experience with such happenings, but indulge me if I’m inclined to think so. With the exception of insults hurled at Turkey’s Prime Minister, everyone behind the Occupy Gezi Park movement is being remarkably kind and relaxed. Before entering the AKM Building (Atatürk Cultural Centre) through a break in the hoarding, a dangling cardboard sign warns that the structure is not strong and you might think twice about entering. Incidentally, this building was once used as a vantage point for snipers in the 1970s to target left-wing protestors and is now being used for this generation’s resistance to hang banners and host jazz performances aimed at uplifting today’s protestors — a nice bit of irony. Not that there’s much need. Nothing seems able to stop this jubilant crowd. All around Taksim their are people of…

  • People,  Places

    what’s next, turkey?

    Yesterday people of all sorts gathered to continue the celebration of a victory in Taksim Square and Gezi Park. Left-wing, right-wing, liberal, conservative, nationalist, socialist … you name them. There was a constant flow of Turkish citizens of every age, ethnicity and subculture. There are banners with socialist slogans, nationalist slogans flying next to the rainbow GLBT flags everywhere. People pose to have their pictures taken on burned-out police cars and buses, while some diligent protestors sweep up the rubble and debris nearby. Some of it is theirs, some of it the police’s. However, this feels like a major victory for peaceful protestors who were violently abused by their police force and government (see previous post). It’s a strange victory, though, because it’s not being acknowledged as a defeat by the man and he government they took on. What started as a minor protest for a small park has rolled…

  • Art / Design / Craft,  People

    briken aliu’s guitars

    I’ve always admired people who can make music. There’s something about them, as if their minds existed  in two or more universes simultaneously. Which makes me think that the people who craft musical instruments for professionals must be  attuned to some truly special wavelengths. On Friday I happened to meet such an exceptional guy, someone who has been creating instruments since his mid-teens. While he’s now approaching 30, he has the keen gleam in his eye of someone who is making a living doing exactly what he loves. A self-described “gypsy” originally from Albania, Briken Aliu came to Istanbul with no friends and no Turkish as a teenager and has since set himself up as a preeminent musical instrument artisan, first apprenticing with Murat Sezen. While the economy has had an impact on his trade, at any one time he’s working on at least 6-7 projects, including a remake of a guitar…

  • Art / Design / Craft,  People

    workshop wonderland

    Yesterday I had an all too brief glimpse into the mind of one of the most fascinating creatives in Istanbul — someone who successfully blurs the line between art, architecture, design and craft — in what might well be the most distinctive style I’ve seen anywhere in years. At some point I will have to do a full exploration and profile of Sema Topaloglu’s Cibali workshop and showroom. Her work environment is a veritable wonderland of organic shapes and materials, prototypes and projects. You’d almost think you were standing in a special effects workshop for a motion picture, except that the materials are not made of foam and cardboard, and she’s not creating illusions, so much as fabricating a new physical reality in media such as Black Sea hardwood, raw iron, glass and marble. There are huge mushroom lamp models, wood blocks representing a neighbourhood planning project she’s working on, multi-level…

  • People

    some press

    Elle Turkey did a 2-page story on my office style for May, which was generous of them on two fronts. First because I don’t really have an office. Second because they believe a scruffy looking fellow in a beaten-up hat has style. The title of the piece is “I don’t believe in rules.” This probably explains how the sole heir to my grand empire, a young lady possessing superior style, managed to charm both the Elle editor and photographer and steal the spotlight. Nice work, Sof.

  • People

    three friends

    One minute you’re crying because they’re pulling your hair. The next minute you’re crying with laughter. And last of all you cry because they’re leaving. Friendship, like childhood, should be endless, don’t you think?

  • Books & Lit,  People

    konstandinos p. kavafis

    Ιδανικές φωνές κι αγαπημένες εκείνων που πεθάναν, ή εκείνων που είναι για μας χαμένοι σαν τους πεθαμένους. Κάποτε μες στα όνειρά μας ομιλούνε· κάποτε μες στην σκέψι τες ακούει το μυαλό. Και με τον ήχο των για μια στιγμή επιστρέφουν ήχοι από την πρώτη ποίησι της ζωής μας — σα μουσική, την νύχτα, μακρυνή, που σβύνει. (Από τα Ποιήματα 1897-1933, Ίκαρος 1984) Voices, loved and idealized, of those who have died, or of those lost for us like the dead. Sometimes they speak to us in dreams; sometimes deep in thought the mind hears them. And with their sound for a moment return sounds from our life’s first poetry— like music at night, distant, fading away. Yesterday was one of many special days in Yeniköy when the Neo Hellenic poet C.P. Cavafy was commemorated by a huge crowd. Rather than write at length about the experience, I thought I’d post…

  • People

    luminous days

    April. The days deluged in light. The people, the city, everything is suspended on it. They are floating. The air, the smell it carries have changed him back. Seeing the young gather at the ferry ports in Kadikoy and Besiktas on a Friday evening while he waits, he remembers the days when the world was so swollen with the promise of tomorrow and it was all destined to fall into his lap like ripe fruit. Not a shadow touched him. The air, the light, rang with so many victories. How could such a beautiful universe disappoint him? It simply wasn’t possible. Luminous days. Why do they now feel like hours?