Salt Galata

  • June 7th, 2012

    Yesterday I decided I wanted to experience the audio exhibit Translated By, a series of 13 performed excerpts from books, and one original piece, by various writers about different cities and landscapes, some imagined, an exhibit sponsored by the British Council. For the most part, I’m glad I did, although I must admit I skipped over a few whose writing or narration style grated after a couple of minutes. As you tour about Salt Galata, you don your headphones and tune into a numbered channel, one for Istanbul, Tokyo, Baku, the Metaverse—you get the idea—and listen to a passage written about each of these places. I’d recommend it if you have some time.

    However, when I wasn’t absorbed in these orally rendered landscapes I found myself wondering about the physical space I was in. Ever feel that you really want to like a place but instead leave uncertain what to think? That’s how I feel about Salt Galata. When I first heard about the project, I was truly excited by the notion of such a space, but after several visits I’m still left a little cold. There’s something disjointed about it — there are many likable aspects, yet somehow they don’t seem to tie together. It’s to Garanti Bank’s credit that they financed this renovation of the old Ottoman Bank Building and turned it into a public space for research. It’s tastefully done, and I’m especially grateful that they didn’t over-brand it.

    At the end of my audio tour I decided to refresh myself at CA’D’ORO, the restaurant space. This is where the experience really falls apart for me. Cultural institutions need to make money, and a good way to do that is to offer a worthwhile dining/drinking experience to bring in revenue. The view is good, the tablecloths pressed, but there’s something about the attitude here, the pretense, that just doesn’t work. It was the middle of the day, but even so, there was a vibrancy lacking.

    Overall I think that’s the difficulty with Salt Galata. It’s a bit hard-edged. Whether you’re using the archives, or going to the cafe, my impression is there’s something not entirely welcoming about this space. Still, I really want to like it. What do you think?

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