‘Mahalle@İzmir’ is a project in which artists living in different neighborhoods of İzmir were invited to interpret the concept of mahalle (neighborhood) by photographing their neighborhoods and, therefore, to visualize different lived experiences of the neighborhood in a metropolis like İzmir as we are approaching the end of the first quarter of the 21st century. The project is enriched by written contributions of academics, researchers and cultural professionals with a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds who approached the concept of mahalle from different perspectives. ‘Mahalle@İzmir’ is a collaborative project by HAYY Open Space and Geniş Açı Project Office [GAPO] realized with support from Spaces of Culture and took place from October to December 2020,
‘Mahalle@İzmir’ aims to document the lived experiences of the neighborhood through different lenses -private/public life, belonging, shared experiences, socialization, transformation of the nature by humans, construction, urbanization, cultural heritage, and collective memory- against the backdrop of the transforming social and physical cosmopolitan texture of Izmir in the last century. ‘Mahalle’ project was launched by GAPO under the Istanbul European Capital of Culture Portable Arts program in 2009 with the participation of 6 artists and relaunched with the ‘Geniş Açı: From the Magazine to the Project Office’ exhibition at Depo in 2018 with the participation of 13 artists. ‘Mahalle@İzmir’ brings the initial concept of the project to Izmir and invites 9 artists living in 8 culturally and geographically distinct neighborhoods to closely examine their relationship to these neighborhoods while using photography as a medium. Their works are shaped around these connections, or the lack thereof.
Gözde Yenipazarlı interprets the concept of neighborhood through the recently renovated coastline where residents of the neighborhood meet to socialize or exercise at night and peddlers sell food while street musicians play music to them. In a similar manner, Esin İlmen and U. Oluş Beklemez tell the story of a central neighborhood, Karantina, focalizing on the recently inaugurated square -after the traffic was redirected underground- and the residents’ new socialization practices there. Next you will find Karataş neighboring Karantina whose geography requires long and steep stairs. These stairs and people who use them daily are the starting point of Mert A. Çakır’s work. Koray Aykanat traces the atmospheric feeling of loneliness in the neighborhood of Gaziemir -a stage to rapid transformation- from the lack of connection he feels to the neighborhood. Sinan Kılıç, who has felt a similar disconnect in the neighborhoods he had resided, speaks of a certain story being established between him and Yeşilyurt, his home for the past 3 years, and his neighbors since he started photographing his neighborhood. Aslıhan Güçlü documents the process of urbanization - the intense construction intertwined with striking natural diversity and how human interventions are transforming nature in Çiğli. On the other hand, Ali Cem Doğan, a constituent of Darağaç Collective in Umurbey neighborhood, photographs details from the neighborhood and portraits of its residents waiting for the transformation to hit soon. Last but not least, Aliye Erkurtulgu tells us about her experience in Dumlupınar neighborhood, where she was born, from a location she considers safe, her terrace. She does not leave her terrace due to personal reasons and the pandemic which gives her observations a voyeuristic quality.
Due to the pandemic measures, all events under the scope of this project took place online, including editing/mentoring sessions with the artists and other public sessions. The first of these public events was the ‘Artist Talks’ where eight of the participants from ‘Mahalle’ projects in 2009 and 2018 shared their experiences. It was followed by the ‘Public Seminars’ led by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Neslihan Demirtaş Milz, who explores subjects at the intersection of political science, sociology and geography, and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Tonguç Akış, who focuses on urban spaces, architecture training, and basic design.
Another event revolved around transforming the instagram page of the project into an exhibition space with the goal to interact more closely with the viewers through ‘instagram takeovers’. Project artists took over the instagram account for 2 or 3 days not only to share some of the photos which are not shown here but also spontaneous stories from their neighborhood, and snippets of their wide-ranging muses from photography to literature, to cinema and music. Looking ahead, the instagram account will remain active with posts from residents of the neighborhoods who continue their practices under the mentorship of the artists and from other surprise contributors. Make sure to follow the account!
Proje coordinators: Refik Akyüz & Serdar Darendeliler [GAPO], Ayşe Gür & Saliha Yavuz [HAYY]
Artists: Ali Cem Doğan, Aliye Erkurtulgu, Aslıhan Güçlü, Esin İlmen & U.Oluş Beklemez, Gözde Yenipazarlı, Koray Aykanat, Mert A. Çakır, Sinan Kılıç
Editors: Refik Akyüz & Serdar Darendeliler
Writers: Altuğ Akın & Burak Doğu, Cansu Pelin İşbilen, Neslihan Demirtaş Milz, Tonguç Akış
Design: Serdar Darendeliler
Turkish-English translations: Aren Fındık, Ayşe Aydoğan, Deniz İnal