May 7, 2014

Neighbourhoods as microcosms: Istanbul for exemple

Valais School of Art (EDHEA)
Sibylle Omlin, Istanbul 2014.

The town of Istanbul
Istanbul is going through many globalizing developments since the last decades and this globalizing process is even accelerated these days. The city almost explodes with new construction projects, shopping malls arise from the ground at a rapid pace, buildings are being built or renovated in the historic center, high-rise office and residential buildings (social mass housing and gated communities) are built at the borders of town. Large billboards announce ‘shopping fest’ and the opening of many commercial chain companies.

Therefore it is very interesting to see how, in the current globalizing urban developments, politics and social changes, all the different layers of pasts of Istanbul are considered and dealt with nowadays by various individuals, groups and authorities, leading to a kind of gentrification of the place.

Current urban developments in Istanbul
The emergence of new service sectors, including tourism, culture, and real estate development is part of this economic change, in direct relation with the emergence of a new urban elite (higher middle class) looking for nice and safe places to live. This causes a movement of higher income groups to low income neighbourhoods in the historical centre of Istanbul gentrification, changing the social composition and the physical environments also. In this way a gentrification process generally continues until the ‘original’ inhabitants are displaced. Most of these neighbourhoods were populated by Greeks, Armenians and Jews until the 1950s and 1960s, after which migrants from Anatolia started to move in.

Summershool project
In the ECAV Summerschool project, we will be guests of a local artist collective. We will try to observe some of these phenomena within our neighbourhood. We will focus on one main question:

– How do real or imagined pasts contribute to the creation, recreation and maintenance of identity, sense of belonging, social cohesion and segregation of different groups in the neighbourhood nowadays, and are the different ways in which heritage is considered influenced by the gentrification process currently going on, and vice versa?

We will become acquainted with local artists and artist initiatives in the neighbourhood like BAS, Caravanserail, and SALT, among others, and have the opportunity to dive in a local artist scene by conferences of guests studio visits.

In the ECAV summerschool project in general, different methodologies are used for each individual research within the project. Overall, however, the project intends to use oral history in combination with primary sources from archives, secondary literature, images and photographs.

Oral history implies the collection and study of historical information about individuals, families, important events or everyday life using unwritten stories and memories of people, mainly through interviews (individuals, groups, families). In an oral history approach, memories and perceptions of different pasts are documented, as experienced by interviewed people themselves or passed on to them by earlier generations. Through oral history research, not only views on the very recent but also some light on a more distant past can be shed. In this way, oral history contributes to a more complete understanding of different and sometimes contesting views on tangible and intangible pasts. Additionally, secondary literature is used to support the data from the interviews.

Founded in 1948, the Ecole Cantonale d’Art du Valais has been affiliated since 2008 with the HES-SO. Its location, in the heart of the Valais Alps above the town of Sierre, has helped it to forge a strong identity. Switzerland’s linguistic and cultural differences are well represented among the students and teachers and the legendary hospitality of Valais is a strong influence, as it regularly welcomes numerous foreign students who come to study here.

Over the years, its eccentric alpine location has become one of its central research and investigation themes. This artistic and creative reflection evolves within its own special atmosphere and defies most customary approaches.

Further information
Required qualification: Bachelor’s diploma and/or equivalent training and experience.

Language: English
Study fees: CHF 1500, all inclusive (hosted in holidays apartments in the city centre)

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