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İnterview with Fulya Erdemci
TEXT IN TURKISH. TRANSLATION BY BÜLENT ÇINAR
BORGA KANTÜRK You are the new director of SKOR (Stichting Kunst en Openbare Ruimte / Foundation Art
and Public Space) succeeding Wilfried Lenz who worked in that capacity for the last eight years. Eight
years is a long time. Could you please tell us about his approach and in which ways you plan to improve
the process? Do you have your own projects? What shall we expect to change?
FULYA ERDEMCİ SKOR has a rather long history, dating back to 1986. It was founded as
Praktijkbureau Beeldende Kunstopdrachten (Bureau for Visual Art Assignments). In 2000, it
became independent from the Mondriaan Foundation and has since specialized in art and
public space. The period of Wilfred Lenz can be summarized as a transitional period towards
creating an independent institution and this process is still continuing. Since I don’t
believe in top-down changes, I am trying to suspend all my existing ideas and visions and
to understand the local context better to be able to create my specific contribution. To that
end, I have been doing research, visiting galleries and exhibitions and meeting with artists
and representatives of city councils, ministries and institutions. I have already started to
develop certain ideas and plans and to discuss them with the SKOR team.
BK Considering the structure of organizations and the art institutions in Turkey, eight years is a very
long time compared to the continuity of the institutions, foundations and organizations in Western
Europe. Will we also see Fulya Erdemci as the director of SKOR for such a long time?
FE After my seven years as the Director of the Istanbul Biennial, I consider eight years a rather long
period for an institutional commitment. However, I regard SKOR as a long-term project and want to see
what we can do together.
BK Between 1994 and 2000, you worked as the Director of the Istanbul Biennial for the Istanbul
Foundation for Culture and Arts, when the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th Istanbul Biennials were held. At the same
time, you were closely involved in the presentation of public art in Turkey through a foundation. Since
then, we have seen the Pedestrian Exhibitions (1), which you realized with Emre Baykal, centering on
the street as the exhibition venue. That was truly a groundbreaking, pioneering exhibition in Turkey in
this field. We can even say that after the exhibition, public art has entered into a legitimate, recognized
dimension for the City of Istanbul. SKOR, whose director you are, also focuses on art in the public space.
How does the system work in such a structure? We are talking about an institutional address for an art
form that is directly linked to the street. What kind of a role does and should a foundation with such a
FE There is a substantial support system for arts and culture in the Netherlands. The so-called one percent rule makes public money available for projects in public spaces. Financially it is a very well organized system. SKOR advises and develops exemplary projects for the public domain: health-care and educational institutions, urban development projects like highways, squares or projects related to nature and its transformation, like the polders. Such institutions, municipalities or related official bodies as well as individuals apply to us to develop projects for the public domain. According to the nature of the project, we interview the applicant and visit the site. If it can be evaluated under the SKOR’s aims and vision, then one of our curators develops a project to be presented to the advisory committee. All projects developed by SKOR are discussed by the committee, which consists of a curator, an architect/landscape architect, an artist, a producer or representative of media/ new media and a designer. In accordance with the decision taken by the committee, we either continue to develop the project further and, if needed, provide financial support or, if the project cannot be realized by SKOR, we provide the applicant with necessary advice and suggest specific institutions that could
evaluate the applicant’s project. In the case of projects which require support from SKOR exceeding the
amount of 50,000 euros, the management board’s approval is required. Besides these regular procedures,
SKOR can initiate other projects which are considered exemplary projects, like the BEYOND exhibition
that was developed by Tom van Gessel (Senior Curator/Adjunct Director) in 2002 for Leidsche Rijn, a
recently developed residential area, and that will be finalized in September 2009.
BK In her book The Place of Public Space in Urban Venue (2), Pelin Gökgür states that the definition of
public space is based on three theoretical attributes: mediation, communication and participation. Do
you agree with this structure? And how would you place SKOR within such a structure; which of the
three aspects do you consider the closest?
FE Since I haven’t read it, I cannot talk about the tripartite structure in the book. However, mediation,
communication and participation are common terminology in reference to public space. I think that we
should discuss these abstract concepts in today’s context: we have to discuss and question the transient
meaning and usage of this trio in relation to the transformation of cities under neo-liberal urban
policies. The regeneration and transformation of the cities are, like anything else, subject to market
conditions and almost everything is focused on commercial interests, business, entertainment and
tourism. In this sense, the public space is under question and negotiation. Can we, for instance, call an
open-air shopping mall a public space? I think that art can assume a meaningful position in this change
process: It can create a platform for research and mediate between the micro milieu and the macro
milieu; between the community/ground, the planners/developers and other protagonists involved in
shaping urban space. SKOR offers an incredible opportunity to develop research and practice.
BK Public space has its own rules and also requires a mutual accord. While this accord works between
the institution, the street, people in the street and the artist, where does SKOR step in and what is its role
in sharing this space?
FE SKOR has considerable experience and specialized expertise in public domain issues. As you
mentioned, any art project created for the public space is a result of such a consensus, so expertise
in this field is required. SKOR’s role is to create a consensus between the parties involved without
sacrificing the quality of the artwork and the idea of publicness.
BK SKOR offers financial support and consultancy services for the realization of art projects in the
public space. Could you please tell us briefly about the consulting process?
FE As I mentioned before, we receive applications from several institutions, city councils etc. SKOR
curators research the case and discuss it with the team, the advisory committee and the managing
board. If we decide to develop a project for that specific situation, we propose three artists to the hosting
institution or municipality and point out the several different aspects that each artist can convey. After
we reach a consensus on the artist, we contact the artist to start a dialogue on the specific case and ask
for a proposal. If the proposal is accepted also by the applicant, we ask the artist to develop the project.
If the project is not accepted by the applicant for sensible reasons, we ask the same artist for a different
proposal. At each step the artist receives a fee, whether or not her/his project is accepted.
Our financial support includes 1/4, 1/3 or at most 1/2 of the total project costs. How much we pay depends
on several different criteria, such as location, use and for whom this artwork is created.
BK What is the respective share of long-term projects, permanent works and short-term projects? Does
the foundation support artists whose works are specifically produced for the public space or organize
FE Most of SKOR’s projects are either permenant or long term. Temporary exhibitions are exceptional.
Increasing the share of such temporary manifestations among SKOR’s activities is part of my future
plans.Rather than supporting already defined projects, SKOR invites artists to develop site-specific and
context responsive projects. Very rarely SKOR supports already existing proposals since there are
several institutions in the Netherlands solely dedicated to supporting artistic production for the public
space or other purposes.
BK Does SKOR operate only in the Netherlands? Or does it also provide assistance in public art
productions and events through international partnerships?
FE Actually it is a national institution. However, there are exceptions in terms of international activities.
As you may know Mondriaan Foundation is a governmental organization that supports international
activities like the Dutch participation in international exhibitions, biennials, etc. Right now, we are
working on a number of commitments that SKOR can undertake in an international context.
BK SKOR was established by the Office of Visual Arts, so it is associated with public institutions. However,
it claims that it is managed independently. Are we talking about full independence here or is there
an ongoing negotiation between the state and the foundation? I am asking this out of a concern that
the funding for long-term projects and support for artists may be cut when there are changes in the
government and the administration.
FE In the Netherlands, such systems are organized very successfully; governments do not interfere
with the internal affairs of SKOR or any other institution. However, like almost all the art institutions
in this country, SKOR is subsidized by the Ministry of Culture and Education with strict regulations in
accordance with an approved four year policy plan and related budget. Any new proposal intervening
with these basic policies requires an official process of negotiation. For instance, I am currently
working on expanding the existing public program of SKOR, which has been a minor function till now,
into a main activity of the foundation. We are in the process of negotiation with the ministry and other
related parties to create funds for this major change though we have sufficient budget to do it. So, unlike
what we are experiencing in Turkey, continuity is not a problem in the Netherlands, but maybe overprogramming
can be a limitation.
BK As the director of SKOR, you were also selected to serve as the co-curator of the 5th SCAPE Biennial of
Art in Public Space. I am sure that a mere relationship between the street and the audience is not the only
characteristic that distinguishes a biennial with Art in Public Space in its title from other biennials. What is
the key objective of this biennial?
FE As the co-curator of the 5th SCAPE, rather than commenting on the priorities set for SCAPE in general
by the organizing institution Art and Industry Biennial Trust, I would prefer to mention very briefly the specific
focus of the actual exhibition I am involved in. As articulated in our conceptual framework, my co-curator
Danae Mossman and I wanted to create a researchexhibition in public space on the transformation of cities under neo-liberal urban politics in the specific case of Christchurch City. And our understanding of participation or commitment can be summarized as to
create a contrast in the public space.
BK Has your curatorial production always focused on public art? Could we call public art curatorship a field
of specialization and research?
FE Certainly. To function in public space is not only a matter of different locations, not just a matter of
inside and outside. It is almost two different registers.Considering art in public space as the most vital
interface between life and art, it is a challenge to reach the people in the street and simultaneously the
museum-goers. Furthermore, there are two major approaches to intervening with the city: taking the
city as “museum without walls” or taking the city as a research field and intervening with it through
context responsive proposals which grow from the very texture of the city. Therefore, it is a vast field,
and as you mentioned, it requires specialized research and expertise.
SCAPE 2008 CHRISTCHURCH BIENNIAL OF ART IN PUBLIC SPACE
Curated by Fulya Erdemci and Danae Mossman
“The function of public art is to de-design.” Vito Acconci (1)
Contingencies of Space
The exploration of urban spaces that construct and contain the life of the city engages
with the issues of how we live and how culture is constantly transforming and adapting to
Unlike earlier permanent “drop sculptures” in public spaces, temporary¬ art interventions
respond to the contingencies of real time and space, in other words of everyday life. The
SCAPE 2008 Christchurch Biennial is firmly positioned in the dynamic systems of the city
and will develop relationships between artworks and an infinite number of spatial, urban,
social, psychological, individual or communal, political and historical contingencies that
exist in the city. Making these seemingly invisible contingencies visible, the artistic
interventions can propose an entirely different experience of locale and situation. In this
sense, interweaving art within the social and urban context is vital in initiating a critical
dialogue about a new culture of space.
In line with Vito Acconci’s definition of the function of art in public space, all SCAPE 2008
projects will be selected in accordance with their ability to de-design/deconstruct the
spatial politics of established ways of operating to reveal conflicts in specific localities.
The title Wandering Lines (2) is drawn from the notion that “indirect or errant trajectories
obeying their own logic” (3) can provide new understandings of space. It was chosen
because of SCAPE 2008’s desire to unfold the constituting structures and conventional
ways of operating within the existing urban design. This suggests a deconstruction of the
city grid which can reveal new possibilities beyond those the city proposes.
(1) Vito Acconci, Leaving Home, Notes on Insertions into the Public in Public Art, ed. by Florian Matzner,
(2) Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, University of California Press, Los Angeles, 1998
(3) Ibid. From de Certeau describing Francios Deligny’s experience of working with autistic children who
“trace indeterminate trajectories” that are apparently meaningless since they do not cohere with the
constructed, written and prefabricated space through which they move. These trajectories are sentences
that remain unpredictable within the space ordered by the organizing of techniques and systems.
Although they use the vocabularies of established languages (those of television, newspapers, the
supermarket or city planning) as their material, although they remain within the framework of prescribed
syntaxes (the temporal modes of schedules, paradigmatic organizations of places), these “traverses
remain heterogeneous to the systems they infiltrate and in which they sketch out the guileful rules of
different interests and desires.”
BK You have a great deal of experience withmuseum administration and a considerable number of international exhibitions. Among
these, the first that comes to my mind is the Organized Conflict (Proje4L, Istanbul, 2003), in which you focused on painting and brought together various stances in painting. This exhibition has made you an important point of reference in the contemporary art world in Turkey with regard to the redefinition and reimagination of painting. Another show would be Regrets, Dreams Changing Skies (Karşı Sanat, Istanbul, 2001) that was organized on a rather low budget. But it employed and marked the entire gallery space as well as the building itself and its surroundings. Are you now far away from this type of exhibition? Or do you think about such processes and installations?
FE It is true that my present focus is on the artin public space, however, it is still very excitingfor me to think about exhibitions for the places reserved for art. Certainly, indoor exhibitions give you more control over the totality of the manifestation and what you aim to deliver. In public space, you work with constraints and you are engaged with daily routines in urban life, thus, with ever emerging problems.
BK Getting back to the issue of public space, when this space is organized in accordance with its own
rules in an independent and hidden way—I could call this illegal or underground art— there is no
lavish funding. On the other hand, high-budget institutions commission artists for productions similar
to the monuments of the past to be placed in the public space. Of these production practices, one aims
to be documented while the other undertakes to camouflage itself in the bustle of the city rather than
being an obvious sight. At this point, which aspect does the foundation heed?
FE I think that we have to take art in public space in its historicity and avoid oversimplifying its
complex processes. The main challenge today is to open up art in public space in contemporary
languages of art. Actions and practices of so-called interventionists, activists or shock art artists are
a part of what we call art in public space today. However, there is a general tendency in contemporary
art: the appropriation of radicalism by the establishment. And in that sense, there is no cutting edge.
For instance, right now, ephemerality is one of the priorities of the governmental art institutions and
the differentiation between legal and illegal does not work in western societies the way we imagine
it. The conflict is no longer between the official bodies and the radicals but between the radicals and
a neo-conservative society. The western society, maybe especially after the creation of the European
Union, has become more and more a part of the establishment. For instance, Paul McCarthy’s “sexy”
Santa Claus, which was created for and installed at Rotterdam’s Schouwburgplein, was taken down
because of the vociferous complaints from the general public. An artwork in public space, thus, cannot
be considered as an object by itself; the public reactions it may cause are as important as its objecthood.
Refusal of a project by the authorities or abolition of an installed work because of negative reactions
from the public are an essential and integral part of the processes involved since such reactions unveil
the basic bureaucratic or cultural structures in that particular society. In this sense, an unrealized
project fulfills its function sometimes more than its realization on the condition that it is discussed and
BK When we compare examples of contemporary art that centers on the street, with the performance and
street art of the 1960s, I believe that today’s productions have transformed into a majestic show rather
than a strong socio-economic gesture that gravitates towards the market trends in the international art
world, to the showcase of contemporary art. Consequently, it seems inevitable that this area will assume
a more distinct yet harmless role that receives institutional support as it legalizes and popularizes. A
result of this would be the desire for more grandiose, greater and more striking works that everybody
can see and that result in better publicity. This is at times demanded also by the supporting institutions
and by the artists themselves. Ultimately, after all this process of shaping and bending, does art lose
its essence and power? Should we link this to the structure of the historical period or to the liberalized
conciliatory policies? True, there is better funding, but is more global and conciliatory art acceptable
FE I think, rather than making a differentiation in accordance with the formal properties of an
art project in public space, like its visibility, we should evaluate art in public space projects in their situation-specific context. Today we are talking about the New Culture of Space (this was a part of our title for the Scape Biennial) or Politics of Space related to the transformation of cities under neo-liberalism that creates socioeconomic divides within the cities. Therefore, new forms of commitment and strategies in public space include more architectural and spatial practices that have a higher visibility. However, we cannot judge an art project in accordance with its form or visibility but, as I mentioned before, in accordance with the reactions and discussions it calls for. Very ephemeral community projects may also sooth the public reaction and cover the conflict imbedded in that situation. I personally try to avoid such general remarks and to think about each specific case and situation. However, I can also understand very well what you are implying with the repercussions of funding and support systems. Such democratic funding systems simultaneously create downfalls such as loosing the sense of urgency.
(1) The 1st Istanbul Pedestrian Exhibition was realized in Nişantaşı from September 28 to October 29, 2002,
and the 2nd exhibition in the Tünel-Karaköy district from September 16 to October 22, 2005.
(2) Pelin Gökgür, The Place of Public Space in Urban Venue (available only in Turkish), Bağlam Publications,
Istanbul, March 2008
Fulya Erdemci (b. 1962) studied art history and theory in the graduate program of art history and
archeology at Columbia University, New York, from 1990 to 1993. On her return, Erdemci begun to teach
part-time at Bilkent University in Ankara and worked as the Director of the International Istanbul Biennial
from 1994 to 2000. She initiated the series of urban art exhibitions in public space called Istanbul
Pedestrian Exhibitions in 2002 and 2005 (Istanbul Pedestrian Exhibitions 2: co-curated with Emre Baykal).
Erdemci co-curated (with Ron Mandos) Between the Waterfronts in Rotterdam in 2002, a cultural exchange
project between Istanbul and Rotterdam. She co-curated Where?/Here?, Saitama in 2003 with Emre Baykal,
Vasıf Kortun and Yuji Maeyama, again as a part of a cultural exchange program, this time between Japan
and Turkey. She worked as the Associate Curator for the Istanbul section of the 25th São Paulo Biennial,
Citades/Cities, 2002. In 2004, she was the Temporary Exhibitions Curator at the Istanbul Museum of
Modern Art and curated two of the inaugural exhibitions, Making of Istanbul Modern and 3 Videos. She was
appointed Director of Proje4L–Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art in 2003. She was part of the curatorial
team of the 2nd Moscow Biennial of Contemporary Art (2007) and curated the contemporary art exhibition
(1970–2000) of Modern and Beyond, an art historical account of Turkish Modernism and Contemporary Art
(1950–2000) in 2007. Fulya Erdemci also taught at Marmara University in Istanbul (1999–2000) and has
been teaching part-time at Visual Communication Design Department, graduate program, Istanbul Bilgi
University, since 2001. Erdemci recently co-curated with Danae Mossman Wandering Lines: Towards A New
Culture of Space, the 5th edition of the Scape Biennial of Art in Public Space, Christchurch, New Zealand
(2008). Currently, Fulya Erdemci is the Director of SKOR, Stichting Kunst en Openbare Ruimte (Foundation
Art and Public Space) in Amsterdam.
Borga Kantürk (b. 1978) is an artist and curator. He graduated from the Department of Painting and
completed his master’s degree at Dokuz Eylül University in İzmir where he has been working as a research
assistant since 2002. Kantürk has participated in several international and national exhibitions and has
curated international exhibitions with the support of Hiap, FRAME, Av-Arkki (Finland), Atelier Frankfurt
(Germany) and K2 Art Center (İzmir). As the founder-director of KUTU Portable Art Gallery, he also worked
as a project director at K2 Art Center from 2004–2007. Kantürk was a member in the curator team of
the 10th Istanbul Biennale Nightcomers project (2007). In 2008, he founded the İzmir Contemporary Art
Archive and curated several exhibitions for 1 Network Contemporary Art, İzmir. He lives and works in
RES - art magazine - issue 3 - may 2009
zaman: 9/23/2009 02:31:00 ÖS