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REPORT ON REGİON(E.Deniz)

Report on Region:
Izmir is located at the south west coast of Turkey, has 3 million habitants, also the third biggest city of Turkey. It is the most modern city compared with the whole country (education level, health and sanitary, open mind people etc) but even it has this advantage there are many problems at cultural field particularly for contemporary art.

K2 is the first and the only contemporary art institution in Izmir. K2 is a non-profit organization, runs by the artists. It has international exhibition and event program therefore this is the only platform that creates opportunity to exchange ideas between the European and the Turkish artists. Since 2003, K2 has invited artists from different disciplines, curators and art critics as well. (See attachment 2) Beside the exhibition and events, K2 has a small sized library specified by visual art field and has current contemporary art exhibition catalogues, posters, brochures and etc. and has an artist documentation archive consist on artists portfolios from Izmir and the invited artists who had shown in the K2 gallery or attend in an event organized by the institution.
K2 also works as an information centre for the artists and announces every kind of opportunities. The gallery, library, documentation centre and 16 artist studios are located in the same building in the city centre.

The city has quite weak about contemporary art. In Izmir at the recent years, many little sized galleries have closed miscellaneous reasons. “Esbank”, “YapıKredi”, “Akademist” and “Iletisim” can be examples. For many years the leading role was only at foreign cultural institutions like Goethe institute and French Cultural Centre. Those spaces had only limited touring exhibitions (not contemporary art shows) and most of them function as only “language courses”. Even American Cultural Centre has closed the gallery part a few years ago. The other kind of spaces; Isbank (Turkish Bank) has a gallery. Royal museum of painting and sculpture (Resim Heykel Müzesi) and “Cetin Emec” municipality exhibition hall are the state supported places. And also there are some others works with only locals and show conventional kind of art. The lack of knowledge, lack of professionals and lack of contemporary vision those kinds of spaces are out of date and work with only for local artists -one discipline- without any international exchange. Also they don’t organize talks, debates and symposiums beside the exhibitions. Izmir cultural foundation has no contact with the contemporary artists and events that they organized is not good if we compare to Istanbul. As many things, it seems like there is enough place is in act but has low quality and out of development potential. Many artists chose to leave to city and move to Istanbul or abroad to be able to work in contemporary art field.

Some specific problems on “contemporary arts in Izmir”:

Periphericality position / In Turkey there is no equality between the cities. Even the newspapers get 80 percent of the news only from Istanbul that is also main center for cultural field. All big companies- as possible supporters of art- locates in Istanbul. Foreign art professionals prefer to visit only Istanbul. And there is only limited links with the art instutitions in Istanbul. K2 only has contact with Platform Garanti contemporary art center.

Lack of the network inside of the city and with the outside/ There is no communication “ways” especially cultural field. There is no described area for announcement; therefore it is very hard to reach the artists who may interest in as well as the possible audience. It is also hard to reach different kind of Professionals, for instance, sociologists, philosophers, performing artists, writers, musicians etc. All has own micro communities and their communication based on “personal network”. “Individuals” create network between artists from abroad and Turkey but for the long term it is highly affects sustainability for future networking.

Young artists or many talented young people can not find opportunities to introduce their works to international art scene and it creates escapism and hesitation to keep on working at these field. Most of them change their future plans. It is short of lose potential future artists as well as possible future cultural producers etc.

The lack of knowledge of second language is a big problem for international exchange. Even this is not a regional problem. People only can reach limited information sources and they become producers of local knowledge.

There are Izmir based visual artists actively working internationally but there are no enough art critics, journalisms etc.

Especially right wing politicians don’t have any interest to support contemporary art. There is a certain budget for supporting art but they are supporting arts and crafts or touristical-interest activities. So these kind of budged directly goes to traditional hand-crafts instead of the contemporary art. Also decision makers who have this short of power of the state, causes lower quality. For this case, the situation is more hopeful for Izmir because of the common political point of view of citizens consist on left wing. It is much more easier to negotiate with the state members. So only problem is being able to contact with the state members in the region who is involved in the cultural fields. But the lack of the cultural operators it is still deeply burocratical and hard to contact with the right people. For example, there is no certain kind of procedure for the applications for money or material support from the municipality. Or there are some ways that we don’t know how to get this information.

The people that interested in the events are mostly from the universities. It depends on the importance or popularity of the invited art professionals and the season but approximately 250-500 people visit exhibitions and 100-150 people for the talks and debates. (These are not exact numbers) It must be considered that K2 is non-profit institution that hasn’t got budget for announcement, advertisement etc. K2 Documentation center has 50 artist portfolios. The average age of the visitors is between the 20-45.

Also K2 artists are developing projects to increase visitors and also polarization of the audience. Beside this project artists are working on “the rehabilitation of the art spaces in Izmir”. Contemporary artist started to show their works in old-school galleries to change their vision.
Outside of the city center only Karaburun has couple of cultural festivals. This region surprisingly hosts artists, philosophers and musicians with periodical events.

K2 would like to be one of the collaborator of Kanal because there is this urgency to create new ways to solve these problems. Better communications among the professionals, state members and also “database” is very important. Being in that kind of project also similar with aims and demands of K2.

E.Deniz 2006

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