IN SITU

Art, Politics and Other Things in Life — A Blog by Hakan Topal

Category: Activism

Urban Discharge: A Manifesto*

By xurban_collective, 2017

* Text written as part of Harbor exhibition on view at Istanbul Modern.
* Turkcesi asagida (Turkish version is below).

Between 2000 to 2012, as xurban_collective we researched the assault on social and spatial justice on a global scale. This onslaught is a total mobilization against the very foundation of democracy — the commons. The looting of common resources, the degradation of the public sphere, the dissolution of social bonds, the corruption of souls, and the dominance of morality over ethics happened mainly in cities. The sad part is that the masses voluntarily participated in this augmented cultural, economic and political attack.

History echoes itself in a non-cyclical way.

We foresaw what was coming. In S.i.e.g.e.c.r.a.f.t (2004), we compared the siege of Istanbul in both real and metaphorical enunciations by contemplating Istanbul’s panorama; the quickly changing city-scape provided various clues about what happened, and what was going to happen next. The city is a witness. It wisely told us a silent story; neoliberalism was indeed a tragedy wrapped up in the excitement of a gold rush. The sad thing is that almost everyone got caught in this extravaganza as Istanbul was marketed as the destination, the emerging market, the up and coming city. Foreign pundits wrote op-eds about how art, culture, politics and the economy were so rosy, and everything indeed smelt like tulips. Now that this era is over, we know how the story unfolded. The city was right.

During medieval times, the siege employed military forces encircling the city walls; relentless and cunning attacks were crafted to suffocate the residents. Surrender or die! Today the siege comes with a modified order; surrender or not be financed. It is not by military forces, but the [MBA-educated] financial elite masterminded the onslaught by using discursive strategies to overcome legal barriers. The neoliberal reasoning penetrates the public agenda, dominating every single mouthpiece, starting from newspaper pages on economics. The next thing you know, every single pundit starts to talk about the economic realities of the 21st century. What they really championed was the deregulation and conquering of the commons at the expense of democracy. Privatization — the looting of the commons — extracts every little bit from the public. David Harvey likens this contemporary capitalist rush to a tsunami; capital flows into the emerging markets with great excitement, when it withdraws it leaves social, political and economic devastation behind. However, we think that the capital influx is more like wastewater overflowing from the toilet. Yes, it arrives within, and once it starts to overflow no one can stop it, until it is too late. In this respect the financial crises are pragmatically used as a way to keep the working classes in check; it is “the accumulation through dispossession,” as Harvey puts it. While societies crumble, privatization, depoliticization, and the exploitation of natural resources charges full steam.

The neoconservative order has no ethics, no taboo, no sacred places. Any location can be exploited without guilt. For instance, let’s look at Mecca — the holiest site on earth for Muslims — transformed into something similar to Las Vegas; numerous historical sites, including an Ottoman Castle, were erased to erect condominiums and a shopping mall. One wonders why Muslims do not raise their voices. In Istanbul, the outlook is no different, and the consequences are equally devastating. The cityscape has been altered with kitschy replicas of Ottoman architecture supplemented by thousands of ugly corporate design.

A city is a machine in perpetual flux. Feudal forces work vigorously to rechannel its energy. The land is extracted from its waterfront; the sky is occupied, views are blocked. Waterfronts, old ports, and city centers are redefined at an unprecedented speed. Global tourism relentlessly consumes as philistines invade the city center, and leave garbage piles and decay behind. The [religious] bourgeoisie is content with this degradation, degeneration, and disgrace; as long as their coffers are filled with fresh dollars, they happily support these nasty developments.

While the tyranny of the market is ever growing, port cities share a common destiny. As money overflows, nationalist/religious rhetoric stinks, and breeds fundamentalism.

We cannot be silent. As artists, writers, and academics, we are the cultural forces who are relentlessly resisting. When we say NO, it resonates far and beyond. When we say NO, our voices combine and get louder. When we say NO, we mean it.

Vive la resistance!

//  TÜRKÇE

Kentin Tahliyesi: Bir Manifesto

xurban_collective, 2017

xurban_collective olarak 2000 ile 2012 yılları arasında, sosyal ve mekânsal adalete yapılan saldırıyı küresel ölçekte araştırdık. Bu taarruz, doğrudan demokrasinin temelini, yani müşterekleri hedef alan toplu bir seferberlik. Ortak kaynakların yağmalanması, kamusal alanın bozulması, ruhların yozlaşması ve etiğe ahlakçılığın hakim olması temelde şehirlerde yaşandı. Üzücü kısmı, gitgide artan kültürel, ekonomik ve siyasi hücuma kitlelerin gönüllü bir şekilde katılım göstermesi.

Tarih, periyodik olmayan bir biçimde kendisini yankılıyor.

Bunların olacağını öngörmüştük. “S.I.E.G.E.C.R.A.F.T”ta (2004), İstanbul panoraması üzerine düşünerek, şehirdeki kuşatmanın hem fiili hem de metaforik ifadelerini karşılaştırdık. Hızla değişim geçiren şehir panoraması neler yaşandığına ve sonra neler olacağına dair çeşitli ipuçları veriyordu. Şehir, tanıktır. Bilgece, sessiz bir hikaye anlattı bize; neoliberalizm, refah heyecanı kisvesine bürünmüş bir trajediydi gerçekten de. İstanbul; has istikamet, filizlenmekte olan pazar, gelecek vadeden şehir olarak pazarlanırken bu fantezi neredeyse herkesi etkisi altına almıştı ne yazık ki. Yabancı uzmanlar sanat, kültür, politika ve ekonominin hoşluğuna ve her şeyin laleler gibi pirüpak olduğuna dair yazılar kaleme alıyorlardı. O dönem sona erdi ve olayların nasıl geliştiğini biliyoruz. Şehir haklıydı.

Orta Çağ kuşatmalarında ordu şehir duvarlarını çevrelerdi; sakinleri bunaltmak adına amansız ve kurnaz saldırılar planlanırdı. Teslim ol ya da öl! Günümüzde kuşatmanın buyruğu değişmiş durumda: Teslim ol ya da finanssız kal. Saldırıyı askerler değil, [işletme yüksek lisansı yapmış] elit finans tabakası, hukuki engelleri atlatacak dolambaçlı stratejilerle idare ediyor. Neoliberal düşünce kamu gündemine nüfuz ediyor ve gazetelerin ekonomi sayfalarından başlayarak her söze egemen oluyor. Sonra her bir uzmanın 21. yüzyılın ekonomik gerçeklerinden bahsetmeye başlayıverdiğini görüyorsunuz. Asıl başardıkları şey, demokrasi pahasına, ortak olanın nizamsızlaştırılıp işgal edilmesi. Özelleştirme, yani müştereklerin yağmalanması kamunun elinde bir şey bırakmıyor. David Harvey günümüzdeki bu kapitalist hücumu bir tsunamiye benzetiyor; sermaye büyük bir coşkuyla, gelişmekte olan pazarlara akıyor ve geri çekilirken ardında toplumsal, siyasi ve ekonomik yıkım bırakıyor. Bize göre ise sermaye akışı tuvaletten taşan pis suları andırıyor daha çok. Aynen öyle, içeriden geliyor ve çoğalıp taştığında kimse onu vaktinde durduramıyor. Bu bakımdan finansal krizler pragmatik bir şekilde, çalışan kesimi kontrol altında tutma yolu olarak kullanılıyor. Harvey’nin dediği gibi, “mülksüzleştirme yoluyla birikim yapmak” bu. Toplumlar harap olurken özelleştirme, depolitizasyon ve doğal kaynakların istismarı son sürat fatura kesiyor.

Yeni muhafazakar düzenin etiği, tabusu ya da kutsal alanları yok. Her yer zerre suçluluk hissetmeden sömürülebilir. Örneğin Mekke’yi düşünelim, Müslümanlar için dünyanın en kutsal yeri olan bu şehir Las Vegas’a benzer bir hale dönüştü; özel mülkler ve bir alışveriş merkezi yapmak adına, Osmanlı döneminden bir kalenin de aralarında bulunduğu çok sayıda tarihi alan yok edildi. Müslümanların neden ses çıkarmadığını merak ediyor insan. İstanbul’da da durum hiç farklı değil ve sonuçları da aynı derecede yıkıcı. Şehrin peyzajı, Osmanlı mimarisinin zevksiz taklitleriyle ve binlerce çirkin kurumsal tasarımla başkalaşmış halde.

Şehir, daimi akış içinde bir mekanizmadır. Feodal güçler onun enerjisine yeni yönler vermek için şiddetle uğraşır. Toprak, kıyıdan koparılır; gökyüzü işgal edilir; görüş açıları tıkanır. Kıyılar, eski limanlar ve şehir merkezleri benzersiz bir hızla yeniden tanımlanır. Küresel turizm amansızca tüketiyor, kültürsüzlük şehir merkezini zaptediyor ve ardında çöp yığınları ve çürüme bırakıyor. [Dindar] burjuvazi bu bozulma, yozlaşma ve rezaletten memnun; cepler para dolduğu sürece bu nahoş gelişmeleri memnuniyetle destekliyor.

Piyasanın tahakkümü gitgide arttıkça liman şehirlerini ortak bir yazgı bekliyor. Para akışı çoğaldıkça milliyetçi/dini söylemler de buram buram yayılıyor ve muhafazakarlık palazlanıyor.

Sessiz kalamayız. Sanatçılar, yazarlar, akademisyenler olarak bizler inatla direnen kültürel güçleriz. HAYIR dediğimizde, seslerimiz bir olur ve daha gür çıkar. HAYIR dediğimizde, bunu kastederiz.

Yaşasın direniş!

 

Some thoughts on Trump Presidency + What Should We Do Next?

I have been thinking about the Trump Presidency. Like everybody, I am extremely upset and startled. Considering the Turkish and various European cases, IMO, Trump will incorporate a combination of social democrat and racist/discriminatory policies and do the following:

Economy & Environment:
– Believe it or not, he may be the Keynesian candidate that Obama wanted to be. He needs to make his white-working-class-base satisfied by providing them jobs and education. As he declared right away, he will initiate large-scale infrastructure constructions. Military and civic projects will be strategically instigated in areas where his constituents are dominant.

– He will open the environment for extreme exploitation. I mean extreme looting; pipelines, coal mines, fracking, oil fileds on land and sea, nuclear and coal power plants… you name it!
Total ecological devastation!

– He will opt for semi-protectionist economist policies. He may try to renegotiate some trade deals but his hands are tied. We are talking about Republicans here. Usual neoliberal story: He may want to tighten up the borders for people, but he will open it up for capital flow. For instance, Apple will be able to bring its large stash of cash in… Yes, Apple will profit from Trump.

Health Care:
– IMO, he can not entirely repeal the Obama Care. He knows that his white base was benefiting from it. I believe he will move to a more privatized, therefore less-coverage alternative. But health is one of the areas that he can not risk too much; i.e. he needs to behave like a social democrat: half ass…

Minorities:
He is going to declare peace with the Latino community, as it is the largest growing population in the US. He may elect some cabinet members, offer some concessions in regard to immigration.

Blacks and Muslim immigrants, on the other hand, are the ones that are going to suffer the most. Under his administration, the security-industrial complex will strengthen. Police will be granted a relative immunity. We are talking about the extreme policing and Israelization of the US; Remember Bush? In that regard, immigrants with Muslim backgrounds will face extreme scrutiny in every aspect of life. When Trump faces criticism for other issues, he will divert the public attention to immigrants and black communities.

The fundamentalist-Christian-right finds a new home at Trump’s White House. So, like secularism, women’s rights will erode. But this is an arena where Trump will face his strongest battles.

American society changed.

So, What Should We Do Next?

1- Organize, organize, organize, but organize around social justice issues — do not cling on identity politics. Think Social Justice (ala Nancy Fraser) as equality, cultural recognition, democratic representation… Or ala Balibar: ‘equaliberty.’

2- Collectivize production, commonize public sites, institutionalize relationships. Simplify and de-bureaucratize everything else.

3- Love beats hatred. Love yourself, love your people. Love environment. Defend your loved ones.

4- We are stronger when we are hopeful. Let’s focus on building a future for all, not just for select few. In other words, enough to Western Liberalism, yes to democratic socialism (+ little bit of anarchy )

in Solidarity.

Gezi Uprising Anniversary

Exactly two years ago, on May 31, 2013, I woke up to the news of brutal police violence in Gezi Park, Istanbul. Some of my friends were occupying the park to protect its trees. Frustrated and angry, I created a Facebook event to organize a protest at Zuccotti Park, hoping that I could get in touch with people to voice our concerns together from New York City. Within a day, almost 3000 people gathered to protest in Zuccotti Part. Occupy Wall Street friends were there to support us.

Since then, New York Gezi Group held many protests, teach-ins, panel discussions, conferences. Most importantly nothing will be the same for younger generations, the shape and nature of Turkish politics have changed forever. I am just proud to be part of this.

Teach-in: What binds us together?

The University of the Commons
RIT (Research Institute on Turkey)
www.riturkey.org

Teach-in: What binds us together?
Solidarity and New Institutional Horizons

Michael Hardt with Nidhi Srinivas & Hakan Topal

Thursday, April 9th, 2015. 5:50PM-7:30PM****University Center,  65 Fifth Ave. Basement floor, Rm. UL 102****The New School, New York

Public institutions, which play a critical role in democratic societies, have been under perpetual attack since the 1980s; the 2008 economic crisis further highlighted their precarity. Facing budget cuts, salary and hire freezes, public universities, research centers, museums, theaters and art spaces are deprived from public support and are forced to adapt new neoliberal models. In addition, modern solidarity networks such as political parties, unions and associations are unable to imagine new and steadfast remedies for their constituents, leaving them in the mercy of neoliberal administrations.

The Occupy and other movements have showed us that, in times of hardship, we are extremely agile in producing alternative solidarity networks on a temporary basis. However, when these movements lose momentum, networks quickly disappear or are subsumed under old organizational models.

In this “teach-in”, together with philosopher Michael Hardt, Nidhi Srinivas and Hakan Topal, we will speculate on various pressing questions regarding to imagining new institutions, cooperatives and collectives.

· How can we transform our marginalized synergy into sustainable assemblages, which can eventually provide salient alternatives to current institutional structures?

· What are the new forms of collaborative production? Can the so-called “sharing economy” and new technical models provide some answers?

· How can we imagine novel institutional organizations without repeating the mistakes of modern disciplinary institutions?

· What binds us together around a “common” goal? Love? Friendship? Passion? Respect? Work ethic? Urgency? Political will? Ideology? Hope for a better future? ___ ?

· And, what separates us?

Suggested Readings:

Hardt, Michael. The Procedures of Love. 2012

http://goo.gl/o2Z3pm

Deleuze, Gilles. Lecture transcripts: Spinoza’s Concept of Affect. https://www.gold.ac.uk/media/deleuze_spinoza_affect.pdf

About

Michael Hardt is the chair of the Literature Program at Duke University. His recent writings deal primarily with the political, legal, economic, and social aspects of globalization. In his books with Antonio Negri (Declaration, and the Empire Trilogy including Empire, Multitude, and Commonwealth) he has analyzed the functioning of the current global power structure as well as the possible political and economic alternatives to that structure based on new institutions of shared, common wealth.

Nidhi Srinivas is Associate Professor of Non-profit Management at The New School in New York City. His research interests center on critical theory, civil society and post-colonial management knowledge. Srinivas serves on the advisory board of Research Institute on Turkey.

**Hakan Topal **is an artist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. He is Assistant Professor of New Media and Art+Design at Purchase College and is one of the founding members of Research Institute on Turkey, where he now serves on the advisory board.

(c) 2017 - Hakan Topal