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Art, Politics and Other Things in Life — Updates 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.

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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…

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)

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

Deleuze, Gilles. Lecture transcripts: Spinoza’s Concept of Affect.


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.

© Hakan Topal, 2018