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

Category: Exhibition

Sinking Cities Exhibition at Purchase College Center for Community and Culture (PC4)

By Hakan Topal, 2015-17

Purchase College Center for Community and Culture (PC4) presents Sinking Cities, curated by Tal Beery and Steven Lam. This exhibition and event series connects NYC and Yonkers-based artists and community leaders whose projects wrestle with our reliance on vulnerable waterways.

Artists: Mary Mattingly, Eve Mosher, Sarah Cameron Sunde, Hakan Topal, Center for the Urban River, and Photography Expanded with Brooke Singer.

Opening Reception: Saturday, April 15, 2:30-4pm
PC4: Purchase College Center for Community and Culture,
16 Warburton Ave. Yonkers, NY 10701

Drift Events:
Solvents: Saturday, April 15, 4-7:30pm
Edges: Saturday, April 22, 1-4pm

The artists of Sinking Cities reinterpret the waterfront as a site of access and contention, threat and promise. They reconsider the role of waterfront development in a new climate era of higher storm surges and frequent flooding; they propose new modes of access to reclaim the water as a public good; they resurrect invisible histories buried beneath new glass-and-steel high rises; they dream up new solutions to realistic scenarios; and they locate us in the complex web of water and capital flows that sustain contemporary life.

This show will be organized around a series of drifts and anchors. During the show, two drifts – themed meanderings through the city of Yonkers – will include scheduled encounters with experts and artists, thus partnering various cultural organizations with multiple artists and practitioners. Each drift will be anchored to the Yonkers space through artworks that comprise the installation. This method of tying exhibition with engagement is grounded in the notion that storytelling and the display of objects are agents of recovery and resistance. The exhibition and events revolve around five themes:


Sinking Cities connects artists, educators, and community leaders with opportunities for interdisciplinary exchange on urgent issues confronting Yonkers residents.

(Event image: Sarah Cameron Sunde, research documentation for “36.5 / a durational performance with the sea” as part of Marie Lorenz’s “Tide and Current Taxi” (2015), photo by Marie Lorenz. )

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!


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!





Tuesday, February 6th, 1-3PM 
The Orozco Room
Alvin Johnson / JM Kaplan Hall #A712
66 West 12th St, New York
Ali Taptik, Aslihan Demirtas, Evren Uzer, & Hakan Topal


February 16th, 3:30–5:00PM
Gibson Suite, 2nd Floor (Media Lounge)
CAA Conference, Hilton Midtown, New York
Pamela Allara, Wafaa Bilal, Ricardo Dominquez, Activist, Susan Platt, Hakan Topal, & Jenny Marketou (Chair)
* This Media Lounge program is free and open thanks to the support of the NEA and SAC.


February 21st, Tuesday, 6:30pm
The James Gallery, CUNY Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue, First Floor, New York

Joanna Lehan, Hakan Topal


March 14th, Tuesday, 6:30PM
Istanbul Modern Cinema 
Guven Incilioglu & Hakan Topal



Istanbul Modern
On view January 28 to June 4, 2017
I participated this exhibition with two interconnected past projects “Siegecraft (2004)” and “Sea of Marble (2010)”.
For more information:

The Image and Social Change 

ICP Museum, New York 
On view from January 27, 2017 to May 07, 2017
I participated this exhibition with a commissioned work titled “Untitled (Ocean), 2017”.
For more information:

Student Exhibition at Neuberger Museum

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In Defense of the Othered

Social Design 2016 Final Exhibition
Neuberger Museum Café
Opening May 3rd, 4PM – Open until May 10th
** This exhibition is organized as part of the experimental Social Design Class taught by Hakan Topal, Assistant Professor of New Media & Art+Design. Over the course of the semester, students have been actively researching issues of political representation, social justice, and the question of others.
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Exhibition: Unrelated Matters

Unrelated Matters: Fantazistan (2015) & Uniform Cut (2015)
by Hakan Topal

Ongoing Open Studio & Installation: June 23rd – July 9th
Exhibition Opens: July 7th, 2015
Reception: July 9th, 6-8 pm

3331 Arts Chiyoda, #205 — 2nd Floor Gallery
6-11-14 Sotokanda Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Japan 101-0021

Unrelated Matters, an ongoing installation by New York-based artist Hakan Topal—an artist-in-residence at 3331 Arts Chiyoda—is composed of two distinct but interlocking projects that deal with everyday realities, speculation, perversity, subversion and representation in digital times.

The first part of the installation, Fantazistan is a playful attempt to engage with Islamist ideology and its phantasmagoric gender narratives and newly invented neoconservative norms. In this case, veiling (hijab), albeit a very contested issue, is extremely sexualized under this conservative order.

Uniform Cut is a project that is part of the ongoing research about coastal communities and global waters. The project revolves around the idea of speculating possible futures with respect to the aftermath of manmade or natural catastrophes. Uniform Cut invites us to rethink nature where it intersects with the built environment.

The installation brings together fictitious and documentary images, web pages, 3D renderings, video and text to create an amalgamated context.

(c) 2017 - Hakan Topal