Teaching Portfolio

Mapping the commons of Istanbul

Mapping the commons of Istanbul was a week-long workshop that took place in October 2012 at the School of Architecture Istanbul Technical University, in the context of Amber Art & Technology Festival curated by Ekmel Artan.

Commons can be defined by being shared by all, without becoming private for any individual self or institution. Commons include natural resources, common lands, urban public spaces, creative works, and knowledge that is exempt from copyright laws. In Istanbul, like in many global cities, the discussions around commons have been relevant especially with the increasing pressure of privatization and control of the governments over the shared assets of the community.In today’s world, the recurrent concept of the commons elaborates on the idea that the production of wealth and social life are heavily dependent on communication, cooperation, affects, and collective creativity. The commons would be, then, those milieu of shared resources, that are generated by the participation of the many and multiple, which constitute, some would say, the essential productive fabric of the 21st Century metropolis. And then, if we make this connection between commons and production, we have to think of political economy: power, rents, and conflict. The questions, then, would be: may the commons provide us with alternative concepts and tactics to the dominant power, for a more democratic, tolerant, and heterogeneous society, which allows more participation and collectivity? Can we open up the different definitions of the commons, and are there different ways of understanding and discussing the commons through various practices?

Due to our tradition of the private and the public, of property and individualism, the commons are still hard to see for our late 20th Century eyes. We propose, therefore, a search for the commons, a search that will take the form of a mapping process. We understand mapping, as proposed by Deleuze and Guattari, and as artists and social activists have been using it during the last decade, as a performance that can become a reflection, a work of art, a social action. Istanbul will be the object of the mapping project. We propose the hypothesis that a new view of the city will come out of the process, one where the many and multiple, often struggling against the state and capital, are continuously and exuberantly supporting and producing the commonwealth of its social life.

At a time when Istanbul is being transformed radically with large-scale privatizations and constructions due to increasing pressures of neo-liberal politics, it becomed an urgent necessity to think and act in order to (re)claim commons in the city. Commons in Istanbul, such as open spaces, the right to inhabit in the city, the right to be informed of the governing and rebuilding of the urban spaces and the freedom of expression in these processes, communication platforms, and nature are under threat of diminishing today more than ever. The emerging laws for transforming the areas in danger of natural disaster (Law no. 5393, in 2005, Law no. 6306 in May 2012) lend strong authority to the state to demolish and rebuild the housing areas in the centre of Istanbul, moving the owners into public housing on the periphery and leaving the tenants unsettled.[1] The law announcing the state woodlands and farmlands on sale (Law no. 6292, in April 2012) makes the natural common lands vulnerable for private development. At the moment, there are a great number of large-scale projects transforming public coasts, squares and parks into demolition and construction sites in short-term and turning them into private lands in the long-term. Taksim Gezi Park is one of these common sites, where the former barrack building on site is planned to be re-built from scratch in order to house privately controlled cultural and commercial activities. Taksim Square, one of the most important places for public appearance, is now a construction site since November 2012, to be transformed into a large empty space devoid of public density. While in transformation, common memory of the citizens for these places is permanently destructed and erased. For example, the public life of Taksim Gezi Park and the image of Taksim Square as a political scene for large demonstrations are already on hold due to the long-term construction works, and will hardly exist after the planned spatial changes. Similarly, Haydarpaşa Train Terminal where one entered Istanbul and enjoyed its large public stairs is closed at the beginning of 2012 to be turned into a hotel despite public opposition.and documented a wedding and immigrants kitchen on 4 November 2012.

The event bring together activists, students, academics, and researchers from different disciplines, from architecture, arts, media, literature, and social sciences. A group of 20-25 architects, activists, artists, filmmakers and social scientists

Pedagogic choice: developing collaborative mapping strategies, audiovisual languages, using open source software and participatory wiki-mapping tools. The results, several videos were produced. The final production will feature as its central piece an interactive online video-cartography, complemented by secondary databases and analogue-paper productions. Exhibition at Haman.

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