Last Wednesday, we met with Omar (Berakdar) at arthereistanbul, which he founded. We talked about the platform, one of the venues of the 17th Istanbul Biennial, his relationship with the neighbourhood, the importance of the biennial, and art. It was a completely different experience to look at Yeldeğirmeni through the eyes of Omar, who came to Istanbul from Syria and created an open production space for artists and art lovers.
If you are ready, we will start our conversation to learn the story of arthereistanbul with cats on our laps, pieces of art in front of our eyes, and the sound of the neighbourhood in our ears.
SHOOT THE BREEZE
What is the relationship between arthereistanbul and Yeldeğirmeni?
Now, we are a part of the neighbourhood. We do lots of collaborations with the locals. Yeldeğirmeni is a really close and sincere district. When I need to handle other stuff outside of the hood I can easily ask anyone to take care of the place. Over time we became a part of the family, and this means so much to me.
Omar at arthereistanbul
Photo: Deniz Sabuncu
What is the relationship between art and Yeldeğirmeni?
Yeldeğirmeni is a very rooted and nostalgic place. About 10-15 years ago, the municipality started a project related to murals. It attracted a lot of attention from the environment. You can easily find lots of tours located here about murals.
At the same time, there are many historical buildings around. Again, this place was protected by the decision of the municipality. That means; you will see that many of the buildings around here can stay the same for many years. People are aware of this as much as possible, and they try to buy houses from here and renovate them in exactly the same way, and they have to do it this way by law. Thanks to the locals and the people who visit, Yeldeğirmeni will be one of those who succeed in preserving its texture in the future.
arthereistanbul is one of the participants in the 17th Istanbul Biennial. For you, what is the impact of the biennial and this collaboration?
We had many collaborations with IKSV before. Even though we took part in the previous biennial, this one is slightly different than the others because this time arthereistanbul is one of the venues. This is so significant as the recognition of the role of the artist who presents Turkey.
We have a library that tells all the stories about the war and how the war affected people. In relation to this, we started collecting books translated into Turkish and Arabic and international books to spread this awareness to people as much as possible. Knowledge is very important for people who want to learn what's going on around the world. It was very rare to find a Syrian writer to write in Turkish and now with the help of our library and space, you can easily find sources.
We hope it will grow and continue after the biennial. We wanted this place to become an open space where anybody who wants to learn can come, sit, and learn. This area has always been reserved for spending time together and producing.
Duly noted: We are collaborating with the British Council which involves 3 countries; the UK, Turkey, and Jordan. All of us were selected to host 2 displaced artists and present them in our spaces. The residency will start soon.