The interview with with Genco Gulan is partially published at Silverkris the inflight magazine for Singapore Airlines, August 2012 issue as "bohemian rhapsody".
The tale of the Turkish city that inspired Agatha Christie to write Murder on the Orient Express can be traced to when Istanbul – which was founded as Byzantium around 660 BC – enjoyed a glorious reign as the capital of three great empires, Roman (324-395), Byzantine (395-1453) and Ottoman (1453-1923). Fortunately, Istanbul is not the type of city to rest on its laurels. In fact, it is busy reinventing itself to cater to Turkey’s young residents – half the country’s population is under the age of 29 – not to mention the Turks and foreigners who are investing in this vibrant city. In the words of awardwinning local artist Genco Gulan: “Modern Istanbul has as much dynamism as New York.”
Heidi Fuller-love: Genco can you tell me your current 'job title'?
Genco Gülan: I carry couple of professional titles, academic and not – including; “founder of the Web Biennial” - but I prefer to be called simply as an artist.
Heidi Fuller-love: Where do you live in Istanbul and why?
Genco Gülan: I live in Ortakoy, the Middle Village, with my family. We live in a renovated white wooden Ottoman kiosk right next to the Bridge that connects two continents. I cannot live without the sea. I cannot survive all the traffic without smelling the breeze.
Heidi Fuller-love: Do you believe that Istanbul is an exciting place to be at the
moment - if so, why?
Genco Gülan: Yes. Istanbul claims to be the temporary capitol of the post-post modern era. This is no typo error. Temporary, without a ‘con,’ and modernism with two ‘post’s in front of it. The world is changing rapidly and Istanbul is one of the few that really inspires this change. Today the city with the most contradictions will rule because its citizens will have to be more creative to survive.
Heidi Fuller-love: What, in your view, are the most exciting new events/activities/openings in Istanbul at the moment?
Genco Gülan: Skyscrapers, kitsch malls and Museums are blossoming like wild mushrooms on seven hills. Istanbul is more than an exotic destination, a must be place, especially for artists. Sulukule and Tarlabasi which are both areas of gentrification, attract video makers from all over the world. The city is recovering from Midnight Express. We can describe this situation as a “Reverse Renaissance” triggered by 9/11. What are the coolest/most exciting art venues/places/activities to visit in Istanbul at the moment, and why?
There are almost 20 private museums opening up. Art is flourishing in contrast to decreasing state support and unpredictable private capital. Pilot, Arter, Salt, Rampa, Pera, Artist and Plato are some of the venues where you can catch cutting edge art. Censorship is still an important issue. Conservative government, sponsors try control productions but artists keep on resisting. Artists sue Ministers and Museums sue artists but all these ‘legal’ wars bring dynamism to our creativity and an excitement.
Heidi Fuller-love: Where is your favorite place to eat out in Istanbul and why?
Genco Gülan: I love eating out at Eminonu, the old city. My favorite is fish and bread, with pickle on the side, from a boat, parked by the ports. You watch the ships change continents and listen to sea gulls tell their magical stories. After that it’s time to eat ‘baklava’ at Egypt Bazaar from Gulluoglu for desert. I got my super powers from this secret recipe.
Heidi Fuller-love: Where is your favorite place to spend an evening in Istanbul and why?
Genco Gülan: Beyoğlu and Galata are our favorite places for the evenings. My wife Yesim has a theatre company and she rehearses all the time so we have to stay close to the theater. Whenever we have foreign guests we take them to Nevizade to have traditional meze (small cold dishes like
tapas) and raki at a Roum meyhane (tavern). We used to go to Asmalimescit but now it is too crowded. When we are alone, we prefer
sushi; as much as you can eat…
Heidi Fuller-love: What is your favourite area in Istanbul and why?
Genco Gülan: I love Bebek which means ‘baby’ in English. The village has a beautiful coastline where I walk or bike for exercise. It has a beautiful park and a nice marina. There are also some very good coffee shops authentic like Bebek Kahve and contemporary like Cem Mirap’s Lucca. I often go Bebek with my lap-top, drink Turkish coffee and work all day.
Heidi Fuller-love: Do you think that your art has been influenced by the city (if so,
in what way?)
Genco Gülan: Yes. As my dear friend Dr. Marcus Graf wrote; my art is as chaotic and powerful as my city. I not only gather my materials but also ideas from the narrow streets and wide shoreline. One can not only change continents but also travel in time when you take a cheap local boat ride. Thus I produce art not only for today but also for future, as one can observe in the “Future Archeology” sculpture series.
Heidi Fuller-love: Do you think that your art has influenced the city (if so, in what way?)
Genco Gülan: To re-write art history, one needs tools that have never been used before. My city gives me hints and clues about where to find them and I give back to my city its current visibility. It is a fair deal. Turkish art is becoming more popular and this boosts the economy. However bureaucrats still underestimate the role of the arts and the local production in a larger grand equation.
Heidi Fuller-love: Do you have any exciting new projects in the pipeline? Please tell
us more so that we can give plenty of information to our readers!!
Genco Gülan: This weekend, on 27th of May 2012, I am going to exhibit my “Kissing Zeppelins” a large scale aerial installation, over the Bosporus. I am going to use two commercial size Zeppelins filled with helium and they are going to fly touching nose to nose. With a similar concept, ‘Twins’, I am working on a performance proposal with real identical twin performers, to be exhibited in the
Metropolitan, New York. Last but not the least; We just launched the Web Biennial 2012 in
Athens together with Dimitris Fotiou, Daphne Dragona and Matthias Fritsch. This year the concept is “Occupy Content”, Istanbul and Berlin will cooperate with Athens to realize the one and only Web
Heidi Fuller-love: Please add any more information that you think is important/of interest.
Genco Gülan: Couple of years ago I almost came to Singapore but I could not. I was
in the International Program Committee for ISEA (Inter Society Electronic Arts) Singapore 2008 and collaborated online as one of the jurors. However I could not be able to travel and see the city. I
would love to visit Singapore soon and even make a solo exhibition at one of the art museums.