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“Like all good designs, good things also stand somewhere in between the configured and the coincidental.”

Interview: Merve Aktaş

Photographs: Şener Yılmaz Aslan

How did you become involved in the “Cities: Changing Routes Changing Maps” exhibition as part of the “UrbanObscura” project?

Initially, Burcu Perçin had mentioned this exhibition. Then curator Ayşin Zoe Güneş called and invited me to join the exhibition. When I saw the first sentence of the invitation letter, “What do the concepts of city, urbanity, urban architecture and urban spaces mean to us?” there was nothing else to do but accept. Seeing an excerpt from Calvino’s Invisible Cities book in the letter that continued with the words “... built on a vast and collective memory that etches memories and experiences in our minds, that records and archives, remembers and aspires…” sealed the desire to take part in the exhibition. 

Would it be right to say that geography is an important topic in your professional career as well as personal life? Please tell as a little bit about “the places you know”. 

Geography is the most important determinant... This determinant is usually considered to be history, but history also happens and evolves in geography. I totally agree with Ibn Khaldun’s words, “Geography is destiny.” There is no way of knowing all the places in this mortal world. And there is really no need to, either. But it is important that we know what is ours. Some of these places that are ours, are where we were born and raised based on some decisions made without our involvement, others are places we have loved and embraced as ours among the places we have lived at certain stages of our lives. The traces of these places remain in us, and vice versa. The more traces we leave and the more traces of the past we touch on, the more those places become ours.

Why did you choose the Aegean region as the subject of your work featured in the “Cities: Changing Routes Changing Maps” exhibition? Are there other places that you would consider for such a project?

I know other places, but I know the Aegean region best so I started with a familiar question. This is part of the Aegean map and one I am most acquainted with. It is also a map that can be stretched to the North, South and West. The opposite shores of the Aegean Sea are also on this map. Since geography is the most important determinant, the borders of a country are not of any significance. Even in our lifetime, we have seen so many borders change. They will keep on changing but geography will not change as quickly except for very special circumstances. 

How do you engage with a place to understand and analyze its geography, and more than that to discover its soul? How do you manage the process?

Looking carefully, listening to the place, and trying to understand what it says, trying to make sense of what we understand and to explain the meanings we surmise is the natural flow of this process. This is also how the stories - that make us who we are – are created. You manage parts of it but inevitably leave some parts to chance. As Müslüm Gürses sang, “Life loves coincidences.” Like all good designs, good things also stand somewhere in between the configured and the coincidental.

In your notebooks, are there other works, similar to the one in the exhibition, that wait to be revealed? Do you have plans for a prospective exhibition?

As a person who writes down and draws everything, there are many things that belong to me in my notebooks but some of them are not good with daylight. I have a “maze” exhibition idea in mind, and this is one topic with the most drawings in my notebooks, but I have not yet decided on how to go about it. 

Do you think the period we live in is diminishing the sense of belonging that individual s develop toward spaces? What does the term “global village” mean to you?

This period of time is making us experience things so unlike one another. The guy is knee-deep in nationalism and yet he does not know the geography he lives in. It’s traditionalism all over, but he does not know his past. All he talks about is his love for his country but he has no meaningful idea about his homeland. So even though ‘sense of belonging’ is a worn out term, it does not go beyond a weak feeling. The definition of a “global village” is precisely this; an oxymoron. If it’s global, it is not a village, and if it’s a village, then it is not global.

As a collector and an architect, how does the way you address different concepts and your approach to arts affect you?

I am not sure if I can be called a “collector”. It’s true that I collect things I love, but there is no order to it. It is enough that I love them, so things that seem disparate can stand side by side. And yet, pictures, sculptures, clocks, knives and pens have a special place for me. I agree with the definition that art, which is one of the most important things that give meaning to the world in which we exist inadvertently, but if we are lucky, live willingly, is the most essential element among all the trivia. 

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