Non lethal weapon - Kasımpaşa street lights
View of the street: Işık Çıkmazı, Kasımpaşa, Beyoğlu, Istanbul
This street size project explores the potentials to implementing a public art project in a fast changing urban environment typical of any growing megalopolis. It tests how human network and empathy have become the first foundation for a public artwork.
Generally speaking a public-art project is realized in an existing context therefore it is interacting with a comprehensive urban environment, which includes architecture, as well as human, social and political factors.
However, over the past few years an important shift has obviously occurred in big cities. Globalized market economy, speculation and gentrification along with political agenda have leveled various cultural differences but at the same time it has raised new boundaries. Fast re-shaping city landscapes impact relationships between the inhabitants and local neighborhood dynamics. Space in a broad sense (both physically and mentally) is less available. Amazingly the more the city is expanding the less potential and alternatives are available.
Large parts of the urban fabric can no longer be possible places for various cultural projects’ realizations. Therefore different kind of collaboration strategies and implementation methods need to be developed to realizing public art projects.
In fact a site-specific realization can no longer be directly implemented in an existing site. The project’s foundation does not start from a solid structure but from the words that are exchanged between people. Human relationships, language and consequently trust are the original elements from which a project can shape its own contour. Beyond aesthetics and materials preferences, public art can first be completed if it is based on language, empathy and mutual recognition.
Description and implementation: the Kasımpaşa street neon light installation
This Kasımpaşa project is based on a local human network. The availability and approval of the neighborhood dwellers create the space where is implemented what will become visible.
Practically, I have first contacted “ustas” (local contractors) and people I previously knew and who are living in Kasımpaşa. From there, without any specific drawings, I have asked which buildings could be used for a light installation, where to get electricity, how to connect various urban components together, how to get equipments delivery, how to get food for the team.
After several days of encounters, a specific blueprint of this Mahalle has already been defined. The final result is a series of neon lines underlining urban fragments located in one street. Various lengths and colors changes will reveal a local network and how the inhabitants relate to one another.
In order to consolidate this approach, this project is realized by using only local fabricators, contractors and shops. The neon light material is a well-proven technique as well as a very common city signage but it is used for this project for a different goal.
This project starts with a human network that gives the foundation for a shape, which reveals the human links between people. As a result the project will show what is normally not visible by looking at the facades or by walking in the streets. It is like showing the roots of a tree without which it cannot grow.
This project can be understood as a reference to an early Gordon Matta Clark public art project, where he planted a tree in the basement of a building. It means that if art or any language can grow, it is because the roots are silently developing in the foundation.