The “Kazi Izleri” (Tracks of Archaeological Excavations), supported by EU, and under which 13 contemporary artists as well as academicians interpret the 10,400-year Asikli Hoyuk culture, is at the Husrev Kethuda Bath which was built by Mimar Sinan, between 4-25 February. In the event, which brought together important names from Spain, USA, England and Scotland, the Friends of Asikli Hoyuk Society, too, made a great contribution. The exhibition aims to retell the story of Asikli Hoyuk, which can also be called as the common village of mankind, to Spain and Scotland with Aksaray Kiziltepe Village after Ortakoy.
A very special event was held in February at Mimar Sinan’s historical Husrev Kethuda Bath, which has stood in such good condition since 1550s at Ortakoy district in Istanbul, representing an intersection of cultures with its famous cuisine, bridges, universal sanctuaries and second-hand booksellers that bring the monotheistic religions together and closer. The cultural initiative carried out in the historical structure between 4-25 February 2022 was titled the Tracks of Archaeological Excavations which was organized under the supervisory of Firat Arapoglu (art historian, critic, academician) and his English colleague, Gary Sangster as the curators of the event.
With their studies, Ozgul Arslan, Eva Bosch, Sahin Domin, Leyla Emadi, Ahmet Rustem Ekici, Hakan Sorar, Stephen Farting, Murat Germen, Osman Nuri Iyem, Blanca Moreno, Dillwyn Smith, Anita Taylor and Emre Zeytinoglu from Turkey, Spain, United Kingdom, USA and Colombia took place in the project that brought together many intellectuals and academicians from Spain, Scotland and Turkey. The exhibition generated a brand-new mosaic of display, aesthetics and reading with respect to prehistorian civilization and culture through different disciplines and perspectives.
Just like this multicultural team formed this exhibition on the basis of Barcelona (Spain) and Dundee (Scotland) universities as well as many academic institutions from England and Turkey, the project funded by the European Union (EU) and supported with the contributions of Turkish Republic Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Central Finance and Tenders Unit under the Ministry of Finance and Treasure, and also the Municipality of Besiktas, was introduced to the public under the main heading of the Common Cultural Heritage within the framework of the protection and dialogue grant scheme between Turkey and Europe. The sub-heading of the initiative on the other hand, was the project’s being an intercultural dialogue project through art and archaeology.
Taking place under project management of Demet Gural, and with the contribution of the senior journalist Ferhat Boratav, author and the head of Friends of Asikli Society, the exhibition was archived via various panels which opened their doors to different visitors in Istanbul Karakoy at the historical and multistorey English Post Office Building Postane (Post Office), which is under restoration (https://postane.co/cafe/) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4p740D19mI ), reinforcing sociality and hospitality.
The archaeological excavation field, located next to Melendiz River in Kizilkaya Village that is 25 km east of the city of Aksaray and dates back to approx. 10,400 years, was in the volcanic Cappadocia district of the Central Anatolia. According to the experts, it had been home to the first hand and footprints of the mankind in civilization since 9,000 BC.
Furthermore, the first ever known surgical operation, too, was carried out here on a young woman, and it was added into the scientific records that the patient was live during the related brain surgery.
However, this Asikli Hoyuk resident could be held alive only for one more week, and Anita Taylor, the Scottish academician and artist who participated in the exhibition, did not remain unresponsive to this. While Taylor shared six separate huge expressionist figurative compositions (Witness: Asikli, 2021-22) that she drew with charcoal on a paper in the entrance section of the interdisciplinary exhibition displayed at the historical structure that is comprised of 13 separate rooms in total, the young artist Leyla Emadi from Ankara intersected the prehistoric and post-historic areas with each other on the same level via her simple and abstract space design she created by stating that Once We Were Here Too and by using bricks, ropes and string and paints to highlight the message We Are All Connected. This was accompanied again in entrance section of the interdisciplinary exhibition by documentary archive images and the videos of interviews made with experts and artists on Asikli Hoyuk.
Reinforced by the Asikli Hoyuk archaeological excavations carried out by the teams of Prof.Dr. Ufuk Esin (1989-2000), Prof.Dr.Nur Balkan Atli (2000-2003) and Prof. Dr. Mihriban Ozbasaran as well as Dr. Gunes Duru (2006-ongoing), and also by the visual and textual brief on the history of the area, the exhibition deserved a great appreciation from a curatorial aspect due to presence of the art pieces which was both autonomous and also in a sprinkled manner by being dedicated to a specific purpose at the same time.
The labyrinth-like atmosphere in the exhibition kept the feeling of mysterious silence, discovery and surprise through and through; the video arrangement saw Catalan-born artist and academician Eva Bosch keep watch from 2015 to 2021 in the name of Evde Isik ve Karanlik (Asikli Hoyuk’ten Ic Mekanlar) (Light and Dark at Home; Indoors from Asikli Hoyuk) which focuses on the trans-historical loyalty of light to the story of mankind. Bosch received support from David Berger from England and Asya Algul for this project; which they recorded for 10 minutes and 25 seconds in a melancholic, poetical and documentarist attitude.
Moreover, sculpturer Sahin Domin who interpreted and evaluated the (forced) migration possibilities of Asikli Hoyuk residents, who had embraced their lands for centuries and became prominent in mining, handcrafts and architecture, was like turning the bond of responsibility between the individual and the home into a monument through the male-guard that is on alert to almost watch guard his homeland, by using the natural yellow pigment in its work as a reference since it was also often used in the daily lives of the local community. One of the interesting features of the wooden structure, dated 2021, was the figures which symbolized the citizens of the local community who were buried in their homes as well as in their land with a bond of love and in a fetus position, as if they were headed back to mother nature.
In the near future, the artists who visited Asikli Hoyuk in scope of this transborder and transhistorical project which is in a countdown for promotion in Spain and Scotland through various seminars, and particularly the community of Aksaray, had the opportunity to visit these archaeological finds at Aksaray Museum. Boratav, the President of the Friends of Asikli Hoyuk Society, stresses that the studies and projects to be carried out on the local level is one of the most significant aims of the event. Boratav shares the good news that thanks to the contribution they can receive, they can carry out educational activities which will highlight the significance of cultural heritage as well as understanding and embracing the local cultural values for individuals from various age groups who are living in Aksaray’s Gulagac district or close by.
One of the artists who reached points such as Gulagac and Guzelyurt in company with archaeologists, Dillwyn Smith, was raising curiosity through his arrangement in the exhibition called Root, Blooming and Blow-out, which was formed of mulberry sheet and included architecture and social rituals of the district together with local verbascum herb, ladder, ceremony of a tea prepared with this herb and a folk song sang by the Anatolian rhymist who took inspiration from the same herb.
On the other hand, the exhibition, which gained new dimensions from academician, photography artist and critic Murat Germen, Emre Zeytinoglu, Osman Nuri Iyem, who work on the past and the present images of the region with the diligence of a culture detective and producing scientific and architectural critic readings and arrangements, was also home to Blanca Moreno from Colombia’s work of empathy with the prehistoric era. With delicate flora and fauna portraits placed on the goatskin parchment paper, a work dated 2021, Morena achieved to expand and multiply the feeling of travel in the place and time that is spread by the exhibition.
Another artist who gave their mystical and anthropological greeting to this atmosphere was Ozgul Arslan, with her figurative, topographic abstraction called Tozdan Toze, (From Dust to Substance) which she produced between 2021 and 2022. Ahmet Rustem Ekici and Hakan Sorar also joined these efforts, with conceptual references to a single statuette through current variations and thus searching the potential wealth of sexes for the representation. The artists’ works named Katmanlar (Layers) added more value and depth to the exhibition through augmented reality, digital drawing, and textile printing. Full of information and interest, this sensibility could also be attributed to Stephen Farting, who shared figurative collages on printed papers with texts.
On top of all, the exhibition came to life with a satisfying presentation by the curator Arapoglu, and during our visit, Prof. Ian Hodder who has spent great efforts in Catalhoyuk since 1993, the curator and artist Nazli Gurlek Hodder, and their little son Alec’s curious words and attitude enriched the exhibition as young and old alike. At the closure of the exhibition, Gural, Boratav and Arapoglu -whose opinions I asked during a little chat- all brought different perspectives to my travel in space and time. Gural highlighted that she was sad about how late we were in terms of comprehensibility of our cultural values and archaeology; on the other hand, Boratav stressed that the area was triggering the imagination of mankind at a great level and that the exhibition multiplied that impact.
Curator Arapoglu pointed out that Asikli Hoyuk is located between Gobeklitepe and Catalhoyuk, and emphasized our newfound ability to uncover the relationship between such areas with new methods such as observation with drones, rather than the old methods of studying geopolitics and maps of a region. After stating that such an exhibition opened in such time is a product that made the local community proud, Arapoglu added that he believed the more people they were able to reach out, the more important this success would become. According to the curator Arapoglu, the number of the aesthetical visual art objects found in the area was not at all in excess numbers and likewise, there were rather small numbers of wall paintings and statutes. Claiming that this might be due to the fact that the local people could rather have satisfied such needs through dance, wood carving and production or textile-based or architecture-based products, Firat Arapoglu stated that the artists who led the way for this exhibition and created such art pieces added great value to the exhibition through their huge contribution in terms of drawing the attention of the public.
The Tracks of Archaeological Excavations, which makes its viewers take a moment to think about the concepts such as citizenship, belonging and attachment as well as ownership, particularly ends up at an interesting point when taken together with the latest developments in the European Union and the World. Opinions of the trio, who evaluated this situation and the exhibition on behalf of the ancient Anatolia as well as the integrity of its multicultural form and considered the foregoing together with today’s political crises, were remarkable.
According to Demet Gural, the bond created through the exhibition, for example through Leyla Emadi’s artwork, was truly of great importance for the artists and also the public. Gural further stated that when we take into consideration the evolution of the cultural assets till today, all is integrated and is a whole, and that the most beautiful part of this is that when taken retrospectively many things came nearby.
Firat Arapoglu, on the other hand, expressed that even during the time period when the project was being put in practice, the United Kingdom was going through the ‘Brexit’ process. Arapoglu stated that, as the culture workers, the thing they wanted to achieve via this kind of international projects that is related to continuous history, was to keep the Common Cultural Heritage concept alive with a stronger spirit of solidarity, and added that the great value of the exhibition probably stemmed from this. Comments made by Boratay, President of the Friends of Asikli Hoyuk Society ( https://asiklider.com ) and who confirmed the curator stating that the excavation team from abroad included multinational experts with various field of knowledge, were also striking:
“We are now used to approaching our cultural heritage and our history with a minimum 700-year or even a 800-year depth… However, this exhibition shows that there is something more extraordinary. We need to consider all of these with integrity, meaning we should both learn ourselves and also teach this to others in this manner. This exhibition has a great importance in terms of displaying that vast history as well as the integrity of the heritage that it contains.”