Independent Seners

Şener Soysal
About Diğer Yazıları

One morning, when Şener Soysal woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a great art financier. He was one of the few institutions that gave room for art, artists, and independent organizations with significant financial support: SAHA, SALT, ŞENER. Moreover, his name was not found bizarre beside the other institutions. But how could he become a great art financier, even when he was not a legal entity? Or was he still dreaming?


Hello there. 


I am one of the editors of Orta Format, an eight years old non-profit publication. Plenty of correspondence, editorial processes, interviews, texts… Within that period, I have also designed the magazine as someone who earns his living with graphic design. I have done this without any financial expectations, and I have always enjoyed the qualified results. However, I was able to spare this effort by doing things that would ensure my financial situation. In other words, as Şener, I am funding my editorship and therefore Orta Format. In other words, what I said above is no more nonsense than saying "I found myself transformed into a vermin." We are in the same league even if they do not believe it. In fact, I have provided more financial support to Orta Format than these institutions have done.  

If you believe it, yes, I am a great art financier like SALT, SAHA. And without being dependent on any capital! However, the more precise form is: We are dependent on ourselves while trying to be independent, and we exploit our labour while saying that we will protect the others'. 

In brief, the situation continues somewhere half awake half asleep. 




Our publishing life started with the pleasure of researching and wish to share our research. I and Tevfik Çağrı Dural, who we established the Orta Format together, were two college students who could not get enough of looking at photographs, had a relationship with literature, studied engineering without a great love or commitment. 

Since we do not have any knowledge of publishing or the term of independence, the magazine has progressed gropingly, by itself. İpek, who has suffered from the same troubles as us and whose only difference was to study political science, also joined us as an editor. Her participation has progressed by itself, too. The good thing was that we acted as who we are. We did not go by classical definitions and rules. We did not flap our gums. And sometimes, we dug for the authors, sometimes even each other. Whatever it made sense, we proceeded like that. We published whatever we got. We did not give up goodwill and ethics. 

In this process, we have gained some serious experience and skills. But the essential part for me is the people I have met. We recently summed it up for a funding application (and we do not care about numerical quantity apart from such things.) Over 200 names contributed to the content of Orta Format with their projects, interviews, articles... Besides the chance to meet with those people, it is also a pleasure for me to keep our friendship with many of them. I cannot describe the value of talking about the productions, ongoing troubles, sometimes sharing the good news and gossip. The motivation of these things has provided to overcome many financial/moral difficulties. These things make several independent organizations and artists to hold on. However, as time goes on, the burden on our shoulders has increased, and our resistance has decreased. 

What it all comes down to, we did not be deceived, we did not do these things by force, and we were not unhappy. Only as time goes on, life and its balance have changed. An expression that I heard from Orhan Cem Çetin has never got out of my mind: "Blessing/burden balance". We need to think more about the issues we were aware of from the beginning, but which we did not dwell on. On the other hand, the state of the art environment we are in and the problems faced by initiatives force us to question terms more such as independence, sustainability, and exploitation of volunteerism. Likewise, the whole issue that this text is also a part of is on these issues. 




When we received the SAHA Support at the end of 2016, it was the first time some cash was put into Orta Format's bank account. Of course, Orta Format does not have a bank account or a drawer or a desk, but it is a figure of speech. We eventually figured out that the 10.000 Turkish liras which excited us very much did not completely work out for anything. 

We renewed our website with this money. Our software developer Şamil Hazır made its infrastructure (and ŞENER financed the designs) with a small fee and SAKE (which is not an art institution.) We had to pay for the honorarium under the base price determined by AICA. (The price list was revised later, and a royalty of a text is 250 Turkish liras now, but we were paying even less than this.) Our friends who knew our well-intentioned effort had written without any honorarium before, so this symbolic royalty was not a problem for them either. SAKE was again in the foreground (On the other hand, at that time, we were discussing the publishings/institutions that did not pay the royalty or did not show goodwill. While we were using the first money we received for the honorarium, the institutions' attempts to pocket the capital was truly sad.) The translation was done by Zeynep Arıkan who worked with a low budget and SAKE again. Actually, every budget deficit was closed by SAKE. Besides, we continued to fund ourselves as editors. I do not know what we would do without ourselves and the SAKE. 

By the way, when the SAHA Fund first kicked off, only initiatives having space were accepted. This situation changed with Merve Ünsal's effort to advocate that the Internet is also a space (EFFORT as an art actor. Six letters, each of them are capital.) It was accepted that online publications also have an online-space which often has more visitors than physical ones, and has archival importance. Thus, m-est received SAHA support. After this precedent, we decided to apply, too. It was a good step even though it allocated 15.000 TL for initiatives with a physical space, while 10.000 TL for online ones.   

Although we received SAHA Support for the second time in 2017, I can say that this process was again in cooperation with SAHA & SAKE. Also, we were planning to cover the transportation expenses of an international fair, and we had to give up due to exchange rates. 

Meanwhile, in this period, we managed to publish two books including selected articles. We managed the first one with the sponsorship of Nikon and CMYK Printing House, and the second one with the sponsorship of Canon and A4 Offset. The one who can persuade Nikon and Canon which the stereotypists advocate at the level of partisanship was Selim Süme's SAKE. 

Recently, we have become one of the initiatives that have received 2019-2020 SAHA Support. For a while now, SAHA has been asking the initiatives to how much budget they need. This time, we prepared a budget planning that will remunerate all effort. Author/translator honorariums based on AICA standards, editorial royalty lower than the AICA's standards, some social media marketing spending. 13.000 TL of our total budget of 24.000 TL has been approved. However, we could not fully understand how this budget was determined. In other words, do they desire that some of the budget items we are asking for not be done or do they find them unnecessary? All in all, an institution giving fund for sustainability would not say "You can do this works for half the price, there are plenty cheap authors and editors in this country!" After all, it is clear that they find it sufficient to pay the second amount. They may have thought that we are sweet enough to provide the remaining budget needs elsewhere. Of course, they have no responsibility to support each of our plans. But I am curious about what budget items they supported or the criteria of their decision. We had a correspondence on this matter, but we did not get a clear answer.




The mood of our independent publishing is coming and going between joy and pessimism. So does this text. There are both positive things and problematic situations. We have experienced more ridiculous states and greater moments with excitement and happiness than I mentioned. It matters how you approach. Moreover, the coming and going state is similar for many independent organizations. Sometimes it is so hard that it can end without turning into an archive or even having a remark. 

When we approach from only the positive side, the problems of the Orta Format or any other art initiative are ignored. Because many things make me feel good as an editor. Yet, if you do not live in Smurfs' Village, it would not be possible to say "Let's always look at the bright side!" We have to approach from the other side, look from a different standpoint. I believe that only then we can reach a point where the art environment approaches every stakeholder ethically, fairly, and respectively. Otherwise, the art writer will not be able to get fair royalty, cannot defend their editorial rights sufficiently, and the relationship between art institutions and artists will not become equal hierarchically. 

So, the surfaces of the white cube shine like a diamond, while the inside of walls decays from damp. Shouldn't we think of solutions for damping all together? Or should we destroy the archives, styles, schools, and build new ones? There must be a contractor in our environment, my dear, so what...




EFFORT and SAKE were added to the list of the art financiers that I mentioned at the beginning of this text. SALT, SAHA, ŞENER, EFFORT, and SAKE. So, it is clear that there is no capital lies behind the supreme sources of funding in our art world. And the names are at least as stylish as the others. Funny but true. 

Consequently, this text is supported by "SAHA Art Initiatives Sustainability Fund 2019-2020", and the nameless heroes ŞENER, EFFORT, and SAKE.