Notes on Study Session

Deniz Kırkalı

Editor note: The text below is about a 3-layer Study Session workshop organized by a collaboration of curator Deniz Kırkalı and poşe. When we started working on Issue #28 as Orta Format, we received an e-mail from Deniz and poşe that we were invited to closed Study Sessions that they invited various initiatives and independent organizations, artist collectives, curators, and academics. On behalf of Orta Format, İpek Çınar participated in the workshop that uses several methodologies with question marks such as "As Turkey's art initiatives, collectives, and culture producers, what kind of process are we going through? What obstacles do we face as a generation? How different those obstacles from the past ones? What kind of alternatives that we provide to corporate information/culture production and function? Do we also institutionalize within our borders? How do we develop different methods?" The more comprehensive details and documentation of this workshop will be available in the forthcoming months online. 




In October and November 2019, we made the first and second invitations of Study Sessions with the organization of poşe. Study Session is a programme of three invitations that aim to ruminate on and create alternatives collective modes and models of working in the current art ecosystem in Turkey. Functioning as a lab, Study Session, prioritizes self-reflection, collective brainstorming and searching for future possibilities as a community.

We believe it is crucial to take breaks for reflection, in this case, collective reflection. Study Session is an invitation for sharing knowledge, experiences, skills as well as the challenges we are currently facing as a community. It is also an offer to learn from one another and think together on collective responses and alternatives to how we function as art initiatives, independent art spaces, artist and curatorial collectives, and cultural producers whose methodologies are concerned with collective modes of working. As there is an ongoing conversation on the modus operandi of art initiatives in Turkey, we are interested in looking at and questioning the ecosystem from where it operates. It is our wish to participate in this collective brainstorming, and a meditation on how we work, how we would like to work and how we can work differently.

Study Session started with Larissa Araz and Öykü Canlı in poşe on October 5th, with a talk about the foundation of poşe, a one and a half year journey of it, and how it works as an initiative. Later on, Ege Demirtaş continued with the presentation that he shared the methodology and outputs of the focus research group that he conducted for poşe on the same day. After then, on November 3rd, 10th, and 17th; we have hosted several workshops called "Study Session: Workshop" at SALT Galata with various artist collectives, independent organizations, researchers, and initiatives. Mert Acar, Fatma Belkıs, Elif Bursalı, İpek Çınar, Özgür Demirci, Ayşe Gür, Borga Kantürk, Gizem Karakaş, Ayşe İdil İdil, Zeynep Okyay, Nursaç Sargon, Ayşe Sarı, Merve Şen, İlayda Tunca, Ezgi Tunceri, Yasemin Ülgen, Barış Yalaz, Saliha Yavuz, and Burcu Yılmaz have participated in these workshops. 

The workshops, which have lasted for three Sundays, started with a long acquaintance and mapping of relationships. It consisted of the design of a fictional community and or collective, experience-sharing through five determined terms, and finally a collective discussion session. In the workshop, we made discussions through five main work/topics which are inclusion/exclusion, being an alternative, economic models, responsibility, and sustainability. 

We focused on the etymological origin of the word sustainability in English, and talk about its inadequacy and misleading translation in Turkish. Sustainability also means physical or mental support and strengthening. In other words, sustainability is about strengthening, healing, and transforming the existing one rather than just a temporal continuity and survival. In this context, collectives, organizations, and initiatives in Turkey should grow away from the desire of being immortal while aiming sustainability. How can we adapt to everchanging emergencies and emancipate our function from uniformity? How can we consider different questions in different ways? In other words, how can we prevent transience, and transform consistently instead?

We talked about the reasons why our need for collective work practices and common structures is rising, and the importance of establishing supportive alternative networks. 

The mapping we made based on organizations, collectives, institutions, universities, and collaborators that we have connected enabled us to think about both our dependencies and the relationships that nurture the alternative systems we have established. We considered these relationships within the scope of friendship and professional/institutional ties as well as temporal and spatial relationships. These collective brainstorms that we started by asking specific questions caused more questions. 

What does it mean to be an alternative? What kind of alternative information do we produce? How can we provide alternative structures and opportunities for each other? What kind of division of labour do we apply? 

What does it mean to be independent? To whom/what we are independent of? At what point are we no longer independent? 

How do art initiatives and collectives make a balance between the need for collaboration and being a bridge to institutions? 

If being "we" implies a "them" or "those left outside", who do we include and who do we exclude? In this context, is building a community means putting some limits? How steady are these limits? How much fluid can we be in this steadiness? 

As the last invitation of Study Session, these are some of the questions we want to keep talking about and broaden the dialogue on an online platform that will be active from February.