Retorno Al Origen
(Return to the Source)
September 15 to October 10, 2009
Gallery Talk and Reception: September 15 at 12:00 noon
Works by Chilean artist Angelica Besnier, curated by Jacqueline C. Nanfito, Associate Professor of Spanish, Ethnic Studies and Women’s Studies, Department of Modern Languages & Literatures, Case Western Reserve University – presented in celebration of Hispanic Awareness Month, co sponsored with CSU’s Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs (ODAMA).
Toplu: Landscapes of New Turkish Suburbia, 2008 – 2009Photographs by Mark Slankard
Throughout history, the treatment and arrangement of shelter have revealed more about a particular people than have any other products of the creative arts. Housing is an outward expression of the inner human nature; no society can be fully understood apart from the residencies of its members.
-Kenneth Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier
I have a long-standing interest in the cultural landscape of residential areas. My previous work includes an extended project on the suburban landscapes of Midwestern America. While I was initially attracted by the visual effects of the repetitions of pitched roofs and clear blue skies, the work evolved into a study of delineations and borders - how residents and planners defined their spaces against the perceived chaos of the outside world.
I first traveled to Turkey in 2003 to visit my wife's family. I have returned many times since. We would stay far from the inner core of the cities we visited. In this landscape, I began to see many parallels to my previous work played out on an exaggerated scale. In 2008, I began photographing the rapidly changing landscape of these far-flung, densely populated regions on the suburban outskirts.
I was initially struck by the Toplu Konut, developments of large scale mass-residences. In these photographs, many are still under construction - plopped down into empty fields at a startling pace. Others are tidy high-rise condominium clusters that are self-contained with their own restaurants, schools, shops, swimming pools, tennis courts, and playgrounds. Within their walls they are meticulously landscaped and manicured.
These modern, hyper-planned, enclosed developments are usually built on inexpensive land. This land has usually already been settled by people who've migrated to cities from rural villages. Here, they have built gecekondu, homes build without permits on public land. Turkish law makes these structures difficult to remove once they are built. The term "gecekondu" literally means "built overnight", a reference to their quick, unplanned and stealthy construction.
I intended to photograph the stark contrast at the interface of these two extremes. The juxtaposition is startling. These photographs don't depict the ancient palaces, mosques, and ruins of guidebooks. This is the everyday Turkey of a rising middle class, heavily influenced by Western Europe and the United States. This is also the Turkey of displaced migrants, shantytowns and gentrification. This is the site where they intersect.