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Fear envelopes the art community is post-coup Istanbul


Isabelle Wesselingh of France 24 reports on the bleak mood in the Istanbul art community after the July coup attempt and subsequent crackdown on freedom of expression. Many artists, art professionals, and writers who were publicly critical of Turkish government policies before the coup are now losing their jobs of even being jailed. Vasif Kortun, director of the SALT contemporary arts center in Istanbul, says that the previous “freewheeling mood” of the local art scene has been “replaced by a sense of fear and increasing isolation.” Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Pressure “can be arbitrary”, even against a large institution such as SALT, said Kortun.

"For example, it can be a police officer in plain clothes coming in to your film programme and saying ‘Why are you showing this film because it shows Kurdish guerrillas?’

“We say ‘OK, but this is legal, we are not showing something that is forbidden.’ Then they will call you in the evening and say, ‘If you ever show this again, you’ll be in trouble’.”

He said SALT may consider what he dubs a “monastery” method.

“What I mean … is you work inside the institution,” he said, “you develop and protect new ideas and these ideas can actually go out on the street when the time is right.”

Another fear by Kortun and others is that funding from abroad, especially from the European Union (EU), could be choked off.

That would leave artists financially dependent on local donors, who are more conservative and watchful of the government, they said.

Image: Vasif Kortun, director of the SALT contemporary arts centre, Istanbul. Via France 24.