On May 6th-20th, I am an artist in residence at the Ilulissat Kunstmuseum which features the works of Emanuel A. Petersen and of contemporary Greenlandic, Danish and foreign artists. This beautiful building that I am so privileged to be living in and working in was once the residence of the “Colony Manager” in 1923. Here lived five different colony managers and later a trading company. In 1995 it became an art museum which is the first for Greenland. There also is a group of women called Seqineq (sun) who meet regularly in the museum to paint the surroundings. On the property there is a garden which is as old as the building an important resource for the residents. The curator and the residency program manager is Ole Gamst-Pedersen.
The project I am working on is about identity and connecting to ancestors, from a mixed race perspective of White and American Indian. Specifically coming from a tribe (Lumbee Indian) that is not recognized by the US government and the complications that come with this. I was curious to find out what it was like for those in Greenland especially those that are half Danish and half Greenlandic, their struggles with identity. How does the culture and traditions live on after colonization? Is there similarities between the struggles of Native Americans in the states and the Inuit struggles in Greenland? The more I found out the more questions I have. Visit my website lauraarena.com for more about this project.
I spent my endless days of light looking out the window watching the boats move in an out of the harbor. Introducing myself and my project to large groups of museum visitors. Drinking coffee and learning about Greenlandic/Danish ways from Ole and his beautiful wife Trine. Living in an art museum with painting of icebergs and old ways of the past. Taking long hikes where Icebergs are made, visiting the local businesses and being equally scared and intrigued by the sledge dogs all around. Greenland is a strange, beautiful, and somewhat a dangerous place. A place I am more aware of my own fragility and the true force of nature.
I am an artist-in-residence at the Fish Factory Creative Centre in Stöðvarfjörður for the months of March/April 2016. In March, I am with two other artists, Lana Schneider, a visual artist from Belgium and David James Andrew, a poet from England. In April, I am with Morgan Murphy, a visual artist from USA and Sine Lindholm, a visual artist/architect from Denmark.
Stöðvarfjörður is an extremely remote village in the East fjords of Iceland. See how remote it is. In 2011, the Creative Centre was established when an abandoned Fish Factory was acquired by the founders, Icelanders, Czech, Irish among others. They began the journey of creating a thriving, creative, community with a focus on the arts, craftsmanship and music in this beautiful place.
The Creative Centre is an ongoing collaborative project supported by volunteers, the surrounding community and a very determined staff. All based on sustainable principles and alternative methods and includes a recording studio, performance space, wood working space, sewing station, studios and more than I can mention.
In many ways I am surrounded by “my people” at the Creative Centre. Even though the landscape is remarkably different from mine in New York City. It is all familiar. Artists creating community. Artists serving community. Artists serving artists. Artists building artist spaces. I feel quite at home here, inspired by the magnitude of this project and by the individuals involved. My time spent is a time of personal, spiritual and artistic growth. I am extremely grateful to share this experience through this project and with the community here.
I took part in a focus group in preparation for an artist residency program “AIR Vela Straža” located in old Yugoslavian Military barracks high up in the hills of Šolta Island in the Adriatic Sea south of Split. The residency, still in its planning stages by artist, and assistant professor at the Academy of fine arts in Zagreb, Marina Bauer and artist Ivana Ognyanovac with collaboration with Green Action a leading non-governmental organization for environmental protection in Croatia. Green Actions hosts several workshops over the summer for activists and young people to come together to discuss and problem solve challenging environmental concerns.
The artist residency adds a new layer to Green Action’s programming providing 15 artists the opportunity to work in a remote, natural setting to contemplate and work in response to local environmental issues including the destruction of local, old stonewalls to make way for contemporary gardening or inspired by topics covered by Green Action, such as solar energy.
“AIR Vela Straža” is a two week artist residency, the planned dates for 2016 is July 19th – July 2. Artists will be invited and have an opportunity to apply late winter or early spring. More information will be announced next year.
I was invited by PASAJ an Istanbul-based, artist initiative to participate in their artist-in-residence program, April 18-29th, in 2014. My place of residence, Tarlabaşı, had quite a reputation when I was researching online. Tarlabaşı is often seen as a hostile environment, a lawless haven for society’s undesirables, which included, Roma people, Kurdish refugees, Syrian refugees, African migrants, queer and transgender people all living together in 20,000 square meters, consisting of 9 blocks.
Tarlabaşı is an extreme example of what life is like living in an over-populated, urban environment, a city with one foot in the past and one foot in the future. During my short stay in Istanbul I found myself completely overwhelmed with culture shock and often retreated to my balcony to witness on the street below, the cinematic dance between neighbors, strangers, old and young in business and play. The dance began around 3pm and continued into the early morning hours. In my anonymity I took photographs, videos, and wrote poetry, trying my best to capture the spirit of the street I found myself longing to be part of their display but also fearful at the same time.
Tarlabaşı’s history is rich and complicated and is apparent in the diversity of the architecture, its people and the layout of the streets. In 2006 the local municipality declared Tarlabaşı a regeneration area or commonly referred to in the West as an urban renewal project. Just like most urban renewal initiatives the needs of the current inhabitants are not addressed. This program is so massive, large parts of the population were displaced, entire city blocks demolished, and blocks and blocks of security walls separate bulldozers, and cranes from passers-by. This urban renewal program is quite reminiscent to what you see in New York City’s gentrification, but in this case gentrification on steroids.
It seems like it is a time of a great change for Istanbul and with this change there is a strong public backlash against the Turkish government. Gentrification and development seems to take center stage. Most of the anger displayed by Turks (televised all over the world) in the form of protests and demonstrations in Taksim Square (2013) was directed towards this rampant development and gentrification, the lack of public space or rather the stealing of it in the name of urban renewal. I spent my days in Istanbul seeking out these places and exploring Tarlabaşı documenting through video, photographs and writings.
The first people living in Tarlabaşı are noted to be in 1535 mainly non-Muslim diplomats. In 1870 there was a fire that consumed the neighborhood of wooden structures. After the fire, the dwellings were then made of stone.
With the turn of the century, Tarlabaşı became the neighbourhood of the non-Muslim lower-middle class: Greek, Armenian, and Jewish craftsmen, smaller merchants and employees serving the businessmen and diplomats. After the removal of the Greeks, and Armenians, then arrived the Anatolians, Kurdish migrants, Roma people, and most recently now Syrian Refugees.
In 2006 the Turkish Cabinet turned a 20,000-square-meter part of Tarlabaşı into an urban renewal area, the tender for the planned project was awarded to GAP Inşaat, a subsidiary of Çalık Holding.
Much of the renewal area neighbouring the centre now stands empty and dilapidated. Only a handful of families still hold out against pending eviction orders, their court cases are ongoing. Most of the abandoned buildings have been looted for wood, metal and plastic, leaving most of them without windows and doors.
Tarlabaşı 360 urban renewal program is run by GAP İnşaat. The project features luxury residencies and sleek office buildings The project, which encompasses several hundred buildings within a sizeable section of the neighborhood, seeks to transform the low-income Tarlabaşı into a chic, trendy and inevitably pricy area. The Tarlabaşı 360 urban renewal program is one of Istanbul’s most massive development project to date.
This is a video to get an idea how difficult it is to travel in this developed area.
Balat district of Istanbul is a working class neighborhood where developers plan to pour millions and millions into the renewal of this neighborhood surrounded by Byzantine walls within walking distance to major touristic areas. With this development the values of the residential properties will rise sevenfold. Many investors seek to profit from fixing up residences in the dilapidated historic districts of central Istanbul as Turkey’s affluence increases.
Balat, is a UNESCO-protected district on Istanbul’s Golden Horn waterway, was once one of the most prestigious areas of the city. A century and a half ago, it was home to a merchant community of Turks, Jews, Greeks and Armenians. By the 1990s, its crowded streets had been largely left to poor migrants from the east and Gypsies, also known as Roma. The government is auctioning off the right to renovate entire areas at a time and people are being forced out of their homes without adequate compensation.
In the aftermath of the Gezi-protests, Istanbul’s newly formed solidarity groups including activists from Yeldeğirmeni (The Windmill) continue to work for lasting change, these activists squatted an empty building ‘Don Quixote’ in the district of Kadiköy. ‘Don Quixote’ became Istanbul’s first social center. While the building is aimed to provide basic support for neighborhood’s problems, activists list some of the activities as follows: children’s playroom, library, carpentry and art workshops.
Garipçe is a small fishing village that seems like time has stood still in the North of Istanbul where the Bosphorus meets the black sea is frequently in the news because of the construction of the third bridge over the Bosporus and the new highway.
The name of the village ‘garip’ (poor, miserable) comes from this isolated life the village had lived for a long time. Standing in the harbor of Garipçe you cannot see the construction whatsoever. The construction of the third bridge is quite controversial, a lot has been written about it so far; people who are in favor of it come up with their ideas, and the people who are against it try every possibility to get their vision into the media. Read this article in the New Yorker about Garipçe.
What is sure is this development will change the way life of the villagers of Garipçe I have to admit some one who is nostalgic for living by the sea it saddens me that the villagers will be yet another victim to development of Istanbul.
I spent 8 days at The Shell an artist’s and scholar’s residency in the Strandir region of Iceland offered by The Icelandic Centre for Ethnology and Folklore. The Shell is a beautiful and newly renovated house in the village of Hólmavík.
I gave a talk at the local school about my work and spent most of time at The Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft with Sigurður Atlason. The project is done in collaboration with the Hólmakaffi café and is supported by the Strandabyggð municipality.
I successfully raised $845 for the International Artist Workshop in Palestine. I sincerely thank each and everyone of you for your donation and look forward to sharing with you individually results of this amazing experience.
Iulia O. Toacaci
I was invited to participate with 24 artists in the Al-Mahatta International Artists Workshop, in Palestine from Sept. 15th until Oct.1st, 2010.
About Al-Mahatta Gallery
is a non-governmental- not-for-profit organization founded in July 2008 as an independent voluntary youth initiative, set up by a group of young artists, in Ramallah, Palestine. This initiative aims to create the first professional exhibition space for visual arts in Ramallah, offering an opportunity for both local and international artists to engage with the local Palestinian audience through the exhibition of their work in a contemporary and professional manner.
About the Workshop
Al-Mahatta International Workshop is an artist-initiated project proposed by artists in Al-Mahatta Gallery. The two-week workshop is part of the *Triangle Arts Trust Network of workshops currently active in 20 countries.
The workshop is process oriented, supports experimentation in all media and is targeted at emerging to mid career artists in all fields; encouraging contemporary work in painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, video, performance and sound.
The workshop will take place in the town of Birzeit, about 12 kilometers away from the Ramallah City. The residencies and work spaces are set in the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music premises that is situated between olive trees in the historical town of Birzeit. 25 artists will be brought together practicing in a wide variety of media, to work among each other, and share ideas and methods for a period of two weeks in the serene town mountain of Birzeit. At the end of the two weeks, the workshop will host an Open Day which will invite in the local public, artists, and critics to celebrate the developments and results of the workshop.