Istanbul

 
 

Time Wounds All Healers (Die Zeit verwundet alle Heiler)


From September to December 2012, Anna Meyer was an artist-in-residence in Istanbul. This was before the riots, yet amidst the urban transformations that contributed to the massive protests. With her series of paintings, drawings, and models, the artist responds to the developments and upheavals that occurred in summer 2013.


The huge textile banner, Greetings from Protestanbul, which Anna Meyer placed on the façade entrance of the gallery, welcomes the visitors. It shows various images related to the protests and recalls, among other motifs, Eugène Delacroix´s “Liberty on the Barricades” by translating it to contemporary Istanbul (“Liberty Taksim”). Another motif connects the Islamic Crescent, Christian Cross, and Star of David, finally merging them into the well-known symbol of peace. However, happy expectations of peace and freedom are twisted on the banner and in the exhibition when being confronted with authoritarian forms of governance.


During her stay, Anna Meyer wandered around the city, took photos, and made drawings. In her Istanbul studio, she started to paint on small-scale formats, and back in Vienna she transferred some of the motifs to larger formats and three-dimensional models. In April, Meyer made Taksimsquare, picturing people who stepped onto and walked through the Monument of Republic, which commemorates the formation of the Turkish nation in 1923. In May the protests increased, and Meyerresponding to the brutality of the authoritiesadded gas clouds to the same painting and changed the title to Taksimgas. In addition, she built a model, which comprises of empty wrappings of various commodities (some still recognisable) that are painted over; colour balls attached represent the protesters (in colour) and the police forces (in black and white)—and not to forget, strings of cotton wools, which symbolise the gas cannons. However, in the work shown at Maçka Sanat Galerisi, Meyer does not only place emphasis on the protests around Gezi Park ( Room 1) but embeds them in a broader political and social climate of a country, which has turned to authoritarian modes of governance and Islamist form of rules (Room 2).


Behind the Metal Fence refers to urban renewal processes in Tarlabashi, a former Greek quarter of Istanbul, which was inhabited later by Kurdish and Roma people, and also exiles, particularly from the African continent. During the period of evacuation, construction work already started, and metal fences were erected. In the course of this, Turkish authorities were accused of illegal evictions: they shut off water and electricity in buildings where people still lived in order to get them out of the central districts in a hurry. Without a doubt, pushing the poorest to the outskirts of the city in order to build shopping malls and hotels has turned into a profitable business for some. Besides Tarlabashi, Anna Meyer gave attention to Sukule, where the government razed the old, predominantly Roma, neighbourhood in order to pave the way for luxury housing. Brandhäuser (Fire houses) refers to Mafia-like activities of burning down listed (protected) wooden buildings to gain space for parking lots for the privileged. Not only by showing vacant buildings, broken windows, metal fences, traces of fire, and some signs of life, but also by making use of contrasts in forms and colours, Meyer finds a visual expression for the brutality of evictions. Furthermore, the existence of almost idyllic street scenes next to signs of displacement and gentrification contributes to the artistic strategy of setting conflict-laden contrasts in the motifs, forms, and colour—in the series but also in each of the paintings and models.


Meyer portrays the connection between politics and economy, as it is expressed in the many new building projects, such as shopping malls, hotels andalthough this might be surprising at firstnew mosques. Exemplarily, one could look at the mosque on Çamlıca paid by business donors. Like the Gezi Park, which was slated to become a mall, the mosque project has turned into one of the most visible symbols of Turkey’s programme of authoritarian building, of infrastructure and housing developments with political and religious ties that hardly take public opinion into account; Politics, economy, religion, investment, and economic speculation interlock. And exactly this entanglement of major players and institutions forms the point of departure for Anna Meyer. Looking at the model Taksimgas, one can already see the new buildings of commerce in the back of the Monument of Republic, and looking at the model Christ Chanel / Islam Iceberg one notices the connection of religion and commerce. The latter recalls an Istanbul that has always been a melting pot of different religions—be it Judaism, Christianity or Islam; however, it also suggests that obviously all of them seem to be subjected to, and to some extent unified, under a new cult: commerce.


The title of Anna Meyer´s series, Time Wounds All Healers, pays tribute to John Lennon. After finally receiving his permanent residency Green Card, a reporter asked him if he carried any grudges against the people bothering him; and he answered, “No, I believe time wounds all healers.” In contrast to this, “Time heals all wounds” is willingly applied to everything that is painful, taking comfort in the fact that time passes by and hopefully sorrow will go with it. In Meyer´s work for Istanbul, the “healer”, the one who aims to heal the injuries and traumas of today´s societies, is wounded himself. Basically, the term „wounded healer“ can be traced back to Greek mythology. Chiron, a wise and kind centaur, was wounded by an arrow that had been treated with Hydra’s toxic blood. This resulted in a lifelong anguish, and all the while he discovered how to heal otherseven if he could not heal himself. Transferred onto the situation Meyer pictures, a complete cure seems to be out of question. And the question “who is the healer” must remain unanswered against the background of many self-acclaimed “healers”—be they politicians, religious preachers or economy people.


Barbara Steiner


 

Time Wounds All Healers, Die Zeit verwundet alle Heiler, 2013

Maçka Sanat Galerisi, Istanbul, www.mackasanatgalerisi.com