May 27, 2012

New City Reader on Streets of Istanbul

With the aim of underlining the importance of design for production, economy, cultural interaction and quality of life, the first Istanbul Design Biennial will be realized in 2012 by Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV).

The New City Reader, a project of the biennial, has hit the streets of Istanbul with its first issue ‘Agenda.’ This issue’s editors are the founders of the paper, Joseph Grima and Kazys Varnelis.

The New City Reader is a newspaper on architecture, design, public space and the city. First published as part of The Last Newspaper, an exhibition held at the New Museum for Contemporary Art (New York City) in 2011, a new edition of the public newspaper will be published by the Istanbul Design Biennial team, to be hung on the streets of Istanbul in the months preceding the opening and during the run of the Istanbul Design Biennale.

Each issue of the The New City Reader will be guest-edited by a contributing network of architects, theorists, and research groups who will each bring their own particular expertise on the publication’s individual sections.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: New City Reader on Streets of Istanbul

New Book Reveals Historical Changes in Istanbul

A new book published by the Istanbul Municipality, “Istanbul: The Awakening of the Historical City,” aims to reflect how Istanbul evolved over time. As the city hosted many civilizations for many years, the book highlights the civilizations, and how the area changed over time.

The book also reveals the expansion of tourism and restoration. While during 2004 and 2012 the municipality expended 1,997 billion Turkish Liras for culture and arts, restoration projects cost 262 million. A total of 98 artifacts have been restored and 21 artifacts are still in the preservation and restoration process.

The book also highlighted the buildings and historical venues of Istanbul. For example nine historical mosques have been restored for 32 million liras during the same period, the book revealed. There are still four mosques undergoing restoration.

One of the most historical and oldest mosques of Istanbul, Altı Poğaça Mosque, built in 1482, become usable again. On the other hand, Büyük Piyalepaşa Mosque, cleaned from the buildings around it, became a historical venue for tourism and culture.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: New Book Reveals Historical Changes in Istanbul

A Spot of Romance

THE project has eaten up all his Nobel prize money and he says he could have written half a novel in the time it has taken to finish it. But Turkey’s laureate, Orhan Pamuk, finally has his Museum of Innocence, the wellspring of his bestselling 2008 tale of the same name, about the doomed Istanbul lovers, Füsun and Kemal.

Since early May a steady stream of visitors have been making their way down a booklined street in central Istanbul, past a hammam, a Turkish bath that pretends to date back to medieval times, past two cats gorging themselves like pashas off a low table on the pavement, to 24 Çukurcuma St.

The museum is set in an old Istanbul townhouse, painted in a discreet but very distinctive red—not plum or cerise, but something in between. Small groups of book-loving northern Europeans and well-dressed locals cluster around the teller’s window, examining the colourful printed tickets he hands them. Only when they read the sign above his head, urging visitors to switch off mobile phones and “use a soft conversational tone”, do they realise that the place they are about to enter is not so much a museum as a story den, a piece of performance art.

Read more on the Economist: A Spot of Romance

24-hour room service: House Hotel Bosphorus, Istanbul

Arriving at night, I flung open the French windows in my room at the House Hotel Bosphorus and stepped out on to the balcony for a stunning view of two continents: European Ortakoy's bustling harbour, the neon-lit Bosphorus Bridge and, across the shimmering water, the twinkling lights of Uskudar in Asia.

The third venture from Istanbul's dynamic House mini-chain has transformed a 19th-century waterfront mansion into a contemporary boutique hotel. The elegant Simon Kalfa building – he was part of the Balyan dynasty that left Istanbul with an impressive Ottoman-era architectural legacy, including Dolmabahce Palace – had fallen into disrepair but now, like the city itself, it's a well-thought-out combination of old and new.

As in the other House hotels – House Hotel Galatasary in a 19th-century Ottoman mansion in the up-and-coming antiques district of Cukurcuma, and the Art Deco House Hotel Nisantasi, perched above Prada in the city's most upmarket shopping district – the renovation has been sympathetic to the building's origins. The original lofty ceilings, ornate plasterwork and parquet floors are complemented by luxurious interiors from the award-winning Turkish design duo du jour, Autoban, making good use of their signature materials of marble, brass and oak.

The hotel has five floors topped by the enormous Penthouse Bosphorus Suite, with 180-degree views. On the ground floor, the trendy House Café serves traditional Turkish and international dishes, along with potent cocktails. It spills out onto a patio overlooking the Bosphorus, the bridge and Buyuk Mecidiye Camii, a magnificent neo-Baroque mosque. One floor up, the open-plan Lounge houses a formal restaurant, lounge, library and bar and is decorated with muted tones, a marble fireplace and sleek, low-slung cream leather sofas. Turkish dishes are presented with a contemporary twist, served with good local wines such as Sarafin, Corvus and Sevilen 900. This is also the place to sip raki, a potent anise-flavoured spirit while you people-watch – Kevin Spacey and Monica Bellucci are recent guests.

A leisurely breakfast is also served in the Lounge – a top pick is menimen, scrambled eggs, with feta, tomatoes and parsley.

Read more on The Independent: 24-hour room service: House Hotel Bosphorus, Istanbul

Coolest Fest of Istanbul Starts with World Stars

Thriving on creative exchange and operating in non-traditional ways, Istanbul’74 hosts everything from cultural events, festivals, workshops, panel discussions, exhibitions and artistic collaborations which bring together the leading personalities in art, fashion, literature, film and design from all over the world.

Founded by Demet Müftüoğlu Eşeli and Alphan Eşeli in late 2009, Istanbul’74 is the first and pioneering international arts and culture platform based in Turkey. Its diverse program combines various creative platforms including fashion, film, music, art, design, architecture and performing arts to stimulate audiences, encourage collective involvement and create an innovative dialogue between creative minds in Istanbul and the international community.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Coolest Fest of Istanbul Starts with World Stars

Four Ways to Discover Istanbul

Straddling two continents at the gateway to the Middle East, Istanbul has been one of the world's cosmopolitan crossroads for centuries.

This Turkish metropolis, the last capital of the Ottoman Empire, boasts of medieval towers that occupy the cityscape in Istanbul's Old Town, and modern skyscrapers dominate the skyline on the European side. Here's a guide to Istanbul's finest draws.

Read more on Fox News: Four Ways to Discover Istanbul

The Captivating Style Of Istanbul

In his evocative memoir Istanbul, Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk writes powerfully about the place of his birth, beautifully capturing the city's modern-day complexities and historical riches: "In Istanbul, remains of a glorious past civilization are everywhere visible. ... The great mosques and other monuments of the city, as well as the lesser detritus of empire in every side street and corner -- the little arches, fountains and neighborhood mosques -- inflict heartache on all who live among them."

Many visitors -- first timers and habitués -- would agree that Turkey's largest city indeed inflicts heartache, especially upon those who venture behind the (mosaic-tiled) scenes. From the ornate interiors of the many mosques to the buzzing rooftop bars with sweeping views, the city mesmerizes with its tug between cultural heritage and captivating energy. In fact, all across Turkey, whether touring the surreal landscapes of Cappadocia or the sparkling Aegean coast, a visitor is invited to partake in this exciting dialogue.

Read more on Huffington Post: The Captivating Style Of Istanbul

Top 10 Movies ‘ Starring ‘ Istanbul

Istanbul, which has recently been hosting the latest James Bond film, Skyfall crew in its historical neighborhoods, has long been a popular destination for international filmmakers due to its cultural and historical richness. James Bond Skyfall shootings continued eventfully in Istanbul ‘s old city as dangerous motorcycle scenes were successfully staged by two stuntmen for Daniel craig on the roof of the Grand Bazaar not without incident.

James Bond Skyfall shakes and stirs Istanbul

The ancient city, which is currently hosting filming for the latest installment of the James Bond film series, ‘ Skyfall,’ has served as the setting for many world-famous movies.

James Bond movies top the list of movies ‘ starring ‘ Istanbul. Shooting for ‘ Skyfall ‘ moved from southern Turkish province of Adana to Istanbul last month. Skyfall, starring Daniel Craig as Agent 007 and Judi Dench as his boss, M, is the third Bond film to have scenes from Turkey’s cultural capital, after ‘ To Russia With Love’ in 1963 starring Sean Connery (at the Hagia Sophia), and ‘ The World is Not Enough ‘ in 1999, with Pierce Brosnan (at the Maiden’s Tower on the Bosphorus).

The 2003 Greek movie, ‘ Politiki Kouzina ‘ (A Touch of Spice), was also shot in Istanbul, along with ‘ The Accidental Spy.’

The city’s world-renowned venues, such as the Topkapı Palace Museum, Hagia Sophia, Sultanahmet Mosque, the beautiful Boshphorus and the Maiden’s Tower on it, the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Bazaar, Eminönü and the many mosques surrounding the silhoutte, the Basilica Cistern, Beyazıt and many other locations in Istanbul have drawn a long list of filmmakers and directors.

We’re counting down our top 10 movies filmed in Istanbul ’ starring ‘ the beautiful metropol and which have made terrific contributions to Istanbul’s international promotion.

Read more on National Turk: Top 10 Movies ‘ Starring ‘ Istanbul

May 10, 2012

Stray Cats Strut Istanbul's Streets, a Symbol of Tradition in a Churning Metropolis
When President Obama visited Turkey last year, he paused to stroke a tabby cat at the former Byzantine church of Haghia Sophia while Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan looked on with a smile. The cat, one of half a dozen living at the ancient site, seemed unfazed by the VIP attention.

Many a visitor has noted the abundance of stray cats in the old imperial capital of Istanbul. They amble and lounge around some mosques and have the run of a couple of universities. Facebook campaigns gather supplies for them, and it's easy to spot nibbles and plastic containers of water left discreetly on sidewalks for the felines.

This month, cats will get a publicity boost when the world basketball championships begin in Istanbul and three other Turkish cities. The official mascot is "Bascat," a white cat with one blue eye and one green eye, similar to an unusual breed native to the eastern city of Van.

The special status of stray cats in Istanbul and elsewhere in Turkey reflects a tradition-bound country on the path to modernity. It partly derives from Muslim ideas about tolerance, and an urban elite with Western-style ideas about animal rights. It points to the freewheeling side of a society that seeks entry into the European Union's world of regulation.

Sevgin Akis Roney, an economics professor at Istanbul's Bosphorus University, said the school is so well-known for adopting strays that people leave unwanted cats there, knowing they'll get fed. Cats wander freely into classrooms at the school, perched on a hill over the strait that separates the Asian and European continents.

"We should learn to live with these animals," said Roney, who walks around with cat food for hungry strays.

Read more on Fox News: Stray Cats Strut Istanbul's Streets, a Symbol of Tradition in a Churning Metropolis

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The Cats of Istanbul

As a cat lover, I was delighted in Turkey to see many cats—sunbathing on public benches, pouncing on each other in parks, even warming themselves before a lamp in Hagia Sophia (see picture at right). Particularly in Istanbul, cats seemed to rule the city.

These cats didn’t have the sad and furtive demeanor of strays, either. Most seemed to be quite healthy and well-fed. The reason, according to our guide in Istanbul, is that they are the Sultan’s Cats.

“Many years ago a sultan decreed that the cats in Istanbul were to be protected because they ate rats and mice,” he said, pointing to a particularly handsome tabby outside the Blue Mosque. “The people were to feed them and not harm them. And even to this day, the people still obey the Sultan’s order.”

I guess if one has an allergy to cats this wouldn’t be quite so charming, but I loved seeing the happy felines at the major sites in Turkey (and at Ephesus, I was pleased to hear that the cats there had just had “birth control operations,” in our guide’s felicitous phrase).

I later learned that there’s an Islamic story of a cat killing a poisonous snake that had approached the Prophet Muhammad. This led to the popular saying: ”If you’ve killed a cat, you need to build a mosque to be forgiven by God.”

So here’s to the Sultan, his cats, and to the people who still care for the feline citizens of Turkey.

Read more on Spiritual Travels: The Cats of Istanbul

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Exhibit Celebrates Rousseau’s 300th Birthday in Istanbul

Istanbul’s Notre Dame de Sion French High School launched an exhibition on Thursday to celebrate the 300th birthday of French writer and philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Titled “Rousseau and Turkey -- Dreams and Theories,” the exhibition showcases the French philosopher’s manuscripts about the Ottomans, which have been brought from Geneva, Switzerland. His father served as horologist at Topkapı Palace under the Ottomans. The exhibition, held under the auspices of Swiss Consul-General in İstanbul Monika Schumtz Kırgöz, aims to introduce Rousseau and his works to a wider audience, the school said in a statement last week.

The exhibition can be seen until June 2.

Read more on Zaman: Exhibit Celebrates Rousseau’s 300th Birthday in Istanbul

Daniel Craig and the James Bond Cast in Istanbul for Skyfall Filming

Filming of new James Bond film Skyfall is underway in Turkey. Daniel Craig, Sam Mendes and Berenice Marlohe talk about the upcoming film in Istanbul.

Read more on Telegraph: Daniel Craig and the James Bond Cast in Istanbul for Skyfall Filming

Chinese Cultural Year Activities to Herald Istanbul Theater Festival

Starting May 5, a series of spectacular activities as part of the 2012 China Culture Year in Turkey will herald the İstanbul Theater Festival.The Chinese Culture Year events will be a precursor to the festival, which will take place between May 10 and June 5.

The Shanghai Song and Dance Ensemble will present two shows, “Mother Earth” and “Dances of the Dynasties,” on May 5 and 6 at İstanbul’s Fulya Art Center. Thirty-five artists from the ensemble will be on stage in İstanbul. Dou Dou Huang is the artistic director of the shows. “Mother Earth” makes a reference to natural disasters, featuring composer Igor Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring.” “Dances of the Dynasties” premiered in 1987 at the Shanghai International Arts Festival and has been staged over 800 times in China.

On May 7 and 8, the venue will host Peking (Jingju) Opera, featuring a performance mixed with song, dance and combat. The performance is made up of four parts: The first part tells the story of a warlord’s love for his bondmaid, the second part is about a young warrior’s brief meeting with his mother after 15 years, the third part is about a fight at night at an inn, and the last part is about a bondmaid who is upset because the emperor does not come to her.

The Chongqing Tongliang Dragon Dance Company and Foshan Lion Dance Company will stage a street theater performance on May 10 from Tünel Square to Galatasaray Square on İstiklal Street in İstanbul’s Beyoğlu district.

Read more on Today's Zaman: Chinese Cultural Year Activities to Herald Istanbul Theater Festival

Hong Kong Cinema at Istanbul Modern

Between May 10 and 20, Istanbul Modern Cinema will present a selection of seven films from the emerging cinema of Hong Kong.

Among the films in the selection are “Echoes of the Rainbow” (Sui yuet san tau), which won the Crystal Bear at the 2010 Berlin Film Festival and is considered one of the top 10 movies of 2010 in China; “Gallants” (Da lui toi), which was selected as best movie at the Hong Kong Film Awards; and The Drunkard (Jiu tu), based on the 1963 novel by Liu Yichang, a prominent author in Hong Kong literature.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Hong Kong Cinema at Istanbul Modern

Artist Nevin Aladağ’s Show Exhibit in Istanbul

Istanbul art gallery Rampa brings together works from Nevin Aaladağ which have never been exhibited in Turkey before for an exhibition scheduled to run until May 26.

Trained as a sculptor at the Fine Arts Academy in Munich, Aaladağ adopts different mediums in her works, which vary from video, photography, sculptures, objects, performance pieces, site specific installations and public interventions. Aaladağ is interested in how cultural and social signs are used and interpreted. She employs these signs within her art practice, placing them in a context where they no longer belong to a specific territory, thus becoming images and ideas equipped with visual rhetoric.

“Significant Other” (2011), a video work in the exhibition, takes its cue from the infamous Milli Vanilli song “Girl you know it’s true.” In the work two actors, a man and a woman, stand on a small podium performing the chorus of the song.

Is there anything more faithful, more emotional, more beautiful than a man singing a love song to the woman he adores? In 1989 Milli Vanilli hit the charts worldwide with this single, but a year later their success turned to infamy when it was revealed that the lead vocals on the record were not the actual voices of the singers. Milli Vanilli had cheated a worldwide public by using playback recordings.

Astonishingly, one of the biggest frauds in the history of pop music relied on the confession of true love. But let us not fall for easy conclusions here. This work does not simply set the “fake” against the “authentic.” Pop music’s magic lies in the fact that it promises to address the individual (you) as well as the whole planet. We all know this is a lie, but it’s one we believe in.

Aladag’s strategy is far more refined, as she takes pop music’s promise to be a universal language literally. After the opening song of “Significant Other,” we hear different people reflect on the topics of love and relationships with all the vocals lip-synched by the two protagonists. We see the lips of the male actor move, but we hear a woman’s voice. We see the female actor, but we hear a child’s voice, a foreigner’s voice etc. The effect is irritating and leaves us asking ‘who is talking here?’

Read more Hurriyet Daily News: Artist Nevin Aladağ’s Show Exhibit in Istanbul

Documentary Makers to Meet in Istanbul in June

Documentarist, Istanbul’s “Documentary Days,” will celebrate its 5th anniversary this year with screenings that cast light on the real agenda of the world. The honorary guest of the festival, which will run June 1-6, will be one the most important documentary filmmakers of our time, Heddy Honigmann.

As well as retrospective screenings of the director’s best-known films, including “Metal and Melancholy,” “O Amor Natural,” “The Underground Orchestra,” and “El Olvido,” the festival will host a “cinema class” taught by Honigmann.

Apart from bringing together well-known documentary filmmakers, directors and festival organizers, the event is a significant meeting point for Turkish and international documentary filmmakers. This year’s festival program will include a number of different categories. One focus area of the festival is reflected in the category “Arab World: The Winds of Change,” featuring films on the Arab region, which has become the most politically dynamic region in the world.

Another section focuses on the hard times Turkey’s neighboring country of Greece is experiencing “Greece: Neighbor’s (Bad) Fortune.” The films in a third section, “Documenting Memories,” will address the relationship of memory to documentary films. Films on the synergy between music and cinema are grouped under the section titled “Music Documentaries.”

This year in these and other sections of the festival a total of 90 films will be shown. Apart from the newest award-winning films, which had their world premieres at such festivals as the Berlinale, IDFA, DOK Leipzig, Thessaloniki, CPH:DOX and Jihlava, classics such as “Step Across the Border” stand out among the offerings at Documentarist 2012.

Read more on Hurriyet Daily News: Documentary Makers to Meet in Istanbul in June

Various And Gould Perform "Guest Work" On The Street In Istanbul

A cobalt blue streak sweeps through a narrow street in Istanbul as Various and Gould don fluorescent orange work vests and push brooms with a purpose. The lunchtime crowd gathers a few steps back and to the sides to witness a remarkable cloud of ultra-marine pigment forming a wake behind the two German Street Artists as they perform their new installation focusing on work and workers.

Simply by changing the color of the dirt, the effect of an everyday act by municipal workers is effectively transformed, if not understood. 34 kilos of non-toxic blue pushed up a street with confidence and industry by two people wearing an official-looking logo on their uniforms does cause confusion. "What happened? Did someone die?" asks a spectator. No, they are assured, it is an art performance - an explanation that calms most but not all, including restaurant owners here in this eastside tourist district of "Beyoğlu" while their dining guests look curiously with mouths agape. 

Visit The German Street Art Duo and "Berlistanbul" Gallery:

Nobel Winner Pamuk Opens Novel Museum in Istanbul

Pamuk set out "not to do a spectacular or monumental museum but something in the backstreets, something that represents the daily life of the city," he told a news conference after a press preview.

Situated in a bright, wine-red building in the district of Cukurcuma, the Museum of Innocence houses real and fabricated artifacts from everyday Turkish life between 1950 and 2000, in an homage both to the novel and to Pamuk's Istanbul.

"Our daily lives are honorable, and their objects should be preserved. It's not all about the glories of the past," he said. "It's the people and their objects that count."

He conceived of the museum more than a decade ago, at the same time he came up with the idea for the novel. A New York Times bestseller, "The Museum of Innocence" was his first book after winning the 2006 Nobel prize for literature.

Read more on Reuters: Nobel Winner Pamuk Opens Novel Museum in Istanbul

Turkish Superstars to Promote Istanbul Festival in Dubai

Manama: Turkish stars will fly to Dubai to help promote the Istanbul Shopping Festival to be held in the cosmopolitan city from June 9 to 29.

Kivanç Tatlitug whose fame as romantic Mohannad in a Turkish drama captured the hearts of women across the Arab world and created a wave of regional interest in his homeland was in Dubai on May 8 and took part in a press conference, Turkish sources told Gulf News.

Tatlitug hopes that the romantic gestures in soap operas that gave a great boost to tourism in Istanbul and beyond among Arabs will have the same success in attracting more people to the festival in the city that spans two continents.

Turkish officials said that the 21-day festival is a step forward to maintain Istanbul one of the top destinations in the world.

Read more on Gulf News: Turkish Superstars to Promote Istanbul Festival in Dubai

May 02, 2012

The Most Influential Places in History

They are buildings, cities and natural wonders. They house the heights of cultural achievement and offer backdrops for our best ideas. Asked to name the most influential place in history, previous and present TIME 100 honorees reflect on locations that have seen and in some cases helped bring about some of the most transformative moments in human experience.

The bridge between East and West is the only city in the world to be on two continents, Europe and Asia. Formerly Constantinople and Byzantium, it was where the capital of the Roman Empire moved when Rome fell. Future capital of "Eurabia" once the integration of the E.U. toward Turkey, Israel and the Middle East moves the axis of the West back east.

Read more on TIME: The Most Influential Places in History