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House of Wisdom | Bilgelik Evi
By Naz Cuguoğlu
House of Wisdom | Bilgelik Evi
Curated by Collective Çukurcuma (Naz Cuguoğlu and Mine Kaplangı)
April 30 – June 4, 2017 at Dzialdov, Berlin
Artists: Mohamed Abdelkarim, Burak Arıkan, Mahmood Bakhshi, Yael Bartana, Mehtap Baydu, Kürşat Bayhan, Ekin Bernay, Burçak Bingöl, Nicky Broekhuysen, Hera Büyüktaşçıyan, Cansu Çakar, Ramesch Daha, Didem Erk, Viron Erol Vert, Işıl Eğrikavuk, Deniz Gül, Beril Gür, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Ali Kazma, Yazan Khalili, Göksu Kunak, Fehras Publishing Practises, İstanbul Queer Art Collective, Mona Kriegler, Elham Rokni, Natascha Sadr Haghighian & Ashkan Sepahvand, Sümer Sayın, Erinç Seymen, Bahia Shehab, Walid Siti, Ali Taptık, Erdem Taşdelen, Özge Topçu, Ali Yass, Ala Younis, Eşref Yıldırım
“To admit authorities, however heavily furred and gowned, into our libraries and let them tell us how to read, what to read, what value to place upon what we read, is to destroy the spirit of freedom which is the breath of those sanctuaries. Everywhere else we may be bound by laws and conventions-there we have none.”
Virginia Woolf, How Should One Read a Book, 1925
Throughout centuries, libraries have been perceived as places where information on life and space are organized, read, and interpreted, but at certain times whose political significance are underestimated. As in the example of House of Wisdom*, libraries are also known as centers of research, learning, and sharing. Thus, public libraries have been important symbols of political power and formation of cultural identity.
They play a significant role in the political struggle for independence, as centers of democratic ideals, such as free access to cultural heritage and information. As public spaces, they are essential for bringing people together to share information. Touching upon the subjects of freedom of speech and thought, and as the examples of the library formed during Gezi Park protests in Istanbul and the “Secret Library” founded last year in Syria’s Darayya indicate, libraries become even more important during times of collective resistance and protests for freedom.
Based on the power of the libraries, and Foucault’s notion of the archive as “the general system of the formation and transformation of statements,” we follow our archival urge and build our own archive-library in Berlin. To shed light on the increasing levels of censorship on information and the current sociopolitical situation in and around Turkey, we invite artists and researchers to take part in the project. “House of Wisdom” exhibition, aiming to rethink the political nature of books, whose mere existence is under threat, asks: What could be the consequences of collectively rethinking the archive?
With the exhibition’s second location, Stadt-Bibliothek Else-Ury—a library founded in the 1900s, partially destroyed during the Second World War, and named after a woman whose books were censored—these relationships suggest new possibilities on understanding history that seems like repeating itself.
*House of Wisdom was a library founded in the beginning of the 8th century in Baghdad, where thousands of books in various languages from different regions, on philosophy, art, science, and history were housed. Researchers from different regions came together to make research, and work on techniques of translation, writing, and discussion.
The public program of the exhibition consisting of performances, conversations, and screenings is to be announced. House of Wisdom is supported by The Art Department, IFA (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen) and STEP Travel Grants of European Cultural Foundation.
1. Didem Erk, “Black Thread” (Principes élémentaires de philosophie, George Politzer), installation, 2017.
2. Ali Kazma, photo from “Book” Archive (ongoing series), 2011.
3. Erdem Taşdelen, “Convictions,” 2012. Artist Book (98 pages, 100 edition, publisher: 221A Artist Run Centre)
4. Ali Yass, “Destination II”, 2017. Chinese rice paper book, calligraphy liquid ink “gakusyo”, 21 cm x 410 cm, Amman.
5. Fehras Publishing Practises, “Call for Applications,” 2015. Book, 100 pages, 28.5 × 21.5 × 1.5 cm, Arabic & English.
About the Curator
Naz Cuguoğlu is a curator and art writer, based in Istanbul. She is the co-founder of non-profit art initiative “Collective Çukurcuma” and artistic research project “IdentityLab” (SE & TR); and former program manager of Zilberman Gallery (Istanbul & Berlin). Her writings have been published in various online and published art magazines, including Art Asia Pacific, Hyperallergic, Art South Africa, and Istanbul Art News. Recently, she took part in ICI New Orleans Curatorial Intensive funded by SAHA, and TATE Intensive (London) funded by Roberto Cimetta fund. She received her BA in Psychology and MA in Social Psychology focusing on cultural studies. She is currently getting her MA in Curatorial Practice at California College of the Arts with merit scholarship. Selected exhibitions curated by Cuguoglu are: Ghosts (Red Bull Art Around Arnavutköy, Istanbul, 2018), Restless Monuments (Zilberman Gallery, Istanbul, 2018), House of Wisdom (Public Program of 15th Istanbul Biennial; Framer Framed, Amsterdam; Dzialdov, Berlin; 2017), Survival Kit (Cultural Transit Foundation, Yekaterinburg; Space Debris, Istanbul; 2017), Asymmetric Kin (COOP Gallery, Nashville; Mixer, Istanbul; 2016), and After Alexandria, the Flood (5533 and Recai Mehmed Efendi Library, Istanbul, 2015).