The Istanbul residency offered me two very distinct experiences which perhaps represent Istanbul itself. The first days of the residency were dedicated to IDSVA activities. Visiting the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia Museum, the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul Modern, and Bosphorus river, indulging in the culinary fancies of Istanbul and gaining a historical perspective on the city while simultaneously considering the resonances of Pamuk’s Istanbul. After the residency ended I stayed on a few days and transitioned over to the new town, which offered an entirely different perspective, one which seemed more modern and western in its presentation. Roaming about Taksim Square shopping district was an excursion of modernity and consumption. Electronic shops, handwoven towels, handmade soap shops and art galleries lined the high inclined and narrow streets. Just on the other side of the river was the fleeting ceremonies of the Ramadan celebrations where teams of families lie out on the grass surrounding the mosque after sundown. What must it mean to be a city balanced between tradition and modernity? For me, as a visitor, it was difficult to gauge, however, through the memories, history and art of Irfan Yavru, an Istanbul portrait artist, whose life has been filled with art, politics and philosophy, I was able to gain a better understanding of the past, present and future of Istanbul.
This chance meeting with Irfan occurred after viewing his work in a local gallery and then discovering his studio nearby. Consequently, and in the spirit of inquisitiveness, I asked if he would be interested in talking to me about his work. I explained to him the reason for being in Istanbul and after offering me a brief biography of himself, which includes a degree in philosophy and a lifetime in art, I knew that I needed to talk to him—I had found an artist/philosopher right there in Istanbul. What is linked below is a two-part audio interview with Irfan Yavru on the subject of art, politics and philosophy. Embedded within the two-part conversation is a simple question, “What does it mean to be an artist/philosopher?” The answer that comes about through the conversation is not only through the form of the work but also through context and the practice itself.
(The interview is provided in audio form to maintain the integrity of all parties involved.)