PASAJ (Istanbul): “A rude and inhuman form of gentrification”

Tarlabaşı, Istanbul

PASAJ is located in Istanbul`s neighbourhood Tarlabaşı. What are the challenges to work in this specific area of Istanbul? Especially if the participants are children? Here are the answers by Seçil Yaylalı and Ekmel Ertan:

The main challenge is to sustain the children’s trust and not to harm them in any way. It is also very nice to see what we try to teach starts to become real; we see the results little by little.

Many themes and conflicts of the neighborhood are related to drug usage and noise. They are embedded in diverse stories, each person of the neighborhood tells another story. They are very sincere; when they are talking to kids they tell what they think. They tell about their past. They tell that they like their neighborhood, although it is very noisy but it is full of fun. We also hear a lot about their worries.

Berlin and Marseille have similar children most probably, who need to be taken seriously. The gentrification problems are also common but far different in practicalities. In İstanbul it is a very direct, rude and inhuman form of gentrification in most of the cases – especially in the last ten years when new capitalist class raised.

Kotti-Shop (Berlin): “It is like tending the garden of our house”

The following blogposts will touch upon the challenges that exist for self-determined dwelling in Marseille, Berlin and Istanbul but will also depict how the projects, workshops and participants relate to these issues. The Kotti-Shop works with a variety of different people, hence patience and responsibility are crucial to bring them together:

The biggest challenge in working with a neighborhood is tangibility. In order to be able to work together with all these different people on a regular basis, we and Kotti-Shop need to be tangible for the neighborhood. This means, that we are present and approachable even though we don’t have a workshop: it is a bit like tending the garden of our house, it takes time and patience and responsibility. Yet we have to be flexible. It happens that people can’t make it to the workshop, that they are not feeling well or that something happened in their live, sometimes people have conflicts with each other and we have to create a neutral basis.

The starting point for „We decide how we reside“ was a polemic letter and a collection of signatures which started out in our neighborhood or „Kiez“. We were reminded of the Pegida movement, which grew during this time in different cities in Germany. The reason for this letter was the playground – our “living room”. In this letter different groups of people were attacked and stereotypically depicted, Roma people for example, African people, etc… After a long discussion during the workshop we decided to focus on this “living-room” to work against the polemic campaign.

In our area, in Kreuzberg, people are afraid of gentrification and its consequences. Throughout the last couple of years, a lot of initiatives have been formed which work against this process on e.g. a political level. In our artistic analysis we thus meassure the scopes for action. However, also we want to mention, that we ourselves, are in a very controverse position in this whole discourse about „housing“: even though our work focus on empowerment of the neighborhood it also makes this neighborhood more interesting for people from the outside.


La Folie Kilomètre (Marseille): The old hotel Remi St. Pierre in transition

Hotel Obscura workshop with La Folie Kilomètre

The collective La Folie Kilomètre has previously been working on the notions of ephemeral living in hotels. For We decide how we reside they are collaborating with the staff of the old hotel Remi St. Pierre in the center of Marseille. Since the people who spend most of their time in the hotel are the people who are working there, they are the ones who “live” there in a more permanent way.

The hotel Remi St. Pierre exists for about 100 years. With its great soul it attracts mainly regular guests instead of the onetime visiting tourist. But now it will soon be renovated and runs the risk of being transformed into a standardized chain hotel. This transition already started a few months ago with a new management in place and the coming and going of some employees. The situation of the hotel also reflects the present change of the city of Marseille.

In a performative course the personnel explores their daily lives in the Remi St. Pierre, to which they are very attached, and also deal with the current change of the hotel as well as their uncertain future. Beyond that, they discover the world of spectacle. It is an adventure for them.

Kottishop (Berlin): “Building bridges between people”

Both children and elderly people join the Kottshop.

A participatory and open approach is central to the Kottishop, which is part of the neighbourhood at Kottbusser Tor since 2008. Who are the participants of the project? What are their ambitions?

We are working with the diverse neighbourhood of the Neue Kreuzberger Zentrum at Kottbusser Tor, with adults as well as children and elderly people. The Neue Kreuzberger Zentrum is a huge concrete building surrounding the Kottbusser Tor – known affectionately as “Kotti“. 1250 people are living alone in this particular building. It is embedded in one of Berlin’s most urban places yet, for the people living here it seems to be a small village: People know each other, they meet in the floors of the huge building, they see each other on the street.

In our projects and in this project in particular we are focusing on building bridges between people through participatory art and thus shaping and forming together the social fabric of our living environment. The Kottishop is part of the neighbourhood since 2008. It is an important place for the neighbours and the children living there, with an atmosphere of trust and respect. People from the neighbourhood who were passing by could join in anytime. Thus, during the last months, the group was growing, new relationships developed, people brought friends, their direct neighbours etc.

All of them enjoy expressing themselves artistically. Yet it is more important to get to know each other; to form and shape our relationships and our living environment together: to meet other people whom they wouldn’t have met otherwise, to get to know each other, to talk about important issues in their lives, to have a place to go regularly where people accept them for who they are.

PASAJ (Istanbul): “A way of having fun and learning”

PASAJ (Istanbul): Workshop in June 2015
Workshop in June 2015 at PASAJ.

Pasaj, Kotti-Shop and La Folie Kilomètre: Each project takes place in a different urban context involving different actors and participants. In order to explore differences and similarities between these projects, the upcoming blog posts are meant to provide “insights” and answers.

The first topic draws on the participants: Who is involved in the project? What is the participants’ relation to the particular neighbourhood where the project is taking place? How do they benefit from participating? We start with PASAJ and their project with children in the Tarlabaşı district in İstanbul:

We are working with children in the Tarlabaşı district in İstanbul. Tarlabaşı is an old neighbourhood in the very center of İstanbul. The district is poor, crime intensive, fast circulating and subject to gentrification, which was started few years ago. The children live or regular play in the street, where PASAJ is located. Therefore the children were partly known by one of the artists before we started the project.

For the children the project is a way of having fun and learning. They are learning how to shoot videos and to take photographs. They learn about a wide range of topics that we worked on or talked about during the meetings that we had three times a week for three months. They feel more self-confident with the trust and confidence we show them. They are happy with doing something serious. They are now better in teamwork. They also enjoy meeting new and different people, and developing a communication with them.

Their expectation is to continue with current learning and enjoyment. They also like to see themselves on screen and watch the videos that they shoot. They do not expect too much in long-term.