Monday, March 11, 2013

SALT Galata

All the way back in January, my Greek-American friend Eva and I went to SALT Galata to see the "1+8" exhibit that had just opened (and which runs until April 7). As we've had relatively nice weather this winter, Eva and I had been meeting up almost every week at the end of the week to explore various places in the city, and the SALT installation was my suggestion -- the exhibit is based on a documentary of the same name, one I'd been pretty bummed to miss at a film festival last year because I had to work the only night it was showing.

The name "1+8" is a reference to Turkey and her eight neighbors -- Bulgaria, Greece, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Armenia, Georgia and Nakchivan, an autonomous Azerbaijani republic that doesn't touch the mother country and just barely borders Turkey. As you can see on the map below, Turkey has fairly sizable borders with everyone else.

The exhibit at SALT Galata was comprised of footage from the documentary, which looked at how people lived in the border towns on both sides. According to a Today's Zaman article, filmmakers Cynthia Madansky and Angelika Brudniak were initially interested in how Turkey influences the countries with which it shares a border.

The filmmakers conducted between 30-40 interviews in each town, but interestingly, they only speak Turkish, so they couldn't understand what the interviewees in the other eight countries were saying -- but they felt like that allowed their subjects to speak more freely. The video below is one of the trailers for the movie; it's a pretty accurate representation of what visiting the exhibition is like:

To be honest, I wasn't that impressed with the exhibit. All of the screens are in one very large dark room, so you're trying to watch everything at once, and it was difficult to take it all in. There were eight screens, one for each of Turkey's neighbors, and each screen featured footage from both that country and Turkey -- I found it also incredibly difficult to tell what side of the border the footage was from though granted, this would be easier for Turks since the Turks would obviously be speaking Turkish, but I also suspect that one of the points of the exhibit was how, in fact, similar the people are, despite cultural, linguistic and in some cases religious differences.

My qualms about the installation aside, SALT Galata is well worth a visit. First off, it's free. Second, it has a lovely cafe with a small outdoor space and very cool bathroom sinks in the ladies room on the main floor. (Seriously, the sinks are cool. If you're going, check them out. I can't say what's happening in the men's or on other floors.) Third, and perhaps most importantly, SALT Galata is housed in a gorgeous white-marble 1890s building that was the former home of the Imperial Ottoman Bank. There's a decent-sized permanent exhibit on the history of the bank and while most of it is names and dates, you can go into the bank vaults and see some of the old money. My favorite part of SALT Galata, however, was the two-story library -- with its array of art and history books in English, Turkish, German (and perhaps other languages) and comfy reading areas, it would be a great place to spend a leisurely Sunday afternoon. I especially love the poofy round seats (foot rests?), which look convincingly like marble orbs.

One-lira banknote from 1914
The research library at SALT Galata

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