Non-Pedigrees constitute art IRL. Non-Pedigrees are those graphical, spatial, and medial forms that can still be found in Istanbul. Non-Pedigrees contrast to the self-reproducing International Style that is called contemporary architecture, design, or art. Non-Pedigrees contrast to those forms that not only represent the global cultural system, but also global capitalism (for example müteahhit). They have not sacrificed local identity to modernity, they are still somehow specific. Non-Pedigrees contrast to the big player forms in attention, in appreciation, and in cultural reflection. They are not considered as intended or authored; they are not recognized at all – if ever, as trash or kitsch.
Non-Pedigrees are leftovers, marginal, often too-small-to-be-noticed forms and spaces that live their life below radar level. They are usually not product of any adequate profession – be that art, architecture, or design. They have been there for the ordinary and common life. They have been there for a business that has already lost the competition within global economy, but that carries on. Non-Pedigrees do not comply with aesthetic or qualitative standards and fashions.
But they are valuable in at least three points, referring to the international global style. They contain the local, the romantic, and the glamorous. Insofar, they are able to create an organic public sphere, open for participation, business, and talk. Thus, they embody spaces, essential for political, social, economic and aesthetic negotiation.
The Local > Istanbul > Domesticated Atatürks
Obviously, Istanbul is being rebuilt in terms of modern, International Style – architecture, design, and art are being leveled according to global standards. Yet, there are leftovers in the ordinary everyday life, most interesting for their anti-form, their intention, and contextuality. They include more than a lot of professional works, although or because they are not representative, but do embody a sense of place; a sense of place imagining the city as collective, dense structure with elements that are open and responsive to their context; a sense of place that may be “the underworld of ‘low’ culture”, to quote the architectural theorist Colin Rowe . Still, this sense of place produces collage forms that, for Rowe, are able to accommodate more than a limited clientele. Instead of endorsing a private and atomized society, these forms combine the naïve vision of an ideal (political) world with the management of the existing or not existing (money). These forms are “sufficiently two-faced,” combining statements and spontaneous randomness, individual and collective history. Of course, these forms may be politically debatable, economically irrelevant, and too small to be part of urban studies, but they show a deliriously sustaining local culture that has to face globalization and internationalization.
It is not so much the delirious images of Turkey’s national hero Atatürk that generate this kind of local culture. It is rather their context, how Atatürk has to sit through everyday life, how he is appropriated in that he has to share spaces with documents, family portraits, and timepieces; how the Turkish superego is domesticated as if he was a family member; how he is sometimes but a leftover and sometimes becomes a political statement.
In the butcher shop covered with big prints of meat, especially red meat, there is only one exception: the poster with Atatürk. The meat posters are draped with green vegetables like parsley or green pepper; Atatürk is draped with green plants. The meat posters have black wooden frames with a thin gold edge; the same frame is used for Atatürk. The meat is dark red with white veins; the Turkish flag behind is also dark red with a white moon and star.
Half a bread chicken döner restaurant sells nothing else than half a bread chicken döner for 1.5 TL (0.63 €, 0,83 $). There exists nothing than chicken döner, a small television, tables, chairs and an Atatürk poster. Probably, before the Döner shop bought the new and bigger TV, the aparatus was placed in the opening next to Atatürk. These ‘holes’ have been commonly made for TVs. Now, it provides a view into the kitchen.
The flower shop sells real and plastic flowers, and houses a framed Atatürk poster: he is sitting on his horse, the background shows a dramatic atmosphere – similar to the two photos of the owner’s sons hanging above Atatürk. The florist says: “those, who do not like him, would avoid the name ‘Atatürk‘ and just call him Mustafa Kemal or even just ‘He’.
Rolls of cloth fill up the downstairs drapery shop. There is one pillar that gives space to an Atatürk portrait. About ten vendors, all male, are working in the huge shop and there are almost only female shoppers. One of the vendors shouts loud, pointing to his friend: “he is the grandson of Atatürk, you should also take his photo”. The other one says: “we are all grandsons of him”.
Atatürk sits in one of his chicest outfits on the wall of the tailor in Eyüp region, known as the religious region in Istanbul with the sacred mosque there. The tailor is just producing shirts for men. He complains about clients complaining: “Take this down. We don’t need him.” There are other images on the walls: a poster with Arabic text, and an image of the Mecca with people dressed in white.
The owner of the restaurant (a grill house claiming to be famous with meatballs) is proud of his Atatürk ‘artwork’, “it is unique, nobody in the city has the same one,” he says. “I am happy that Atatürk is looking at me, while I am working. It is a coincidence that he looks right, placed in the middle of the wall,” he adds. The copper 2d-sculpture is the only decorative object hanging; all other elements are functional, pale in the one-space restaurant.
In the small barber shop there are certificates, posters of sport cars, a lot of mirrors and a framed photocopied painting of Atatürk at the wall. The old hairdresser is sitting with his friend discussing the change in Istanbul: “Everything has changed, and everything will change even more.” They worry about the current changes, especially the urban transformation and renewal projects (kentsel dönüşüm), “these are just superficial shows of the government, nothing fundamental as the modern changes of Atatürk” they maintain. The owner adds, “Atatürk is the person he likes the most in his life, just behind God.” In the melancholic barber shop, they listen to the most melancholic music of Zeki Müren.