Blogs The Gradient m-a-u-s-e-r

Based in Stuttgart and Istanbul, m-a-u-s-e-r is a work studio, which was founded by Asli Serbest and Mona Mahall in 2007. It represents the practice and research of the Micro Architecture Unit Star Energy Ray. Micro architecture unit does not mean any genres at first, rather it describes a conceptual approach towards making, and a form of organization: m-a-u-s-e-r is set up as a romantically tribal, artistic anti-state, working on topics of space and architecture. Here, territories do not exist, borders, and disciplines are ignored. Concepts and methods have to be invented, media choices are negotiated, and participatory production results in hospitable, collective (online or offline) scenarios. http://m-a-u-s-e-r.net

Art IRL > Non-Pedigrees > The Glamorous > Istanbul > Cultivated Neon Signs

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 […]

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 Glamorous > Istanbul > Cultivated Neon Signs

Istanbul has been described as exotic and oriental. These terms obviously originate in a Western perspective, in which Istanbul appears as the ‘Other’ of the old European city. Yet, there might be a better term to describe specific phenomena in Istanbul: glamour. Glamour stands for something irrational, ineffable, and enchanting. It is rather the uncontrolled situation than the image-perfect sleek scenery. It is not associated with success and superiority; that would confuse it with glossy or luxury. Glamour is a more ambivalent, difficult, broken, and even critical form. Glamour is not just beauty. It is rather an effect of imagination than a particular kind of style. It is inspiring in that it includes the risk of achieving something that is actually not achievable: the light works that refer to shops that are hardly there at all, too small, too barren. These lights promise outside, what there does not exist inside. Yet, they have these led signs that attract attention and mean modern business. They are hilarious and in that they show optimism and energy literally and metaphorically. They create a street show that is communicative [1] challenging communal high voltage decoration. They promote the business while creating a special kind of symbolic architecture, using iconic signs, smileys, hearts, crowns, etc. They are popular culture producing an aesthetic without knowing. Still, they light the nights for local, mostly poor, neighborhoods, characterized by layered complexity and seeming chaos. It is these aspects that decide over death and life of great cities – adapting the title of the famous book by the American activist Jane Jacobs [2].

[1]
Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, Steven Izenour: Learning from Las Vegas, MIT Press 1972
[2]
Jane Jacobs: The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Random House 1961


Internet Café and Call Shop, Sultan Internet House, Aksaray, Istanbul
In Sultan Internet House it is possible to “smoke water pipe and check mails at the same time”. The surreal space is about 40 square meters and full with computers. They play loud arabesque music inside; smoking is allowed. The neon signs are produced by Animasyonlu Led Tabela in Istanbul.


Internet Café and Call Shop, 3D Internet, Aksaray, Istanbul
Also called Cybercafe, this internet café is at the basement of an apartment building. It advertises 3D Internet with blinking LEDs. Below the typography, there is an image of 3D-Glasses that do not blink anymore. On a big poster in front of the entrance they write “3D Internet, for the first time in Istanbul”. Inside, there are about 20 computers connected with 3D-Glasses and headphones, separated with simple wooden boxes from each other, like the open space office of Jacques Tati’s Playtime. Inside this wooden boxes not PlayStation but PolyStation game consoles are connected. The owner tells, “we have internet, yes, but if you want to see 3D, we have games and films.”


Internet Café and Call Shop, Internet C@fe, Aksaray, Istanbul
They say: “We don’t have Internet”. They offer orange juice, toast, coffee and black tee. Students with uniforms are not welcome inside.


Internet Café and Call Shop, Internet Club, Aksaray, Istanbul
Internet Club, actually is a 24 hours open game hall, with a huge range of games. They also check examination notes, or make reservations from hospitals for old people, who do not have internet at home and “print everything you want with a laser-printer”. On the shop window it is written in English: “Have Arabic Keyboard”. They offer Playstation 3, Digital TV, Cinema 3D, Call Shop as written at the entrance door. Everyone can become a member of the Internet Club.


Photography/Internet Shop, Ender Teleskop, Sirkeci, Istanbul
In Ender Teleskop, the reconstruction of one of the first built telescopes by Galileo is exhibited. On the shop window there are a lot of binoculars, telescopes. Inside, there is wireless internet and black tea for free, and a big table for laptops.

Art IRL > Non-Pedigrees > The Romantic > Istanbul > Adopted Landscapes

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 […]

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 Romantic > Istanbul > Adopted Landscapes

The tensions with globalized economy, with biological and technological reality are more than noticeable in Istanbul, where the gap between the rich and the poor seems huge in every aspect of life. However, there are preserved local microcosms and habits that ignore these problems and that are arguably romantic in a productive way (not consumerist like in theme park-like housing projects). Their forms combine functional with impractical elements, creating organisms that achieve somehow autonomous aesthetic statements. Of course, these statements are raw and barbaric from a perspective of high culture: they are collections of sunny beaches, palms, mountains, cows, and Porsches. But these statements do imply what Hegel observed for romantic art and architecture: they contain a principle of subjectivity, of particularity and individuality, not in the singular element, but within the overall sentiment and longing [1]. Nature, kitsch landscapes, palms and beaches exist for decorative and atmospheric reasons, not for product placement. Above all, there is something comfortable and relaxing within the most humble scenes that display pragmatism and pose at the same time.
Spaces are shared, where there is almost no room, hospitality is exhibited even to dirty street animals; there are clichés, dreams, fragments of better lives that also improve the actual existence – if only for a sense of romantic humor. People offer tea, Nescafe, bananas, and an Atatürk calendar to us.
[1]
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: Vorlesungen über die Ästhetik
1835-1838


Grocery, Öz Karadeniz Market, Yıldıztabya, Istanbul
The grocery, bakkal shop where you can buy everything, sells nutella and fake Nutella (Sarelle) side by side. Everything is in perfect order. The shape of the food counter and the colors of the food matches the stream of the Huangguoshu Waterfall, framed at the rear wall. The owner thinks that this image goes very well with his shop – even though he doesn’t know where it was photographed.


Meatball Restaurant (Köfteci), Untitled Restaurant, Akarsu, Istanbul
At the entrance of the restaurant, selling grilled meatballs, there is a plastic poster of the Swiss Alps, a surreal collage of spring and winter of the same landscape, reminding Magritte’s Empire of Light. The blue/green poster is a big contrast to the red/pink restaurant-space. Its frame is printed, so that there is no need of a wooden frame. There are even cows. The tiny TV was showing a film with Türkan Şoray, who made a lot of films thematizing: girl is poor, boy is rich: boy falls in love with girl.


Barber, Melih Erkek Kuaförü, Karlıtepe, Istanbul
The vibrant red and pink furniture of the very narrow corridoresque barber shop is complemented by the huge all-over wallpaper of a mediterranean beach; Ölüdeniz, reflected by the mirrors at the opposite side. Every mirror is showing a part of the beach. Beside the elegantly curved beach, there are 9 clocks (7 on the wall, 2 on the table), and 5 calendars, perhaps counting the minutes until – what? The humorous Barber tells that “he is a big fan of Orhan Gencebay“, who is famous with his nostalgic and melancholic lyrics, for example, the song “Batsın Bu Dünya” meaning “This World Should Sink”. Gencebay being called the advocate of arabesque music denies this classification and calls his style independent turkish music: “even sociologists misapply the term ,” says Gencebay. He adds: “I am talking about melancholy, fatalism and drama, my music has nothing to do with arabesque.


Barber, Kuaför Mustafa, Eyüp, Istanbul
In the microscopic kitchen area of ‘Berber Faik’, the image functions as a virtual window into the Bolu Province, where he comes from. The teapot seems to get its water directly from the fresh water lake Abant. In a very democratic way, there are hung up fan posters of Galatasaray, Besiktaş and Fenerbahçe footballers around the sinks.


Barber, Berber Faik, Eyüp, Istanbul
There are not only two goldfish and a swordtail in the tiny shop, but also two canary birds and a cat, crunching brekkies. Documented by photographs, there is also a horse, a squirrel, and a lion. The barber is drinking tea with a friend in this living still life. He is really kind to everyone especially to his animals. The fish recently got a new lighting in their aquarium.


Greengrocer, Untitled Greengrocer (Manav), Aksaray, Istanbul
The greengrocer does not leave decorative decisions to chance: the pink sunset over Tahiti is placed above exotic fruits, like pineapples and coco nuts. Over it, there is a framed quote headlined with “Word of Advice” written by the 13th century Persian mystic and poet Mawlānā Jalāl-ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (مولانا جلال الدین محمد رومی), who said: “What you seek is seeking you.”


Barber, Yavuz Erkek Kuaförü, Dörtyol, Istanbul
The space combines wood with pastel shades: the walls are pistachio, the chairs are lilac. It is a gentleman’s business that offers tea to a worker, who enters the room to limber up. The painting, one of the berber tells us, depicts a phantasy place. “It is a dream landscape,” he says. An old tape of Müslüm Gürses is laying on the table. He points at the tape: “and this is the dream music, best to listen to on tape”. The other barber of the shop prefers Bülent Ersoy, because her music is sad and happy at the same time. At the beginning of the singer’s career, Bülent Ersoy, aka Diva or Abla (“Sister” in Turkish), wasn’t accepted as a transsexual musician; now she is a big star.


Barber, As Erkek Kuaförü, Moda, Istanbul
The walls of the light green painted Barber shop are covered with 36 framed images of very romantic landscape sceneries. The floor is painted in blue creating an underwater atmosphere together with the walls. Most of the hanging images are illustrating heavenly good weather with palm trees, sea, beach, mountains, sunset, wooden boat, … no geographic limitations. A poster of a small island called Koh Nang Yuan at Koh Tao (in the Gulf of Thailand) is placed directly opposite the entrance; it is the biggest image in the shop.

Art IRL > Non-Pedigrees > The Local > Istanbul > Domesticated Atatürks

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 […]

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 [1]. 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.

[1]
Colin Rowe, Fred Koetter: Collage City, Birkhäuser 1984


Butcher (Wholesale and Retail), Furkan Et Toptan & Parakende, Karlıtepe, Istanbul

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.


Restaurant, Untitled Restaurant, Sarıgöl, Istanbul

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.


Flowershop, Destina Çiçek Evi, Gaziosmanpaşa, Istanbul

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’.


Fabric Shop, Bursa Pazarı Tekstil, Eminönü, Istanbul

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”.


Shirt-Tailor, Gömlekçi Yakup, Eyüp, Istanbul

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.


Restaurant, Şöhret Köftecisi Since 1959, Sirkeci, Istanbul

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.


Barber (Hairdresser for men), Baris Erkek Kuaförü, Dörtyol, Istanbul

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.

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