Yearning for Turkish: the Making Of

For the first time - and two years exactly after its inception - City in Translation has presented an exhibition: Yearning for Turkish.

The exhibition has been commissioned as part of the TransARTation programme. The aims of this project are to foster community involvement in investigating how translation stimulates and provokes the production of text-objects and works of visual art, and to make visible the kinds of conversations that can occur between different cultures, languages and modes of expression. 

The moment I was asked about creating an exhibition around City in Translation, I knew I had to find a red thread and not just throw a few images and texts just because they fit into the overall theme. I wanted to tell a story. I found my focus: the Turkish language.

  The exhibition images ready to be packed and travel to Scotland.

The exhibition images ready to be packed and travel to Scotland.

I had been collecting images showing the Turkish language across cities I visited since the very beginning. I would share them on the City in Translation Instagram account. The number of moments I captured started growing, and I knew I had a specific theme there, but moreover, a focused search that has been embedded in my artistic practice. As I looked at all these images, I understood this was some sort of "yearning" - for a language and everything that language brings and means. Yearning for Turkish was born. 

I realised that to make an exhibition, I needed to move out of the online space and work on paper. So I decided to print all the selected photos - first in my printer, in low quality, just to have an idea of how they will look spread out on a table. Then I decided to start a sketchbook. 

In a sketchbook, you are free. You can write and collage whatever you like. It is a safe space where you can experiment, without any judgment - especially from yourself. These few days playing on paper allowed me to decide on the story I wanted to tell throughout the exhibition. 

It was also important for me to document every step of the way on social media. 

After the sketchbook came the actual printing. The twenty selected photographs were printed on 30x45cm mat paper and stuck on 1mm thick panels.

And I printed the texts myself at home on heavier A4 white paper. I designed the page layout myself. 

Then the next step was flying to Scotland, and hanging my work on the walls. But it wasn't as easy... Following some ups and downs during the mounting of the Yearning for Turkish exhibition - initially on windows - we finally moved it to another space where the photographs and texts would be much easily accessible to the visitors, (and basically won't fall down like leaves, as it is what happened when we stuck them on windows). In the end, I was very happy and visitors too. 

Initial set-up with me looking fairly happy but tired:

Second and final set-up, with me jumping with joy:

Special thanks to my dear friends Colin and Peggy for being my first ever visitors. (Photo of me jumping with joy by Peggy Hughes). 

I have learned a lot from this experience. Logistics and practicalities aside, it allowed me to rethink the focus of City in Translation and its many creative opportunities. I was also told by a few people that Yearning for Turkish could become a book, so I am investigating that possibility right now. However, I would like it to be more than just printing the same texts and photographs: if Yearning for Turkish can indeed become a book, I would like it to go further with the themes I am investigating, and there sure is so much more to tell. So... we'll see where that thought takes me.

For now, you can view the exhibition online.  

Guidelines: how to use city in translation?

I strongly believe in the power of sharing knowledge, resources and expertise to help build more creative programmes in the cultural, educational and not for profit sectors, and therefore, help building better societies (step by step, I know, but every step counts, no?) In that spirit, I happily publish all the content on this website under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0). But I also would like to go a step further and offer that anyone may use the concept of City in Translation within their own programmes and activities, again, under this same Creative Commons license.

Follow the guidelines below for more details. 

Berlin, January 2016. Photo by Canan Marasligil.


The purpose of this project is to open up to as many people as possible, sharing and learning with and from a wide variety of practitioners interested in the issues around translation and urban spaces. In order to facilitate the exchange and creation of knowledge around the topics at the centre of City in Translation, here are a few guidelines: 

  • If you wish to use any content published on this website, you can do so making sure you follow the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International licence. For example, if you use an image or a text from this website on any publication or presentation, make sure you credit the project as follows: 
  • I will always make efforts to share content that falls under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 licence, but it may happen that some will be copyrighted material I have received permission to use only on this website. In this case, any content published on City in Translation that does not fall under the aforementioned Creative Commons licence is clearly noted with a copyright sign and needs prior permission before any use (commercial or non-commercial). 
  • If you have any doubt about whether you can use content or not, do get in touch with Canan Marasligil

More uses of City in Translation

If you are a teacher, a festival programmer, a writer, a translator, a publisher... or anyone interested in bringing City in Translation into your programmes and activities, you are free to adapt the concept and work with your own people to make it happen, as long as you follow the aforementioned Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

For any commercial use of City in Translation, please get in touch so we can agree on a fair compensation. 

A few examples: 

  • You are a teacher and want to use City in Translation in your classroom to help boost multilingual creativity with your students. By all means, use this website and all the resources available to you as much as you like and adapt to your own needs. If possible:
    • I'd appreciate if you mention to your students where the project comes from, not because I am obsessed by recognition, but maybe it will inspire them to start something similar in the future. If your activity is published on a website or school brochure, please do credit City in Translation as mentioned above. 
    • Do share any outcomes with me - pictures, report... so I can publish it on this website and show it as an example to other teachers who may be motivated to follow your example.
  • You are a festival programmer and want to organise a City in Translation workshop as part of your outreach programme. There are several options: 
    • You commission someone to provide the workshop: this can be me or anyone from your network. 
      • I'd be honoured if you ask me, so feel free to get in touch so I can adapt a workshop to your local needs. 
      • You could prefer to ask someone from your own network too, and this website is available to them to prepare. In this case, the same crediting rule as above applies, if the activity is non commercial. If your activity is commercial (you ask people to pay to participate), then this falls under commercial use, in this case please get in touch
  • You are a writer and/or a translator inspired by this project and you decide to write your own book based on urban explorations... Well, an idea belongs to no one so you are certainly free to write what you wish. I'd only appreciate if you acknowledge where the idea came from. Apart from that, I feel honoured to have inspired you!
  • You are a publisher who wants to promote your books using the idea of City in Translation on social media or other online and offline channels. The hashtag #CityinTranslation is there for you to use and have your own explorations. If you wish to publish, edit and sell a book (maybe an anthology) based on and entitled City in Translation, let's talk

If you're not sure if and how you can use City in Translation within your own work, don't hesitate to get in touch - either by e-mail, or find me on social media (follow the icons on the page footer). 

I am looking forward to seeing City in Translation grow through your own ideas, programmes and activities. 

One Year of City in Translation

Copenhagen, where all explorations started, April 2015. Photo by Canan Marasligil. 

It has been a year now that I have started exploring what City in Translation could be. Of course this process of looking at the world from a translation lens has been in me for as long as I can remember. As I keep repeating whenever I get the opportunity,
translation is at the centre of everything I do, including how I approach cities. I take languages and the city’s public space as a starting point to explore how the process of translation takes place and how people interact with the languages in their city. And from that way of approaching the many worlds I inhabit or pass by, I come to the conclusion that the vibrant and interactive multilingualism throughout urban landscapes is a central feature to how we imagine the future of our cities and part of how we want to build communities.

My arrival to Copenhagen Airport, 17 April 2015. Photo by Canan Marasligil

City in Translation became concrete thanks to a writer's residency offered by the University of Copenhagen as part of their participation in the pan-European consortium Culture@Work. It was the first time I could take the time - one full month - to explore one city in translation. Copenhagen was my laboratory, and oh, how much I enjoyed wandering around the city, using a methodology I had developed to guide me.

It is a year later now and I would like to look back at what City in Translation brought me so far and try to wonder where I could go from here. But this is not a complete evaluation, because I am not interested in numbers (at least not at this stage of the process) - how many people did I reach online or face to face? How many pictures I took and how many posts I've written...? These could be valuable data, but it isn't the purpose of this post nor my goal at the moment. I want to look back at what City in Translation brought in terms of process of thinking, how it changed or didn't change, the way I am looking at multilingualism in urban spaces, and which roads can I take to navigate further and push myself into places I do not know... 

Berlin, January 2016. Photo by Canan Marasligil

After my one-month residency in Copenhagen, I came back with a lot of material and way too much to grasp. Before I started working on this website, I tried to keep a more or less regular account of the journey on my personal website. I even explained how I drowned under the experience, and I also described what kind of gear one needed to explore a city in translation. Then in the summer, I have started working on this website and have finalised it in August, because I felt the need for City in Translation to have its own space and also its own social media channels.

Through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, I can continue gathering and sharing interesting material - written and visual, on the many cities I visit. But the website allows me to focus more: The site is organised around Fictions and Resources, providing complimentary perspectives. In Fictions, I feature my own creative writing and other expressions, while in Resources I provide a collection of material from within and outside academia aiming to contextualise the work of this project and aid in future research.

The explorations also continue at home in Amsterdam, December 2015. Photo by Canan Marasligil.

Now I have all the tools I need to continue my explorations and I want to continue developing these further so everyone can participate and make use of the resources I make available through this site (and I will explain in more details in a next post how people can concretely make use of the project).

City in Translation also went "live" joining various events. First at the Circulating Critical Practices workshop in Barcelona last year, also part of the Culture@Work programme. It was the very first time I talked about this approach in public.

Then months later, in November 2015, I was invited to participate to the Multilingual Creativity Lab in London - organised at the Free Word Centre, where I ran a very short City in Translation workshop for a small group of people. The purpose was to explore and see what possibilities such a project could offer organisations (museums, libraries...), schools or any institution interested in multilingual creativity. I wrote a short report in Resources. This experience showed me there's some potential to develop City in Translation workshops but also creative city tours for different age groups and in a variety of areas. That is one thing I am currently working on because, even if the idea can remain flexible, such an activity necessitates a clearer methodology people can base themselves on and adapt to their own needs..  

Amsterdam, March 2016. Photo by Canan Marasligil

And the most recent experience I had was presenting City in Translation at the International Literature Forum organised by Literature Across Frontiers, on 15 and 16 April in Aberystwyth. I had the opportunity to present City in Translation to professionals working in literature and translation - publishers, festival programmers, translators, writers, free speech and literary organisations, academics... The enthusiastic response I received was truly motivating and it is with immense joy now that, one year after I started these explorations, I can confirm that I have only started playing with languages in urban spaces, and I am looking forward to seeing more people join. 

In my next posts, I want to focus on the following:

  • Preparing a toolkit for people who would like to work with City in Translation within their own project and activities. 
  • Rethinking the methodology - or creating different ones depending on cities and regions where I work (in Copenhagen, I was focusing on all languages other than Danish, but in bilingual cities, the approach can be different). 
  • In Fictions, I'd like to continue playing with the images and the translation process happening in my own imagination and continue sharing this open creative laboratory of writing.    

So stay tuned for more content, and remember, you can also participate through social media by simply tagging your own explorations #CityinTranslation. 

A special thank you to the University of Copenhagen, the Culture@Work Consortium, the Free Word Centre and Literature Across Frontiers to have offered me a space to express City in Translation so far. It's been a fantastic year!

Learning in the Calais Jungle

L'école laïque du chemin des Dunes, a school in the middle of a migrant camp in Calais -aka the Calais Jungle, was founded in July by Zimarco Jones, a refugee who fled Nigeria in December 2010. Jones explained to The Guardian that the school is open to everyone and hopes it will bring a sense of community and unite the 'Jungle'. You can watch him in the short video below: 

I was also reading this piece: A Calais, dans l'école de la jungle, on France Culture's website, listening to the testimonies from volunteer teachers. One of them, Sandrine, said something interesting related to translation. When asked about how she manages her classes, Sandrine explained that she only teaches in French and that she gets help from the students to translate for those who cannot follow the class, most of them being fluent in English and French. The school is an important example of how education happens in translation as there are also classes taught in English and in other languages to people from many different languages and backgrounds. 

I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for all these people, children and adults, living in dreadful conditions, waiting in the hope of a better future, and still managing to find the motivation to go to school, to still learn. And it is even more extraordinary that they are able to follow classes in a language that is not only not their own, but also the language of a country that is not welcoming to them. 

We see once again how powerful translation can be, especially in situations of crisis (also see my post about the Refugee Phrasebook), to create the possibility of engagement and dialogue between people. 

London Workshop: a Short Report

Following my recent posts about the Multilingual Creativity Lab and the preparation process for the City in Translation workshop in London, I'd like to share some thoughts on how the workshop actually went; what I think worked well, what didn't and if there is any potential in delivering City in Translation workshops in the future. 

To sum up: on 30 November 2015, Free Word hosted the first ever Multilingual Creativity Lab on creative approaches to engaging with and promoting multilingual skills. The day began with presentations of projects that gave a sense of the reality of multilingualism in schools and community settings. The Lab also looked at projects that bring about a common objective and find ways to cater to the full spectrum of fluency and literacy within different language communities. Educational thinker and former Children’s Laureate, Michael Rosen, gave an overview of the ethnography of language in his keynote speech. He talked of multilingualism as a rich resource vital for open and intelligent societies. You can watch the presentations and the keynote on Free Word's website. At the end of the day, we split into several groups to participate to workshops, one of which was City in Translation.

Participants to the Multilingual Creativity Lab were mostly professionals working in either cultural, artistic or literary organisations and in education. Six people joined the City in Translation workshop - initially ten were subscribed. They were all curious about the idea around City in Translation itself, and by coming to the lab, they have already shown their motivation to implement new ideas on how to use multilingualism creatively within their work. So, working with a willing and open-minded audience always makes things easier. It is also important to note the idea of "lab" in the title of the event: we were all there to try things and explore new possibilities. I'm happy I was joined by a great group to do just that. 

The workshop started with all of us gathering at the entrance of the Free Word Centre to get ready to go outside and walk together to Exmouth Market where the actual exercise would take place. I quickly introduced myself and we all headed out.

The conditions were far from perfect, it was already dark outside and it was raining. Thankfully, the participants didn't mind and joined in with as much enthusiasm as possible, given the conditions.

We stopped at the very beginning of Exmouth Market, which luckily is a well-lit street, and I introduced City in Translation, explained how the project started and why it was important for me. I then invited the participants to walk down the street and observe their environment the City in Translation way:

spot all the languages other than English, start to think about their meaning, why they are present in this environment and how you feel about it

Because of the very short timeframe, I specifically asked everyone not to use their mobile phones to do research or go into Google Translate, and I asked them to just dive into the whole experience like a flâneur.  

I handed everyone one of my DIY maps, not because there was any risk of getting lost on this short pedestrian street at a 5 minute walking distance from the event venue, but as a guidance in case they wouldn't feel inspired during their walk. They could just look at the map and have some idea about what they could look at and reflect on. 

I gave everyone 15 minutes to wander on Exmouth Market and asked them to meet me back at the Japanese Café nécco so we could share the experience sipping some green tea.

  Japanese Cafe  nécco  on Exmouth Market

Japanese Cafe nécco on Exmouth Market

We had about 20 minutes to discuss and share insights about our short City in Translation adventure. So we did a quick round to gather impressions - these were quite positive and it was especially good for me to hear they found the experience enjoyable. I also learned (or the experience confirmed to me) that not everyone thinks about languages and translation in public space the way I do. But we barely had the time to have an in-depth conversation and touch upon possible uses for a City in Translation workshop in other settings such as schools, museums, or for different kinds of audiences. 

Some Lessons Learnt

  • duration: 1 hour is too short to do such a workshop, especially if we need to be in three different locations, in this case we were at Free Word, moved to Exmouth Market, sat at nécco café and moved back to Free Word. Even for a "taste" or short test, I would think 1h30 would be much better. 
  • weather: a bit of rain isn't so problematic, but it's good to make sure people have umbrellas otherwise the experience can get unpleasant. 
  • time: if it is winter and you do this at 5pm, make sure to work in a well-lit area. So Exmouth Market is a good place for that. But if you have a choice, pick daylight time, you see better, and the street is more lively too. 
  • participants: the number was good, 6 people, especially in the short time we had.
  • guidance/tools: I think I may have left it too open, I could have been much more specific about what to do while walking around. On the other hand, I wanted the participants to try strolling and letting their minds go even for 15 short minutes, so they could take in as much as they could freely, without me telling them how to do it. The map may have given a little help and also set the tone (being DYI, a bit playful), which is what I intended. But the guidance and tools need to change depending on the audience and if we want to achieve something.
  • outcome: (this is linked to the previous point) there wasn't anything produced at the end of this short workshop and it wasn't the intention either. The purpose was to discover a new way of using multilingualism and to show how it could be organised within the City in Translation
    mindset. This isn't a negative point in itself, but in retrospect, I could have given just one simple task which would have driven to a concrete outcome rather than a general discussion. 
  • discussion: I think we had a fruitful conversation about the whole idea, but no concrete outcome (see previous point). Again, this isn't a negative point in itself, but it does show that I need to work on a more concrete set of tools and share them here so people - the participants and others if interested, can use them within their own work. 

I will therefore prepare a new post in this resources section with some detailed tips on how to deliver a City in Translation workshop. And because I publish everything under a Creative Commons Licence that allows remixing, it will also give plenty of space to adapt it to your own needs. 


London Workshop: preparation

I had the opportunity to explore the potential of City in Translation as a workshop during the Multilingual Creativity Lab organised at the Free Word Centre in London on 30 November 2015.

In this post, I'd like to share the background story of how the workshop came to be -or the process if you prefer. In upcoming posts, I will reflect on the workshop experience and will share some practical information on how to organise a City in Translation workshop for a variety of audiences. 

  Ready to hit the road! (that's me in my Amsterdam home, holding my DIY maps which I tell you more about later in this post)

Ready to hit the road! (that's me in my Amsterdam home, holding my DIY maps which I tell you more about later in this post)

If you have been following my work throughout the past years, you probably already know that City in Translation is a way of being, breathing, living and creating for me; it is a manifestation of how I see and interact with the world. I look at everything through translation. Speaking, reading, writing, dreaming... in and out of five - sometimes even more - languages, can be a challenge sometimes, but it is also fun, so much fun. Hence, City in Translation begins as a personal exploration of urban spaces through languages and dives into my own creative expressions of it. However, next to the artistic approach, City in Translation also offers a wide range of possibilities for sharing and collaborations. This is why my participation to the Multilingual Creativity Lab has been a really good opportunity to explore what shape these possibilities could take. 

When I was asked if I would like to participate to the Multilingual Creativity Lab, I of course jumped with both feet in. While I know the people behind this fantastic and necessary initiative, the name itself was enough to trigger my interest - "multilingual", check; "creativity", check; "lab", check, check and check; and I was also very excited to be able to explore what possibilities City in Translation could really offer to people working in cultural organisations and in education.

Because of the support I had already received from Copenhagen University and the Culture@Work programme, I knew there was an interest at the academic level. I also know of the creative potential of the project, being the first beneficiary of it.

  Exmouth Market in 1968 (photo via  British History Online )

Exmouth Market in 1968 (photo via British History Online)

When I started thinking about the format of the workshop, I knew for sure that we needed to be outside of the event venue. The project is about exploring urban spaces and about interacting with your immediate environment through languages and translation. It is of course always possible to find different languages in closed spaces too - such as shops, restaurants, libraries, etc., and the purpose of City in Translation is to look at our environment from every possible angle. But even then, you still need to enter these spaces from outside, no matter where you are, and the starting point of any City in Translation exploration is always the street. 

The Multilingual Creativity Lab took place at the Free Word Centre on Farringdon road in Clerkenwell. The area is very rich in languages, especially Exmouth Market just a couple minutes walking distance from Free Word. Because I would only have one hour to run this workshop, I decided to keep the exploration space as close as possible to the venue.  

Triggering people's curiosity about languages in urban spaces isn't the most difficult part, especially in an event such as this Lab. However, inviting them to become creative and to express how they feel, what they see, how they translate the languages they encounter, all inside one hour is another story (close to impossible I must say, but more on that in my next post).

Because of the very short time frame, I thought I would need to offer some sort of guidance to help people navigate through the exploration. So I decided to prepare a map of the area we were going to visit and add a few hints on it. I first wanted to print it from Google Maps, but then I thought I would make a whole new creative adventure out of this. So I started to draw the map myself.  

  DIY map in the making

DIY map in the making

This whole exercise has been a learning process in itself because drawing a map necessitates a few steps which helped me thinking about the format, the content and the possible creative outputs such a workshop could bring. 

I started with some field research: I went to Exmouth Market on a previous visit to London in order to explore it from a City in Translation lens. I took some pictures - posted a few on the project's Instagram account, that I later used in my sketch to add some hints. I followed up with some online research about the area itself, especially its history, and I used the most relevant facts on the map. Then I continued into the whole DIY part: hand-drawing a map, collaging some paper and photos, colouring... all have made me realise this process could also be included into a workshop. In this particular case, I didn't have enough time, so I had to do it myself and give a ready-made map to the participants. But I was rather thrilled by the prospect and I couldn't have discovered it without going through this preparation process. 

  Labels in French, inside a shop on Exmouth Market

Labels in French, inside a shop on Exmouth Market

One of the key components of the whole project is to have fun. I wouldn't look at languages everywhere around me every single day of my life if I didn't have fun. This is a feeling I wanted all participants to understand and hopefully share as well. So I decided to add a fun component to the whole exercise and turn it into a performance. I have selected a specific City in Translation outfit for the occasion: a red hat and red shoes. (Because I love red, no connection whatsoever to the world of translation itself.) 

  All right, my socks too had red stripes.

All right, my socks too had red stripes.

And so I was ready to take on a group of people to Exmouth Market and try to get them to feel how I see the world and how they could experience translation in this way tooThe programme was going very well, with inspiring talks from organisations and people working with multilingualism in creative ways, my workshop was planned for the afternoon, and of course, it started to rain...

In my next posts, I will write in more detail about how the workshop went and share some best practices that I have acquired. 

Multilingual Creativity Lab

On 30 November 2015, I had the opportunity to participate to the Multilingual Creativity Lab, a brand new and much necessary initiative organised at the Free Word Centre in London, where I presented City in Translation as a workshop (I will write about the session in more detail in a separate post). 

The day was produced by Free Word in partnership with teacher and education researcher Sam Holmes, literary translator and curator of translation programmes Sarah Ardizzone and Director of the Stephen Spender Trust Robina Pelham Burn (meet the team behind the Lab). 

The Multilingual Creativity Lab was supported by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, a key supporter of translation and multilingual creativity programmes across the UK. The translator in residence programme at Free Word Centre, which I had the immense pleasure of being part of in 2013, is among the many initiatives they're engaged with.

Multilingualism isn't always clear-cut and mixing it with creativity can even scare some people -I am obviously not one of those, but it is important in this case to define what is meant by "multilingual creativity", which I believe the project has managed to do well:

Multilingual Creativity is about engaging positively with the reality of plurilingualism and is an umbrella term for the current range of projects and research across schools, arts/cultural organisations and universities, which grapple with celebrating, drawing a dividend from and further developing such linguistic skills. 

This is also what I am trying to do with City in Translation, so I feel very lucky and honoured to have been invited to take part in such a project.   

The different sessions of the day have been filmed and are now available on Free Word's YouTube channel. Below is the talk on Translation Nation, presented by Sarah Ardizzone and Sam Holmes. 

There are three different ways you can engage with the Multilingual Creativity Lab:

  • by reading the report presenting findings from a review of current practice, identifying five key principles associated with successful projects in Multilingual Creativity; 
  • by regularly browsing the website to find a wide range of resources on multilingual creativity, such as projects, opportunities, training and more.  
  • by participating to a series of events organised by the various partners of the projects, where you can engage with professionals working on issues and opportunities around multilingual creativity - including this multilingual speed-dating event on 25 May 2016 (sounds very promising).

In my next post, I will explain how I introduced City in Translation during the event and share some tools on how you can work with the concept of City in Translation within projects related to multilingual creativity. 


The Refugee Phrasebook

To accompany my piece in Fictions "No Escape for Fun", I'd like to share this fantastic initiative Berlin Refugee Help, a collective of volunteers based in Berlin.

The Refugee Phrasebook is a multilingual tool for refugees who just arrived in Europe that provides basic useful vocabulary and sentences related to the most common immediate needs. It currently contains vocabulary in 28 languages, this way it can be of assistance even in case of deportation. 

You can contribute in various areas: general, health and law (experts needed). 

Currently the phrasebook exists as a set of open sheets in Google Docs. Before they can continue with design and printing, they need to complete the translations. For further information visit the Refugee Phrasebook's website.

Remix, Remake, Rip-Off: a film about Turkish pop cinema

This is the trailer of a documentary by Cem Kaya: Remake Remix Rip-Off, about the copy and remake culture in popular Turkish filmmaking. Although not immediately related to my explorations around language and translation, it gives some context to my post Tulips and Videotapes published in Fictions. 

Below is a presentation from the official Vimeo page:

Turkey in the 1960s and 1970s was one of the biggest producers of film in the world even though its film industry, Yeşilçam, didn’t have enough written material to start with. In order to keep up with the demand, screenwriters and directors were copying scripts and remaking movies from all over the world. Name any Western hit film, there's a Turkish version to it, be it Tarzan, Dracula, The Wizard of Oz, The Exorcist, Rambo, Superman or Star Wars. These quickly and low-budget produced look-alike movies were adapted to the taste of local audiences with huge success in the rural Anatolian hinterland. What they lacked in equipment and budget they compensated through excessive use of manpower both behind and in front of the camera:
If Luke Skywalker hits one time, Turkish action hero Cüneyt Arkın hits a hundred times - and we know, he means it!
In Istanbul Cem Kaya met with the fastest working directors, the most practical cameramen and the most hardheaded actors to have a closer look into the country's tumultuous history of movie making.

Remix, Remake, Rip-Off took 7 years in making in which Kaya watched thousands of movies and conducted about a hundred interviews.

How Language Moves

  Photo ©Yunjoo Kwak

Photo ©Yunjoo Kwak

On 25, 31 July and 1 August took place the How Language Moves event, testing the parameters of “translation” in artistic practices, initiated by Marianna Maruyama and hosted by Goleb in Amsterdam. 

The main question asked at this 3-day event/dialogue was: What is translation other than the movement of language? A question that is very much present throughout "City in Translation". 

The idea behind this mid-summer gathering is to set aside a concentrated period of time to test out a range of theories and hypotheses about translation, and closely watch how it moves. Beginning with the most fundamental questions – What is translation? What can it be? What can it not be? – each presenter will offer his or her reflections on these questions, and introduce a practical exercise for the group to carry out in any arrangement (as a group, as individuals, or pairs, etc). A generous amount of time has been allotted for these exercises with the aim that they can and should be carried out fully; not as proposals or suggestions, but rather as tests that have a (preliminary) conclusion.

More details can be found on the event website:

We Need to Talk About Vesterbro's Gentrification Problem

Vesterbro, Copenhagen. Photo by Erinç Salor.

This piece by Sidsel Welden published on 4 March 2015 in Vice, looks at gentrification in the neighbourhood of Vesterbro, which I also explored for City in Translation.  

Welden asks: 

has Vesterbro morphed into a place where the marginalized have become a mere inconvenience to the lithe new inhabitants of the blossoming youngster paradise? Or has the gentrification contributed to a diverse society where the homeless addict, the working class mother, and the rich kid can all meet and blend together in a sort of delightful urban smoothie?  

and she talks to two natives of Vesterbro: Svend (53) and Laila (60) and her granddaughter Gina (24).

The place of different languages in gentrified places is one fascinating subject I also intend to explore further. An example is Flowers & Videos in Fictions. 

Invisibility Studies Seminar IV: Screens, Camera and Surveillance

During my residency at the University of Copenhagen, I had access to a rich variety of resources and opportunities for more interaction with local practitioners and researchers. One was the session on "Screens, Camera and Surveillance" of the Invisibility Studies Seminar I attended, organised by Henriette Steiner from the Section for Landscape Architecture and Planning and Kristin Veel from the Department of Arts And Cultural Studies. Even though the subject of the seminar may not strike you as directly linked to my City in Translation explorations, it has strong connections that are worth looking into closely.

Refshalevej, Copenhagen. Photo by Canan Marasligil. 


Accumulation of the Invisible: Clouds, Servers, and the Californian Ideology

The first presentation was "Accumulation of the Invisible: Clouds, Servers, and the Californian Ideology" by Héctor Hoyos, Assistant Professor of Iberian and Latin American Cultures at Stanford University.  

In this talk, Hoyos examines the role of the arts in unmasking widespread technological determinism as ideology. He focuses on “the cloud,” an attempt to brand and sanitize server- based computing. The technique itself resembles Marxist primitive accumulation; its “server farms” resemble banks. Hoyos considers works that make such a structure visible, including photographs by Irish artist John Gerrard and by American reporter Kim Steele. The talk also draws from the Chilean Alejandro Zambra’s storytelling and from Salvador Allende’s radical Cybersynproject from the 1970s. Together, this eclectic array of sources allows Hoyos to upend and denaturalize what Barbrook and Cameron called in 1995 “the Californian Ideology” –one that has since taken over the world. 


The second presentation was "Figura" from Frederik Tygstrup, Professor at the Department of Arts And Cultural Studies, University of Copenhagen

In the early twentieth century, Walter Benjamin prophesized that the increasing amount of writing surrounding us in modern cities would eventually change our mode of reading, from absorption in textual worlds to a distracted recognition of surface values, like reading hieroglyphs rather than texts. Hundred years later, our immersion in signs of all sorts coming towards us on innumerable and ubiquitous surfaces raises the stakes of Benjamin’s intuition: what is the logic of our interaction with the panoply of signifying processes that are becoming still more deeply ingrained with the machineries of social reproduction today?
We have sign processes conveying information, creating meaning, producing reference and visibility, distributing value, processing commodities, and much more. Faced with this saturation, we are compelled to reconsider our understanding of what signs do, to reassess the scope of Saussure’s famous query into “the life of signs in the life of society.” Signs are expressions, emerging from a surface, and we have huge theoretical and methodological resources to gauge the ways in which they confect meaning and construct reference. We still need, however, to develop our understanding of a third modality of sign processes, namely how expressions affect us. To accommodate this need, I will heuristically suggest considering signs as figura, expressions that combine aspects of meaning, reference and affect.
Starting out from Erich Auerbach’s classical archaeology of the notion, I will comment on Jean-François Lyotard’s understanding of the entanglement of discursivity and figurality and try to develop the innovative use of “the Figure” in Gilles Deleuze’s work on Francis Bacon. The presentation will be theoretical and explorative and invite to an open discussion on the potential merits of thinking about the life of signs today in terms of figurality. 

This second talk has especially given me food for thought in the frame of City in Translation. The question of visuality is about what you see and what you don't see, such as I tried to explain in my first Fictions post "It all started with a choc".

Tygstrup also mentioned the mediation of power structures and the massification of information. A lot of data is flowing around us but how does this flow become visible? Another point that resonated with me in this talk is the idea that we are dealing with many structures and feelings: signs as something that affect us and exerts a power on us. 

Round table

Following the two presentations was a discussion chaired by Thomas Mical, Associate Professor at the Art Architecture and Design Department of the University of South Australia, with:

  • Susanne Wigorts Yngvesson, Associate Professor in Ethics at Uppsala University and Senior Lecturer at Stockholm School of Theology
  • Nanna Bonde Thylstrup, post.doc. Saxo Institute, University of Copenhagen
  • Annie Ring, Research Fellow and Acting Director of Studies in German at Emmanuel College, Cambridge
  • Henriette Steiner, Associate Professor, Section for Landscape Architecture and Planning, University of Copenhagen
  • Kristin Veel, post.doc., Department of Arts And Cultural Studies, University of Copenhagen

The whole event also featured artist Anja Borup and the Superselfie. 

About the seminar series

The Invisibility Studies Seminar Series 2015 seminar series takes as its starting point the book Invisibility Studies: Surveillance, Transparency and the Hidden in Contemporary Culture (Peter Lang), which was published in January 2015. Contributors to the book, as well as distinguished Danish and international scholars and artists, were invited to read a section of the book as a way of launching further discussion. The common themes of the seminars, as of the book, are current changes in the relationships between what we consider ‘visible’ and ‘invisible’ in different areas of contemporary culture, including architecture, visual art, literature, philosophy, and technology.