Jan 30, 2012

The kids are alright: Coolspotting in Istanbul

Turkey had been more solitary than I was used to for my Eurotrip, everyone assured me “I'd find it all in Istanbul”. I purposelessly teased it for last. The initial onslaught of salesmen and scammers clouded my vision when I eventually got there, I knew Istanbul had been voted Wallpaper's Best City for 2010 so I admittedly came in with expectations. But 'cool' is supposed to be elusive and the challenge of the search is what makes it even more special when you find it.

When I did find it my initial reaction was 'Crap its just like every other place I've seen!'. The feeling evolved, it dawned on me that the shared humanity is what ultimately connects me to people. When I find artists are pondering familiar questions and I spy a Turkish Miranda July, I came to realise that despite the barriers of language and traditions once you look deeper we're not that different after all.

This experience made apparent how subjective this Coolspotting collection has been. As I'm the arbiter, I can't escape the prism I view things which is realised by the fact I'm ultimately drawn to the same stuff. Ummm what do you think is cool?

Istanbul Art kids
Edisyon Gallery is part of the Tophane Art Walk of Istanbul. It was the first place I stumbled on and I took pleasure in introducing new friends to the find. Its an independent space which allows those curious intimate access to the Turkish art scene. It supports emerging photographers and artists and unveils a new collection each Saturday afternoon.

If you're after more traditional art, you can find Ilhami Atalay in action at his punk rock studio in Sultanahmet.

Comic Books and Graffiti
I discovered Turbo-S2K through his wall mural at GON Comic Shop (Nr. 34/A Yeni Carsi - no website). A selection of his shirts are also available for sale. Find video of Turbo S2K creating his piece here - Gon Comic Graffiti Making: Turbo (S2K) & Funk

The new comic shop stocks graphic books from local artists in Turkish as well as your familiar Western titles. If you're wondering whether there are Turks involved in English language books, I present Istanbul-born M.K. Perker.

Jazz and Cafes
Cafe Mitanni (Çukurluçeşme sokak.no:6/A) offers live music on most nights. Its a cosy space space showcasing Turkish bands playing new jazz, its not uncommon for the audience of music afficionados and internationals to be welcomed on stage to jam with the bands onstage.

This is where we met Aysu and friends, from Melbourne she returned to her roots in Istanbul where there is a vibrant and evolving music scene. Find her music here - Aysu Cogur music

The Kids are Alright
- Coolspotting in Frankfurt and Barcelona
- Coolspotting: Subculture in the South of Spain
- Coolspotting in Netherlands
- Coolspotting in Netherlands Pt II
- Coolspotting: Nerding out in England - Comics, CosPlay, Video Games and Wrestling
- Coolspotting in Berlin
- Coolspotting in Istanbul
- Coolspotting in Sydney
- Coolspotting in Melbourne


  1. Interesting point of view for criticizing countries by its art value. -being specific in something is always good.- However I think you better know that in our culture we don't draw comic books. You into modern art more I presume, "hip hop","comic books designs" (seen couple of ur writings berlin/netherlands) and so on... But we also have Ottoman miniatures, marbling paper , calligraphy, ceramics, glassblowing, ottoman illumination, hand-knotted carpet and so on. Since you traveled Pamukkale and around I think you've seen some of those.

    Nevertheless since it's a global world, surely the art itself is improving/mixing and so on. But as long as I've seen, there is nothing different at these photos, there is no improvement. So what makes them so good for you? What's so cool? Because I know that Turkey have mixed both west and east culture; artists could make something different, something authentic for both west and east. Imitating something doesn't make it art in my point of view. (We are coming 5 years from behind of UK) Plus, we have American influences for sure! -Since our economy and politics depends on uncle Sam- And we have those kinda art work everywhere in İstanbul. Yes, maybe it's really hard to create something new in this age but since technology is improving, there has to be some way. Am I wrong? Well, don't get me wrong I don't say "let's quit old school art! There is always something new!" I personally love photography and don't like any manipulation on photos. Or I like Bob Ross :D But still they are cool but not amazingly cool because they are not different, you know what I mean? There are lots to see... (f.i. Dali, Picasso but not them either because it's old news already.)

  2. What's cool? For myself, Cool isn't skin-deep. Its about authenticity, communicating with your true voice. Whether people choose to express themselves with the traditional or new modes of expression its ultimately up to them. I don't think people can be "5 years behind" in the expression as that is more a technical issue. People's voices can mature but its a development personal to the artist and person.

    I engaged with most of the artists I mentioned here. I didn't have çay and have "Sunday conversations" with all of them but I got a sense of what they were about. Ultimately we all have to take our words for it but they were authentic to me which I found cool.

    It was an epiphany finding out what I'm drawn to traveling which actually can lead to finding the same thing over and over again. Many long term travellers say things like 'After seeing so many museums they all look the same'. My museums are people - my access to the culture.
    Of course some sightseers do things out of obligation but even if you're doing things that you enjoy you can still get fatigued. Then the feeling evolves, familiarity breeds contempt then you remember 'we're only human afterall'