Tea Tavla and Tall Tales Project Statement

The Persembe Pazari in Istanbul’s Karaköy neighborhood has been occupied almost entirely by hardware and construction suppliers for the past 30 years. But, like most of Istanbul, it is changing. As Caravansarai’s art space is located in the middle of this marketplace, we are conscious of our role in the transformation of this area.

Our intention with this project is to observe the changing face of the neighborhood, from the perspective of newcomers and as artists. At the time of purchase, the Caravansarai building was home to eight distinct hardware businesses. During working hours it fills with men and their customers who spend most of their time talking. Sometimes discussions take place over games of tavla (backgammon.) Stories are shared, information is exchanged and eventually business is conducted, always accompanied by strong black tea and (until the recent smoking ban) cigarettes. Since our purchase of the building, one of their favorite topics of conversation has been us (Julie and Anika) and what exactly we are doing here. They have some interesting theories.

Karaköy has multiple histories, official and contrived, mundane and mythical. Primarily a port neighborhood, various and shifting types of physical objects, people, and commerce have ceaselessly flowed through for several centuries. Its inhabitants, however, have a different reality, inevitably based on their own presence, their individual memories and opinions. The gentlemen in our building write and rewrite such history every day. What is recorded? What is true? We’re collecting all of it--the hearsay and the textbook articles, the websites, the rumors and the ‘undisputed facts’.

Presenting an evolving collection of stories to invited artists, we ask them to create their own myths about the Karakoy neighborhood to be told through any medium they desire. Working with the Istanbul architecture firm Superpool, these myths will be built into the interior design and architecture of the building during the renovation process. Walls, stairs, tiles, door-frames, window, floors, cabinets, vitrines and any and all surfaces can tell the story of the Caravansarai building and its presence in Karaköy. 

© Julie Upmeyer, Anne Weshinskey 2016