With Cer Modern entering operations, Ankara has gained a contemporary arts compound. Cer Modern will take a leading role in enacting international projects which will make significant contributions to the domestic contemporary arts movement.
Ankara’s contemporary arts scene, which has undergone a flurry of activity as of late, has suddenly caught the interest of many of us. Living in a city has a different feeling. You start to see every negative approach toward the city in which you leave as an attack, leaving you touchy and irritable.
Migration from Ankara to Istanbul due to economic reasons since the early 2000s has brought with it a migration of artists in the same direction. Still, a lot has been achieved in the same period in the context of contemporary art. The “Young Art in Ankara” events that have taken place three times since 1998, a comprehensive international video show under the title of ‘Words-Stories, Mixed Expressions’ at the Hacettepe Art Museum in 2008, contemporary art events contantly hosted by the Ankara German Cultural Center, and events held in private galleries such as Black & White, Nev, Helikon, Atlas, and Gallery Artist are just a few examples.
The Cer Modern At Last
As que sera sera, Ankara has now gained a new stronghold with Cer Modern coming into operation. The construction of Cer Modern (incidentally, in official documents, the name is registered as the Ankara Contemporary Arts Museum), which has been going on for quite some time, has finally been completed. However, almost all recent write ups on the Cer Modern, except for the article by Hıncal Uluç (April 8th, 2010, Sabah) are incomplete or full of inaccurate information. For this reason, it is worth having a quick look at Cer Modern’s past.
The efforts of State Artist Prof. Dr. Turan Erol, who lives in Ankara and who also informed Süleyman Demirel – the 9th President of Turkey – about the need contemporary art museum in Ankara, have had constitutive effects on the project. Later on, Necdet Seçkinöz, Secretary General of the President, asked Turan Erol to prepare a detailed report. In his report dated Oct. 31st, 1996, the artist indicated that there was no art museum in the contemporary sense, stressed that conversion of existing historical buildings into a contemporary art museum was unfavorable and suggested that the repair (cer) workshops of the railways should be used. Acting on this report, instructions given to the Ministry of Culture by the Presidency to follow this issue on Nov. 6th, 1996, formed the vital next step for Cer Modern.
İstemihan Talay, who was then the Minister of Culture, found the necessary funding through his own efforts; 70 percent of the restorations were completed during his period. Over the next few years, funding was not available for the rest of the museum, which sat idly for over 10 years. Persistent articles by Turan Erol in the Cumhuriyet and Radikal newspapers triggered a sensitive approach by Ertuğrul Günay, the Minister of Culture. With long efforts put in by Ertuğrul Günay, the museum reached its existing stage and finally opened its doors.
Manıfesta 9 and Moderna
Cer Modern’s aims are high. Together with Zihni Tümer, the director of the museum, we have already rolled up our sleeves to put major projects into action in the near future. The objectives are not limited to Ankara only. One of Cer Modern’s objectives is to take a leading role in enacting international projects that will contribute considerably to domestic contemporary arts. Bringing the Manifesta 9 – the traveling biennale of Europe – to Ankara is also among the objectives of Cer Modern. Recent discussions with the Manifesta administration are promising. Following that, massive, lasting international exhibitions to be hosted in Ankara are already in line under the Moderna project.
While a comprehensive exhibition titled ‘Infinity+ A Selection from Ebru Özdemir’s Collection’ is on display at the Cer Modern under the curatorship of Deniz Artun and Döne Otyam, there is another ongoing comprehensive international exhibition in the other halls named ‘Fasa Fiso’, featuring various disciplines such as video, photography, painting, arrangements, and video performances, organized by an independent art initiative called Group Yaygara who have already managed to make a mark on contemporary art history in Ankara. These young people first managed to make themselves heard in 2008, under the name of ‘Seyir Deneyimleri – Navigation Experience’; following this, they organized an international exhibition named ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ in the German Cultural Center, while simultaneously putting Ankara on the map with an event called ‘The Lost City’. Clearly, their current events are the product of those round table meetings.
An animated film exhibition to be organized by the German Cultural Center at the Cer Modern will add a new link to the chain of Ankara’s and Turkey’s contemporary art movement. However, it doesn’t look as though all will be finalized in Ankara with that alone. Right now, there is a gentle spirit in the air caused by an explicit contemporary art movement.
We are following the exciting results of a workshop initiated in 2009 by the German Cultural Center named ‘Beruf: Curator / The Curatorship Profession.’ Students who were chosen to be trained in the workshops given by curator Dr. Suzanne Jaschko, who was invited from Germany toward the end of last year, have already submitted their proposed projects for various exhibitions that they will be putting on in various venues in Ankara. Three separate group exhibitions to be organized in May and June by three different curators under the name of ‘Neighborship’ have appeared following the evaluations. The first of these exhibitions is called ‘Far/Near: The Reaction Band,’ whose curator is Burçak Bingöl; the other, belonging to Nurtane Karagöl, is titled ‘The Thin Line Holds’, which successfully brought together artists from the Turkish and Greek sides of Cyprus; and the last one is going to be a group exhibition called ‘Container’ which will be organized in Cer Modern under the curatorship of Elif
Now it is time for collectors, sponsors, institutions and local administrations to recognize Ankara’s contemporary art potential and to support it: another pubic space project by Dutch curator and artist Jerome Symons is on the waiting list for 2011, which the people of Ankara are waiting for with bated breath.