Eva Kekou interview – 2012

(this interview is published on 4Humanities)

1 Can you give us some information about how Amberplatform was founded?

amberFestival started in 2007 with the initiative of a group of people who came together and founded BIS Body Process Arts Association (Beden İşlemsel Sanatlar Derneği). Since 1999 I was teaching at Visual Communication Design Department of Bilgi University and several universities as part timer. New media culture developed around VCD departments of few universities. In 2007 there was a visible need for an independent platform that creates a community of young researchers, students and artists that are working or interested in the field of new media to exchange experience and knowledge internationally as well as locally. This need was the actual base for amberFestival. The founders of BIS who were artists, researchers, academics from divers disciplines, were already working or professionally interested in the field of art and technology, and looking for a multi discipliner platform to support the development of the field in our local. Therefore we decided to start with amberFestival in order to bring international artists together with local artists, students and art followers to create a platform for exchange and to provide visibility for young local artists.

a.which were also aims, intentions and plans?

amberFestival was the first event that drive BIS further. BIS did not set off for organizing festivals actually but it was the starting point since such an event has the potential of collecting interested people together. Therefore follow-ups came in few years; amberConference started in 2009, amberNetwork initiated with the contribution of 10 organizations and independent art managers from the focus countries (Caucasian, Turkic and Middle Eastern) in 2008, and amberPlatform as a public space and set of year-long activities in 2010. Lately amberPlatform is how we known BIS is the legal structure only.
amberPlatform also takes part in several multi-partner international projects that supported by EU Culture Frame 2007-2013 and other local or international funds since 2008.

Our aims as we declared at our foundation are
• To examine the social effects of new Technologies from a critical perspective
• To promote creative and participatory technology culture
• To explore artistic expression made possible with t6he new Technologies
• To create an international platform for exchange of knowledge and experience and for new collaborations
• To promote artists and their works who lives and work in Turkey

b.do you feel you have fulfilled what was your initial plan?

I believe we succeeded in what we intended when we set off. We have accelerated the developments in the field and gave it a direction with a critical approach.

2.Which difficulties you encountered?

As an independent organization we always suffered from the lack of regular organizational support. Only after 5 years of our inception we had an employee this year. All the people who worked for the amberPlatform events were actually worked and still works on volunteer bases. I believe this is not fair at all, but this is the fate that many organization and people who works in the field or art and culture in Turkey shares.

The main difficulty arises from the lack of public money in the field of art and especially contemporary art. Our ministry of culture or any other does not have a long-term policy to support art and culture scene. Neither the local authorities has such a mission. The art, except the traditional forms of it, is not a reputable issue from the point of view of governmental bodies.

Therefore there are no local sources that we could have applied for financial support for the organization. This is not changed although we have proved ourselves as an institutional body after 6th festival and many events that we organized in the previous years.

But regarding project base support we were luckier. We have supported for our projects by the EU Culture Frame 2007-2013 program, İstanbul 2010 Cultural Capital of Europe Agency, cultural offices of European Consulates in İstanbul and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey up to now. Private sector support were mostly in kind and were tiny when it is cache.

3. I know you organize successfully Amber conference and festival every year. Can you give us some information about these respectively and also give us some feedback about previous events you organized?

Since the beginning of amberFestival what we are trying to do is to bring the critical questions to the attention of the audience in general. That is why amberFestival is athematic festival that raises a question every year. If you follow the themes from the beginning you will see a continuous relation between the themes of every year. In respective order, our themes were “Voice and Survival”, “Interpassive Persona”, “Uncyborgable?”, “Datacity” and after the last years theme “Next Ecology”, this year we came up with “Paratactic Commons”. “Paratactic Commons” suggests reclaiming the commons as a para-political tactic. Reclaiming the commons is the only way for an “exodus from the disaster capitalism” –as Aslihan Senel, the local organizer of “The Mapping of the Commons of Istanbul Conference and Workshop” in the frame of amber’12, phrased it.

The Commons is what we focused this year. Not the private and not the public but the commons we wanted to bring to the table. We believe that we can survive and create a better life for the humanity, only by reclaiming the commons, which are the essentials, from the air, water and other natural resources to the concepts like human rights, freedom, right to knowledge and so on. Paratactic is about placing the commons just next to private and public without any subordination or coordination sort of relation. There are commons, which are the resources owned in common and not belong to anybody or any entity. The commons, this common ownership of resources from natural ones to human-made, are what we already loosing. Reclaiming the commons will re-set the private and public and will be the only change for the humankind; that is what we believe and wanted to discuss this year at amber’12.

4. How was audience involved and how were these events received by publics in Turkey?
Unfortunately, I have to say that we are not an outreaching festival in İstanbul. After 6 years we are well known but only among a group of art followers, young artists and designers and mostly communication students, and of course in the new media community in Turkey. This is the topic that we have to criticize ourselves. This is also related to the current structure of mass media as well as our financial possibilities to access to wider communication channels, except the social media and web based ones.

5. How was it received by Turkish Press and which publicity events received?

This questioned is answered in above question I guess.

6. Do you get enough support by state and funds for your projects?

This questioned is answered in above question I guess.

7. Is collaboration a keyword for amberPlatform? If yes, in which way?

Collaboration is a keyword for amberPlatform. Since our inception we always collaborated with other independent organizations, artists and artist groups in İstanbul. We wanted to collaborate and include them in amberFestival mainly.

Of course collaboration is the keyword in our wider community, which is consists of new media artists and organizations. We

8. How is multidisciplinary and innovation in the arts perceived? Are people from outside willing to support this platform as an initiative for innovation?

amberPlatform is a multidisciplinary organization due to the nature of the field that we are dealing with. Art and technology is a multidisciplinary field without borders I believe. Innovation is not the keyword for us, at least up to now. We prefer to use creation. But in the latest projects that we are taking part or leadin the innovation is more on the table. We are lately working on innovative solutions for a better life and organizations in the cities. Since 2010 the city is one of our focus points regarding the new technologies.

9.is extroversy a keyword for you?

I believe it is; although we are not as successful as we intended. We are trying to reach more people either as the audience or the participants. But this is related to financial situation most of the time although we are an extrovert organization we are not visible enough in all the channels. But on the other hand, especially at the identity building period we were closer then now we are, since we, the founders of the organization wanted to build our own critical approach to art and technology.

10.Can you inform us about your future plans and intentions as a platform?

This year we are going through a reorganization period. We will see more in which direction our focuses will shift if that is the case. But I can basically say that we will continue with amberFestival either annually or biannually; amberConference may have a new shape. amberFestival may have another leg in abroad probably in Central Asia. amberPlatform will become a research and production platform with its physical structure as well.

We also continue the projects that we are already running or newly applied for funding. Most of those projects are about the city and new technologies. The shift in our focus which directed to the cities is main shift that we gradually had since our inception. I believe that will continue in the near future.

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