» ›Cities are battlefields‹ he writes – the modern metropolis is a battlefield between the traditional and the modern, the singular and the mass, the periphery and the center; it is the battlefield of history. This history is not to be understood as accessible through ›reliving an era‹ an eternal image we can return to anytime we want. History presents itself as a ruin.« Furthermore, in his Theses of the Concept of History, Benjamin notes down tasks how history has to be written, at any time, and he is writing them in the moment of danger for the afterworld, while escaping from Paris and Nazi Europe.
He writes about »a secret index the past carries with it« »narrating events without distinguishing between the major and minor;« he declares that »nothing that has ever happened should be regarded as lost to history.« »The historical materialist therefore […] regards it as his task to brush history against the grain,« since the »tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the state of emergency in which we live is not exception but the rule.«
Thinking of how to transfer these tasks into artistic ones, I invited a group of Turkish and German artists to this project to read, transform, and address them through their own artistic approach in Istanbul. Through collectively sharing our knowledge, experiences and approaches to the text, an exhibition developed, in which Benjamin’s manuscripts were guiding through and connecting the artworks. The manuscripts were first shown in this exhibition at DEPO in Istanbul (2016).
But again, my own work is ongoing.
I mentioned above that the TOMIKO Archive was the inspiration and source for Past, in Each of its Moments be Citable. So in Istanbul I also started to collect amateur photographs, but came across them in a different way. The photographs are sold from street vendor carts. The fact that I had to meet them coincidentally in the city, while they already had made a journey through it, formed the idea of bringing them back to their origins.
»I looked for the side moments; the things you don’t look at at first, to ›the fine and spiritual things [which] are alive in a struggle [for the suppressed history] as confidence, courage, humor, cunning, and fortitude, and have effects that reach far back into the past. They constantly call into question every victory, past and present, of the rulers.‹«
At the same time, I was searching for a way to find the past in the present without becoming too random – so I let the little indicators on the back and sometimes full addresses lead me: the 13 convolutes with altogether 2,000 photographs (0.01% of Istanbul’s population) brought me to 15 neighborhoods of Istanbul in 42 city walks. While searching for those places and while digitizing the archive I was looking at the photographs for the »secret index and agreement with the past« that Benjamin mentioned. I looked for the side moments; the things you don’t look at at first, to »the fine and spiritual things [which] are alive in a struggle [for the suppressed history] as confidence, courage, humor, cunning, and fortitude, and have effects that reach far back into the past. They constantly call into question every victory, past and present, of the rulers.«
When I saw those moments, or glimpses, I made a drawing. Those drawings I consider as one time layer that connects the past and the present. And for exactly those moments and pictures I was looking in the city afterwards. The counterpictures in the form of digital photographs of the here and now of Istanbul are documented in my Arbeits-Buch (work book) with blank sections alluding to the ongoing nature of the work.