Friday, December 28, 2012

Istanbul Modern Art Museum

The one item that particularly jumped out at me from ouritinerary was the visit to the Istanbul Modern Art Museum.

A lot of people think of modern art as looking somethinglike this:

(Ellsworth Kelly, Colors for a Large Wall, 1951)

or this:

(Dan Content, untitled 1, c. 1970)

and generally inspiring a feeling ofI-could-totally-have-made-that-myself. But modern art is much more than that. Modern art can be wildly expressive, on a deep, emotional level.  It is difficult to look at a painting likethis:

(Leonid Afremov, Flame Dance, 2008)

without feeling some small part of the pure joy and freedomfelt by the artist.  It can also providea view of the culture the artist lives in, like in this painting:

(Jasper Johns, Map, 1961)

Art is unique in its ability to portray the views of anindividual without accidentally absorbing those of others.  If we attempted in any other way to get agrasp of the modern culture in Istanbul, whatever we learned would be anamalgam of the ideas and feelings of many people, due to the unavoidablealteration of thoughts as they spread. But in a painting or sculpture, an artist can freeze their opinion on asubject, and that opinion can spread without fear of alteration.  In this way, we may see a side of Istanbulthrough this modern art that we otherwise would not get to see at all—the sidethat is the everyday lives of its people. 

This close-up look at individuals’ lives is fascinating tome.  Too often, we assume that all thosewho live in a foreign place lead similar lives. But in fact, their daily routines are as richly varied and diverse asour own.

Modern art has also traditionally been an outlet forpolitical frustrations—perhaps, we will see in the museum a bit of the strugglebetween Turkey’s secular government and its devoutly religious people.

One exhibit at the museum that looks particularlyinteresting is “Modernity? Perspectives from France and Turkey,” which includesart like this:

(Thomas Hirschhorn, The One World, 2007)
and will be on display during our visit.  The exhibition “opens for discussion how the remains of modernity can transform thepresent and the future.”  This should beparticularly interesting after a month of studying the intersection of Turkey’srich history and its attempts to modernize.

If you, like me, are interested in the museum, you can checkout their website here

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Cool Travel Apps!

If anyone is planning to bring their iPhone (or other app-capable device) with us on the trip, here are two apps that might be a good idea to download!


This app allows you to send text messages over the internet instead of through your wireless provider.  If you are worried about roaming charges and don't want to pay for an international plan, simply switch your phone to "Airplane Mode." (Settings panel on iPhone.)  This will prevent you from using 3G, and will only allow you to use wireless networks nearby (i.e., the one at the hotel.)  Then, when wireless internet is available, you will be able to send and receive "text messages" through What'sApp.  Note: Only other What'sApp users will be able to talk to you, so make sure to tell your family/friends to download it before you leave.

Download for iPhone:
Download for other devices:


Triposo's Istanbul Guide

This app is a nice little guidebook for the city.  Most of the information is available offline, so you don't have to worry about roaming charges.  It features a map of the city, a fairly comprehensive phrasebook, and information about places to see, eat, shop, and more!

Download for iPhone:
Download for Android:

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Taskim Square

While I'm excited for just about every aspect of our trip, I must say that I am most excited about visiting Taskim Square. Much of our journey in Turkey will be focused on the nation’s rich history with its former cultural and historical importance, but I also find modern Turkey intriguing and believe that a greater familiarity of the current Republic will allow us a better understanding to such a foreign and important area of the world.
Taskim Square is said to represent the contemporary center of Istanbul. As visitors to Istanbul, we might at first simply marvel Taskim Square because of its proximity to many restaurants, hotels, museums and other touristy attractions. We might consider it something like the Times Square of Turkey, but not quite as epic. However, I believe Taskim Square represents something more important to the Turkish state. I take into consideration the major protests have been staged in Taskim Square, some of which of ended in violent left-right confrontations. The political violence resulting from these protests in the 1970’s and 80’s resulted in a ban on any type of major gathering in Taskim Square. Recently, this ban has been lifted.
On the other hand, Taskim Square is also a site of celebration. The Turkish public commemorates festivals such as New Years here. Also, music concerts and football (or, as we call it, soccer) game screenings are also common events for the square. One certain festival that caught my attention was a march called Gay Pride Istanbul. This annual attraction gathered more than 10,000 in 2012. I suspect that such a large gathering to support gay rights is not common is majority Muslim countries such as Turkey. In my humble opinion, this only makes Turkey out to be unique in the region and having a very distinct culture of its own.
By examining the more recent history of the Turkish Republic, I believe that we will be able to understand better some of the current issues that Turkey and the region are facing. Also, I hope that this will help us understand the Turkish identity. With Turkey’s attempt to join the European Union, understanding the Turkish identity may put into question the traditional idea of what it means to be European. Also, with a vast majority of Turkish citizens being Muslim we will be better able to consider Turkey’s situation in the Middle East and the region’s Western relationship as a whole. To me, Taskim Square seems to embody Turkey and its challenging, changing political character - an important aspect to our trip in and our world. Also, it’ll probably be lots of fun!
Happy Holidays to all!

Sweet Tooth

I totally have a sweet tooth, so you can bet that I'll be trying some of these!