To ‘shine’ means to shine upon something, to make that upon which the light falls appear.
—Hans Georg Gadamer
Almost every artwork needs a spectator, and artists need a platform to connect their work with those viewers. While today these platforms vary, artists still need spaces—be it the conventional gallery or the digital realm—that are able to reach and mobilize a broad audience. Galleries still matter: they not only provide artists with a means for professional and personal development, but they also help make a city attractive to both artists and arts patrons, while globalizing the production and dissemination of art.
For the contemporary art scene in Turkey, art market globalization has always been on the agenda. Now with a thriving biennial scene (Istanbul, Canakkale, Sinop, and Mardin), mutual agreements between institutions for travelling exhibitions, large scale thematic shows, and international art fairs, Turkey’s art market is more than ever courting international artists, curators, exhibitors, and buyers. Contemporary Istanbul is one of the most high-impact and widely discussed of these events, and the ten-year-old fair is critical to the growing commercialization and recognition of the region’s art market. In its 2015 edition, CI highlights and caters to this emerging market with its special focus on emerging art, featuring ten Istanbul galleries and one from Tbilisi, Georgia.
Mixer, one of the Istanbul galleries exhibiting in CI’s “Emerging” sector this year, diverges from many of its fellow commercial galleries by providing new ways for individuals to engage the arts. Since its opening, the Tophane district gallery has held over fifty parallel events, exhibition panels, film screenings, and workshops. With projects like ArtLAb, which functions like a residency and was created to strengthen the relationship between local and international artists, and ArtWriting Turkey, an initiative bringing together emerging art writers with the professionals in the field via workshops, exhibition tours, and talks, Mixer functions as a crucial platform for collaborative production in Turkey. The Mixer website also has an online gallery with digital exhibitions and salesroom to connect artists and collectors.
Mixer Karaköy, Installation view of Son Cikis (Last Exit), September 1–October 18, 2015. All images courtesy of Mixer, Istanbul
Pınar Üner Yılmaz: How and when was Mixer founded? What were your initial goals and how did they change throughout the three years?
Bengü Gün: Mixer was founded in November 2012 with the aim of creating a platform for emerging artists and making unique artworks accessible to all. Mixer especially aims to target independent artists, those passionate about art, and any bourgeoning collectors looking to start up a collection of their own. We are working towards our goals with exhibitions; training programs for collectors, artists, and art writers; and collaborations with other institutions.
PÜY: How would you describe yourself? As a non-profit? Artist initiative? How does this description reflect upon your exhibitions and activities?
BG: Mixer acts like an art space, which sells art and has programs for artists and collectors. By cultivating an accessible art culture, Mixer is able to support artists in their production period by offering them a physical space to exhibit, and ultimately sell their work. We are also able to achieve our goal of educating and reaching out to a much wider audience.
PÜY: In the sense of reaching out to a wider audience, how is your interaction with the neighborhood? Who is your projected public and how does this reflect upon your programs?
BG: We inhabit a conservative neighborhood, and unfortunately they are not really interested in our programs, except for the children. We are reaching to a younger group of people who are artists, emerging collectors, art appreciators, and art writers. Our program actually lets us reach this audience and we are trying to meet their demand about learning and getting involved in the arts.
Mixer, Installation view of re(present) exhibist: 2 years, September 1–October 11, 2015
PÜY: You’ve said that you inhabit a conservative neighborhood. Can you please elaborate this? Has anything changed since the gallery attacks [of 2010]?
BG: There is no major change actually. We had a great communication with the neighbors after the attacks and we are all good. We keep doing our activities and from time to time, our neighbors meet us.
PÜY: Have you ever tried making a program which could engage with the neighborhood? Anything that could be an interest to the neighborhood? Not only children, but perhaps to their moms, dads? Or the teenagers?
BG: We always invite them to our activities, but we have not done a special event for the neighbors. We are always inviting the children to the workshops we do and whenever they want to see the exhibitions we give them a tour.
PÜY: Mixer isn’t only a gallery space, but it also functions as a platform for emerging artists to exchange ideas and interact with each other. How do you reach out to the artists?
BG: We regularly make studio visits and we also visit universities to meet new artists. We accept portfolios via e-mail. We have a database of over 100 artists and it also helps us to realize our mission to exchange ideas with artists.
ArtWriting Turkey event on "The art of writing in digital media"
PÜY: ArtWriting Turkey is also a crucial part of your programs. Bringing together emerging art writers with the professionals in the field, you fill a strategic gap in the contemporary art in Turkey. How did you come up with this program?
BG: As I mentioned before we have two main missions: supporting emerging and young artists and making art more accessible to everyone. In that sense, art writing is extremely important to provide feedback for the artists and make it more comprehensible to our audience. When we realized the demand from the young art writers and the art scene we decided to start the ArtWriting Turkey program and conduct workshops and talks on this topic. We also aim to bring together professional art writers with emerging ones to share experience and exchange ideas on art criticism and bring a professional view to art writing.
PÜY: How do you situate yourself in the general presence of Contemporary Istanbul, with Contemporary Istanbul being a vanguard for commercial art fairs and Mixer being an alternative to the commercial gallery space?
BG: We are trying to pursue a different model in which artists are working with a gallery and can also act independently. It is a place where the people discover promising emerging artists and train themselves about contemporary art, reach sources, and meet people with similar interests. We are trying to be accessible in many ways, through our websites, through projects collaborations we make outside the gallery, through our activity program and trainings.
A roundtable discussion the subject of "Photography and Edition"
PÜY: What kind of sources do the artists reach? What kind of sources do they need and you provide?
BG: Bi-monthly we share residency or scholarship opportunities with artists via e-mail. Some international organizations are looking for emerging artist suggestions for residency programs, international exhibitions, and so on. This creates an international network for the artists. The workshops about printing techniques or artist talks are also a good way to create this network.
PÜY: How do you think artist initiatives, non-profits, or alternative spaces like Mixer can benefit from art fair participation? Do you think Contemporary Istanbul is doing anything unique?
BG: Fairs like Contemporary İstanbul help galleries and artist initiatives to reach a wider audience. In a limited time period like 3-4 days, most of the art appreciators visit the fairs to meet the art spaces at the same time. Time is really a limited resource in a city like Istanbul and it gives people a chance to discover their own tastes within an activity. It is also a great occasion for us to meet other institutions, and create collaboration opportunities.
(Image at top: Can Dağarslanı, Identities Series, 2014, Scanned Negative Film, Print on Fine Art Paper, 80 x 120 cm / Edition: 2/4+1 AP. All images courtesy of Mixer, Istanbul)
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