Depo is a space for critical debate and cultural exchange in the city center of Istanbul and the first initiative in Turkey to focus on regional collaborations among Turkey and countries in the Caucasus, the Middle East and the Balkans. Besides its artistic program composed of exhibitions and screenings, Depo addresses the socio-political implications of socially engaged art practices in the region and organizes conferences, workshops, lectures and panel discussions, and publishes an e-journal titled Red Thread. Depo aims to become a hub for the initiation and realization of regional projects and its activities are planned to provide artists, curators, cultural operators, academicians and intellectuals from the region the opportunity to engage with each other, to exchange ideas and experiences, and to develop collaborative works.
Depo is located in a former tobacco warehouse (Tütün Deposu) in Tophane, Istanbul - an ancient four-storey building with high ceilings and wooden floors. Until the 1950s the building was used as a tobacco warehouse and beginning with the 9th International Istanbul Biennial in 2005 it was occasionally used as an exhibition and project space. Between January and May 2008, renovation works were carried out preserving the original features of the building. Since June 2008, the Depo team has been working in Tütün Deposu and the first exhibition of Depo was held in January 2009. The annex building was renovated in 2009 and was used for screenings and workshops with the children from the neighborhood, as well as solo and group exhibitions. Since February 2012 the annex building is hosting Açık Radyo, an independent radio station. Film screenings and workshops with children continue in the main building.
Depo is an initiative of Anadolu Kültür, a not-for-profit organization working in the field of culture. Since its establishment Anadolu Kültür has been a driving force in facilitating cross-cultural collaborations and circulating art through Anatolia.
Depo is considered an alternative space within the rapidly institutionalizing and commercializing artistic milieu of Turkey. Its main focus is hosting collaborative projects and it is also open as a venue to different groups for screenings, discussions, performances and rehearsals.
The exhibitions held at Depo deal with social and political issues which are relevant for Turkey and the region. Each year around six large groups exhibitions are hosted in addition to several mostly solo exhibitions smaller in scale. Until now, the exhibitions at Depo have focused on issues such as the relationship between art and politics, the role of artistic networks in establishing a non-nationalistic solidarity in the region, urban transformation, human rights, minority rights, the role of art in dealing with social traumas, and reconciliation. The themes of the exhibitions organized in the past year included: the struggle of paper collectors in big cities to maintain their livelihood and identity after they were displaced and forced to migrate; the conditions of young people in present-day Turkey; and musical Turkey in the 1960s. Alongside each exhibition a side event is organized where curators and artists come together with the audience.
The discussions held at Depo aim to stimulate critical reflection and create new partnerships between people not only from the cultural and academic fields but also from different generations and backgrounds. Besides discussions organized for different occasions, a monthly discussion program titled ‘Open Table' has been initiated at Depo in 2010. Open Table is organized by artist Mürüvvet Türkyılmaz and some of the issues focused in the first two years of the program in the discussions between invited artists, curators, collectives, critics and lecturers working in different fields are: the role of art in gentrification, militarism and war economy, art criticism, artistic practices in public spaces, participatory art, curatorship, censorship in the arts, the relationship between art and capital and the relationship between art and feminism.
SaturDox Documentary Screenings program organized at DEPO for the past three years features noteworthy examples of international documentary cinema and the work of local documentary filmmakers. The screenings held every other Saturday are accompanied by presentations by activists and academicians working in fields related to the issues dealt with in the documentary films. The SaturDox program has been organized in collaboration with Documentarist and it has covered a collection of documentary films bearing witness to conditions of humanity around the world, with a special emphasis on the region. SaturDox has had an important contribution to Depo's intention to address groups of people outside the contemporary art scene and in creating a space outside the academy where discussions on regional and national political and social issues are held. Depo also hosts screening programs composed of artist videos and films.
The project Red Thread is envisioned as an active network and platform for exchange of knowledge and collaboration of artists, curators, social scientists, theorists and cultural operators from the Balkans, the Middle East, the Caucasus, North Africa, and beyond. It aims to create and widely disseminate new knowledge about paradigmatic socially engaged art practices in a wide geopolitical context, thus challenging the predominance of Western narratives in official art histories and exhibition making. Through initiating research, meetings, panel discussions and an online journal, Red Thread intends to explore both historical and contemporary approaches that deepen and challenge broader relations of art and society. All texts published in the Red Thread e-journal are available in English and Turkish, as well as in the original language in which they were written. In addition to new contributions, each issue of the e-journal contains a number of already existing texts from the region that were previously available only in their original language and thus inaccessible for a wider international audience.
All activities of Depo are free of charge.