30 April 2021, Friday, 8 pm
Dilşad Aladağ and Eda Aslan will be giving the lecture performance “Memory of a Place and the Topography of Destruction” as part of “The Garden of (not) Forgetting” exhibition’s public programme.
When crossing the Golden Horn Bridge, one’s curiosity is piqued by the single remaining green space. A piece of land in the Historical Peninsula… Upon that spot today lies the Institute of Botanics and the Alfred Heilbronn Botanical Garden, which is part of Istanbul University. From the Ottoman period to our present day, such institutions as the Janissary Corps, the Office of the Shaykh al-Islam (Şeyhülislamlık), the Istanbul Girls High School, and the Office of the Istanbul Mufti (İstanbul Müftülüğü) had a claim on this space. Over the years and within the context of this ever-changing land, fires, demolitions and executions have all taken place. The soil covers these layers of history, upon which today live plants from various climes. The garden has been the habitat for 3,000 plant species for over eighty years.
The ruling to hand over the garden estate to the Presidency of Religious Affairs and to demolish the Institute of Botanics, which was officially announced in 2017, called attention to the building’s relationship with the city, social memory, urban and cultural heritage. On this tract of land on the Historic Peninsula, in the corner of Süleymaniye Mosque, the Istanbul Mufti has plans to reconstruct the Bab-ı Meşihat Building. The precondition of this is the demolition of the Institute of Botanics—a structure built in 1935 and certified as a site of cultural heritage. When looking into the history of this site we see that this state of demolition and reconstruction constantly repeats itself, both physically and symbolically. With every changing political period, come different forms of social rupture and influences that physically alter the urban context. Every demolition allows for the erasure and destruction of a certain aspect of urban memory. This becomes a form of trauma spreading itself out throughout the city. The stories that are part of this narrative allude to the commonality among the conditions of various structures rooted in the land, plants, stones, and people. This commonality is the state of displacement/heimatlos, along with each period’s changing ideologies.
“The Garden of (not) Forgetting, Memory of a Place and the Topography of Destruction” research questions and connects the present decision with past conflicts and exiles.
The event will be in Turkish. Please register through this link: https://us02web.zoom.us/…/tZMsd-6hqT0qHtdAxmlsvZjByzHG…
Image: The demolition of the Institute of Biology’s two floors, Cafer Türkmen, 1956. Source: Metin Türkmen Archive