14 April – 30 May 2021
Dilşad Aladağ & Eda Aslan
As an architect and an artist, in their practice Dilşad Aladağ and Eda Aslan focus on how cities change, the destructiveness of these transformations, and the traces of memory left by them. With The Garden of (not) Forgetting Project, the duo asks in the face of possible destruction: “Is it possible to record a place, to keep its memory alive, to make space for the garden in urban memory?”. The project, which was initially centered around the Istanbul University Institute of Botanics, Alfred Heilbronn Botanical Garden and the plant-life established here; gained new layers as it extended its focus to the archives, and the stories of the garden’s founders and professors.
Istanbul University Institute of Botanics was founded in 1935, by the Jewish German scientists Alfred Heilbronn and Leon Brauner who were forced to leave their homeland during World War II and sought refuge in Turkey. Alfred Heilbronn Botanical Garden, which was established within the institute with seeds from gardens in various parts of the World and plant samples collected in Anatolia, still hosts hundreds of plants today. The garden continued to be an oasis in Istanbul’s Historic Peninsula for those who could seek and find it, until it was closed for visitors in 2018.
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. In 2018, the Institute of Botanics was moved to another building affiliated to Istanbul University, to which even the students’ access was restricted. Currently owned by the Istanbul Mufti, the future of the garden and the institute buildings, whose ties with the university have been severed and its premises left in ruins, is still uncertain today. The Garden of (not) Forgetting, which was initiated in 2017 and developed in cooperation with various institutions and archive owners, has turned into a collective struggle for remembering and reminding within the landscape of Istanbul which has ceaselessly been a host to exiles. With a transdisciplinary approach, the project has been evolving through different mediums such as installation, film, printed matter and digital publications. The exhibition is designed as an intermediate point where the project’s various outputs and collective production process are shared with the audience.
Image: Video still from ‘Remembering Exercises’, 2021