Summer vacationers and their 'yazlık' culture subjects of Salt's new show
by Kaya Genç
ISTANBULSep 13, 2014 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Kaya Genç
Sep 13, 2014 12:00 am
From Aktur in Bodrum to smaller-sized vacation sites in Tekirdag, Turkey's summer homes say a lot about Turkey's middle classes. 'Summer Homes,' a new show at Salt Beyoglu, investigates the relationship between a class and its summer homes
Where do you spend your summer vacations? The question welcomes you at the entrance of Salt Beyoglu's new exhibition, "Summer Homes: Claiming the Coast," which opened on Sept. 5, a few days after the summer season officially ended.
Foça, Gönen, Ayvalık, Kilyos, Çanakkale and Kusadası are among the favorite destinations for vacationers. But this exhibition is not about vacationers who spend parts of their summer holidays in five-star hotels or sightseeing in foreign countries. "Summer Homes" focuses on the secret bond of summer homes, which glue together Turkey's middle classes in a mysterious and sociologically curious way. Not everyone can afford a summer home in this country, and those who can have often used the privilege to define their existence and that of others.
The "Summer Homes" show has no single curator. Instead, a group of researchers (Meriç Öner, Alper Kurbak, Bahar Akgün, Dilsad Aladag, Aslı Can, Melodi Dilan Gülbaba, Begüm Hamzaoglu, Vasıf Kortun and Lorans Tanatar Baruh) has put it together with help from a large group of interviewers who were responsible for the fieldwork.
Those field researchers went to summer homes and sites all over the coast where they interviewed people, young and old, about their relationship to their summer homes. As I listened to those interviews through headphones, I was fascinated by how strong a bond the interviewees had with their settings.
In the 1980s, detached summer homes were replaced by housing developments, the most famous of which was Aktur in Datça and Bodrum. "The ever growing housing developments of the 1980s and 1990s created their own unique space of encounter, dictated by their largely monotonous and prosaic structures," the exhibition text informs us. The residents formed communities, and members of those communities formed opinions about those who were not part of it. "Those people are so backward," one summer homeowner complains in one of the interviews. "They just come and stare at you." While modern vacationers are perfectly at home in their summer homes and in its customs, they are aware of the existence of intruders who pose a threat to their security with their "backward" manners.
Paradoxically, summer homes have arguably invaded the country's coasts, and their effect on the environment is a hotly disputed topic. In a way, they have served as initiators of the construction boom of the noughties. The video interviews with architects who have planned housing developments like Aktur and Ar-tur provide an insight into the dreams and disappointments of a generation of housing developers.
The show has a section on the representations of summer vacations. "The discovery of seaside towns beyond the Marmara, which began in the 1950s, was also the discovery of the locale," the exhibition text reads. "During this period, travellers with differing interests and curiosities presented narratives that could make the things they encountered visible in society." The Blue Voyage had become extremely popular after the writer Cevat Sakir Kabaagaçlı took a boat cruise with a group of intellectual friends (Selahattin Eyüboglu, Bedri Rahmi Eyüboglu and Necati Cumalı among them). In her autobiographical "Bir Dinozorun Gezileri," Mina Urgan devotes many chapters to the phenomenon. The book is on display in Salt Beyoglu.
The show has another section, "A State Matter," which focuses on the 19th century tradition of using yalıs and island mansions by members of the Ottoman court and embassies. "From the time it was customary for the Sultan's court to announce the annual move from the Ottoman palace to the official summer residence, through to the Republic's legal regulations recognizing the right of government employees, soldiers and eventually workers to take annual paid leave, the free-spirited summer lifestyle has always rested on official foundations." In other words, statesmen and members of the middle classes were the main beneficiaries of summer homes, and this show does a great job at analyzing the implications of this phenomenon.