By Kaya Yazgan
DiEM25 Turkey organized an online People’s Gatherings about Culture on 15th May. Bringing together eighteen participants (seven of them DiEM25 members) from various branches of cultural life in Turkey to discuss prominent issues surrounding culture in the country; the aim of the gathering being to turn to inspiring models and propose solutions.
Amongst the participants, most were somehow involved with the cultural sector, including art critics, architects, film directors, university scholars, art students and young graduates.
Central issues discussed were cultural policy, organisation on a central vs local level, sponsor support systems, as well as the current situation induced by the global pandemic.
All participants agreed on the importance of a long-term, consistent and well-designed cultural policy. However, participants had different opinions and feelings about adopting a central support system opposed to a local one. We observed that some participants had in fact, completely lost hope about such support systems being implemented.
Positive initiatives discussed and proposed were:
· The promotion of artists and their work abroad.
· The majority of the national or local budget being allocated to support creative individuals, rather than big-scale popular activities and events.
· The transfer of a small percentage of paid entrance fees to cultural places (e.g., cinemas or museums) or book fees to related foundations that support cultural initiatives.
· The organisation of competitions, awards and related events with the evaluation of artistic work by a qualified jury.
Overview of the current cultural situation in Turkey
During the gathering, art/cultural studies students and young graduates raised their voice against a hopeless and highly uncertain future. They complained that genuine open competitions are scarce, that the market is completely superficial and that staff positions are very limited.
Turkey has been going through an economic crisis for a number of years now. In addition, the effects of the pandemic, the ensuing inevitable isolation and the various lock-down measures have repeatedly harmed an already precarious Turkish cultural life. The situation worsening to a point that some artists have decided to sell their musical instrument. Others went so far as to take their own life. The situation has impacted the sector overall and not only popular figures; including clubs, various music groups, street musicians, studio and theatre staff. Although some solidarity concerts, cooperatives, musical composition banks and online initiatives were organised, this has only ammounted to very limited support.
Want to discuss cultural issues in your country?
Throughout the Gathering we realised how eager participants were to talk about their experience and issues with the cultural sector in Turkey. People’s Gatherings on a national level such as this one in Turkey are fundamental for informing and developing DiEM Voice as a progressive, transnational arts platform.
You can organise your own People’s Gatherings and talk about your experience and view on the cultural sector in your country, but also many more topics! Find out more about the project here, or during one of our open calls.