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Summer on the Island

Emre Zeytinoğlu

Geographical definition of island is a piece of land that is surrounded by water. Thus the islander's life refers to an introverted continental life looking through the borders from outside.

When viewed from this perspective (if considered within a larger context), it does not matter whether the region within the borders of the island is a piece of land or the sea. The introverted nature of the borders, which stands out among the characteristics of island, is what matters most.

An islander is always an islander. He is a man of his own geography.

Even though the islander witnesses a heavy flow in trade, tourism, politics etc. in parallel to the transportation and communication technologies brought about by the globalization process, and even though he meets a wide variety of people, he always adapts to the geographic conditions under which he lives. Since he is surrounded by some definite borders, he feels he cannot get away from the island at any time he wishes to do so.

Since the islander is always dependent on sea and air freight schedules or on the "conditions for crossing the borders", which impose harsh rules, he is not the kind of person who makes quick decisions. If the wish or the need to move far from the island collides with an appropriate sea or air freight schedule, he may do something crazy and leave the island (in previous years he was dependent on the sea conditions, which had to be safe for travel, the consent of the captain of the rented ship or the tolerance of the frontier guard. All these requirements had to be fulfilled at the same time).

However all these conditions are rarely fulfilled at the same time during the life of an islander. Especially after having lived for long years on the island, and after he became attached to the island, the scenario in which he fulfils his desire (and has the energy) to leave the island turns into a scenario less probable to take place. The biggest adventure for an islander is to go beyond the garden gate and to go to the market place. The most unbelievable of all for him is to go to the neighboring village or city (this should be considered almost a miracle).

On the other hand, this is not the case under today's conditions. Regardless of which island we are in, regardless of the weather, be it very hot or cold, regardless of whether that calming slight breeze is blowing or not, an islander always has to walk tens/hundreds of miles or nautical miles, sets off for work and tries to do what the "islander" figure requires. However every time he sets off work, he feels that the "islander" figure itself has his own discretion to use his right to laziness. When discussing the nature of this discretion, we realize that the human adapts to the geographical conditions which influence him (in other words, he has found his habitat and leads a life in accordance with the conditions of his habitat; and this is very hard for him to do without such a life).

However when examined from a different perspective, one realizes that the general impression of the term "island" is its features which are attributed to the sea. When we look further, we see that the term "island" evokes the connotations of "summer life". It denotes sunny summer days in touristic areas. However the secrets concealed within the island sometimes do delete these connotations of summer and the sun, and may evoke different connotations depending on various experiences acquired. Thus the title of the exhibition "A Summer on the Island" is freed from its touristic connotation and then refers to the particular experiences that the "islander" had. This causes a tremendous conflict with an "ordinary summer on the island". What lie behind the common perception of the island are the quite significant differences in physical and intellectual life. Moreover we could even say that the perception of the island viewed from the perspectives of the islanders is not the same.

The artists who participated in this exhibition comprise those who have experienced/perceived different aspects of the "island life". Similarities or contrasts between these different experiences/perceptions are mostly visible when works of art are placed alongside each other.

For a more definite conclusion, we need to note that the artists who participated in this exhibition produced works reflecting the manner they perceived all the data regarding the "island" which were provided by others. It is these artists who have to live with the commercial, touristic, political etc. aspects of the island to which they dedicated their lives. What is more interesting is that it is again these islander artists who are the subjects (maybe even the dominant characters) of the romantic stories told about the island fictionalized by others.

Ok, but apart from these definitions of "island", what are the original points of view of these islander artists on their own island? To what extent there are similarities or differences between the practical lives of the islanders and those told in those stories fictionalized by others? The exhibition "A Summer on the Island" is mainly concerned with answering these questions.

Emre Zeytinoğlu