206 Rooms of Silence: Etudes on Prinkipo Greek Orphanage

Galata Greek School, 9th October – 10th November 2018
Artists: Ali Kazma, Dilek Winchester, Murat Germen, Hera Büyüktaşcıyan

The exhibition; 206 Rooms of Silence: Etudes on Prinkipo Greek Orphanage organized by Galata Greek School, focuses on Prinkipo Greek Orphanage which is considered as one of the “7 Most Endangered” by Europa Nostra, a non-governmental organisation known by its work on protection of the cultural heritage. The exhibition opens a door to the reminiscence of this memory space which is the biggest wooden building in Europe, work of famous architect Alexandre Vallaury (1850-1921). Galata Greek School, where the exhibition took place, nearly shared the same destiny with Prinkipo Greek Orphanage. The exhibition reflected upon the transformation of Prinkipo Palace from a home that embraced the orphans of Istanbul Rum community to a ghost building as a result of political and social events against the minorities. Works that referenced the history of the building by artists; Ali Kazma, Murat Germen, Dilek Winchester and Hera Büyüktaşcıyan took place at the exhibition accompanied by a documentary section including oral testimonies, written and visual documents with a timeline that sheds light on a turbulent history gathered by Güney Ongun .

A series of photographs by Murat Germen titled “Helter-Shelter” greets the audience from the first floor towards the upper floors. These photographs, which let us witness the present as well as the traces of the past left within this lonely structure that has been hastily evacuated, reveal the monumentality of the orphanage not only historically but also in terms of architecture. The photography series transcends time through carrying traces of memory and the reflects upon monumentality of architecture by integrating one building within another who share a similar past and encourage the viewer to look at these spaces through a child's eye.

On the second floor a documentary section meets the audience that sheds light upon the unknown history of the Prinkipo Greek Orphanage, through a timeline, archival photographs, and documents accompanied by oral history testimonies.

On the third floor after the archival section, which provides information on a forgotten past, Ali Kazma's film titled “The Orphanage” retraces memory, time and space, between past and present through floating within the architecture. The piece that dives to the depths of this structure, that’s has turned into a ghost today, reminds us of a place that still tries to continue it’s life, by not only standing with strength despite of all the destructive aspect of history but becoming a home for other organisms along with the traces of the day before.

The final section on the fourth floor, that reflects upon the actual status of the building and it’s effort to still survive is seen with a number of works in conversation. The installation titled “The Wave of all Waves” by Hera Büyüktaşcıyan, meets the audience with an uncanny wooden structure that over floods the space like a wave, references the uncannyness of the ground we stand upon and how it can destroy our current realities. With the movement of this unexpected wave, Murat Germen's photographs, which point to the partially demolished roof, merge and recall not only the damage on the architecture itself, but also the mortality of the physical known world.

Dilek Winchester's installation titled “The Linden Tree”, which examines the feeling of an earthquakes caused by buzzing sounds from the depths of the building, conveys the constantly shaken notion of belonging to the audience in a poetic language. This installation refers to the coincidental connection between the future loss and the Linden Tree song, that orphans used to sing which is about the longing for a lost country far away. The work indicates the effort of survival within an emptied memory over time, sustaining the uncanny of purgatory between existence and extinction.

In addition to the exhibition, various activities have been organised including; panel discussions, readings and film screenings on the axis of cultural heritage, memory, cultural identity, philanthropy, architecture and legal status of the orphanage.

206 Rooms of Silence, Etudes on Prinkipo Greek Orphanage invited us to walk through the corridors of this school of life, which includes the invisible layers of urban history, and look to the past through the lens of the present.

Exhibition held under the auspices of the Ecumenical Greek Patriarchate of Istanbul and was a parallel event to 4th Istanbul Design Biennial.

*An exhibition book was published in 2019 by Umur Yayıncılık with the kind support of Ayşe Umur. You can find the book at the shop in the Patriarchate’s courtyard.

**Photo credits for the exhibition documentation:
General exhibition view from the documentary section, 2018 Photos : Murat Germen
Artist works;
‘’Orphanage’’, a film by Ali Kazma, 2018 Photo: Murat Germen
‘’The Linden Tree’’, installation by Dilek Winchester, 2018 Photo by Murat Germen
‘’The Wave of all Waves’’, installation by Hera Büyüktaşcıyan, 2018 Photo: Murat Germen ‘’Helter-Shelter’’, photographic installation by Murat Germen, 2018 Photo: Murat Germen

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