Didem Özbek

Artist, designer and co-founder of PiST/// Istanbul, Turkey

Artist, designer and co-founder of PiST/// Istanbul, Turkey

I must admit that receiving a travel grant from CIMAM with the support of SAHA Association to attend its 2013 annual conference at MAM, Rio de Janeiro was unexpected for me. Even I have taken stage at the previous year’s conference at SALT Galata, Istanbul, I would never think of finding myself in another CIMAM conference, on the other side of the world, within a year.

In 2012’s conference I was invited to participate a panel session as an artist and co-founder of PiST/// Interdisciplinary Project Space to talk about my experience of directing a non-profit, artist-run space in a country without any local (governmental) structure to support the arts. My colleagues Banu Cennetoğlu from BAS and Volkan Aslan from 5533 were other panelists with me while Özge Ersoy was the moderator of our session. Before our session took place we have met a few times to discuss what to talk in front of those museum directors or curators that run immense institutions in comparison to our initiatives. While we knew some of these art professionals personally, or already exhibited on the institutions they run as practicing artists, talking about our experience as co-founders of artist-run spaces in Istanbul was a question for us. What I remember from our conversation on stage was its relaxed and enthusiastic attitude that made the audience laugh in many parts, and it was satisfying for me to share our sincerity with them.

This could be the reason that I was confident and well informed on what kind of a conference I was going to attend in Rio. Meeting there those art professionals that I have not had the chance to meet personally in Istanbul, but hearing their comments to listening our session in Istanbul was a great welcome response for me in Rio. Seeing colleagues that I come across in different parts of the world was something regular, and more important meeting new colleagues especially attending the conference from Latin American countries, Africa or Asia was a great opportunity for me that I cannot have in Istanbul that much. Being a listener rather than a speaker allowed me to enjoy every second of the 3 days conference without any stress. Being a guest in Rio, not a local resident there allowed me not to skip out any session or event as a part of the 3 days conference program.

Listening to the first day’s keynote speaker, artist Tania Bruguera and case study speaker, curator Zoe Butt from San Art made me think of my own practice, environment, experiences and obstacles as an artist or co-director of PiST///. Listening to curator Dieter Roelstraete from Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago was also good, and I wish that I would have chance to listen to him in the future on other occasions. I wonder if it is because of the first day but they were the speakers that took stage one after the other that I enjoyed listening the most.

The evening programs hosted by local art spaces were a great opportunity to quickly grasp an idea of the art scene in Rio de Janeiro. Visiting artist Ernesto Neto’s studio and the galleries such as A Gentil Carioca was something I would not easily make if I have been to Rio by my own. The chief curator of MAM Rio, Luiz Camillo Osorio was a great host and the session he moderated was something more or less similar to our panel session in Istanbul. It gave a feedback on the alternative art scenes of Rio de Janeiro. Being able to visit MAM’s collection on a Monday was a privilege. Paulo Herkenhoff, the director of Museu de Arte do Rio MAR, was also a great host to tour us around this new museum’s collection. The visits to the commercial galleries on the last night were a glimpse to take in Brazilian art market.

My criticism would be about the workshop parts of the conferences. While it gives a chance to let everyone speak about their own professional experiences time is never enough to continue further than knowing who you are and what you do, if it is not moderated that well. In any case the session I attended this year was much better that last years. The only problem was the discomfort of the meeting area and difficulty to hear one another.

As soon as the conference ended I spend 3 more days in Rio and the first thing I realized was the short distance in between the locations we have taken by bus. Though traffic allows you to network, to chat and learn more about the person sitting next to you, observing the daily life of a city that hosts the CIMAM conferences would be a great opportunity for the conference participants.

I do not know whether I would be that lucky to attend any future CIMAM conference. For sure I would never say no for a future invitation. This travel grant’s another surprise for me was to learn that individual art professionals can be CIMAM members and you do not have to be the director of an immense institution. I would like to continue my individual membership in the future and keep connected to CIMAM even if I can follow its future conferences or events online.

I would like to thank to CIMAM and SAHA Organization for giving me the chance to attend its annual conference in Rio de Janeiro. I wish a great term for the new board members of CIMAM for 2014-2016. Bartomeu Mari’s presentation at the general assembly as the accountant was very clear and direct to share what has been achieved during Zdenka Badovinac’s presidency. I am sure that CIMAM’s new President Bartomeu Mari, Jenny Gil Schmitz and Ines Jover will continue acting as a great team. For sure I am happy to see that Vasıf Kortun, Director of Research and Programs of SALT, Istanbul was in the CIMAM board for a second term. Other than him I can proudly say that I know 6 more board members personally (Not a bad ratio for an artist to mention). My suggestion to CIMAM would be not hold its annual conferences on August any more, but keep it on November as it has been in Istanbul. Organizing two conferences within 10 months in two continents (maybe we can say three if we keep into consideration of Istanbul’s location in Europe and Asia) must be a tough work. Not everyone can achieve it that well. I know as I have been to both. Congratulations to everyone whom has participated on the organization of both.

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