‘We have been dancing here’, says Fransesco Lupo. He shakes his head, desillusion in his eyes. ‘It was a lie. We were in a bubble that had nothing to do with reality.’
We are in Tarlabaşı, a neighbourhood in Istanbul, right southwest of the central Taksim Square. Tarlabaşı is in the middle of a ‘renewal’ process. That means: the old, poor inhabitants of the area are being kicked out of their houses to make space for the upper class, and for yet another Starbucks and shopping mall.
Fransesco (20) is an Italian Erasmus exchange student, studying at Istanbul’s Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts. With a group of foreign and Turkish artists he occupied an empty building in Tarlabaşı, cleaned it and started using it as a studio. The few people that still lived in the mostly deserted street, had mixed feelings: some liked the idea, others felt the young artists were intruding. The relations improved when the artists invited the people to the studio.
The installation Fransesco made, is about memory. ‘I am not against progress’, he explains, ‘but we have to remember the past.’ He was proud of his installation. He and his friends danced in it. Then, one morning, he came to the studio and found his piece of art half destroyed. Neighbourhood kids, probably. Everybody can just go in, the buildings of Tarlabaşı no longer have doors or windows. Fransesco: ‘It was a slap in the face to see it destroyed.’
Soon though, he realized this was the only thing that could happen to his installation in a neighbourhood trapped between old and new. He and his artist friends created a bubble that sooner or later had to be pricked. ‘I was full of presumption’, he says. He tried to symbolize the presumption with a sculpture of a woman sitting on the floor.
The only thing he could do, is destroy the remains of the bubble. He waited till sunset and allowed me to film it. Afterwards he said, his face full of emotion: ‘This is the most significant experience of my life.’