Can Altay :
»We're papermen«, he said, 2003

room installation
multiprojection, text, sound, ca. 650 x 550 cm
Can Altay


A Dialogue between Deniz Altay und Engin Öncüoğlu [1]

Deniz Altay: From minibars to papermen; Can Altay’s works have been taking us to journeys into the city. Following his tracks, we get involved in the daily urban practices, we remember our position as an ordinary urban dweller and we recognize the existence of others. 'Others' whom, Altay introduces as the ordinary unexpected.

Engin Öncüoğlu: From earlier on, since the moment that he has exposed his systematic diaries in the common toilets of the building where the Ankara’da Genç Sanat 3 exhibition took place, Can Altay has been dealing with a wider issue. And with each project we see him going deeper into this issue. The success in this earlier project and the use of diary material, is that it points to a problem that is completely apart from himself. Meanwhile on a separate layer, getting us engaged in his everyday practices, Altay positions himself and his viewers to question one's own daily experience and what it consists of.

DA: In his later works, Altay concentrates on issues that 'escape' most city dwellers' attention. Marginal practices, their peculiar use of urban space and spaces created by the inhabitants. Like 'minibars'; unplanned and unconstructed, but spaces 'produced' through the alternative nocturnal practices of young people in the city of Ankara. The activities of drinking, chatting, socializing, turned into a subversive practice due to their displacement into a realm that was not presumed to host them. Similarly, in »We’re papermen« he said he said, Altay investigates the operations of the unofficial garbage collectors known by every inhabitant in major cities of Turkey, but neglected nonetheless.

EÖ: This potential in Altay's work is an opening that leads to an understanding of the core problematic, the issue that prevails through his work. This 'issue' that can be summarized as 'unpredictable reconfiguration', is from now on taken in-depth and in unpretentious manners through the works.
The literary infrastructure of »We’re papermen« he said, even faces the risk of being ‘didactic’, but essentially stays as an 'agitative' and 'provocative' text which is far from being 'precautious' or 'hesitant'. Also seen here is that Altay doesn’t want to prevent his work taking on 'unpredictable' meanings and configurations.
Similar tactics of agitation were employed in the Minibar projects where he described relations between spaces and occupants who were producing these spaces as well as those who were using the spaces within confined frames of planning.

DA: Through documenting his personal experiences and observations; Altay introduces alternative approaches to look at the city and accordingly develops readings of the city.

EÖ: When we look at the way »We’re papermen« he said is installed, we see Altay recording his daily life in the accuracy of an inventory and converting this into 'material'. We collect and construct this material, which is familiar yet under-recognized, into a narrative in gestures of selecting and sorting that recall 'papermen'. Yet, there is no extra-ordinary record within this material. The singular difference is the attention and awareness of the text, just as the map and route projected on the screen made up of used paper, documents such a sameness yet awareness.

DA: And doing so not only by sharing his own urban experiences with the visitors, but also through providing them with means of involvement and giving them the opportunity to perform similar practices within the installations. As in previous works, the installations request a certain mode of 'dwelling in' from the viewer.

EÖ: We can go further and claim that Altay does not move with the intention to illuminate or explain things, on the contrary, the motive is also about striving to see for oneself. And upon dealing with that striving, it is never the visual or the textual 'work' alone at stake, but as the viewer also introduces into the work, all these elements interact to redefine the hierarchies of pre-given ideals of reception (both the viewers’ and the artist’s reception of the work).

[1]: Deniz Altay is a city planner and urban designer. Engin Öncüoğlu is a writer. ^

Videostill: »We're papermen«, he said, 2003