Collective Çukurcuma (Naz Cuguoglu & Mine Kaplangi)

What is Collective Çukurcuma? What was the main idea behind it?

Collective Çukurcuma is a non-profit art initiative based in Istanbul, Turkey. It was founded by us in 2015 and joined by Serhat Cacekli in 2017. The collective mainly focuses on collaborative thinking and creating processes through its reading group meetings (co-organized by Gökcan Demirkazık) and cross-national collaboration projects, and raises questions about the power of books and libraries through its curatorial projects and editorial work. Founded in response to a need for building a platform generating progressive dialogues and discussions on contemporary art, it aims to rebuild the nearly-forgotten ‘neighbor’ experience among the new generation through forming collaborations locally and internationally.


It’s really challenging to focus on books while it’s mostly a visual culture now, isn’t it ?

We do not agree. For us, there is something inexplicable about books and libraries. It is something felt when entering the dusty space of an old book repository—the story of humankind’s passion for knowledge, as well as the archives that allow such wealth to be passed on. We remain fascinated by the act of reaching into past experiences to layer them with present conditions, and even make predictions about the future. As humans, we keep on organizing, reading, interpreting, and then we create our own libraries with our own books.


What is your ideas about books and libraries? And how these ideas related with your current projects?

We both individually have a strong connection with books (digital, printed, hand-written, fictional, found, old, new…) and it is through this mutual interest that we are mainly focusing on the relation between libraries and contemporary art, mostly from curatorial point of view. We are asking the question: What could contemporary art theories, curatorial practices and exhibition designs learn from the idea of the library?

We also believe in the political power and revolutionary potential of books and libraries. Libraries play a significant role during times of collective resistance and protests for freedom. Recent examples of this are the library formed during the Gezi Park protests in Istanbul in 2013 — demonstrations contesting the urban development plan for Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park, to which police responded back with tear gas and water cannons — and the ‘Secret Library’ founded last year in Syria’s Darayya. Libraries and archives, particularly those in public spaces, provide free access to cultural heritage and information, and are essential for bringing people together to share knowledge. So how can we combine this power of libraries with contemporary art practices and exhibitions? We tend to work with scholars, artists, academics, researchers to get more diverse ideas and thoughts on this subject, that’s one of the main reasons why our exhibition/library House of Wisdom is travelling across different countries and raising questions.


What about having “collective” in your name?

We do not believe that it is possible to survive individually alone in the current socio-political atmosphere, we do believe in the power of collaborative thinking and creating processes, that is why we prefer to call it a collective.


What are your backgrounds?

Naz received her BA in Psychology and MA in Social Psychology focusing on cultural studies, both at Koç University (Istanbul). Mine received her BA in Philosophy in Istanbul University and MA (Certificate Program) in Philosophy of Arts & Aesthetics in Bologna University/ DAMS Faculty. Serhat received his BA in Maths & Physics at Koç University, and pursues his MA on art management at Yeditepe University. We believe this interdisciplinary approach adds a lot to our curatorial practice.


What is art for you?

We do not believe in static definitions in our age. We need dynamic and flexible definitions and structures, evolving and shifting through time. The same can be said for art. But for now, for us, art is what is crucial, essential and needed. Art is what makes us uniquely human yet significantly united. We believe we passed the definitions of “aesthetics, form, expression and representation” and arrived to a place where we seek to find the alternatives, the unknowns, the mystery and the urge to discover all at the same time. We need art more than ever.


Interview by Fiona Vilmer, writer specialized in contemporary art.
Photographs and text courtesy of Collective Çukurcuma.