Reciprocal Visit was an experimental project by Apartment Project made up of photographs, films, writings, interactions, and talks of participants from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds, such as photography, video, music, staging, painting, and sociology. The material was created while participants were on the road, at places where they stopped, visited, or stayed.
The concept of the project was developed by the founder of the initiative and video artist Selda Asal and the curation and organisation of the project were undertaken by Serra Özhan. Participating artists included Endam Acar, Selda Asal, Volkan Aslan, Fatma Çiftçi, Zeren Göktan, Deniz Gül, Gözde Ilkin, Ceren Oykut, Gökçe Süvari and Sophia Tabatadze. The first round of this collective project was realised during their visit to Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran in April 2009.
Between nations and states, which can be termed as spaces of identity, besides physical borders there is a second set of borders that stem from the political conflicts between states and turn the physical borders into walls: whether you can pass or not is determined by the nationality stated on your passport and visas would not help either. This is a political wall that does not let someone from Turkey pass over to Armenia or vice versa. A similar border wall exists between Armenia and its eastern neighbour Azerbaijan.
Yet there are cultural exchanges that offset all the border stories set up by states. One of these is the tradition of a reciprocal visit. As distinct from Western Europe and as is the case in most Arabic countries and Turkey, the culture of reciprocal visit still exists in Armenia, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. For instance, just like it is the case in Turkey, the visits paid by the neighbours – even those that you are not acquainted with – are regarded as pleasant. It is actually what should be: a “must”. You go over with a box of sweets and say ‘hi’.
This project set off to visit and to receive reciprocal visits in spite of the hostility of these states towards each other and to critically break down the physical, political and intellectual obstacles created by the borders. In this respect, a shared cultural value that makes borders meaningless, the tradition of reciprocal visit forms the basis of this project.
The collective undertook an experimental exercise that was created there and then throughout their journey by bus and train: different ideas emanating from the collective, different experiences brought on by being together and sharing, various narratives using different materials, etc. Participants coming from various disciplines such as photography, video, music, performance, painting, and sociology engaged in an experimental workshop consisting of photographs, films and texts created and interactions and talks experienced in places that they passed through and stayed.
The name of the project, Reciprocal Visit, was chosen partly because of its participants’ visits to Georgia, Armenia, once more to Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Iran and the reciprocal visits of two artists from each of those countries. The second round of this project brought artists from Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran to Turkey in July 2009.
For this collaboration, in partnership with Parkingallery, the team at Sazmanab helped facilitate the Iran side of the project and realise each artist’s project during their visits. During the group’s visit to Tehran, the team at Sazmanab organised meeting sessions at Sazmanab’s venue and a public presentation for the group and their Iranian peers at Azad Art Gallery in Tehran. There were presentations and screenings by Endam Acar, Selda Asal, Volkan Aslan, Fatma Çiftçi, Zeren Göktan, Deniz Gül, Gözde Ilkin, Ceren Oykut, Serra Özhan, Gökçe Süvari, and Sophia Tabatadze followed by separate presentations and screenings by Pooya Abbasian, Ghazaleh Hedayat, and Behrang Samadzadegan.
Sazmanab and Azad Art Gallery
Public session: Thursday, April 16, 2009 – 4-8 PM