The Future Perfect

“(…) the future is not prepared behind the observer, it is a brooding presence moving to meet him, like a storm on the horizon.” (Maurice Merleau-Ponty, “Phenomenology of Perception”)

The globalization of a country can be assessed by the transformation of its cities. After years of documenting its effects on the urban and human fabric of cities in the Anatolian part of Turkey, I finally resolved in April 2014 to tackle the ravages of globalization in Istanbul. Nowhere else in Turkey is the phenomenon more hyperbolic that in the world city along the Bosphorus.

Desiring a more plastic and less documentary approach, I invoke the concept of palimpsest for “The Future Perfect”. Palimpsestos, or ‘scraped clean’. In the Middle Ages, copyist monks would often scrape parchments to remove the existing text and then write something new on them. Yet under the new text remained phantom-like traces of the earlier writing.

Urbanism is a form of writing. The urban transformations impacting Istanbul, fueled by globalized capitalism, erase the earlier, human-scale “text”. Fields, woods, roads, houses, small factories are scraped away and replaced with globalized models of cities in the inevitable quest for progress in the name of Modernity.

“The Future Perfect” focuses on the rapidly-transforming fringes of this huge metropolis, questioning the impact of Istanbul’s unbridled development on its equilibrium and harmony. Questioning, too, the notion of “mémoire du lieu”*. In sectors like Maslak, Kartal, Ataşehir, the present jostles the past, erasing and replacing it. In my image-palimpsests, fields where cows graze or people hike can be discerned under high-rise buildings; construction sites overwrite woods or a small industry; an array of towers exists where only a single tower stood shortly before; and so on, and so on. Globalization = Uniformization. A phenomenon observable worldwide and eloquently illustrated by tentacular Istanbul’s rewritten urban landscapes captured for the palimpsests.

By combining a B&W image from the recent past (1960 – 2000)** and a color image I take of approximately the same place today, a third image materializes, an image-palimpsest. Finalizing it involves long, painstaking work on its structure and details. Of course, I don’t use a scraping tool to erase the old picture or a quill to fashion my palimpsest, but the modern-day tool of images, PhotoShop. The layers and phantoms of “The Future Perfect” palimpsests evoke not only Istanbul’s radical globalization, but also its memory and the dense flow of time.

*French for the idea that a site possesses the faculty of memory. 

**The images from the recent past were graciously provided by public collections (Ataturk Library, SALT, the Kartal Mayor’s office) and private collections (Mr. İrfan Dağdelen, Mr. Zeki Kar, and ICS Group).