When we arrived in Istanbul, we were prepared for surprises. The city itself was decorated for elections, hung with long annotated banners and coloured flagging, trumpeting various political parties as far as the eye could see. Work was scheduled to commence immediately, and we plowed our way through jet-lag with characteristic ease – that is, with blood-shot eyes and blundering half-wits.
While challenges awaited, including the daunting task of riding man-lifts up and down, beading a 30-ft circle with 14,000 little ovals of plastic in the blazing sun (and, for me, doing this with a 3-weeks broken foot, fresh out of its air cast), we were quick to realize how fortunate we were to be working with Pera Museum.
The steel ring was already raised and hung in front of the museum’s facade, mounted into place with long rods drilled into the structure of the building. An Installation Team (who we would soon know very well) was stringing and tensioning horizontal wires to hang lenses. We’re used to being very hands on in the fabrication process, and so to arrive with a competent team already deep into the project was a real treat.
The Pera Museum staff had arranged all this, and much more. After a year of e-mails, skype conversations, and day-dreaming sessions, it was a pleasure to be back in the same city as Fatma, Ulya, Bihter, and a the rest of the charming + efficient folks from the museum crew. In addition to researching and arranging technical details, Pera had launched an eyeglass drive in Istanbul, asking local people to contribute their unwanted eyeglasses to the sculpture. All in, the project was off to a brilliant start, and we were ready to drown in a sea of lenses.
Our first day working onsite was quite a slog. We never bothered looking up the temperature, but it must have been over 30 degrees celsius with blazing sunshine and nary a cloud in sight. These are moments of threshold, when you decide whether to faint or push on through. But if the fabrication team could do it, who were we to quite? Sunscreen and dorky hats helped a lot. (We later discovered that this was pretty hot, even by Istanbul standards, and that we were probably being unnecessarily stoic…)
The installation crew was comprised of 4 – 6 members of a building restoration company called ATÖLYE DEMİRTAŞ, a proficient and professional group of people. When they’re not helping build sculptures and installations (for the likes of Anish Kapoor, amongst others!) they’re restoring historic facades, making maquettes, and fabricating details for tourist sites. They were an excellent choice for sea/see/saw because they helped with the initial restoration of Hotel Bristol onto the face of Pera Museum when the building was renovated, and they have a good architectural understanding of the structure.
(They’re also a hilarious group of goof-balls! And while we speak almost no Turkish, we were able to communicate with snippets of English, some French, and copious hand-gestures.)
There was also a documentation crew, charged by Pera Museum with capturing key events during the installation of sea/see/saw. This team included several photographers and a filmmaker (Guliz Saglam, an award-winning documentary director). Guliz also shoots protests on her covert video camera, and she shared much with us about the political situation in Istanbul – especially surrounding the 2-year anniversary of the Taksim Square protests.
Before we knew it, the sculpture was finished. 14,000 eyeglass lenses were beaded onto the circle and rippling in the wind. We send our huge thanks to the Pera Museum team, the crew from Atolye Demirtas Restoration & Conservation Company, the documentation team, and all our other new Istanbulite friends!
Images and video of the final sculpture are incoming soon. Stay tuned!