Honouring the Levantine architect who built the Mongeri Building that Bozlu Art Project is housed in, the exhibition features archival photographs, expository texts and three art pieces by contemporary Turkish artists.
Bozlu Art Project, located in the midst of downtown Istanbul in the Sisli district, is housed in a building, the Mongeri House, designed by architect Giulio Mongeri.
Mongeri was an Italian subject born in Istanbul, whose father, Dr Luigi Mongeri was a renowned psychiatrist. Giulio Mongeri built many important buildings in and around Istanbul, and his legacy is honoured by this exhibition.
The exhibition “Memory Palaces” takes its name after the ‘memory palace’ technique “used ever since the time of Ancient Greek and Roman civilisations in order to visually recall information through spatial environments”, the news release advises.
Curated by Ozlem Inay Erten, the exhibition starts out with the elder Mongeri (1815-1882), who was an imperial doctor in the court of Sultan Abdulmecid (1839-1861). He is known for playing a prominent role in institutionalising modern psychiatry in Turkey.
His son Giulio Mongeri (1873-1951) has “left his mark on [Turkey’s] architectural history”, the news release notes. The Mongeri Building was originally built to house the Sadikoglu family in the early years of the Republic, who would, following the trends of the era, leave the building built in the First National Architectural Movement style, for a modern apartment building in the coming years.
It later became a gynecological hospital, the Pakize Tarzi Clinic, followed by the Ataman Clinic, finally ending up as an educational institution called Yuzyil Isil Primary School before becoming the location for the Bozlu Art Project, previously housed in a building in Nisantasi.
Curator Inay Erten writes about her initial impression in in the Preface to the book ‘A Mansion in Sisli and Architect Giulio Mongeri’ that the Mongeri House “stood there, in the midst of the densely populated and heavily concretised most central part of Sisli, like an oasis”. Her observation rings even truer today.
The architect who built it in 1925, Giulio Mongeri, she continues in the Introduction, “played an active role in the late Ottoman period as well as in the early years of the Republic, with both his architectural activities and his role as an educator.”
Mongeri, she writes, “along with Architect Kemaleddin and Vedat Tek … has left his mark on many significant architectural works in Turkey, where he lived until 1941.”
If you wander down on Istiklal Street, you will most certainly notice the resplendent St Anthony Church (known as Sent Antuan in Turkish) midway between Taksim and Tunel Squares, one of Mongeri’s masterpieces. He is also responsible for Karakoy Palace and Macka Palace in Istanbul, and the head offices of Ziraat Bank, Ottoman Bank, Turkey Is Bank and the Inhisar (TEKEL) General Directorate building in Ankara.
From 1910, Mongeri also served as the director of the department of architecture of Sanayi-i Nefise Mektebi (The School of Fine Arts in Ottoman Turkish), which now functions as Mimar Sinan University.
Scattered throughout archival documents and expository information about Giulio Mongeri’s life, works and family are contemporary art pieces by Meliha Sozeri, Server Demirtas and Evren Erol.
Curator Ozlem Inay Erten says that while the exhibition aims to “shed light on Giulio Mongeri’s life and the history of the Mongeri House … therefore attempting to approach the notion of a ‘Memory Palace’,” it does so “from the perspective of contemporary artistic practices'' of the three artists featured in the exhibition alongside the historical back story.
According to Inay Erten, “Approaching memory-laden monumental works of architecture in light of clues as to the workings of collective memory, with questions such as ‘Do the life stories of the places resemble those of people? At what point do the memories of places overlap with the places of our memories?’, this exhibition will allow its visitors to trace this thinking in contemporary artistic practices.”
Meliha Sözeri’s light installation Sınır uçları (border endings, a play on words on ‘Sinir uçları’, nerve endings) is the first art piece on display, perhaps placed there to make a reference to Mongeri’s psychiatrist father.
Server Demirtas’ Dusunen Kadin Makinesi, 2013, (the Thinking Woman Machine) composed of a motor, mechanical systems, polyoxymethylene and polyester, is an android with moving parts, who sits in reverie and hugs herself, as if cocooned in a womb.
Then there is Evren Erol’s No 7, 2016, acrylic paint over polyester and wood that suggests an emergence, a kind of birth process, perhaps referencing the later use of the building as a clinic, perhaps referencing something more abstract.
The exhibition will be open for one more day on April 29, 2021 Thursday before Turkey goes into a 17-day lockdown for the month of Ramadan and the Eid festivities that follow it.
Interested art lovers may still be able to see the “Memory Palaces” exhibition after the lockdown, starting from May 17, 2021 Monday. “Memory Palaces” will continue through to August 14, 2021, and will be accessible to the public every day except weekends from 10 am to 5 pm.