Sunday, August 21, 2011

Visual Assignment #2

Three months before my plane would touch down in Berlin, Germany, I posted a photograph of the graffiti pictured above on my tumblr. Beneath the photo I wrote, "See you in three months Berlin". At this time, I was wide-eyed and eager. Never had I been to Germany, and only once before had I been to Europe. I had no idea what to expect of Berlin, of the people there, or of myself. To me, that photograph of the graffiti represent a historically rich city reclaiming it's history. The people who lived there, I thought, must be vibrant and fascinating thinkers who had showed the world how they felt about communism and capitalism, and would in turn be eager to share with me. While my arriving didn't prove otherwise, it did implicate me at an interesting crossroads.

Berlin, as I came to discover, was full of vibrant and interesting thinkers. But being in such a new I felt out of place. I stuck out, for the way I dressed, how I talked, and my general presence when standing on a street corner. It was nothing I could help, but also not something I had considered before coming to Berlin. I have lived in Washington since I was five, and have grown up with the same kids since the 1st grade. Never had I ever truly felt out of place. Even when coming to college, I knew people, I had a space. In Berlin, it was quite the opposite. Pre-departure I had dreamed of arriving and making fast friends with Germans who would share their ideas and show me places, in actuality, I spent the first few weeks in my apartment with my roommate, or with the other kids in my program. I existed very much inside my own bubble. This bubble however allowed me to reflect on both what I was doing in Berlin and what I was doing in life.

Berlin, while still exciting, ultimately became a space to disorient me and force contemplation. On the outside it looked like a vibrant city, and while that was still true, it was so much richer for my personal experience.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Assignment #1: Looking Through Istanbul

Image #1: The Camera's Power
Two ducks rummaging through garbage.

Image #2: Otherness in Built Environment

Gentrified street in Istanbul created to resemble Paris.

Image #3: Limit of the Camera
Catholic church in Istanbul.

Image #4: Demanding Interpretation

Elderly woman staring out of her window in low income Turkish housing.

Image #5: Capturing the Deeply Personal
 Galata Tower and circling birds at night.

Images #6 & #7: Power, Inequality, and Modernity
 Tourist friendly, modernized main street in Istanbul.

 Turkish low income housing.

A highly complex city, Istanbul exists as a turnstile of juxtapositions: modernity vs. classical past, power vs. inequality, beauty vs. poverty, etc. While often these juxtapositions work in conjunction with each other, the city also seems to operate on contradictions. On one hand you have Turkey seen as a fragmented remnant of an empire versus Turkey seen as a nation striving to meet a Western sense of modernity, adopting both a more Westernized alphabet and attempting to replicate Western school systems and ways of life. There are both reminders of what used to be, and implications of what can be, scattered all around the city -- in fact, often times the two play geographical neighbors to one another. The final two photos selected were meant to highlight the implications of the many juxtapositions and contradictions of this intricate city.

The sixth image highlights the gentrification and rise to contemporary westernization in Istanbul. Within her lecture Jen discussed a struggle of Turkish identity in both a past context and modern one. This struggle sought to stick a label to what is a Turk. However, in actually, the idea of a perfect "Turk" is merely a construction and does not exist. Before coming to Istanbul, I held my own beliefs on what Turkish identity was and what Istanbul and the city's inhabitants would resemble. When I arrived in Istanbul, and specifically was able to make my way down this photographed street, my own personal beliefs of Turkey and Turkish identity were challenged.

Within this photo, Istanbul is seen as being plagued by modern conveniences, emerging as a long main street that holds Starbucks, a BBQ Chicken Franchise, and a French modeled school. In a sense, this street serves as both a metaphorical and literal pathway to 21st Century Western Modernity. Though the street tickles the senses from every which way, unlike most American streets (clubs stacked two stories high on top of restaurants) the conveniences it provides are not unlike those found in Western Europe or North America. On this street I saw many Turkish citizens and people who called Istanbul home dressed similar to myself, or young people conveying similar body language or interests. In a location such as Turkey, where creating an identity is a highly contested and complicated topic, I found it fascination to note the similarities of Turkish culture to mine. 

The strong prevalence of modernity captured in the sixth photo however, is contradicted within the seventh photo where the low income housing of Istanbul is depicted. The contemporary housing system of Istanbul seems to work in opposition to Western influence seen in the sixth photo. When compared to Western ideas of property, Turkish low income neighborhoods open up a new method to ownership.  The squatter culture that enables those who build on "unowned" land a chance at ownership of such land, is unlike Western ideas of property ownership. Such a practice allows the city to frequently reform, rebuild, and reorganize. However, the instability of property ownership within Istanbul overall, holds all "homeowners" at jeopardy. The Turkish state holds the right to take away property from owners in order to "modernize" and lift property values, displacing many Turkish homeowners to poorer neighborhoods farther away from their preformed communities.

While these two photos do work in opposition to one another, they also both seem to work together on the idea of power and inequality. Whether on the modernized main street of Istanbul, or the low income neighborhoods of Istanbul, interaction comes down to those who hold the power, and those who do not. In the sixth photo, those who succeed are those who can adapt to the changing culture. If they can interpret and respond to a Westernized way of life, they will not be left behind. Those who find themselves disoriented and struggle, will increasing find a larger gap between the old Istanbul and the new one, and therefore, will struggle to have their identity reinterpreted. These Turkish neighborhoods function in the same way -- the inhabitants can force themselves to adapt (raise the funds to keep their houses as to not be moved, etc), or they can find themselves displaced. In both circumstances (modernization of Turkish conveniences or the evolution of Turkish neighborhoods) the shifts take place at the discretion of the state and ultimately leave those communities without substantial power without voice. These two images, together in juxtaposition, work to convey such a contradiction and power struggle.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Wearing Berlin: Street Fashion in the Divided City

A city once divided, Berlin has emerged as a cultural hub for not only Germany, but for Europe in general. The historical past of the city lends itself well to a variety of artists, youth, and people. This diverse population that makes up the city has caused Berlin to emerge as an exciting and unique fashion hotspot.

Street fashion in Berlin has emerged as a fascinating and often elaborate form of expression. My research seeks to answer how street fashion depicts historical and political motivations, as well as how it aides in the formation of identity in a city where youth once stood divided by a wall. I also will seek to explore and explain assorted trends in fashion in Berlin. I hope to identify motivations for such trends, whether it is purely aesthetic or if it makes a broader statement. I think that clothes can be used to not only identify and separate the individual, but unite and connect a collective of wearers all participating in the same look or trend. Finally, since we will be in Berlin during Berlin Fashion week, I aspire to learn how the runway influences the everyday fashion.

My preliminary work before embarking to Berlin will be comprised of getting a strong grasp on Berlin trends and exploring various Berlin fashion blogs, as well as sorting out a plan for navigating Berlin’s fashion week. Once in Berlin, I would like to do observational work of the German youth, as well as perhaps conduct some interviews and post my own street fashion images. I theorize that my discovery will be fashion in Berlin, like many cities, is not purely for an outward aesthetic but acts as a buffer between a deeper historical and political past and the contemporary urban world.


1. Berliner chic : a locational history of Berlin fashion (2011)




5. Fashion in Berlin: The Place to be


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Guests and Aliens Reading Response

As I currently write this I do not have my reading in front of me, so I will have to edit this later once I have my notes. However, this is my initial reading response...

What I found so fascinating about "Guests and Aliens" was the perspective it brought to immigration. For me, I had always thought of immigrants as holistic of a general national population. Certain countries, I assumed, boasted a high degree of immigrants, and therefore, many of their citizens likely felt a desire to escape their country.

However, the reading brought to light the notion that immigrants are really only in pockets of countries. Instead of all citizens wanting to leave, or none wanting to leave, immigration is actually region specific. Another interesting component of that (although not as surprising) is that immigration is typically calculated in waves based on some sort of political movement (ex. WWII). Additionally, immigrants, even if they move to a new region where the people share their customs, values, language, etc, are still viewed as the outsider despite all of their similarities with the new culture they have now become a part of.

I always thought the distinction we draw between ourself and the "other", is a difference in physical appearance, cultural norms, etc. Yet, if an immigrant is still considered the other despite reflecting the common culture and appearance, what else can they possibly do to incorporate themselves into the new landscape?

an introdutcion of sorts

this summer: studying abroad in berlin & istanbul. roaming around in paris & barcelona. seeing the world. yikes!