Thursday, September 23, 2010

Art Gallery in Tophane Attacked

From Hurriyet Daily News:
A group numbering dozens attacked the opening of several art galleries on Tuesday night, putting at least five people in the hospital with injuries from pepper spray, broken bottles, batons and knives. The hospitalized included one Polish and one German citizen. The attack was first believed to have been in response to art pieces on exhibit because Galeri Non had an exhibition by the collective Ekstramücadele (Ekstrastruggle) that featured content on the taboos of Islam and Atatürk both. However, witnesses at the scene who spoke right after the incident and the following morning confirmed that the scuffle broke out due to alcohol consumption in the streets.

After the incident, neighborhood residents claimed gala visitors had been harassing and disturbing other people in the street. One person also said the gallery owners had been told previously that their guests were disturbing neighborhood residents. More comments from locals in the media on Wednesday focused on them being disturbed by not only the art galleries but also the apart hotels and alcohol-serving restaurants that have multiplied in the neighborhood in recent years. As well, locals said they were disturbed by people drinking in the streets due to the smoking ban. However, the restaurants and hotels are also perceived to have a negative effect on morals, according to various comments offered to the media or stated on the Internet.
The attack took place in Tophane, a gentrifying neighborhood in Beyoglu that is home to newly renovated art galleries and restaurants in addition to traditional (men-only) tea houses and residences of migrants who moved into neighborhood from more conservative Anatolia in the past 30 years. Tophane, like much of the rest of Beyoglu, is home to a hodgepodge of residents from diverse backgrounds who hold several different viewpoints. No one is sure how organized the attack was or what the motivation, but it has led many to claim the incident should be viewed in terms of the neighborhood's ongoing gentrification and the inevitable clashes of values and basic attitudes that have accompanied the neighborhood's transformation.

Though Tophane is viewed as a conservative neighborhood -- and after this attack, will likely be viewed as an even more conservative neighborhood (Islamic fundamentalist?) -- it is likely the the gentrification process will continue. The question is whether the neighborhoods residents can learn to live with each other in a spirit of tolerance and respect for difference. Sure, the art-going crowd should watch their volume and perhaps not go onto the streets with glasses of wine in mid-daylight if it is offensive to the neighbors, but surely violence is not a solution and might there not be some give and take on both sides? All of a sudden that does not seem a question for Tophane alone . . .

Democracy and difference is hard to be sure.

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