7 Mart 2010 Pazar

The Deconstruction of Nationalist Architectural Historiography in Turkey

The framework of this text can be defined to rest on an attempt to expose certain ‘totalistic narratives’ in architectural historiography which allege to posses the ideal answers to each and every question that may be posed on them. The architectural historiography of this cultural geography aspires to be much more than merely an attempt to understand and give meaning to what has happened in the past. Architectural historiography posits its subject into a mechanism of distancing study (keeping the object in its right space-time coordinates) or a mechanism which relates it to the past (placing the variable position of the object within the unyielding entirety of the space-time) .The former alternative always entails a negation, while the latter a justification. The work of Hisar and Tanpınar have been assessed along the first position while Sedad Hakkı Eldem, the second.

Every work the historian puts into circulation is received within a network of different power relations. While the historian’s narrative is neither absolute nor given, these networks of relations continuously shatter, disorder and organize its meaning. The plurality of punitive discourses/powers who desire to establish a fixed meaning to a text that circulates within such a network, or to decrease the number of historical texts that are put into circulation also increases the number of meanings that are aspired to be secured. This quantitative increase secularizes the text, rather than assigning it a transcendental quality. Such secularization gives a text disputability. Different ways of relating to the past amplify the powers in a given context. This increase in powers, in turn, leads to an increase in different historical narratives. This interactive disrupts the powers that aspire to minimize the number of narratives in a given context. The destruction of the delusion of transcendentalism and the loss of the desire for totality can only be attained through the crisis of those narratives that believe to construct such a transcendality or totality.  The following discussion attempts to deconstruct these transcendental narratives through a parallel reading of texts produced within the same or different space and time.

This discussion does not aspire to present reassuring answers but only to assure the continuity of questions posed. Such continuity is not concerned with the answers it will receive. The significant issue it to delay their answer. For, every answer coincides to a moment of final verdict and this verdict prevents the differences inherent in each question to manifest themselves.  Deleuze reminds us that we should ride with the questions instead of smashing them under our feet. Keeping the questions suspended puts the answers in a crisis. This is exactly what the formative crisis of modernity is. Modernity is the shattering of the belief that the world can be represented through a single and flawless answer that replies all questions.

One of the possible questions that can be posed to the three figures featured in this discussion,   Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar, Abdülhak Şinasi and Sedad Hakkı Eldemi could be this: Why do they write? Why have they written these texts? The answer calls for a flatting.   It comes as no surprise that the two literary figures of this group, Tanpınar and Hisar, who lived in approximately the same periods, should occupy the same plane; but it may be unexpected to find Sedad Hakkı Eldem, who has no doubt not written as much as these two and furthermore intentionally kept away from writing, on a plane of singular equivalence. No dout these three figures are not identical but a flatting is required to expose the relation between them. The connection that enables us to address them all as architectural historians in the context of architectural historiography is the ways they relate to the past.

The critiques on Abdülhak Şinasi Hisar express that he is a fine reader of Proust. And they are right in saying so.  It may even be claimed that his ‘Boğaziçi Yalıları’ is written in the spirit of Proust’s ’La Recherche de la Temps Perdu’. Being so Deleuze’s critique of Proust and similar authors may be adapted to Hisar’s writings as well: In his book ‘Proust and Signs’, Deleuze claims Proust is in search for truth, and explains the reason of this search: ‘We search for truth only when we are determined to do so in terms of concrete situation, when we undergo a kind of violence that impels us to such a search (…) There is always the violence of a sign that forces us into the search, that robs us of peace’(Deleuze, 2004: 23). This discussion identifies these ‘objects robbing us of peace’ as modernity. On the other hand, the reaction to modernity is referred to as conservatism. However, conservatism cannot simply be defined as the anti-modern set against the modern. It should rather be conceived of as a position which shapes itself according to modernity. While modernity is in constant change, conservatism shifts positions too.

In Turkey, criticism begins with diagnosis of an absence. Something which ‘others’ possess but which ‘we’ do not or cannot have.  Such a formulation utilizes different models that eventually lead to the same result to account for what is absent and why: ‘Delayed modernity’(Jusdanis, 1998), ‘belated consciousness’(Shayegan, 1991), ‘orphan’(Parla, 1990), ‘lost ideal’(Koçak, 1996). These are all names given to a shift in model. The takings/bringing of this shift is an inquiry into the authenticity of a right architecture, novel, or anything that ‘fits our essence’ (Gürbilek, 2004: 97). At this point two positions arise as regards the object in question: Modern architecture is a new comer to our context, so its products cannot be natural or original. Opposing this view is the claim that a regional, local, domestically rooted and national architecture must be developed because modern architecture is imported and ill-fitting to us. While the first position reduces the object of architecture into an inefficient and worthless imitation, the aim of second position is to go after a so-called untainted essence and therefore be acknowledged and favoured in the eyes of those who are considered superior. In the words of Tanpınar, ‘“(…) çünkü o zaman(…)kendileri ile müsavi[eşit] göreceklerdir’(Gürbilek, 2004: 97). These two positions constantly swap places. They intertwine. Criticism seems to be squeezed between the arrogance of the snob and the pride of the simple; or a fascination for the foreign and hostility towards it.

Advocates of an authentic architecture seem to outweigh the opposing position. The way to achieve this authenticity is expressed in the famous formula of ‘acquiring their technique yet preserving our own culture’. The desired destination is to gain a (our well-deserved) place among the ‘right’ architectures of the world (Arseven, 1928).  

There is a certain plane on which the preservation of our own culture or the remembrance of the past is positioned. This is the memory of he who remembers and the vision of the past through the identity crisis of the present. The vanished past is reconstructed in the mind of the subject. This construction folds onto itself and eventually confronts us as a cultural defense and the defense of not the past itself but the attempt to remember it. What is significant in this defense is not is our relationship the actual pasts itself but the void that it leaves behind. ‘Hayır, aradığım şey ne onlar, ne zamanlarıdır(…)muhakkak ki bu şeyleri kendileri için sevmiyoruz. Bizi onlara doğru çeken bıraktıkları boşluğun kendisidir. Ortada izi bulunsun veya bulunmasın içimizdeki didişmede kayıp olduğunu sandığımız bir tarafımızı onlarda arıyoruz.’(Tanpınar, 1979: 111)

The disintegration of traditional social structure also disrupts the social nature of knowledge. In a traditional structure, knowledge does not only belong to a singular field. In other words, this kind of knowledge can never be merely religious knowledge alone, but also scientific and economic.  It is not easy to decide which field of knowledge is being referred to simply by determining which field the speaker is mentioning. The disintegration of the traditional structure requires the reconsideration of the nature of knowledge. In such a case, which is referred to as the loss of the centre, the attitudes taken up by the social actors determines the direction which the change shall take.

Conservatism is only one of these possible attitudes. It reveals a desire to return to a social structure (which is not necessarily a nation, but can also be a religious sect or an economic mode of production) which is allegedly homogenous.  However, the desire to regain the lost totality of the world does not only lead to a conscious resistance to the changing order of the world. Conservation is usually produced by subject who is unsure of what he is to do, how he is to decide and how he is to give meaning to things. Conservatism alone does not define a conscious ideological position. However, it can easily attach itself to ideologies as a way of thought and expose itself in their practices. Tanpınar lucidly expresses this naïve and conservative state of mind in an article entitled ‘Medeniyet Değişmesi ve İç İnsan’ published in The Cumhuriyet newspaper in 1951: …muhakkak olan bir taraf varsa, eskinin, hemen yanı başımızda, bazen bir mazlum, bazen kaybedilmiş bir cennet, ruh bütünlüğümüzü saklayan bir hazine gibi durması, en ufak sarsıntıda serab parıltılarıyla önümüzde açılması, bizi kendisine çağırması bunu yapmadığı zamanlarda da, hayatımızdan bizi şüphe ettirmesidir. Tereddüt ve bir nevi vicdan azabı…(bize akseden çehresi ile yanlış yapma korkusu)’ (Tanpınar, 2004: 39).

Describing the past with the image of paradise and the fear of wrong doing in every step taken may eventually lead to taking that step not forwards, but backwards towards a better-known past. Creative practice has to adhere to its own experience to claim that it is quite new, particular and original [characterizing the modern art the word original acquires its modern English meaning at the same time with novel aiming rigidly sticking to experience]. In Turkey, with the pressure of modal dislocation, the experiential history reproduces its belatedness, being non-original, non-genuine and cannot achieve its legitimacy. For this reason, it gives its place to the generic history (Ahıska, 2005: 53). In a chapter of ‘Savage Mind’, probably through a reading on Bergson, Lévi-Strauss expresses the significance of the experiential history and reminds its relationship with the generic history. ‘(…) each corner of space hides innumerable individuals each one collecting the historical composition incomparable with the others’ he writes and continues ‘even a universal history is nothing else different from the composition of several local histories.’ As for in this societal construction, instead of experiential history, having a composition of permitting differentiation which can be read as the production of the subject and individuality in a sense, generic history is much more meaningful, hiding those differentiations and allowing to an imagination of a common history for a common ground. Because, generic history recounts the history composed by the subjects rather than respectively subjects. Each subject can take part inside the generic history merely by its name. The important thing is the entirety composed by those names. In this narrative, the featured names are either the correct subjects contributing to consolidate the entirety or wrong subjects weakening the construction, ruining the entirety. This dual construction is compulsorily produced. Because, national(ist) history removes experiential time on behalf of generic time. A third position cannot take part in the construction of national history. National history has to reduce instead of augmenting narratives of history to conserve its transcendental, entire and consistent structure.         

For that reason, according to generic history, Abdülhak Şinasi Hisar turns into an aesthetical shape and a low voice which cannot pronounce and/or produce its contrariety or its correct word. However, in that point it should be remembered that if the ‘writer is in the margins or completely outside his or her fragile community, this situation allows the writer all the more the possibility to express another possible community and to forge the means for another consciousness and another sensibility’ (Deleuze & Guattari, 2008: 18). In one of his books Hisar writes; ‘Siz bütün kainatın esaslı sırrını bulup asıl hikmetini söylediğinizi umarsınız. Hâlbuki ifade ettiğiniz ancak kâinatın bir tek köşesinde, bir an için açılmış bir tek ve muvakkat(geçici) hakikatten ibarettir.’(Hisar, 2005: 17) It is the point that makes Tanpınar and Hisar common. Both two authors mention about the aesthetic of a missing and an irremeably moment. This one time, temporary, unrepeatable word generation cannot be heard from inside the structure which is in the desire of totality, because it cannot get into the circulation. Transcendental construction compresses other voices on behalf of conserving its own consistency. The majority of the unrepeatable, that is, the temporal and spatial, in other words, the experiential ruins the construction of the transcendental, that is, the out of time and space. It de-constructs the divinity of the transcendental. It places the divine almost beside the secular.

Between Sedad Hakkı Eldem and Hisar, it can be mentioned about the contrast of criticism generated through the past. This contrast can be evaluated with their situations on the locations where network of relationships of the period concentrates. The styles of truth-seeking in Eldem and Hisar are different from each other. The story of Hisar is a narrative of a temporary, unrepeatable, unexpected to be repeated experience. Eldem constricts his experience and also the ground of the class and the statue he includes in. To Eldem, Hisar’s joyful past/paradise is both a moment which is needed to be gone beyond and a place that is needed to be turned back. This dual contradiction constitutes the texts of Eldem. Turning back to the past is needed, because pure sources of the national quintessence exposed of the destructive effect of the modern are there. However, at the same time, it is needed to be gone beyond, because, as it is indicated in the beginning of the text, Eldem any time reminds that he uses ‘Old Turkish Houses’ as an instrument to be a directive for the modern architecture. He writes in his article ‘Us in architecture (Mimaride Biz)’: ‘Ancak o zaman, o yıkıcı imar faaliyetlerinden ürkmeyiz, ve yıkılan her taş için sızlanmayız. Çünkü yerine o taşın daha yenisi, daha genci, daha asrisi, fakat yine aynı derecede öz Türk olanı gelmiştir.’(Eldem, 2009: 119) With the expression of Tanyeli, Eldem’s historiography is a remedial historiography (Tanyeli, 2009b: 124). In the contrary of Tanpınar’s works constructed on the tension of the void between the past and the present, Eldem will firstly identify this void as a historian, then as an architect, he will try to fill the void, resolve the tension, and re-bring the lost ones into the ‘national patrimony (ulusal malvarlığı)’ (Tanyeli, 2009b: 124). In other words, the tight space/ground of Eldem, who is between the past and the present, will cause him to connect his every individual/professional problem to politics.

On the other hand, Hisar cannot spread his past to the entire space. For this reason, his speech becomes implicitly conservative. Hisar’s space is exposed of the deconstructive, destructive effect of the modern. Consequently, the ones Hisar want to conserve are the traces remained from the deconstruction and destruction. He does not dream a totality imagination. His remembering practice does not connect the past with the present and he does not judge today. For him, the past is not valuable because once upon a time, it was a place where a transcendental, correct life and life style unwanted to be lost had been existed. The past is worth to be remembered because every moment of the flowing time and continuously change is a different experience (Tanju, 2007: 334). The residue gathering in the layers of the mind accumulates the appealing/beautiful and the memorable. Hisar’s pavilions demonstrate that the world he knew and liked has been changed. He knows that the collected things in this world are re-dissolved in time. Pavilions are conservations of the accumulation before the dispersion. The objects in this conservation are re-produced for the usage values of Hisar’s mind. Consequently, Hisar’s speech is not political but esthetical. The hegemonic and not only the city but also the entire nation space inclusive structure of the political speech does not be found in Hisar. Hisar’s elitist attitude is partially exists in Eldem but with a significance difference. Eldem is a mapper. In his maps, human and human-property communications do not appear. In his maps, the conserved are the ones having high potentials of change. Here, it is mentioned not about Sedad Hakkı’s deficiency of literal sensibility or orientalist aspect but about, accurate but compulsory disposition. This compulsion arises from the formation of architecture even if we do not mention about the lack of the instruments of the professional group that he belongs to. As Benedict Anderson expressed, the practice of mapping (building survey is meant by the information of mapping generated through architecture) requires to imagine the homeland as an abstract space derived from the map or survey instead of an embodied, personally experienced physical space. This fidelity to the abstract space is to be connected with a national identity belonging and the national assets attached with belonging (Bora, 2007: 27). It is meaningful for the lecture named ‘National Architecure Seminars (Milli Mimari Seminerleri)’ to have the word ‘national’ in the heading and here it expresses itself. As it can be noticed, for the national, space and the concern of space is actually instrumental. Space is evaluated as a map/survey more that its experiential content. As Anderson indicated, map/survey is iconic like the flag and in the context of this paper, it is also didactic (Bora, 2007: 27). Tanyeli, in his text on Sedad Hakkı and National Architectural Seminars, highlights that Eldem continuously revises his speech to the contemporary and at last, he clearly  states both his anti-modern position and nationalist emphasis. In a quotation in Tanyeli’s text, Eldem writes: ‘(…) paha biçilmez bir hazine olan, o zaman kadar tamamiyle meçhul kalmış sivil Türk Mimarisini genç nesle tanıtmak ve bu bilgiye dayanan modern bir Türk mimarisi yaratabilmelerine yardımcı olmaktı. (…) arkeolojik rölöve ve restorasyondan uzak, modern mimariye yararlılıkları ön planda tutulan konular seçilmiş ve incelenmiştir.’ (Tanyeli, 2009a: 58). As it is noticed from this short quotation, the old is didactic and with an elitist manner, they are mapped only by being prioritized their utilities. At this point, avoiding from an intention, it is needed to be remembered a minor parallelism. In the early republican period, the government had sent several important artists to Anatolian excursions. The aim was ‘to explore the beauties of the country on the spot and to ease the works of our artists/craftsmen on homeland issues.’ (Bora, 2007: 33) Here, the pointed parallelism is: the majority of the works/paints were lost produced during these excursions. Meltem Ahıska defines that a similar loss situation had been occurred in the Radio archives (Ahıska, 2005: 65-71). Another similar situation had been seen on Sedad Hakkı’s survey archives. Most of his surveys had been burned away in the conflagration of Akademi. A possible comment derived from these parallelisms is that it is not already aimed. On contrary, aiming to fix and singularize the past and destroying its plurality, a narrative is being constituted on the basis of absence. 

In conclusion, in the context of this text, distinctively for Hisar, Tanpınar and Sedad Hakkı but in general for the architectural historiography, those can be interpreted: it should not be forgotten that the power is not a single and a complete body. It is composed of dynamic different and singular practices aligning hierarchically, overlapping to each other, binding and becoming together. If the past is more or less understood as the intersection of these contingent practices, the result of one, single practice cannot be reduced into the aims of the actors joining into these practices. The actors in the system contribute to the condition separately. For instance, we call the emerged entire as nationalism, conservatism, reactionism or progressivism. In this classification, the overlooked is that all of these adjectives are just one component of power relations taking place in the time-space.       

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Bora, T. 2007, ‘Türk Milliyetçiliğinin İnşasında Vatan İmgesi: Harita ve ‘Somut’ Ülke, Milliyetçiliğin Vatanı Neresi?’, Birikim, no. 213, pp. 26-36.

Deleuze, G. 2004, Proust ve Göstergeler, Kabalcı Yayınları, İstanbul.

Deleuze, G. & Guattari F. 2008, Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

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Tanyeli, U. 2008, ‘Türk Evi ve Sedad Hakkı Eldem’in Evi: Bu Çelişki Neye İşaret Eder’, Sedad Hakkı Eldem Sempozyumu, MSGSÜ Yayınları, İstanbul.

Tanyeli, U. 2009a, ‘Milli Mimari Semineri: Bir Kavga ve Bir Efsane’, in B. Tanju & U. Tanyeli (eds.), Sedad Hakkı Eldem II: Retrospektif, Osmanlı Bankası Arşiv ve Araştırma Merkezi, İstanbul, pp. 56-65.

Tanyeli, U. 2009b, ‘Tarihçi Sedad Hakkı Eldem’, in B. Tanju & U. Tanyeli (eds.), Sedad Hakkı Eldem II: Retrospektif, Osmanlı Bankası Arşiv ve Araştırma Merkezi, İstanbul, 124-129.

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sak dedi ki...

Okumadım, göz gezdirdim. Şu sıra dikkatli okuyamam. Ama yorumlamadan da duramam. Yazı yazınca insan tepki bekliyor. Al sana tepki, gördüm ilgimi çekti okuyacağım. Ne vesile
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tayfun gurkas dedi ki...

bu yazı bana bir karadeniz turu kazandırdı. livenarch/trabzon için...