No LaB: Turkish street culture meets art and design

No LaB: Turkish street culture meets art and design

Joshua Bruce Allen
May 05, 2017

No LaB first burst onto the Istanbul scene with Modern Africa / A Rainbow Nation, showing a new face of art and design from Africa. Now with their second exhibition, the women behind No LaB, Ala Onur and Zeynep Ercan, believe that Turkish street culture is ready for a contemporary twist. 

The new exhibition, Made in Türkiye, brings together local and foreign artists to highlight the distinctive features of life on Istanbul’s streets. “Around the world, street culture is becoming very mainstream—restaurants are doing street food, and design is using street fashion. But in Turkey, instead of taking inspiration from our own culture, we still take it from the West,” Onur says, with Ercan adding, “We’re focusing on what the future is for Turkey in art and culture.”

Ercan and Onur have found a unique venue in the Hasköy Wool Yarn Factory, an old industrial space that is now used for cultural events. Since takılma (hanging out) is such a part of Istanbul’s street life, Made in Türkiye includes an area to hang out and drink coffee in the factory courtyard.

Pınar Yeğin

Pınar Yeğin has become known as half of the design duo Rumisu, whose whimsical textiles have enchanted Istanbul. For No LaB, she has tried her hand at a new material: ceramics. The name of this collection is Ağır Abiler, which translates as “tough guys” or “bad asses”. There are moustaches galore, but the birds and floral borders suggest that these guys are not so tough after all.

Beril Ateş

Illustrator Beril Ateş produced this colorful map of Istanbul for Hong Kong magazine Victionary. Landmarks merge with food, drink, sport, street characters, and local products in this contemporary version of the Ottoman miniature style. See more of Ateş’s distinctive work at her website.

Aman Khanna

New Delhi-based artist Aman Khanna produced a special range of her Claymen sculptures, inspired by Istanbul. The round figures with conical hats draw on the traditional clothes of the Mevlevi dervishes who have become a symbol of Turkey. Khanna’s aim in these pieces is to show the existential crises of common people in an age when “man is losing his humanity and becoming a thing amongst the things he produces.”

Sinem Yıldırım

Sinem Yıldırım draws on the aesthetic of Turkish kitsch in these textile works. The mass-produced carpets are embellished with glitzy strings that highlight the absurdity of the images, which depict an orientalist fantasy of reclining women and a romanticized forest scene.

Pınar Akkurt

The name of this work is Bit Pazarı (Flea Market). Istanbul has a number of large flea markets, such as the Dolapdere market on every Sunday. Artist Pınar Akkurt has taken items that are typical of Turkish culture such as Turkish coffee pots, teapots, hammam bowls, tea trays, and portable barbecues and had them flattened with a machine. In this way they seem to be preserved like a museum collection.

Amit Baruch

London-based artist Amit Baruch took inspiration from Istanbul’s gecekondu (shanty) houses, examining the classic objects and furnishings inside these hastily built homes. He then exaggerated these features to a surreal degree—there is a column made of teapots and hookah bowls, a broom with a hookah pipe for a handle, and an incongruously large plasma TV in the corner. On the walls are his photo-textile collage portraits.

See Made in Türkiye at Hasköy Eski Yün İplik Fabrikası, Kırmızı Minare Sokak No.3, Hasköy, until June 10.