"Idealist School, Productive Studio" presents a selection of visual materials from the exhibition with the same name, which took place at SALT Galata and Çankaya Municipality Contemporary Arts Centre (Ankara) in 2018 and 2019. The exhibition explored the varied qualities of the art education and art production specific to the teaching method applied at Gazi Education Institute's Arts-Crafts Department.
The notion and practice of work education became widespread among industrializing countries from the end of the 19th century onward, especially on the utilization of new means of production. In the 20th century however, late-industrializing countries concentrated on raising generations of skilled workers who could serve as the agents of implementing rapid progress. This transformation involved associating the old with laziness and lethargy and the new with creation, construction, design, and utility. As a result, in many countries, work education came to be seen as the basis of modern pedagogy. In the Ottoman Empire, first debates around the idea emerged in 1908, when Mustafa Satı Bey was appointed director of Dârulmuallimîn, an all-male teacher training school in Istanbul. In subsequent years, they were further developed by the reflections of thinkers including İsmail Hakkı Baltacıoğlu and İsmail Hakkı Tonguç, and eventually formed the conceptual basis for a number of leading institutions, such as Gazi Education Institute (est. 1926-27), Community Centers (Halkevleri, est. 1932), and Village Institutes (Köy Enstitüleri, est. 1940).
The principal teacher training school, established three years after the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, Gazi Education Institute in Ankara was assigned to bring up teachers who were equipped with all necessary skills to exercise their profession in conditions of hardship, both materially and intellectually. The students were provided with applicable knowledge, which was considered to be the most practical and favorable in the political climate of the period. The Institute’s Arts-Crafts Department developed a curriculum around the concept of “work” with a pedagogical approach that emphasized “learning by doing.” A highly original variety of art education was made available, whose fundamental principles found expression in the practices of the graduates, trained as artist-teachers. Adding a new layer to SALT’s research on the art history of Turkey, the exhibition focuses between the years 1932 and 1973, marking the period when the Department was opened and until when the Institute’s boarding school was rescinded.
In Gazi Arts-Crafts Department, art was consciously linked to work and profession as part of the overarching political and social mobilization that was viewed essential to the modern republic. This approach played a significant role in the development of artist-teachers by combining fine art studios like painting, graphics, and modelling together with applied arts studios like wood, metal, and cardboard works. Students were taught to produce with diverse materials that, in the future, they could use in their art classes as well as their own artistic practice. Exploring this comprehensive mastery of knowledge and skills, "Idealist School, Productive Studio" visualizes the contributions the Department made to future generations through a selection of archive materials and works of art along with oral narratives.
Arts-Crafts Department, Village Institutes and Peoples’ Houses
Mustafa Altıntaş’s "Yapıcılar" [The Builders]painting makes reference to the multifaceted education system implemented in the Village Institutes, which provided classes not only in culture and the arts but also in crafts and trades such as carpentry, blacksmithing, construction, and tailoring. The uniformed students shown working on the construction of an institute depict how the theory was put into practice through the principle of learning via experience and production, while the mandolin suspended in the air represents the approach encouraging everyone to learn how to play at least one instrument.
"Ülkü" [Ideal] was published by Community Centers (Halkevleri) between the years 1933 and 1950. The journal’s content focused on both news and articles in the fields of literature, language, sociology, fine arts, economy, public education, sports, and daily events. The covers of the journal that are on display here were designed by Şeref Akdik, Ferit Apa, Cemal Bingöl, Melahât Ekinci, Refik Epikman, Ercüment Kalmık, Arif Kaptan, and Eşref Üren—all of whom were teachers at Gazi Arts-Crafts Department.
Pedagogical Debates on Work Education
"Yeni Adam" [The New Man] was founded in 1934 by the educator İsmail Hakkı Baltacıoğlu, who had served as the director of Gazi Education Institute during the 1929-1930 academic year. The journal continued to see regular publication, with a few interruptions, up until 1978. In addition to current cultural, artistic, and political affairs, it engaged in pedagogical debates from a variety of different perspectives. Baltacıoğlu, who had been sent to Europe with a state grant to study pedagogy following his service with Mustafa Satı Bey, the director of the teacher training school Dârulmuallimîn in Istanbul, was in favor of an education based on the concept of work. Hence, the articles he wrote and selected for "Yeni Adam" focusing on this approach played an important role in the formation of the fundamental pedagogical principles of Gazi Education Institute, Village Institutes (Köy Enstitüleri), and Community Centers (Halkevleri). Selected from a number of issues, the excerpts provide details on the construction and implementation of this educational system.
Paintings by Malik Aksel, installation view from "Idealist School, Productive Studio" exhibitionSALT
Painting Teacher Malik Aksel
The genre of the female portrait takes not necessarily center stage in Malik Aksel’s overall oeuvre, but it forms a significant part of it, especially during the early Republican years. If one compares the selected portraits, all the female figures share the same gaze, the same expression of being withdrawn into their own thoughts, dreams, or preoccupations. Although the women are clearly posing for the portrait—all of them sit on a chair and face the artist directly or in a slight angle—and thus must have in some way accepted to be looked at by the painter, their gaze indicates a personal, private moment into which the painter and ultimately the beholder intrudes. This situates Aksel’s portraits well in the history of the depiction of women that generally contain an act of voyeurism, an element of transgression. Yet, here in Aksel’s paintings, what we look at are not chambers of male erotic phantasies, but, well, women, different women, to be precise, each in a brief instant of withdrawal in which they stop representing anything but themselves.
Aksel is not transforming the women through or in his art. If anything, he depicts them in a moment in which they contemplate immanent or ongoing change and, more often than not, they look as if this prospect is daunting.
Others carry a tired or resigned look as if any improvement to their social status, not only in terms of gender but also in terms of class, is unlikely to change anytime soon. With their worries or dreams the women are all part of humanity, alive and thus, each of them, not generic but special.
(This text was written by art historian Martina Becker who selected the portraits on display.)
Female Teachers of Arts-Crafts Department
In the second half of the 1980s, the artist executed a number of busts of well-known figures, including the mythical bard Dede Korkut, the architect Vedat Tek, the soprano Leyla Gencer and the conductor Hikmet Şimşek as well as the painters Turan Erol, Nuri Abaç, and Fikret Otyam. He called this project "Sevdiğim Yüzler" [Faces I Love], and continued the series with the busts of "Hidayet Telli", "Nevide Gökaydın", and "Mürşide İçmeli", whom the artist described as “three mother goddesses,” all teachers at Gazi Arts-Crafts.
Sanat ve Sanatçılar [Art and Artists]
“Our teacher Adnan Turani used to publish a journal, titled 'Sanat ve Sanatçılar' [Art and Artists]. One of my teachers at the training school mentioned me about it. I managed to subscribe with whatever money I could scrape together here and there. It would arrive once a month. That was a publication where we could see what others [artists] were doing. I felt really special because it came all the way to me [to Uşak province in western Turkey] from Ankara. Later, when I was a student at Gazi, during the paper and cardboard classes, I bound all the issues together and made a binding with a new cover as if I was doing a homework.”
Selected Artworks by the Institute’s Graduates and Teachers
These sources were accompanied by works of a number of graduates and teachers.
Works produced with an array of printing techniques such as paper, engraving, linoleum, and wood by Nevzat Akoral, Mustafa Aslıer, Muammer Bakır, Nevide Gökaydın, Mürşide İçmeli, and Süleyman Saim Tekcan showcase the constructive side of the Department’s graphic design education.
Cengiz Çekil’s and İsmail Saray’s exhibited works represent fine examples of the varied art practices. 1200 Saat [1200 Watches] (2005) by Cengiz Çekil, whose father was a watch repairman, is made up of 1200 watches collected at flea markets and affixed with his name. The objects, which no longer work, were brought together in display cases with zinc-coated interiors as for the late artist they represented how “time is up.”
Originally prepared for the exhibition "Sanat Olarak Betik" [Book as Art ] held at the State Gallery of Fine Arts, Istanbul in 1980, İsmail Saray’s "Duvara Ders Anlatma" [Lecture to a Wall] (1980/2028) installation has been reproduced by the artist in conjunction with various documents from his own archive. As part of the installation, the fabric with gilded silk screen printing depicts several random incidents, such as a doctor rushing to the scene of a disaster or the sight of phlegm on a sidewalk. These writings were also included in the exhibition publication along with an image of a street.
Osman Dinç’s and Remzi Savaş’s works in the exhibition feature the use of unusual materials. Osman Dinç’s "Triptik" [Triptych] (1978) work made from glass, felt, and iron as well as parts of a found wooden crate that had been used to transport a refrigerator. The artist’s experimental works with mixed materials in the 1970s, during his training at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, formed the foundation of his modest and largely metal-based creative language from the 1980s onward.
Remzi Savaş reinterprets the definitions of everyday objects by abstracting them into a symbolic language and develops new dialogues through the associations that they suggest to him. In this "Untitled" (2006) work, the iron scale weights, which were collected from a flea market, represent a social group.
The exhibition also included Halil Akdeniz’s "Kompozisyon" [Composition] (1964), executed with oil paint that Akdeniz prepared when he was a student; and a drawing by Gülgün Başarır for Refik Epikman’s 1965 studio.
"Idealist School, Productive Studio" aimed to provide insights on the period from the foundation of the department in 1932 to the end of boarding school status in 1973 through these selected sources and works of art as well as encourage users for the new research projects.
This online version of SALT’s "Idealist School, Productive Studio" exhibition is developed by Sezin Romi, Onur Yıldız, Başak Çaka, Emirhan Altuner, Gamze Cebeci, and Özgür Şahin.
Acknowledgments: Adem Genç, Ahmet Özol, Ali Cengizkan, Ayşe Önder, Bursa Kent Müzesi, BüroSarıgedik, Dilan Ece Yıldız, Eda Derala, Engin Özendes, Ergun Barutçu, Erkan Kıyımcı, Gazi Üniversitesi Resim-İş Eğitimi Anabilim Dalı, Gencay Altay, Hasan Pekmezci, IMOGA / İstanbul Grafik Sanatlar Müzesi, İpek Yada, Keskinok Sanat Vakfı, Martina Becker, Merinos Tekstil Sanayi Müzesi, Michael D. Sheridan, Murat Aksel, Mustafa Ayaz, Müge Cengizkan, Nancy Atakan, Nihat Kahraman, Niyazi Altunya, Nuri Aksel, Osman Aziz Yeşil, Samed Karagöz, Tolga Şinoforoğlu, Tuluğ Topçak, Veysel Günay