Having met in the 2005 Cork Caucus, Can Altay and Jeremiah Day established an evolving dialogue between their related practices ever since. Their collaboration You Don’t Go Slumming emerged during a residency period at Platform Garanti (now SALT) in Istanbul in 2009. In this period the intersecting local and national public issues in Turkey which later famously came into focus around the proposed redevelopment of Gezi Park were first being made dramatically visible with an emerging plan to demolish an entire historic neighborhood of
the city – Tarlabasi. Tarlabasi’s crucial connection to Greece motivated Altay and Day to revisit this project for the Thessaloniki Biennale. Now largely flattened, the area was home to the city’s thriving Greek and Armenian communities until 1955 and what came to be known as the Events of September – an explosion of violence that was ignited by a false news report of a bombing at Ataturk’s birthplace in
Thessaloniki. Many years later the neighborhood’s abandoned buildings came to house marginalized populations of the city, only to be evacuated again.
This neighborhood was also the home of Midye Dolma –stuffed mussels– a popular but semi-legal and often dangerous street food. Fished illegally,
produced in squats, sold informally on corners of the city – Midye Dolma seemed as a puzzle to be opened, leading the artists to the city’s northern
edges to find the origin of the shellfish, and to encounter a fisherman who reflected critically on their search and whose problematization of
“showing” now makes up the audio-track for the work. Combining Altay’s almost urbanistic approach to the ecology of the city with Day’s concern for storytelling and memory, the work sketches a
fractured investigation of the flows (of populations, commodities, waterways) within the city. The mussels themselves, known as “the kidneys of the Bosphorus,” chemically filtering the waterway,
absorbing traces of pollution, are found by Altay and Day to filter and absorb all kinds of other, more abstract, traces. Tracking the animal and the food, allow the artists to draw out various histories and geographies that (like currents) flow through global economy and politics. In this new iteration of the work produced for the Biennale, the routes and layers that Altay and Day are drawing out multiply, as they incorporate elements from their visit to mussel farms where the shellfish are harvested in the west of Thessaloniki, alongside images from the allegedly bombed birthplace of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The new work consists not only of reconfiguration but also further accumulation of
things that the mussels allow the artists to speak of, including “the crisis” of which Altay and Day were sitting amidst the constant conversations
while developing this work; and incredibly the same “crisis” that was the backdrop for the work’s first production in the winter of 2008-9.