The SANART Association was founded by a group of friends from the art world: art historians, architects, critics, curators who simply wanted to live in an environment with more aesthethic and artistic experiences. They thought the solution was to create the possibilities. The initiative was given by Benoid Junod, a Swiss diplomat who had the habit of enlivening where he lived with art. The idea evolved to include the organization of a symposium around which art events could have more impact. This grew into the concept of unifying art, discourse and text in a single international event. This had been the basis of SANART’s international symposia since 1992 bringing together “Identity, Marginality, Space,” “Art and Taboos,” “Art and Environment,” “Art and Science” and “Art and Aesthethichs.” I believe that the discipline that unites all artistic interest is aesthethics and it is therefore appropriate that SANART, which started as the association for the promotion of visual art in Turkey, grew into an association of Aesthethics and Visual Culture. It is also fitting that the first symposium following this change of identity should be on Aesthethics. Aesthethics as a philosophical and critical discipline is quite new and its adherents very few in Turkey.* There is a need for a conscious concern for aesthethics, and the problems that are related to it are overwhelmingly pressing and urgent. Notwithstanding the fact that Anatolian soil has been the home of many rich civilisations with their aesthethic sophistication, the rapid changes brought by the industrialisation and urbanisation have created a convolution in aesthethic sensibilities. The symposia that SANART has organised since 1992 on various subjects related to cultural interests that were relevant at that time, could all be considered as discourses and subjects related to aesthethics. However, because of the urgent need of implementation, as well as discourse and discussion, SANART’s method of combining art events and philosophical or critical inquiry seem to be very appropriate within this cultural context.
We hope that organising a series of conferences that deal mainly with aesthethics will also bring another dimension to our interests, namely it will create a platform where people interested in aesthethics in Turkey can come together and meet their colleagues from all over the world.
* With all due respect to Professor İsmail Tunalı who has done pioneering work on aesthethics in Turkey.
Jale N. Erzen
Excerpt from Aesthethics and Art In the 20th Century, Ankara: Sanart, 2002.
History and Activities of Sanart
The title Sanart is made up of the words SANAT which means ART in Turkish, and the word ART in English.The Sanart Association was founded in 1991 as Sanart Association for the Promotion of Visual Art in Turkey, on the initiative of Benoit Junod, the First Secretary of the Swiss Embassy at that time. It held its first International Symposium in 1992 on the theme Identity, Marginality, Space with the participation of artists, architects, curators, critics and scholars from various fields and from more than twenty countries. The exhibitions included a Cobra exhibition which was brought with the support of the Danish, Dutch, and Belgian Embassies in Ankara, a Wölfli exhibiton which was made possible by the Swiss Embassy, an exhibition of contemporary British artists which was made possible by the British Council and a photography exhibition of Evgen Bavcar. Architects such as Mario Botta, Hans Hollein and Raj Rewal were guests who presented their works to the Ankara community. Other noteworthy events were the Earth and Fiber exhibition which brought together ceramics and textile artists from all over the world and a painting exhibition of artists from Southern America which was made possible with the support and cooperation of Jorge Glusberg.
The first international symposia organised by Sanart took place in 1995 on the theme of Art and Taboo in 1997 on Art and Environment, in 2000 on Art and Science and in 2002 on Art and Engagement. These events brought together hundreds of international artists and scholars from all corners of the world and were followed by an audience between 400 and 500 students and professionals each time. The first two symposia were also followed up by publications of proceedings and of catalogs of the exhibitions. Each Sanart program included workshops and open space events which could actively involve residents of Ankara and university students.
The Art and Taboo symposium was housed at the Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey while the activities of Art and Environment in 1997 took place at the Middle East Technical University, and the building of the Faculty of Architecture was the exhibition ground for many different artistic performances and installations.
In 2000 The International Symposium and art events centered around the theme Art and Science as it was thought that the 3rd Millenium would be a time when once again art and science would have to cooperate. One of the major themes was electro-magnetic technologies and the computer and how these influenced art. Ali Alpar the renowned Turkish physicist presented the tapes made of the sounds of different revolutions of stars which sounded like the music of the universe; some architects showed interesting designs that defied gravity, we heard about projects in Saudi Arabia where the desert would be forested according to original specimens of seeds found in the region, presenters displayed images of virtual reality, etc.
Although these international events take place regularly each two or two and a half years, once a new theme is decided upon, a pre-symposium event is usually programmed for brainstorming, for preparing Turkish intellectuals to the theme, and for introducing the theme to the public. Conferences, panel discussions or a day’s forum have usually taken place, beginning a year ahead of the International event, and the proceedings of these have been published ahead of the international symposium.
In 2001 the Sanart Association decided to change its name to Sanart, Association of Aesthetics and Visual Culture and applied for membership to the International Association of Aesthetics. Upon its acceptance as a constitutive member it decided to celebrate the occasion with a smaller symposium only in English and on the subject of Aesthetics. In June 15-16, 2001, with the cooperation of the Middle East Technical University, an international aesthetic symposium was held with the title, Retrospective: Aesthetics and Art in the 20th Century. The proceedings of the symposium were edited by İpek Türeli.
The following International Symposium held at the Middle East Technical University on May 1-3, 2002 on the theme of Art and Social Engagement was concerned in how artists are getting involved in social welfare; some examples were artists creating sculpture for the blind, or architects working for derelict or earthquake areas, designers working for disabled, museums working in lower income areas, etc. The pre-symposium animations began during fall of 2001, both at the Middle East Technical University and at other venues in Ankara.
Sanart organised also a summer school on Highland Settlements and Sustainability in the spring of 2004 in Eastern Turkey. The summer school was open to architecture students and to environmentalists and aestheticians.
The first Turkish Congress of Aesthetics was held by Sanart in 2006, in honour of the philosopher Prof. İsmail Tunalı, who founded Aesthetics as an autonomous field of study in Turkey. The congress with the theme “Aesthetics in Turkey,” initially thought as a preparatory event to the XVIIth International Congress of Aesthetics, brought together scholars and artists working on aesthetics, visual arts and culture in Turkey.
Sanart Association of Aesthetics and Visual Culture hosted XVIIth World Congress of Aesthetics organised by International Association of Aesthetics (IAA) in Ankara, at the Middle East Technical University in 2007.
Scholars’ and artists’ interest in these two congresses showed the requirement for regular congresses of aesthetics as a platform of exchange of ideas and studies. Sanart’s Second Turkish Congress of Aesthetics was held in 24-26 October 2013 with this aim. The congress organised jointly by Sanart and Mersin University Faculty of Architecture and Faculty of Fine Arts, was coordinated by Cânâ Bilsel and Nurseren Tor. This meeting which had “Changing Geographies and Paradigms” as the central theme, was held outside Ankara for the first time. The high interest of young scholars and artists to this meeting reaffirmed both Sanart’s place and the demand for a regular Congress of Aesthetics in Turkey.
The proceedings of the Sanart symposia were published. Art and Identity (1992) was published only in Turkish translation; Art and Taboo (1995) was published in the original languages and in Turkish. Art and Environment (1997), Art and Science (2000) and the Proceedings of Retrospective: Art and Aesthetics in the 20th Century were published jointly by SANART and Chamber of Architects of Turkey.
Sanart and Anatolian Culture Foundation jointly inaugurated the exhibition “Witnesses to the lost past of an Armenian Family: From the lenses of Dildilian Brothers” held in the Contemporary Arts Gallery of Çankaya Municipality in Ankara. The exhibition co-curated by Jale N. Erzen and Arman Marsoobian, was held between 3-23 November 2015.
All these events were sponsored, over the years, by more than 40 private and public institutions. Amongst many sponsors and co-organisers Sanart is proud to mention the Turkish Ministry of Culture,Turkish Ministry of Tourism, Is Bank, 1992 Ankara Greater Municipality and mayor Karayalçın, the Çankaya Municipality, The Kavala Group, the European Commission Representation, the Association of Architects 1927, MESA, Metaksan, Italian Institute of Culture, Goethe Institute, British Council, French Cultural Institute, Swiss Embassy, Turkish Airlines, Directory of Railways, Directory of Highways, Arçelik and Faculty of Architecture of the Middle East Technical University, Nev Gallery, TESK, Murat Yazıcı, Yüksel Erimtan, Ulusoy, Varan and Asya Nakliyat. Their contributions made possible bringing to Ankara high quality artistic events. The Middle East Technical University Rector’s Office and the Faculty of Architecture have been regular supporters of the Sanart Association in every possible way. SANART IInd Turkish Congress of Aesthetics was organized jointly by Sanart and Mersin University Faculty of Architecture and Faculty of Fine Arts with the sponsorship of Mersin Metropolitan Municipality, Mersin Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mersin Chamber of Shipping, Mersin Union of Chamber of Artisans and Craftsmen and French Institute. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all our many sponsors, for their contributions.
Jale Erzen and Cânâ Bilsel