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Interview: Meriç Öner

SALT Galata continues to present the product of its research on the ’80s with a new exhibition focused on objects from that decade. We talked with Meriç Öner, the Associate Director of Research and Programs at SALT, to find out more

This is the second ’80s-centric show at SALT after last year’s How did we get here. Why the focus on the ’80s?
“These exhibitions are organized as part of a five-year program by the L’Internationale museum confederation, of which SALT is a member. How did we get here focused on social and cultural turning points in Turkey during the ’80s, while this show takes a look at production trends in Turkey between 1955 and 1995, with a focus on the ’80s.”

Why the era from 1955 to 1995?
“When we looked at the increase in consumer products, we saw that the trend wasn’t limited to the ’80s, so we decided to go as far back as 1955. There are a few different components to the exhibition, but the one that best accommodates systematic research is industry. Industrial production in Turkey started in 1955, yet due to the country’s economic policies, specifically the quota on foreign currency and the limited import/export opportunities, it developed very slowly – yet it was always there as a substratum of sorts. As a result of the new economic policies in the ’80s, which encouraged an increase in production and exports, there was an intense focus on ideas that lay dormant since 1955. After the Customs Union was implemented in 1995, imported products became much more accessible in Turkey – which delivered somewhat of a blow to producers, as it meant they had to compete internationally from within the country.”

Why did you focus on objects?
“Our aim was to demonstrate how the atmosphere of production evolved. There was a material culture in the ’80s – one we often satirize. Looking at objects is one method of conducting material research on culture; they offer a good way of understanding an era and an atmosphere without taking into account our personal judgments.”

What surprised you the most during the research process?
“To be honest, everything I found surprised me, but I don’t know whether that’s because I was too engrossed in it. Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, the West – and predominantly the U.S. – was seen as the biggest goal to be achieved. During my research, I noticed the concept of being ‘Western’ is something that’s constantly redefined. I wonder why it isn’t enough to be who we are, as we are. Unfortunately, I think it’s an inferiority complex of sorts.”

SALT Galata. saltonline.org. Until Nov 13.

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