How Allah, AI & I Made A Comic Book This Summer

So this summer, I made a comic book with Allah and the AI. Let me explain.

Allah is the Arabic word for god, but because of the way the Islamic faith is structured; it’s most often used in reference to the one true God of the Abrahamic religions, rather than referring to any other deity of any other belief system like the word god does in English. Allah, aside from being the creator of all life and the known universe; is also the author of Qur’an, the holy book of Islam. This is significant. Muslims believe that the words in the Qur’an are the words of Allah itself. 

When you read the book, you can see how that works out. Allah talks in the first person plural for most of the time, describing in detail what their wishes are and what they expect from their followers. Allah also takes direct credit for all the Abrahamic belief system, whether it be Judaism or the pre-Islamic Hanifism. The book is very clear: All the prophets from Moses to Joseph worshipped the same god, tried to spread the same set of instructions but the message got corrupted by the greed and frailty of men. So the Qur’an is the final book. Mohammed is the final Abrahamic prophet. Allah has spoken its final word.

So. I made a comic book with Allah and the AI. Once again, let me explain.

Midjourney is an artificial intelligence program that creates images from textual descriptions, which is a fancy way of saying that it’s a robot who turns words into images. It’s not too dissimilar to other text-to-image AI programs like Stable Diffusion or DALL-E in its functionality: You give the robot a prompt, robot parses that prompt and generates an image based on the dataset it’s using. Where Midjourney feels different is how it seems to be able to convey the sense of emotion. The prompts you give to Midjourney turn into seemingly more touching images, in seemingly purposeful color-generation and seemingly deliberate compositional choices. Where other text-to-image AI programs seek to turn the words into images in a more representational manner; Midjourney is also comfortable dealing in the abstract. You don’t just have to ask the robot to make you a picture of Napoleon Bonaparte riding a shark through lava, you can also just ask the robot to make you a picture of that dread you feel after an uncertain breakup. Ask the robot to paint an idiom. Feed the robot some lines from your favorite poem.

Or give it the words of Allah.

So. This summer. Me, Allah and the AI. We made a comic book.

I was sitting on my balcony in Leipzig when I suddenly decided to read the Qur’an. I was reading about the representation of other prophets in the Qur’an, you see; and I found out that there was a whole surah, or chapter named after Mary, mother of Jesus; talking about not only Mary and Jesus but also about Moses and Joseph and Jacob and Isaac and Ishmael and Adam and Zecheriah and Noah; so in essence, all the Abrahamic protagonists. With an excitement not unlike the one I feel when I’m about to watch a superhero movie where characters from other movies get together, I started to read. 

Then as I read I wondered, what would the robot make of this? 

Here’s what I did: I compared and contrasted passable English translations of the Qur’an. I collected the ayet, or the verses of the surah Mary dealing with the birth of Jesus. I then fed those verses to the robot. Midjourney gives you four options with each prompt and can further work on an option should you choose to. So I curated the images accordingly. Then finally, I found a comic-book looking free font on Dafont, and put the corresponding ayah on the image the robot made of it and placed the images as if they were panels of a comic book.

So. Words by Allah. Art by the AI. Edited by a human being. Allah, AI and I made a comic book together.

Here’s the final result. Hope you enjoy it. 

Author: Yiğitcan Erdoğan

instagram: @beggarandchooser

HAFTW’s Summer of Gigs

The summer of Her Absence Fill the World was an interesting one.

The band; which were featured in the previous issues of DolmusXpress, went on its first three live shows throughout the course of last summer. 

First one was in a music festival called Art Carnivale in Steendam, Netherlands. 

Second one was in a club called Christa Kupfer, located on Maybachufer, Berlin. 

And the last one was at a streetfest called Kiezfest, on Mainzer Straße; in Neukölln.

These are three very different settings to play your first three gigs in, so it became impossible not to wonder how it felt for the band. 

We met up over Discord, and they answered four simple questions.

This was the first one.

Which one was the most challenging?

Sascha: I think Kiezfest, for me. I felt a bit strange about the audience, because it was a moving audience. If you’re feeling a bit nervous maybe, the moving audience will be more challenging in my opinion because you will not get a direct feedback regarding whether they like it or not. They kind of just ignore when they pass through. 

Kubi: I was thinking the first one was really challenging, but then listening to what Sascha was saying and then I realized that yeah actually the last one was challenging in a different way because people are moving. It’s hard to focus, it’s really hard to build an atmosphere playing on the street. 

Kubi then adds,

Kubi: For me they were all actually challenging in different directions. But it’s good to be challenged, right?

Sascha: I think also the feeling you got afterwards, when you look at it retrospectively; it’s the balance of anxieties or challenges you had before compared to the reward you feel afterwards and for that I think the last one was the most challenging, because the reward wasn’t balancing enough. 

Which very gratefully brings us to the second question. Which one was the most fulfilling?

Sascha: The first will always be super special and beautiful, and it felt very fulfilling. The one in the club too, they were fulfilling in different ways. I can’t really pick between those two.

Kubi: It’s really hard to rank them. The first one was super magical. It was our first concert, first of all. Also we were weirdly headlining. In our first concert. So it was extra pressure and it was a bit ridiculous but it was amazing. We prepared for months for that concert. 

But I would say Christa Kupfer was really special for me too because Christa Kupfer is home to me and we were presenting our project to our friends. Our family I would say. Because of that it was like a launch for us. 

The conversation then drifts into how the experience of a live performance is split in two ways: The preparation and the act. That brings us to our third question.

Which one was the most exciting?

Sascha: I think they were differently exciting. In the festival there was a more surprising and nice interaction with the people, but the club was exciting as well. It’s nice to see how music works in different surroundings and moods and where it can bring you emotionally in different settings. For example the Kiezfest was also exciting in this way, maybe exciting doesn’t have to mean positive all the time. It was exciting to see what’s happening there, which songs are working where and where they bring you emotionally. 

Kubi: I would agree with that. We had three different concerts in three different settings. We already have more gigs scheduled and what we have in the future will either be this or that. I mean I can’t imagine a different setting than a festival, or a club or a street festival. 

So we arrive at the final question.

Which one would they like to do again now that they know what they know?

Sascha: I think I would do the first two again. Not to make it better but it was super nice. I think I would feel a bit more relaxed so I can enjoy it a bit more. The last one was good practice as a performing artist, to play in front of an audience which is not giving you direct attention. I think even if it’s just one person, even if you feel maybe disappointed about it or disappointed about their reaction; I think it’s a good practice to play in front of them because this is your job in this moment. I think it’s good, even though it feels maybe weird. 

Kubi: Seriously, I’ll be really honest: I wouldn’t go back to any of them. They were amazing but they were once-in-a-lifetime things. But I have a wish. If I really had a magical power to go back I would go to our first concert as an audience member. I would love to experience that. I think at the end of the day it was an interaction and it doesn’t matter which end you are at -either the audience or the band. In the concert there were moments where we felt unified and I enjoyed it but I would enjoy it also from the audience perspective. 

Instagram: @herabsencefilltheworld
Spotify: Her Absence Fill the World

Interview: Yiğitcan Erdoğan

Doğu Topaçlıoğlu // Appropriation

Doğu Topaçlıoğlu’s exhibition ‘’Appropriation’’ will be held in Ka between 15-22 February. The exhibition consists of sonic arrangements and aims to present an alternative perception of plasticity. The artist works on the sound’s ability to make objective and situational changes in ontological state of the object; while creating relations between psycho-acoustic possibilities, sculpture and drawing.

Doğu was born in 1989 to an avid reader mother and a painter father. Until 7 years old, he spent considerable time together with his grandmother. During this time, he used to collect dirt from the street to bring home and hid under the carpet. He collected rain drops in his mouth. He moved the paintings on his grandmother’s walls and scratched the wall behind them. Later he would describe this naive journey as a natural occurrence of automated behavior, a type of behavior one would develop when trying to perceive life as it is. It appears that the elements of the house he was born in, the dirt under the carpet, together with the scent of paint and thinner steered him towards his journey, although did not pick the direction. Graduating from Ankara Anatolian High School Of Fine Arts and entering Hacettepe University Department Of Sculpture were only two stops on this long journey; separated by time, united in direction. Doğu is chasing after a feeling, a thrill; which he doesn’t and doesn’t want to put an end to it. This is why he doesn’t seem to separate his life from his art. The way he is searching for himself, and the way he can’t seem to catch the speed of his own mind; reminds me of a saying I heard in an African narrative:

“We are going fast, and our souls are staying behind.” 

Doğu likes to share the excitement of the process of not knowing what his next piece or material will be. To understand his works, one should consider the concepts of timelessness and sense of anachronism. Just like how he tried to understand what does inside, outside and their borders mean at an early age; he is now observing the objects, events, sounds, notion and intersections with the same excitement and curiosity. He is finding his own mutual reflexes under these environments and conditions; resulting in his own language. As if Doğu had designed a machine and any input that goes in, goes out translated in his language. As if one might put a musical note into that machine and Doğu would listen it enough so that the note would start to come out, harboring all other notes. His interaction with music often transitions into the environment. Doğu doesn’t see much of a border in between. When he is composing; he often drifts from the original idea and discovers countless new patterns, only to be turned back to the original idea. He sees this journey as a must to go back to the point of origin. 

This biography came out as a transformative idea to accompany his evolving journey. Instead of listing the events of his life linearly, I offered to capture a few pieces from the time that brought him here. I wanted to leave the reader a space to play with, so they can be a part of this writing. This writing is avoiding the concrete, it is unsure, and it is still on a journey searching for itself. It will be written once more together in separate times with every reader and will never be complete. 

Written by Berkay Kahvecioğlu

From Line to Dimension // Tolga Ateş

Hello Tolga, first of all, do you have a name for the work you do? Did you put names to them? 

These are the products of my perspective, which can be called the expression of my mood when I sit to work on my computer at that moment. 

You usually work with abstract ideas, what inspires you? 

In general, what I think about doing, producing, is about what is happening in life, or changes that are happening in the environment, rather than my own life. I mean, I filter, what life throws at me, through my filter. Nature, history, other works, architecture, technology, in short, the visual data I encounter in life inspire me. I have been interested in visuals since childhood, in fact, this situation started with photography, evolved into cinema over time, after studying cinema and television, I realized that it did not allow me to express myself the way I wanted, and finally I met 3D, and I found sort of a freedom that I seeked. Light, angle, color I was excited to be able to adjust every conceivable variable as I wanted and I started to deepen in this area. 

The biggest point is doing the work from the computer. Are there various programs to do this work? Or are you using a specific program?

These are technologies that are developing every day. There is no end to learning a program, in fact, several programs can be used for many different aspects of the work. Many people also use more than one program. If you are looking for an alternative style, it is useful to use more than one program.

Do you use more than one program in the same project?

Yes. I think that Maya, Blender and Houidini are useful programs, these are the first ones that come to mind. I mainly use Maya, After Effects and Premier are also involved, or if I’m doing an audio reactive work, I use Resolume. I usually use more than one program. I started this journey with Maya, with courses from the Internet, and of course I also learned on my own. But as I said, there is no end, the deeper you go, the deeper it gets. My learning process is not over either. In fact, production is developing as you produce. I think the main point is to discover what to produce with the inputs we get after learning to use a program. I am also at this interrogation point, in fact, I want to explore my own style and deepen in it. It’s a playground for me. I have been doing this work for two years and many artists I have been inspired by have been instrumental in starting the process. Most of the work I do is also related to music, the fact that music is a texture in my work also allows me to decipher a different depth in the work I produce. When music is combined with visual elements, very striking results come out. That I’m after. I really like to appeal to different senses. These feelings and the combination of these elements stand out in the work we have done together with Her Absence Fill the World. In other words, the music I listen to, the images engraved in my mind, the whole of what I see and feel while doing the work constitute the essence of the work. 

You mentioned Her Absence Fill the World, the work you did was very appreciated. How was that, how did it make you feel? 

When they said that they wanted to make a music video for their song, I got excited, it was a pleasure to work together with Kubi and Sascha. I liked the song very much at first, ideas started to come to my mind immediately. They also had a lot of ideas, but they gave me a nice space to put forward what I had in my head, and it was also really nice. So I was able to convey my feelings, of course, there were also items that they specifically wanted, for example, the green door. What they wanted and my feelings came together, and this beautiful work came out. On top of that, we carried out the entire process from our computers, they from Berlin, and I, from Ankara. We have taken the process from the beginning many times, my computer has changed, improved, as a result, we have started to get more beautiful and realistic textures. The whole process was like an adventure. It was also pleasant to watch the process develop and change in itself. There were very nice reactions, it was my first music video experience, the whole process and the aftermath were very enjoyable. This work has given me a lot of inspiration, it has also been an inspiration for me to look into more works like this. 

What are you working on these days?

These days, I am working on a project where I aim to produce audio reactive  visuals by combining them with the audio files I have produced. On the other hand, I have started to produce short loops in motion graphics. I will soon start sharing my works in this field under a different name. Apart from all these, I still continue to learn, at the same time, I would like to thank DolmuşXpress and everyone who contributed. We had a lot of fun, I hope all readers will share the same pleasure with us.

Tolga Ateş

Interview: Yigitcan Erdoğan, Ilgın Nehir Akfırat

Translation from Turkish Original: Ilgın Nehir Akfırat

Aligning with the Circle – Ayşe Yayla

What is a circle?

This is a multi-layered question, there are many kinds of circles, and from the point of view, every relationship in life, birth-death-birth, is also a circle. It would be more appropriate for me to answer this with a piece from dear Filiz Telek’s book about the circle where I did my apprenticeship. At the same time, the circle section of the book ”Kadınlar Şifadır”  on the website available as a gift in pdf form. It can also be read in detail from there.

“Circle practice is a ritual. The beginning and the end are obvious; when we open the circle, we undertake to stand out from our daily life and consciousness and present our existence to the mother and to each other with a higher awareness, unity consciousness. In this ritual, we intend to comprehend the great mystery in the testimony of each other, listen with our ears, witness with the eyes of the heart, speak with the language of the heart, search for relationship and truth beyond right and wrong. When practiced properly, the circle is a compassionate embrace that heals everyone and everything, a womb that makes it possible for us to contact the deep wisdom within us, and sometimes a mirror that allows us to see what we need to face.” Filiz Telek Kadınlar Şifadır, p. 342.

At this point, I will be changing the question and answering, what is the circle for Ayşe. For me, the circle is a playground without boundaries. It is a place where I deeply feel that I live and where I meet the beauty of life. When I practice deep listening and get together with people in a circle, it is both deep and old, and fresh and new acquaintance for me.  

There is a wide variety of circle practice, I learn new ones day by day, I discover and have a chance to experience. The circle I’ve enjoyed the most lately is sitting in a circle with nature. Sometimes I sit in a circle with a tree, sometimes with a chair in my house, sometimes with a cloud that I watch, and this opens up completely different doors in my daily life practice. I mean, it’s kind of like a playground for me.

On the other hand, I had the chance to get acquainted with the prerequisites and basic principles of the Nature Council during a study retreat we held this summer. I’m in a period where I’m trying to internalize these things, which are making me very excited. Without going into the basic principles that express the heart of the Council, let me mention a few of the prerequisites:

Personal dedication to learning, knowing, growing. 

To be willing to fail on the path of learning. 

Dedication to cooperation, partnership, community as a way of meaning.

To be willing to question basic assumptions and beliefs and to approach them in the spirit of research. 

Why do you think people have started sitting in circles lately? As a result of what need does this arise?

I think people are needing to listen and to be heard. As far as I have seen and experienced, being able to share this with other people who witness it in full presence, expressing this original voice in the way they wish in an unprejudiced space, deciphering their own original voice after coming together in a circle, is a great treasure in this world where everything is very fast. On the other hand, something we are very familiar with, if you ask when people started sitting in circles, I would say with the discovery of fire. Stories come to the circles, and these stories, personal or not, change the perception of time and space. While we are making the idea of ”being connected with the invisible ties visible” with the circle, we also make a close contact with the great spirit behind everything, the creator, emptiness, nothing; on behalf of whatever we say, and this can nourish a person very much. Of course, when you do it with manners, it becomes even better.

How was your first circle experience that you organized? 

This question is a contradictory one, when we meet in a circle, each of us turns into equivalent units sitting at equal distances from the center. Because of this, I was also a circle participant. If you ask what was the experience of giving a circle invitation or preparing before the circle, it is very exciting, very curious, panicking in some places, and in general, it is an extremely satisfying, questioning process. Why am I doing this, what does it serve to, what kind of impact does it have, it is a process that I am investigating and questioning these matters. On the other hand, while apprenticing to the circle, I was surrounded by very beautiful comrades. I have many beautiful friends who have given many years and effort to this path. The most precious part of the preparation process for me is to knock on their door and get them witness my extremely excited states mixed with panic, and it is tremendous that they share their experiences, knowledge with me and show me the way.

Where can we reach the circles? What do we need to sit in a circle?

First of all, you just need to be willing to sit in the circle. Other than that, I don’t think you need anything. Those who sit in the circle understand this. Those who are not have yet sit will understand when they do so.

First of all, there are circle announcements especially for women on Filiz Telek’s website and instagram account.
Aliye Burcu Ertunç opens very beautiful circle areas that are different from each other, she announces them from her instagram account.
Aybike Savaşır Serdar again, she opens very beautiful areas that she announces via Instagram.
Aysu Erdoğdu Miskbay both from Cadıların Bilgeliği and from her own web site, makes very festive circle invitations.
Emre Ertegün is opening circles in different areas, as far as I know, he is also announcing it on instagram. 

Many of my friends I work with on the Kadınlar Şifadır Platform are also opening circles and there are many more who give different invitations in different areas, this list goes on and on… Some of these invitations can be followed from the Instagram account of Kadınlar Şifadır .  

From time to time I give invitations and announce them on instagram for now. On the one hand, I am preparing a website, and I will be announcing them from there also.

Links about circles






Ayşe Yayla

Interview: Ilgın Nehir Akfırat

Shuttle of Ayrancı-Neukölln: A mini Story Series by Tevfik Hürkan Urhan

Shuttle of Ayrancı-Neukölln 

Part I

Courtesy of Yiğitcan Erdoğan

What is next now? The university years that seemed like they would never end were over! Özgün was absently walking through Middle East Technical University in Ankara, the capital city of Turkey after their last exam. They mumbled on by themself: 

-“I guess it wasn’t a good idea to finish my studies my dear, what am I supposed to do right now?”  

Özgün remembered the moment when they came from a remote corner of Anatolia and walked through the door of this campus like it was only yesterday. Years ago, they were finally able to free themself from the suffocating monotony of the countryside and plunge into a social mobility, namely into a life of a university campus. But Özgün had never considered that this study experience would only form just a small part of their life. They were like fish out of water. Terrifying feelings were rushing on them. They were graduating.

Özgün felt even more upset with themself when they saw how happy everyone else was to graduate, celebrating their graduation childishly. Proceeding from the fact that the probability of something going wrong with everyone except themself is very low, they decided to concentrate their thoughts on themself. Actually, Özgün just forgot that they were going to graduate one day, and it wasn’t a big deal in the end. They had assumed that they would live like this for the rest of their life. A simple mistake, an innocent premise…

Özgün had to find a solution. What should they do now? Would they start working? What would happen to their political ideals, their artistic dreams, and their search for an alternative life? Was it over? Everything they had ever dreamed of and believed in was collapsing like sandcastles. Their closest friends were starting to get jobs one by one, and now only their career plans were mentioned in confabulations as if almost everyone has prepared a ten-year development plan and had even started to implement it step by step. Indeed, Özgün didn’t even know what their plans for the next ten days are. The money they had, could at most protect them from hunger and cold for a few more months. Özgün felt very stuck. Özgün kept repeating: this story shouldn’t end like this.

Whilst thinking about these matters, Özgün raised their head and realized that they had come to the bus stop next to the cafeteria. Özgün had to take the Ayrancı shuttle from there, to go home. But Özgün didn’t want to get on yet. Özgün was thinking with a good sense when they were walking. At the same time, walking was calming them down, making them feel better. They decided to walk a little further, pass the Revolution stadium, which was called that way because of the writing on top: “Revolution”, and get on the shuttle from there, in front of the dormitories. They were very confident that while walking they would suddenly find a radical and clever solution to all their problems.

Özgün raised their head again. They were in front of the dormitories. But they couldn’t pull a rabbit out of a hat yet. They started to walk up to the gate of the university, known as A4. The rabbit would be pulled for sure until they get there. 

Özgün raised their head: A4. Still no rabbits. They got out of the university. ”I’ll get on from Yüzüncüyıl Bazaar”, they said. This time perhaps, it is not possible to pull a rabbit out of a hat under these circumstances, they thought.

Raised their head again: Yüzüncüyıl Bazaar. There is no hope. Destination: Karakusunlar. ”But I will for sure catch the shuttle in there!”

They raised their head one more time: Karakusunlar. There is no solution. They started to think about their own condition they are in… Direction: Balgat crossroads. ”I have to get on the shuttle from there, how long I can walk?” 

They raised their head: Balgat crossroad. “What will happen to my political ideals?” Direction: Sokullu. ”Fuck the shuttle, I’ll get on once I’m tired.” 

They raised their head: Sokullu. “What will happen to my artistic dreams?” Direction: Hoşdere. “May God damn the shuttle and this order!”

They raised their head: Hoşdere. “What will happen to my search for an alternative life?” Destination: Ayrancı. ”I’m almost in Ayrancı.”

They raised their head: Ayrancı. “Will I starve to death if I pursue my dreams?” “Is this how this system works?”. “So my subjectivity has no value in the face of material conditions?” Direction: Alaçam Street, home.

They were quite tired when they arrived at Alaçam Street. But they didn’t want to go into the house just yet. They knew that if they entered their home without finding any solution, it would mean admitting defeat. Entering that house was a psychological border line in this case. They wanted to walk and think until they found a solution but their legs had no strength left, and their brain couldn’t move their legs any longer. In order not to enter the house yet, they sat in front of the second-hand bookshop on Alaçam Street. They checked the shop, it was closed, and there were only the owner’s cats inside, watching him through the window. They checked the time. Later in the evening, it was. As it was in these hours, there were no people on this street.

They tried to roll a cigarette as they took the tobacco out. Found the tobacco, found the filter, found the paper, but couldn’t find the lighter. They must have dropped it on the way. They weren’t exactly a smoker, however, were feeling the need for it greatly at that moment. The cigarette was an object of desire from after that moment, wave after wave, it was stimulating their body and mind. 

They decided to ask the first person who passes through the street for a lighter. However, Alaçam Street was rather emptier than usual, with not a soul to be seen. They lay down on the grass in front of the shop, yet, sitting did not stop their fatigue. They were going to get up if they hear someone passing, and eventually were going to digest their defeat against life with a sad cigarette and will go straight home. At least they had tried to fight in their own way and deserved this honorable defeat. Özgün had nothing to do, so they released themself slowly…

Özgün was beginning to feel a kind of inner peace which they couldn’t understand exactly where it was coming from when the silence of Alaçam Street was torn by the engine noise of a vehicle that sound like a shuttle. Özgün continued to lie down without breaking their stride, and just took a glance. The shuttle stopped when it came across the second-hand bookstore. Özgün heard the driver of the shuttle open the front door. He spits on the floor, jumped out of the vehicle, and closed the door. After a glimpse of silence, the driver started screaming:

– Neukölln, Neukölln, Neukölln… Ayrancı Neukölln, Ayrancı Neukölln, Ayrancı Neukölln…

Courtesy of Yiğitcan Erdoğan

Part II

Neukölln, Neukölln, Neukölln… Ayrancı Neukölln. Ayra… Kaff, kaff, kaff… Captain Hakan had to stop screaming because of his sore throat. He grumbled about not having a road assistant and having to do everything himself at his age.

He was just about to start screaming again when he realized that no one was around and that he was shouting all alone. He piped down, embarrassed. Then, he couldn’t scream again. After all, according to a rumor, shuttle veterans are soft under their tough appearance. At least, it can be said that those who have passed through the mill are like this such as Hakan Kaptan.

He lit a cigarette. As soon as he did so, his eyes were fixed on the young who was looking at him with a raised head from in front of the shop. He realized that his previous unnecessary screaming had been witnessed by someone other than himself and he blushed a little more. This drama also brought a reflex, such as taking a harder pull from his cigarette, compared to a usual one. He kept the smoke in his lungs, more than ever, and he let out the smoke with all his fury. It was almost as if he had pinned the poison of his mind to the smoke and thrown it out.

The young had risen up and started to approach him. The clothes of this person, who is about to reach their mid-twenties, were very shabby according to Captain Hakan. An ugly gray t-shirt, which was obviously chosen and worn hastily over jeans, and besides, the antidote to chilly Ankara evenings was a brown cardigan, which years have worn out but could not kill. The captain rated this outfit as four out of ten.    

However, his rate for his own clothes was nine, thanks to his modestness. It was in fact, a ten. There was no club in Berlin that he could not enter. In time, he learned about Berlin fashion. He likes black, and when he sees chains, he couldn’t help himself but he would put them on himself, or even on his shuttle. These chains were especially useful for the shuttle on snowy roads.

The young approached him. They politely asked for a lighter, smiling. Captain Hakan immediately took a shine on this person and, he took his lighter out of his pocket, handed it:

– There you go homie!

– Thank you (They took the lighter, lit their cigarette, and returned the lighter).

– You’re welcome.

– Is this shuttle line new? I’ve been living here for years and have never seen a single shuttle.

– Is that so? No, it’s not new, and I’ve been driving on this line for years.

– Interesting! Where is this place you call Neukölln? It’s not familiar… Is it around Cebeci?   

– No, it is not. Neukölln is a district of Berlin.

The young was surprised. What was this driver, who was in all black like teenagers, saying?

– I don’t think you’re claiming that this shuttle goes to Berlin.

– On the contrary, that’s exactly what I’m saying, my young friend.

– Brother, don’t play with my mind, please, I’m already having a hard day.

– Far from it. Why would I do such a thing? Why are you having a hard day?

– Mmmmh. Now, it’s hard to explain when it’s suddenly asked like this, but… Anyway, let me give you a quick and direct summary. I finished studying. I’m drifting towards a life I don’t want. But I have no other choice, I think I have to submit to my fate. But still, it tears my heart out.

– Maybe that’s all Ankara can give you. How many years have you been in this city?

– It has been 6-7 years… I took a victory lap.

– My dear, I suggest you to change your city. The new city comes with its new energy. It is obvious that Ankara has already given what it can give you. You should be able to say thanks and move on, so that you don’t get dragged into a life you don’t want.

– It’s easy to say, how can I go? 

– Big decisions are sometimes made in five years, sometimes in five seconds. In my experience, there is no difference between five-second ones and five-year ones.

– I don’t quite understand?

– Jump into the shuttle of Ayrancı-Neukölln. No need for money either. It’s on me this time. We’re going to Berlin.  What’s your name by the way? I’m Captain Hakan.

– I am Özgün.

Özgün was very confused. What was happening? Were they dreaming? It was obviously a little too much for them to meet this strange shuttle driver, combined with the feeling of despair they had experienced in the last few hours. Instead of thinking a little more and deciding not to take this ride, they wanted to embark on this ridiculous adventure that appeared out of nowhere. So that they could forget about their narrowness a little.  After all, this shuttle couldn’t really be going to Berlin. 

They opened the front passenger door of the shuttle and jumped in. “Come on, Captain Hakan, let’s go!”. Captain took another puff on his cigarette and killed it under his foot. Jumped into the driver’s seat with a huff, started the engine. ”Aye aye” 

Courtesy of Yiğitcan Erdoğan

Part III

It’s the shuttle. The spine of life. Let’s face it, we didn’t have a lot of metro networks, suburban trains, or trams. Even our bus lines were not enough. O my Anatolia! My poor but peaceful Anatolia. Shuttles would suit you the best. They move when they are full. People pass on the money, hand to hand. Maybe it is still the same. I don’t know. I have fallen away from my beloved Anatolia. Now Özgün and Captain Hakan are coming towards me. They can’t bring Anatolia to me, but they are bringing the shuttle of it. Well, sometimes it happens that way. 

The shuttle is moving forward now. Ankara, Istanbul, then Athens, and from there to Prague. Then, ‘all aboard!’, Berlin. The last stop: Neukölln. S Sonnenallee to be exact. Captain Hakan always ends his journey there. His favorite club was here. It’s no longer here though! They destroyed it. Instead, they built luxurious offices. They gentrified the neighborhood! Hey rich white Europeans, no matter how much profit you make, you can’t buy the personas that Captain Hakan left in that club! Come on, don’t tell me fairy tales, come off it! They destroyed the club, but Captain Hakan still intends to respect the club, he always stops his shuttle there. You have destroyed it and the day will come when Captain Hakan will destroy you, you should not take especially a mine worker or a shuttle driver against you in this life, friend. You are going to learn this!

For now, the shuttle is moving forward, stopping, and moving off again. Slowly slowly, but also insistently and consistently.  Sometimes a migrant gets on it, sometimes a sex worker, sometimes a dissident intellectual. If this shuttle could have talked, it would tell numerous deep stories to us!  Some passengers of this shuttle flee from war, some from hunger, and some from oppression. Captain Hakan does not ask any questions to his passengers, and he doesn’t take any money. He doesn’t need money, he doesn’t do it for money. 

Radio plays Anatolian folk songs, in Germany, and techno in Turkey. Between both countries, Captain Hakan gives the turn to passengers. His musical vocabulary expands this way, and a kind of social environment can be formed. People talk based on music. If they were to be silent, music would fill the silence. Music is good anyways. Captain Hakan likes to listen to music and make people listen.

The shuttle is moving forward, filling and emptying itself. Özgün, as happy as a bug in a rug, has thoroughly surrendered himself to the arms of the adventure.  Captain Hakan got into his role again and started to step up the gear in the most elegant way. 

Özgün realized that the road will not end any soon. He asked the Captain:

– Brother Hakan, where are we?

– I don’t know.

– What do you mean you don’t know? Aren’t you the driver?

– Why does the place matter, my dear, we are going!

– And when will we arrive?

– I don’t know.

– What do you mean you don’t know? If you don’t know, who will?

– What is the value of time, my dear, we are going!

– What matters then, brother, what?

– Don’t be mad. Look, the road is important, the journey is important! And we are going on it, there is no problem!

– You are so carefree captain, for sure you will live a long life.

The shuttle is moving forward, making a person both melancholic and bored. But anyway, the shuttle is hope. It is to go on the road. It is to leave a place behind and take the path to the unknown. Not everyone can go like a shuttle, not so easy. 

The shuttle is moving forward, the road is getting longer and longer, and passengers are traveling in their inner worlds, besides traveling in the outer world. They go the same way outside and different ways inside. Özgün was thinking of the people they had kissed in Ankara, of course, there must be a reason. And Captain Hakan was thinking everyone he had sex with, probably there was no reason.  

– Özgün, look, my dear, our friendship is all the way to Berlin. When you get there, you didn’t see me, you didn’t hear about me. I didn’t bring you. Don’t get me in trouble with the German police.

– How is it, Captain? What am I going to do there? Won’t you help me? It’s not nice. You’ve upset your loved ones.

– My dear, firstly, you are very sweet, of course, I would like to help, but firstly, I also have a life, although it’s hard to believe, and secondly, I would be doing evil if I helped you.

– What would cause that?

– My dear, you must learn to bite, or you will not be permanent in this city. If I help, you won’t learn to bite.

– Brother, you underestimated me so much, I could get water from a flint!

– My dear Özgün, look, it’s not that easy. How many brave fellows have passed in this city, it’s not that easy. Although you may not have noticed, when you travel to Berlin with this shuttle, you leave not only your hometown but also your privileges back.

– What a privilege! The situation is obvious in our country, what a privilege.

– Your privileges that you’re not even aware of, my Özgün. That you’re not even aware of. Those you can understand only when you lose them. 

– Captain Hakan, don’t exaggerate, please.

– In short, now that you have come to the place of real Whites, your white Turkishness is not white enough my dear Özgün. 

– There ought to be a law to say that I am a white Turk Captain. I’m from the countryside, a fucking countryside! Not a white Turk.

– I like to use concepts with a little twist dear Özgün. After all, I am not an academician, but a driver. They didn’t accept me for a doctorate before and the white privileged academy excluded my alternative views. The bastards even monopolize the knowledge. They even take the knowledge under their domination.

– And what did you do captain?

– I became a shuttle driver, as you can see. Instead of lessons, I chat in the shuttle. This is how we resist, my Özgün. Underground social science… That’s the deal. There isn’t anything to do!

– You’re a strange person, captain, definitely one of the strangest people I have ever met, I must say.

Captain Hakan pulled the shuttle to the right, slowed down, and stopped the vehicle. He looked at Özgün for a while. He didn’t say anything. Then he turned his gaze inside the shuttle:

– Dear passengers of the Ayrancı Neukölln Shuttle, welcome to Neukölln. Don’t forget to return to your homes at the end of the night. Viel Spaß!

Courtesy of Yiğitcan Erdoğan

Tevfik Hürkan Urhan
Berlin, 2021


Translation from the Turkish Original:
Ilgın Nehir Akfırat
Tevfik Hürkan Urhan

The Techno Youth of Istanbul at Berlin Techno Scene: Vast Perception & COUP

Recently, we see that two collectives from Istanbul are opening up more and more space for themselves in the techno scene of Berlin. We had a pleasant interview with Umur from ‘Vast Perception’ and Berkay from ‘COUP’ on their journey. Here we go:

  • How would you introduce the “VAST Perception” and “COUP” projects to someone who is not yet aware of these projects? How would you describe yourself?

VAST Perception: In the simplest terms, we can define “VAST Perception” as a techno “music label” and community whose foundation was laid in Istanbul. We are one of the pioneering collectives of Turkey with reference to the events we had organized on the underground scene and the albums we had released for more than 5 years.

We chose the name “VAST Perception”, inspired by the wide spectrum of techno music, to create an environment where every artist walking this path with us, and every individual in our community, can freely express themselves in line with their own experiences and lives, without any restrictions or prejudices. It is one of our top priorities for everyone in our community to be able to play a gig and present their music to large audiences.

COUP: COUP is a techno-community project for us, the foundations of which were laid in Istanbul. We continue to communicate with those who listen to us through parties that started in Istanbul and are currently continuing in Berlin, and also through the broadcasts we make under the different catalogs of the label.

  • How did “VAST Perception” and “COUP” start? In what conditions were they born? How did they get to where they are today?

VAST Perception: We created VAST Perception in 2017 in line with the thoughts and purposes shared by three friends. When we were founded, there were almost no foundations in the techno scene of Turkey. The number of events was very few and there were no albums released from Istanbul. Of course, this situation had its own difficulties. First, we started to organize activities in “Temple”, a small club in Taksim, where we made our home. In addition to local artists, we hosted many well-known artists such as Michal Jablonski, Denis Rabe, and Amotik in this club. While we were doing this, COUP started to create its own audience in the club called GLOW in Taksim. It didn’t take long for the two collectives to come together. We are sure that everyone who has been in the Istanbul techno scene for a while will remember the “Mısır Apartmanı” events that followed our union. Now we have made a solid entrance to the Berlin scene. Seeing this progress that has come for a long time over the years motivates us for the future.

COUP: COUP was originally a music blog designed but not implemented by Becky FR (Berkant) in terms of its design and its concept. When a group of friends studying in undergraduate years at the Boğaziçi University could not find any space of free expression as well as any musical environment they were looking for after their Berlin adventures. Then they started to create for themselves what was not offered to them via music videos, podcasts on YouTube and exclusive parties at the beginning.

The main problems for physical gatherings at that time were to find a regularly available venue for us and other students, to make the ticket price affordable for students, and to be able to play music with the speed and hardness that we could relieve the political pressure and ‘neighborhood pressure’ we felt on us. By organizing guestlist-only events at Glow with an entrance fee of 20 TL, we created an environment for many local new DJs and producers as well as the Boğaziçi University students who could not find the rave experience they were looking for. After starting to do projects with VAST, the frequency of events, labels, and publications accelerated.

The migration of DJ Miket (Berkay) and VAST member Umur to Berlin has provided the opportunity to bring together producers and listeners who have recently moved here from Turkey. During this relocation process, the increasing recognition of labels in Europe brought the community we formed in Istanbul together with the audience in Europe for the first time this year at Club Ost for our 5th Anniversary celebrations.

  • Although “VAST Perception” and “COUP” are Istanbul-based projects, they have recently gained a place in Berlin. How did this process take place? Is this process related to the new wave of migration from Turkey to Germany?

VAST Perception: It has always been a goal and a dream for us to be able to enter the Berlin scene since we first became interested in this music. However, this was not the only reason we were able to hold events here, of course. Although the long-standing political thought in our country, which does not approve of alternative lifestyles, is one of the most important reasons. However, we cannot say that this is the only reason. Event spaces and clubs, which are already quite limited, are unfortunately managed by people who lack vision. This mentality, which is not open to any innovation, is one of the most important obstacles to the progress of the techno scene in Turkey.

Thanks to the albums we released, we had already gained an audience within the borders of Europe as both COUP and VAST, especially in Berlin. It was inevitable for us to organize an event here when we have such an audience.

In short, both the political constraints and the clubs that restricted us even more in this already limited environment motivated us extra and perhaps accelerated our entry into the Berlin scene.

If we mention the new wave of immigration, unfortunately, many of us are looking to leave the country and start a life in a new country. Berlin, on the other hand, is one of the hottest spots for many young people, especially from Turkey. Before we moved to Berlin, we had many friends who came to the events we held in Istanbul and got to know us. It makes us very happy that they are here, and we still feel their support.

COUP: Before the beginning of the migration to Europe for their members started, COUP actually listened considerably especially in Germany and France, and the releases were played by popular DJs on the radio and in the clubs. But, especially in the last five years, the political and economic situations in Turkey prompted me (Berkay) and Umur to look for the living standards we want in Germany. We were the first people in our generation regarding the community. After moving, of course, we realized that we are not the only ones who have this idea, and over time, many of our friends from the community moved from Istanbul to different countries in Europe.

Our gatherings around music of course changed at first when we moved to Berlin. We were now strangers on the dance floor and immigrants at home. However, the fact that our broadcasts were frequently listened in Europe and seeing that we can still come together in Germany after immigration, as in Istanbul, motivated us to work hard for a space where we can express ourselves.

  • You organize events both in Germany and Turkey. What kind of differences emerge when you compare these two countries in terms of organizing an artistic event? What are the challenges specific to Turkey and Germany?

VAST Perception: We regret to say that based on our events; you can see a lot of differences between the two countries. First of all, the music ban in Turkey starting after 1:00 am is one of the biggest problems. As we mentioned before, the number of clubs is very few and existing clubs are not open to innovation and progress. The techno audience in Turkey is still in evolution, there is still a long way to go. We come across a lot of people who haven’t discovered the liberating side of techno music and are only concerned about what to put in my “Instagram story”, but this is quite normal in an emerging scene.

On the other hand, the techno scene in Germany is at the point of full maturity and sets a great example for the rest of the world. You can find dozens of events all over the city every week. This is one of the most difficult aspects of the Berlin scene. The competition is at a very high level; thus, the exclusivity policies of clubs and collectives make it very difficult for us to work with the artists we want. For example, an artist playing in Berghain, unfortunately, cannot play in another club for a certain period of time. Although this forces us to work on new strategies, the fact that there are just as many people here who will appreciate the music we broadcast and play, balances these challenges quite a bit.

COUP: The biggest problem we observe in Turkey is not having enough space. The scarcity of venues and the terms of agreement for existing venues are quite restrictive for new producers and collectives. We think that this limit will push people to look for alternative solutions and perhaps lead to more creative ways. On the one hand, since the Turkish stage is still relatively small on a global scale, it is much easier to hold events with global DJs or producers than in Europe.

In Berlin, there are many venue alternatives. Also, the number of people who want to go to the events and can afford it are great. Accordingly, booking of a globally popular artist is very difficult due to ‘exclusive’ deals and the competition. The inclusion of the ‘awareness’ team, which has been applied recently in the construction of safe areas, is a practice that can set an example for us in Turkey.

  • Last month, you organized a successful 5th birthday party at one of Berlin’s large clubs. Do you plan to organize similar-sized parties in similar-sized clubs in the future?

VAST Perception: We’ve already started planning next year’s events. You can be sure that we will share new dates with you soon. We also aim to organize events in cities such as Budapest, Paris, or Moscow, where the music we broadcast reaches a significant audience after obtaining a solid place in the Berlin scene.

COUP: The Age 5 party reminded us of socializing around rave culture actually still gives so much joy. We think we should get together more often next year after seeing that our lives, have been swept away by the immigration wave, actually meet at similar points; being able to jointly own the space created by the DJs and producers who try to rebuild their lives around music in Germany; and in addition the excitement of coming together with European listeners, which we could only touch digitally before, at the club. 

  • What kind of interactions did the projects create in your close circles? What kind of energy did they release around them?

VAST Perception: At the end of the day, one of the things that make us the happiest is seeing the friendships and even love that develop around our activities. We enjoy being in an environment where we all feed off each other in a positive way, exchanging ideas, and producing collective products. These create a real sense of community in us and enable us to do our job with pleasure.

COUP: As the projects brought us together during the years when we felt the most locked in the best years of our youth, they greatly transformed the people involved and human relations around techno and rave culture. One of our favorite stories is that Spectral Radio and Pravus (Basak and Ayberk), who also played at the COUP parties in Istanbul and our fifth-anniversary party, met at the first events we organized together in Mısır Apartment. They currently live together in Hamburg and are married 🙂

  • Any last words?

VAST Perception: The techno scene of Turkey is very open to progress, the simplest indication of this is that many new collectives have started to appear on the scene. Many collectives bring with them fierce competition. We would like to emphasize that if we can focus on the inclusive, sharing, and entertaining aspects of techno and music, as in the example of “Vast” and “Coup”, our scene can reach good levels.


Interview: Tevfik Hürkan Urhan
Translation: Tevfik Hürkan Urhan

a Lyric for Dreams

Dreams… Our stories, encrypted in our own language, eternal.

They are the raw materials and places where symbols, archetypes, rituals are processed in the waters of the deep unconscious, voiding time and space.

How similar are dreams and mythological narratives? As seers we become involved in our own inner pattern in some way. Outside of our daily mind conversations, dreams should not necessarily be proven or understood. Meaning shows the language that the seer will identify the moment of connection.

Many ancient cultures and civilizations have dealt with dream language with different dimensions outside of today’s perspective.

Toltec scholars handle dreams as both a tool of prophecy and a journey into one’s own inner change. Keeping a dream diary is the only way to decipher a person’s own visionary language.

In Sufi literature, the realm of dreams is defined as the realm of “misal”, which is between the realm of spirits and the realm of matter, where the originals of all beings exist before their appearance and material forms. It is seen as a guide to expand consciousness.

Aborigines speak of that unique time, ‘dream time’, when every force in creation is intertwined. They believe that all creation is inside an egg, everything will be together until the day that whole creation would be scattered. That’s why dreams are a message from the primal and the source.

The dreamer works like a messenger.

Being an observer and a messenger of our own dreams is one of the oldest ways of knowing the self. 

When the judgements of the word is set on fire, at the end of the words;

Is where the road begins.

He said “The moment just before a dream is like the face of death.”

*made out of silence

Last night, a dream that declared its uniqueness came into my vision.

I was stuck in this exemplary world.

With seven people.

There were two familiar faces with me. Manas and Gül.

Those with whom I shared the dream could no longer hold on to the patience to cross this realm. We were all searching for that person who was the only answer to getting out the way we came through the door.

“Silentium incarnatum…*

We were repeating these words like a refrain that we spoke by heart.

“Silentium incarnatum”

The question of who or what he meant had already left our insane minds. We used to remember, forget and dream.

The one who remained awake was trying to bring the other to himself. We were on a rotating watch. Everything we heard and saw was constantly taking shape. Many realities were pulling us in.

So which one was it? What was the truth?

We were exhauseted, then suddenly 7 people appeared from afar that we we not sure if they were also a part of the game. Their steps were dignified, their clothes were of shiny fabric. Their faces wore a hidden smile.

With a strange sincerity, we all seemed to get sober at once. They bow their heads towards us;

“Greetings, Travelers. Come! What you seek is behind us”

We walked steplessly towards them. When we arrived, a floating window emerged in the corner of the realm.

They invited us with their hands, as if signaling us to look. Without questioning, we moved towards the window curiously.

There was darkness inside.

A black cover.

We couldn’t see anything.

“Is this a game too?”

One of the men raised his head.

“You need to try to know”

It was obviously not meant to look inside.

We had to step up. I found the courage to take the first step on a whim.

The only light inside was coming from a 9-step staircase climbing up.

There was a woman at the top of the marble stairs whose head was covered with a long veil, whose face we could not clearly see. He called out to the men who brought us.

“Ambassadors. Awaken the light.”

All candles were lit. It was as if the sky had descended into the room. The fire was dancing in different directions above the candle. It was as if the flames had life and were chatting with each other. With admiring eyes, we forgot our reason for being there, and we were again immersed in the watching. Candle flames drew on all the mystery of our place.

The woman called the ambassadors with a deep voice.

“Wake the sevens up too.”

The ambassadors who brought us here gracefully leaded us.

“Here you go. This is the person you are looking for.”

For a moment, we seemed to gather our energy. But Gül’s eyes were still fixed on the light playing in the room. Suddenly Manas rushed forward. He put his hand on his chest and bowed first.

“Greetings… We have come from long roads and far lands. We were looking for you, for we have been told that you have the key. Please. Tell us about this game.

Where are we? Whose dream are we in?”

The silk cover on his veiled head fell off. His face had unforgettable features. An angular face. His fierce night-colored eyes were burning us. Her red hair was resembling clouds at sunset. His eyes were touching us as if they had long, thin fingers.

“This realm is made of the word with which the mirror is glazed.

You don’t speak here, what has to be spoken, speaks itself.”

Manas collapsed to the ground in an instant.

“How do we wake up from this dream? Please!”

“This realm; It shows not what is, but what is being signified.

See what’s pointed!

The wind will carry the rest by blowing into your consciousness. Dreams will show the snake approaches to the apple, and what lies behind all.

Just look and see!”

He took a step down on to the one below.

In ancient Egyptian civilizations, the place of dreams was so precious that it was believed that the person who could no longer remember his dreams or walk under the sun was cut off from his soul. For 7 nights, he would be put to sleep under the stars, and he would be put to sleep under the stars. Every morning the priest would come to that person and take note of what he remembered from his dreams. After the comments, he would write a nutritional diet suitable for him.

According to shamanic culture, we travel between different dream bodies and the frequencies that make up the world. The piece that remains in our memory when we return is the message of comprehension that sticks to our soul. We brought with us a piece of the universe and the message of the door we crossed.

There is a common view that unites each;

‘Dream and truth go hand in hand.’

The unfamiliar with his dreams seems unlikely to grasp the world he lives in and interprets.


The night lifts people up, I know


you are breaking

You have fallen

when all crumbled, I became the child inside you.

Lift my head off the pillow

I’ve been the flesh covered with words

You knew!

Silence is older than words

Ancient than the mountains…

Your wandering eye hit the roads

To far far away lands…

Which you always knew close to yourself.

If you have been a drop

At that exact moment!

Into the charm of the night,

Your seal would be broken with my lips.

With the ash-skinned horses of your desert

My word would wake the green-eyed morning breeze up.

Then the dream appeared

The sound of water…

You asked!

Where is the truth?

Only if you come out of the shadow of the corridor;

From the blue you see,

with a superficial devotion

If you rise from the iron curtain into the deep


Now half naked across the sand, You!

a grace.

Alive and sharp like a sword…

How many dragons did you fight in the house of darkness?

Then with a glance…

And with a breathless sentence you called to the sky;

-Maybe it was me,

It’s me, myself pushing me

and wherever I fell, I was me again…

You woke up!

Your minor nobility.

You heard the sound.

-The ones, who are afraid of what they have accepted before!

I’ll take the whole night,

Part of the evening,

If you walk, surely,

I will accompany.

This image; nature and human,

It’s a seal in my heart,

Still afraid to understand.

This is the dream.


So you stayed silent,

Then you got it.

You said “this is a dream”

You stopped.

Time will come and people will understand.

Things in dreams are nor a start

neither the last!

If you annihilate you.

Secret starts maybe with your name.

Do you hear me

Now hold on to your existence and get out of that well…

Fertility of the night,

Join its endless lips

Let’s meet in dreams…

Gözde Baş

Translation from Turkish Original: İlkin Taşdelen

Fishbones & a Variety of Ideas

and the night dawns upon us

catches us shelterless / and with trembling hearts

rumbling , flowing , blinding our eyes

curtain of life / blood of my blood


the dew of yours, settles in / inside my lungs

and every breath of mine soak in / become your child 

a howl , most silently builds up and turns down on me 

/ sits transparently

between the sermon of he holy

and the cry of the loony


get down and down and down

keen to the heart and chin to the chest

maybe the last feeling of any weight / and a glimpse of your feet

all you’ve ever had / one you’d never get

Is there a postponement for eternity ?


Since there IS , is there any other attribution to it other than infinite ? What does limited mean other than limitless ? Can something limited really emphasize something other than what is limitless ?

Is there really any other possibility other than all the possibilities ?  What does the possibility of eternal nothing at the end mean for the ongoing now ? if eternal nothing really is then how can it be “later” ?

How can eternal nothing “come” “later” ? If it is here, now then what is this ?  

there is and there isn’t. Are there any doubts that there IS ? Can there really be any doubt on there IS ? 

 No. There can’t be any doubt that there is.          

Here are some flying fish-bones.

Babylon Urban Gardens

What do you mean by “urban gardening”?

When we say urban gardening, we mean exactly what is said. What we understand from words. The combination of urban and gardening.

Although urban gardening seems to be a recently popular concept, its history goes back a long way. Hanging Gardens of Babylon can be considered an important example of an urban garden in terms of constituting the first example of the roof garden. Hevsel Gardens, which lie on the banks of the Tigris river and next to the Diyarbakır Castle, are another important example of urban gardens, with a history dating back to seven thousand years, as well as continuing agriculture today. Of course, while talking about urban gardening, we can talk about thousands of years ago, but the history of modern cities is not that old. The transformation of cities into gigantic concrete and cement forests and the transformation of people into crowds of people living with the mechanical ticks of the clock, far from the fluid rhythm and natural cycles, in these concrete and cement piles, begins with the industrial revolution.

When we consider nowadays, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities. The magnificent urban life, portrayed by the mass media and turned into a magical dream for the people living in the countryside, unfortunately, is far from the way they are portrayed. For most of the people living in cities, except for a small minority privileged economically and socially, it means a serious struggle to survive. Life becomes a pendulum swinging between these two extremes for people who work to meet their basic needs in order to survive. On the one hand, they work most of their time; on the other hand, they hope to take advantage of fast recreational vehicles or the ancient teachings of Eastern cultures to get away from the stress they experience while working in their remaining time. Unfortunately, most people do not have the opportunity to make an effort beyond being swept from one end to the other until the moment of death, while the pendulum swings in the chaos of life. When viewed from the outside, cities seem like an ocean of endless opportunities; however, they cannot go beyond an offering of human life whose boundaries are defined and bordered by angled lines for the people living in them.

I think we can think of urban gardening as an effort to contact nature and its fluid rhythm within the very center of cities in which we are isolated by the mechanical life the city obliges us to live.

When and how did you start this project of “urban gardening”?

The pursuit of urban gardening started for me after a long period of depression when I did not want to engage in any sphere of life and life itself became meaningless. The period I mentioned was a period when I had no desire for life, and had a very poor appetite for life. I could not feel the slightest urge to make an effort, let alone try to get out of this mood. I was also aware that I could not go on with that mood any longer.

I started working as a waiter in a café with the support of a friend and with the suggestion that it would be good to have an occupation. My time had become a little more flowable but working in a cafe didn’t make much difference in my mood. Another friend of mine that I encountered in the same period suggested renting a house together and our search for a house started. Fortunately, the idea of ​​urban gardening came into being spontaneously when he found a flat with a terrace suitable for dealing with gardening.

Actually, my engagement in urban gardening started as a result of many coincidences for me. I thought that the feeling of being stuck after two years of being draft dogger for compulsory military service also contributed to my depressed mood. Accordingly, during the time we rent the flat, I thought that being a student again would make my life a little easier in terms of not only delaying compulsory military service issues legally but also making it simpler to answer the question “what are you doing?” as “I am a student” instead of faltering. So, I intended to do my master’s degree. Then I started applying to many different departments without a specific target about its focus. During this application process, I learned that there is a department called “garden plants” or “horticulture” and then I canceled all my other applications and focused on the Horticulture department. Gardening, both a vital occupation and an academic pursuit, came into my life this way two and a half years ago.

Which intentions and purposes did lead you to start urban gardening?

Getting out of the depressing cycles of cities and establishing a life in the countryside is getting more and more on people’s agenda. The situation is similar for me and the people around me. For many years, we have been talking about what kind of life we ​​dream of and where. Although some of us have taken small steps for this, for most of us, these conversations are a declaration of intent for the future or the sharing of a dream that starts with “oh I wish …”. It seems that the search for a life away from the cities will become more widespread, especially for people who are deprived of the social opportunities offered by the cities due to the effect of the pandemic. However, it would be very optimistic to think that there will be a significant decrease in the population of the city in the near future as a result of this search, and even a decrease in the rate of increase.

Industrialization and urbanization continue at full speed. Nevertheless, I do not think that the lives of small and large communities in rural areas alone will be sufficient to change this course. From what I have said, it should not be understood that I consider the efforts of people who have devoted their entire lives to the search and construction of an alternative life in the countryside to be worthless, on the contrary, I consider it very valuable but not enough. If we want to deviate from the ecological apocalypse route that we are heading at full speed, this will only happen through the social, cultural, and economic paradigm breaks we will create in the flow of urban life. People migrating from the city to the countryside and establishing self-sufficient lives there is just one of these breaks. What drove me to urban gardening is the question “is it possible to create another break in the mechanical rhythm of urban life within the city?”.

What kind of reactions did you receive from your social circles? Do you have people you work with?

One of the biggest benefits of this process for me was that it brought a new dimension to our relationship with my mother, we developed a master-apprentice relationship. For many years, my mother tried to create a garden within her limited means wherever she lived. She used to grow tomatoes and peppers in charcoal sacks, and greens in ice cream pots. Every time I went home, some fresh tomatoes and strawberries she kept waiting for me would be ready for sure. But since I did not have any interest in gardening at that time, I stayed quite far from my mother’s pursuit. When I intended to set up a garden myself, this distant stance became a great regret about the past. I think that the most valuable knowledge about plants in particular comes from experience, and I’m sorry that I missed some of the opportunity to benefit from my mother’s experience, which is a treasure in this respect.

At the beginning of spring, we worked with my mother during the establishment of the garden. More precisely, I apprenticed my mother. In addition to the experience I got from my mother, it was also so much fun to deal with the garden day and night for a week -there were not many activities that we have been doing together as a mother and child for years.

As a habit from my university student years, I pursue any occupation with other people through a collective structure. For this reason, I had the intention to bring a collective structure to urban gardening through a formation called Babylon Urban Gardens. But I cannot say that I have made much progress in this area yet. Babylon Urban Gardens continues to exist as an intention for the time being.

Although there is no one with whom we have been working on this endeavor together at the moment, many people have helped and continue to do so in many stages. Especially in the process of preparing the garden for spring, we worked together with many different people, such as moving soil, planting seeds, and changing pots. In the last two years, most of my time has started spent for gardening, especially when the spring period approaches. At that time, my friends, who stopped by or called me, suddenly find themselves carrying soil from the other end of the sack or preparing the pots for planting seeds.

Let's talk a little bit about the process. What did you hope for, what have you found?

As I mentioned before, the search for ecological life is widespread in cities. There are people working on this issue through various community gardens, organizations, and associations. I had hoped that we could build wider partnerships with people who agreed on this quest, but such a process has not started yet. Of course, considering that the last year has passed in the atmosphere of a pandemic, the fact that these partnerships have not been established does not create despair for the future.

What are your plans to proceed with this initiative in the future? Can you tell us about your road map?

I think it would be more correct to talk about two different road maps at this point. Personally, I want to gain a structure that will have a financial return in order to continue and develop this occupation. While setting up Babylon Urban Gardens, we also had the following idea. For people who have an interest and space to engage in gardening on their balconies, terraces, or gardens, but could not start doing because they did not have the time or because they could not take the first step, we can create gardening designs according to their own desired space and desired plants. The idea is to set up these gardens as much as possible with practical tools such as the drip irrigation system to make its continuation easier and to encourage people to start urban gardening and then continue their activities on their own through a short training on the care of plants that we will provide.

Another intention is to build an organization that will carry out more comprehensive studies and initiatives on urban gardening together with people seeking to create an ecological life in the city. I think that an institutional structure such as a cooperative will increase its acceptance as an addressee by institutions and organizations that carry out studies on this issue or support such efforts, and that it can be carried out more easily with or with the support of these institutions and organizations in order to spread urban gardening.

What are your dreams about urban gardening? How do you imagine urban gardening will look like in the future?

I think we have stepped into a limitless world when it comes to the imagination; therefore, it is quite enjoyable to imagine cities that are self-sufficient from the smallest scale to the largest, although I do not know how much it is possible. Wouldn’t it be super nice that the neighborhoods are self-sufficient in terms of certain vegetables where each apartment building meets its needs to some extent on its own roof or garden, the community gardens be established on empty lands, and hydroponic vertical farming gardens be established in abandoned and empty buildings, and also, with the integration of rural settlements around the city to live in a world surrounded by the barter networks to be established between cities that can meet their needs in terms of certain vegetables and settlements of different scales?

The pandemic actually showed us the fragility of the system we live in starkly. As people living in cities, we are desperate in the face of any problems in production or logistics.

What have you learned from your mistakes so far? What are your recommendations for beginners?

My biggest mistake, or more precisely, my deficiency was not planning well for the garden I was planning to set up before spring. Because each plant has different characteristics in terms of both the desired conditions and the rate of growth. It can be a serious problem to try to deal with many kinds of plants without investigating in detail like which plant will develop well in what kind of soil depth, and whether it likes sun or shade. So, my suggestion, especially for beginners, is to prefer specific plants that they can research on their growing conditions rather than trying to grow a lot of plants or start with easy-to-grow plants such as dill, and onion and then gradually expand their gardens.

What does urban gardening tell us when it is approached politically?

Perhaps the best statement to explain what urban gardening means politically is Deleuze’s saying “Life becomes resistance to power when power takes life as its object.”. While our lives in cities are to be shaped by many different power techniques, I think that the effort to create an alternative life outside of the lives we are offered or compelled to, and any intervention to the mechanical rhythm of urban life is highly political.

It is obvious that the increase in agricultural production within cities, lacking the ability to survive without the products produced outside of it, and the decrease in external dependence of cities is a liberating situation for individuals living in cities. In addition, it is out of the question that the relationship and acculturation between individuals with reduced external dependence will be very different from now.

Yaşar Ergin Demirhan

Interview: İlkin Taşdelen

Translation: Tevfik Hürkan Urhan