Heidi Trautmann

Heidi Trautmann Column 6 - Let’s talk about culture and art again

Culture and art are the foundations a people is built on. Derived from the Latin word cultura or cultus which means to inhabit, cultivate and honour, culture is the key to a people, or rather a building where the experiences of people over the length of time of their existence are stored. Culture is not an academic discipline, it is life in good and bad times, in war and peace times, it grows if you care for it or not but you will at times be made aware of it. To understand a people, we have to enter this building. A good housekeeper will try to keep the house clean and up-to-date and always be prepared for others to come and see. Within its framework we need to cultivate the treasures, which are the history, art, handicraft, language, also in its dialect, literature, theatre, folk art and costumes, food and recipes, and even jokes. Most important it is to keep history alive by the memory of the elders. While I was writing the review for the Catalköy Art and Culture Festival 2012 I got drawn deeper into the meaning of culture and tradition and thought of making it the theme of my column. The Art Director Derman Atik included events such as Old Children Street Games by the memories of the elders. In many of my interviews I learnt about the old street game lingiri, a game with wooden sticks to be flipped into the air and to be caught by the others….and you are supposed to say a charm over it: Maza, Göza. Andrazita, at least that was so in the middle of last century. Also included in the programme are old cooking rituals, plucking of molehiya, and many others. These village festivals are one of the possible means to keep alive the old traditions. We need to keep our memory alive in order to keep control of modern life styles including fast food chains entering the country by the backdoor and approaching the youngsters with the idea of being in. Modern art, post modern art, contemporary and conceptual art, the new movements in art, have conquered one after the other our world; it is not decorative painting in first place but a means to hold a mirror in front of our eyes, to see the true face of society as it is today, or was in last century. An admonishing tool. Between the world wars we have gone through a period of madness, destruction, hate and misery; the arts in those years were showing us this image of ourselves in their art work. Now we are deep into trouble again, worldwide, with political and religious fires burning all over, with economical fist fights and lack of environmental understanding and cooperation. An example of art showing us the escalation in many countries is the exhibition “Mediterranea in Crisis”, I reported and you’ll find the article on my website under ‘Cyprus art news’ but going into more details is my interview with Sümer Erek, a Turkish Cypriot artist living in London which was published in last week’s issue of Cyprus Observer. Art has become an industry, the artist its manager; big art has become a matter of funding by institutions, organisations and municipalities. Huge platforms are available such as in biennales and the like all around the world displaying the work of hundreds of artists in one go; even Izmir is holding its 2nd Art Biennale in 2013; the DOKUMENTA in Kassel has just ended. To me it seems more an art fair; there are 2-3 sqm stalls with a table and some chairs and the artist sitting in front of it. Our Cypriot artists Ismet Tatar and Inci Kansu will be joining the biennale in Izmir. The artist of today does not reflect on the shape of an apple or the beautiful back of a model but tries to research the psychological background of our society and produce an art work using all kinds of media and even the cooperation of co-workers, general public or the audience coming to the event. Art – and it is not only the visual arts but all the other disciplines such as literature, performing arts, etc. as well - represents a big room in the building of culture, I would say it is the entrance hall, the hall of representation, containing facts and truth.

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