This paper aims to account for the phenomenon of missing provenance research in Turkey. Although this lack is often attributed to “belated modernization”, I propose that missing provenance has to be understood within the context of different kinds of symbolic, material and economic dispossession that have mainly – but not exclusively – targeted non-Muslim populations, and that are deeply intertwined with the history of art and its institutions. Exploring possible approaches to questions of provenance, and to ‘lost’ and missing works from the late Ottoman and early republican period, the paper traces the topographies of dispossession as well as obstacles and impasses accompanying such research in Turkey today. Central to this research is the assumption that with missing provenance we lose the stories of artists, collectors and audiences. All of these stories are vital to our understanding of art historical trajectories and taxonomies as they index the particular economies within which artworks are produced and consumed. Beyond efforts to ascertain current location or ownership, this paper proposes to see artworks as both cultural memory and historical witnesses, and asks what kinds of loss missing artworks engender.
Tracing Absence: Missing Provenance, ‘Lost’ Works, and the Blind-Spots of Art History in Turkey
Banu Karaca (Art Histories Fellow 2015/16)
Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin
Banu Karaca (PhD The Graduate Center, The City University of New York) is a sociocultural anthropologist working at the intersection of political anthropology, art and aesthetics, nationalism and cultural policy, museums and commemorative practices. From 2009-2015 she was as Visiting Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies at Sabanci University, and has been a Faculty Fellow at Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Social Difference since 2014. Her manuscript Decivilizing Art: Cultural Policy and Nationalism in Turkey and Germany examines the entrenchment of art in state violence based on extensive research in the art worlds of Istanbul and Berlin. Some of her recent publications interrogate the politics of intercultural exchange programs in the EU, freedom of expression in the arts, the visualization of gendered memories of war and political violence, and visual literacy. As the co-founder of Siyah Bant, a research platform that documents censorship in the arts in Turkey, she has contributed to the Universal Periodic Review of Turkey before the UN Human Rights Council in 2014 as well as to Turkey’s EU progress reports.