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iDANS Festival: Playing with and in danger – The performance of Inhabitant in Dolapdere, Istanbul


Ayşe Draz

The Dolapdere district in Istanbul is infamous for its traffic in rush hour and its inhabitants constituting mainly of lower income and migrant communities as well as thinner addicts and drug dealers. However it might be claimed that the neighborhood has been going through some sort of a gentrification process since Bilgi University, a private Turkish University, has years ago built one of its campuses there and a new grandiose mosque with high technology and neon lights all over, has recently been erected in the neighborhood.

South African choreographer and dancer Sello Pesa in collaboration with the conceptual artist and light designer Vaughn Sadie, has brought the groundbreaking piece Inhabitant to Dolapdere, Istanbul, as a free public space performance during ıDANS Festival.
The piece has previously been developed and performed in Johannesburg as a performance that explores how space is occupied and contested in the inner city. The performative nature of light in the formation of space is one of the major focuses in the piece; however the Istanbul version where German Artist Mirko Winkel has also participated in the research phase, problematized more than just the concept of space as the audience was also forced to question their own spectatorship.

The Act of lying on the street
During the performance, we were seated on chairs set-up on the narrow pedestrian walk, facing the silhouette of old and tumbledown buildings next to the mosque. However the two-way road with cars stuck in traffic on the one side and driving with speed on the other, was the center of our attention since the main act was taking place there. As each of the three dancers dressed no different than the actual inhabitants of the neighborhood mingling with actual passer-bys like street hawkers residing in the neighborhood, performed their act of lying on the street even though a car was approaching with speed, or rolling inside a garbage barrel towards the street, we as the audience witnessed this dangerous game where the performers skillfully played with and in danger. At certain times they sat or played around the iron bars dividing the two-way street.

Looking for a way out of passive spectatorship
In the meantime, across the pedestrian walk on the other side of the road, there was a tiny square where an actor enacting a figure who could be from the municipality, delivered a public speech on how proud he was to award this neighborhood with a green public park. But we knew and witnessed that there was no public park where the local children could play in safety, particularly away from the dangers of cars.

The more we followed the performers’ dangerous interactions with cars and listened to the made-up speech boasting of how the municipality has achieved to transform the gray look of the area into a green environment friendly setting, the more we became aware of the necessity for this need to be fulfilled in reality. Beyond, like many other audience members I was already looking for a way out of my passive spectatorship if not during the performance at least in real life…

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