Before the Past – After the Future

“The space occupied by myth so expands that the mythical dimensions of the most distant past takes on a life of their own, replacing a reality beyond our grasp. No demonstration that the Trojan war did or did not occur can alter the evocative power of the Homeric legends to fire our imaginations even to this day.” (Thierry Hentsch – Imagining the Middle East – 1992)

What makes Troy so unique is its identity that sways between an epic tale and a historical fact. Homer’s masterpiece the Iliad has nurtured the humankind’s curiosity for knowledge and authenticity and its need for dreams and imagination at the same time, for centuries and millenniums thereafter. Homer’s epic and Trojan civilisation continue to be an inspiration for a diverse range of creative productions from high art to mass culture. Like all historical events, it gives us clues so as how to understand the context of present day’s social relations while continuing to be a reference for our cultural climate and collective memory with its epic aspect.

Homer’s epic, beyond being a poetic depiction and a loud and clear suggestion of a ten-year long war, is a concept that sprawled across times and geographies and renamed as per context, and really is a mythos in the full sense of the word. We could take another look at Troy today and contemplate how the history repeats itself in the ceaseless conflict between the East and the West or the North and the South and in the destiny of archaic struggles of the transitional geographies. Alternatively, like archaeologist M. Osman Korfmann did, we could reminisce it “as a communications and trade centre that is comprised of passageways and ports at the edge of the two cultural worlds and as an area of interaction between Asia and Europe” and witness the wealth and opportunities that the interdependence of cultures and people have created. The historicity of Troy is “a dreamed reality or a realised dream; an unprecedented rage; a tragedy that no heart can bear, a trick that turned everything upside down… Perished cities and hopes have turned into epics and dreams; these dreams and epics have shaped in flesh and bones and have become Troy.”(*Prof. Rustem Aslan, the head of Troy Archeological Excavations)

The conceptual framework of the 6th Çanakkale Biennial takes its inspiration from the units used in historicising time: Before the Past / After the Future imagines establishing a poetic relationship with the historical time codes defined through before and after (BC/AD) certain milestones or through a more objective point of view as in its distance from the present day (BP-Before the Present). We are aware that our idea of the past and the future is a product of our selecting, combining the selected moments, rewriting and deriving meaning. When the stretch of time before the present is bracketed, it becomes “the past” and the time begins with that selected bracket.

What we observe in the past and the future, before and after it, changes depending on the perspective, the source and intensity of the information, learned ways of looking and internalised ethos. This versatility is an open field for unique tactics and strategies as well as an uncanny foundation for making sense of the world. And an eternal source for the form and content of present day art and its conceptual and poetic layers.