Saim Demircan was born in Derby 1980.
He studied at Sheffield Hallam 1999 - 2001
and Norwich School of Art and Design 2003 - 05.
He currently has nowhere to live.
For Gecekondu Saim Demircan has created a shack for squatting in following a research trip to Istanbul. He has used found materials including pallets, corrugated iron, old carpet and reclaimed bricks and the construction techniques are simple and utilitarian. The time available between exhibitions was used to build the structure reflecting current responses to the changing political climate in Turkey rather than past laws restricting it to a night-time activity. This ensures the spirit of the structure remains true to the ideals of necessity. Placed within the gallery that is itself already a shelter highlights the structure as an act of creation rather than being truly functional. This encourages the viewer to consider the object in other ways.
A discussion between Kaavous Clayton and Saim Demircan at Outpost on 28 August 2005.
Kaavous Clayton: Can you tell me a bit about what gecekondu is and why it inspires you?
Saim Demircan: A gecekondu is a type of squatter house found in the large cities in Turkey like Istanbul and Ankara, after World War II migrants from rural Turkey would move to these cities without having anywhere to live and because of a loophole in Turkish law at the time if they built a house without the authorities finding out they would live in them. The word gecekondu roughly translates as 'house built overnight' as originally they were built in the evening and completed before sunrise so as to avoid the authorities intervention. I suppose I'm interested in those areas of cultures which are little known about and exploring them. The gecekondu itself is a symbol for a much wider debate within TurkeyI's political, economical and social situation and I like that that can be contained within it as a structure.
KC: What aspects of gecekondu interest you specifically and how are you going about exploring them?
SD: The restrictions involved in making them. The areas where the gecekondu were built were usually near industrial sites so the materials used to build them were the waste materials from factories where people worked. Also the nature of squatting, what it is, what is necessary in order to live. The gecekondu is a unique type of architecture constructed with little formal planning and skill, so they are very basic and roughly built. For this exhibition I'm trying to follow the same methodology whereby I am collecting raw materials around the space and then building my own gecekondu within the time available to set up the show.
KC: Are you hoping that your experience of creating a gecekondu will give you some insight into the nature of squatting and some of the choices made by the people who have to live that way?
SD: It already has in a way and I haven't built it yet. Just by being in Istanbul and walking around the places where gecekondu are gave me a sense of how people live and how society progresses.
KC: But transporting those restrictions and progressions to a gallery space in England surely changes their meanings. Squatting in England I presume is very different to squatting in Turkey. Here it is almost a luxury or indulgence - a way for middle-class kids to avoid their social responsibilities whereas I presume that in Turkey it can be a necessity to survive.
SD: ThatÕs true, but the fundamentals are still the same in both cases, squatting is a way and means to live, whether its through poverty or annoying your parents. The gecekondu as a piece of work in a gallery space is not functional, its presence is a way to visually explain what it is. Maybe if you lived in Turkey and saw a gecekondu you wouldnÕt give it much thought so by putting it into a gallery space it automatically brings attention to it.
KC: What do you hope visitors to your exhibition will gain by having their attention drawn to gecekondu?
SD: I thought about this a lot while I was in Istanbul, because it is an important consideration. I decided to focus more on the gecekondu as a structure rather than displaying information, although there will be some available, but not an abundance of it. Hopefully people will know what a gecekondu is if they have never heard of it before, after they visit the gallery.
KC: Have you applied any other restrictions to the construction of your gecekondu apart from the use of the gallery space and the time frame you have to work within?
SD: No, not really. I guess I'm not spending any money on materials.
KC: The beers are on you then.