Updated- Travel Photographs by Mutlu Cihangiroğlu and Wieslaw Zaremba

In September 2007, medical doctor Mutlu Cihangiroğlu and artist Wieslaw Zaremba traveled to China, Romania and Poland respectively. Mutlu Cihangiroğlu attended the World Federation of Interventional and Therapeutic Neuroradiology Congress in Beijing, while Wieslaw Zaremba visited several different cities in Romania and Poland in order to facilitate exchange programs with art schools in these regions. This exhibition brings the two collections of photographs together in an attempt to problematize the aims of the photographers and ask questions relevant to travel photography.

Mutlu Cihangiroğlu’s photographs depict different facets of Chinese culture, such as noteworthy landmarks in or around Beijing, moving from a special event near The Great Wall of China (Badaling Gate) to a gala dinner at The Summer Palace, including a variety of performances such as scenes from the Beijing opera and acrobatics. Traveling to China for the first time with a desire to record images for his own collection, Mutlu Cihangiroğlu’s photographs record facades, details of wall paintings, interior design and statues in and around the Temple of Heaven and the Forbidden City, revolving mostly around the way “Chinese culture” was presented to the participants of the WFITN congress. Undergoing renovations to be completed by the 2008 Olympic Games, most of the museums housing collections pertinent to the post-Cultural Revolution era were closed and hence the photographed sites remained restricted to those from the dynastic periods. The series of photographs on Chinese food culture and everyday life include close-up shots of different facets of the “exotic” Wangfujing Dajie Night Market, with scorpion kebaps, worm kebaps or snake on şiş. The detailed photographs of the “tea ceremony” in the dim atmosphere of the Confucian Teahouse capture the way the different teas are presented, boiled, and served, depicting the hostesses lecturing on the history of the tea trees and the way the different teas are prepared. Lastly,

Cihangiroğlu’s gaze focuses on portraits of street vendors, pedestrians, bikers, and the residents’ engagement with historical sites and sites of worship.

Wieslaw Zaremba traveled to Romania and Poland with the objective of bringing “home” to Sabancı University students the historical sites of the Maramures region in Romania, the Bukovina and Modovita monasteries; the churches and Academy of Fine Arts buildings in Krakow and Gdansk; and archeological sites from Sandomierz (Poland). Zaremba captured the gravestones-as-art in the Merry Cemetery in Sapanta, created by Ioan Patras, housing poetry and paintings of the deceased. The Maramures region of Romania is reknown for its wooden churches with exterior paintings. Zaremba focused specifically on the wooden church in the village of  Ieud, “The Church of the Birth of the Holy Virgin,” constructed in 1364. The church and its paintings have survived harsh weather conditions and the largest Tatar invasion of the village in 1717. The rooftop of the church is quite significant; it is the site of the Ieud Codex, the oldest writing in the Romanian language currently kept in the archives of the Romanian Academy in Bucharest. The “Voronet Blue” Monastery which combines Gothic and Byzantine features entitled it to be called “the Sistine Chapel of the East.” Likewise the Moldovita monastery was called “a parchment dipped in blue color” because of the blue undercoat for its tree of Jesse. Zaremba focused on the stained glasses of the Wawel Castel, Carmelites Church in Krakow on his trip to Poland. The Academy of Fine Arts in Gdansk and the archeological finds of Sandomierz are the last features of Zaremba’s visit.

Trying to bring photographs as memorabilia of places traveled, the former at the personal, the latter at the academic level, both Cihangiroğlu and Zaremba engage with historical sites attempting to overcome their banalization with a focus on detail, portraits of everyday life, and close-up shots of people and their means of interacting with the sites that are photographed. Despite the banalization of “historical sites” through the tourism industry, Cihangiroğlu and Zaremba point to means of “defamiliarizing” the “familiar” and the possibilities of overcoming what appears to be easily “exhaustible.”

 
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