In 1999, Turkey was shaken by a major earthquake that caused thousands of and left even more people homeless, injured and suffering. Seeing all those images of suffering and reading the news about how things could have been different if we were all well prepared or organized for those kinds of disastrous events made me think about the lack of the networks and social awareness in Turkey. There had been a very weak line of communication and awareness between the help needy and the ones offering help. At the moment, in one of the magazines I was reading I saw a letter to the editor by a Turkish curator. It was a call for all the visual communicators and he was simply asking “What can we do professionally, what are the possible roles that contemporary visual culture can play in a time like this?”. These words were very inspirational.
In a short while, I have started working on mind-maps and during the sketching process, many artists, designers and people working for the social good made an impact on me in terms of their political identity as designers, improving the five senses of their audiences, inspiring technological innovations and transforming the society with a good purpose. Among the most significant are: Krystof Wodiczko, Bogotá Colombia’s mayor, Antanas Mockus, Barbara Kruger, Guerrilla Girls, Jenny Holzer, Peggy Diggs, Tibor Kalman, Victor Papanek, Daniele Buetti, Ayse Birsel, Mediarights.org & VolunteerMatch.org.
These individuals and organizations were very influential and unique in the way that they cared about the social issues enough to do something about them but while doing that they utilize and get references from the everyday practices and objects and transform them into fun, entertaining, and subliminal, informative design mediums. All these projects have given me ideas about a project which is accessible, and which is using mundane mediums or channels, practical, no cost – low budget, participatory, self-managing, interactive, personal, and very importantly, not agitative or threatening.
As mentioned earlier, the main problem that inspired this project was to bring the two parts of the equation together: the people who were in need, the people who wanted help and the people who want to help and do not know how to. I knew this meant my target audience was a big crowd from different levels of the society.
Therefore I started with the idea of using a medium that everybody has access to, that is around every time, and you can take home, to where you work, carry everywhere you like, and that is free. Everybody in Turkey whether rich or poor, young or old buys “simit”, a traditional cheap Turkish bakery, very similar to bagel. And the vendors (mostly poor people or kids) wrap the food with old newspapers, white sheet of paper, etc. And people open this wrapped newspaper around “simit”, and usually read it while eating. As a result I thought of designing a wrapper for “simit” that will include some important information and directions in hand when needed.
So I came up with the idea of “the Map of Awareness” that will help people to realize there are ways of getting and giving help. There are organizations out there those really care. Besides being informative the project was about giving some sort of a positive feeling, hope, confidence as well as motivation. The materials that are used were very thin paper and limited number of inks (three for the front, one for the back) in order to make the production and distribution cheap, easy and fast. The projects participatory nature comes from the fact that at the back the photographs of the simit vendors were used in order to make them more willing to help the distribution, the use of the map as a wrapper for simit. Furthermore by the placement of the everyday simit vendors on the map the piece became a city souvenir for the most people that they want to hold on to. This is also something that poster as a medium can not achieve the personal aspect: something you may keep in your house or pocket.
The “Map of Awareness” realized in 2000 with the sponsorship of Yapı Kredi Bank as a part of an exhibition in Taksim, İstiklal Street. It got recognition as an art project rather than a design projects for social good. Nevertheless with the opportunity to be included in such a big exhibition, the project have found a sponsor, got printed and distributed. It received interest by the people and the media. At the beginning my optimistic thought was it would be ok if I could reach one person. I believe it communicated its message to a bigger number of people.
In the exhibition catalog exhibition* coordinator Cem İleri wrote:
Nazlı Eda Noyan forms a Map of awareness, and examines the facades of Beyoğlu, she simultaneously pinpoints a reality and insidiously mocks the absurdity, urban violence, strategies of coping with class and gender differences. She joins the long tradition of the reproducibility and consumption of the work of art with a humorous approach: you may only own the conceptual work of art if (after) you buy a simit from the vendors on the street.
One other remark was about the unequal division within the layout of the Map of Awareness pointing out the unequal division between the different groups of people or classes in Turkish society. That was something I didn’t really meant to emphasize about Turkey.
*”The Map of Awareness” has been selected & sponsored for the contemporary art show “A Monopoly of a Legend- 1870Beyoglu2000” in Istanbul/ Turkey. And It was printed, distributed and used from 29 September 2000 through 6 January 2001. Yapı Kredi Cultural Activities, Art and Publishing Inc. Feature Presentation / Coming Attractions Inc. September 2000
MAP OF AWARENESS – BAKIRKOY, 2007 (in Collaboration with Crowne Plaza Hotels and with the sponsorship of CocaCola and Johnson Diversey)