Following the travels of Jules Verne’s stubborn tobacco merchant Kéraban around the coast of the Black Sea, the Istanbul based artist Hüseyin B. Alptekin intended to gather artists, curators, musicians, architects, historians and scientists to board a boat leaving from İstanbul, following the route of Kéraban and anchoring back in İstanbul again after making a full circle around the Black Sea, stopping at ports of Varna, Constanta, Odessa, Sevastopol, Yalta, Rostov, Novossibirsk, Sochi, Batumi, Trabzon and Sinop. “A laboratory of art, science, music and architecture,” Alptekin expected the boat to become a site of exchange and production, and planned for artistic interventions, events, panels and performances that would stimulate conversations at each port where the boat anchored. Alptekin envisioned the project and thus the boat-lab “[to] first and foremost operate as a sign of solidarity among the unions by artists and artistic projects and the boat will be vessel for the embodiment of this solidarity.”
For Alptekin there were two consequential aims of the project; first, the presentation of the research undertaken, the photographic and video documentation and secondly, extending the spirit of Kéraban into other regions such as the Baltic Sea and the Barents Sea. It was planned for the boat to take off in August 2003, and sail for two months. Unfortunately, the project was never realized.”
This text was first published in I am not a Studio Artist by Salt, Istanbul 2011
InEnArt launches the Sea Elephant Travel Agency 2013 ten years after the planned trip as an open online platform with the aim to continue tracing the imaginary itinerary of Jules Verne on the Black Sea.
This project will display manifestations, performances and exhibitions that took place in the name of Sea Elephant Travel Agency in the past since 1999 and it invites artists, curators, from all over the world to continue and participate into this enterprize first as an online art laboratorium and maybe later on as a real boat trip to the Black Sea.-
The Agency was located in The Loft, a building that previously functioned as a pharmaceutical factory in an Istanbul district peripheral to the city centre. The building had limited historical merit, but was located between the urban and suburban, ordered and marginal of the city. Its neighbours were the miscreant communities of gays, transvestites and prostitutes, drug and club cultures, as well as benevolent religious foundations for the old and sick.
SETA absorbed its many local references and supported the local art scene while also providing a point of solidarity for the many artists who traveled through Istanbul. Almost every week seminars and debates were held at The Loft, which also housed large archives on the Balkan, Black Sea and Baltic regions, and Turkish and international contemporary art scenes.
SETA was also able to realize spontaneous exhibitions and presentations. As well as acting as an Istanbul based open platform, SETA was also a mobile, ambulant unit which had developed numerous collaborative projects in Montenegro, Bosnia, Mongolia, Finland, Russia, Holland, Albania, Ukraine and Germany.
„We are tired of geographical and historical and cultural connotations. East, West, Orient, Europe, Asia, North, South, Bridge and everything. We have to forget, erase this connotations, references, metaphores, symbols, allusions, and look for other sense and sensibilities. I believe there are different networks, different ontologies and specific productions. The Sea Elephant Travel Agency is in search of covering specific perspectives in the contemporary art scene, starting from local and regional energies and events in relationship with universal networks within the frame of individual initiatives and reciprocal solidarities.“ (Hüseyin)