STREET CLEANING EVENT
ISTANBUL QUEER ART COLLECTIVE / TUNA ERDEM, SEDA ERGUL & ONUR GOKHAN GOKCEK
“Street Cleaning Event” is a Fluxus performance by Hi Red Center, which is a group of Japanese artists from the 60s. According to the event score of the performance, published in the Fluxus Performance Notebook, the performers are to wear lab coats and clean a designated sidewalk with items not usually used in street cleaning.
We performed the event in Cihangir, a historical neighboorhood in Beyoglu district inİIstanbul. Cihangir, before it was gentrified in the ‘80s, was a humble home for transsexual sex workers, but today artists, advertisers and designers as well as the gay and lesbian community inhabit its fashionable, renovated buildings. The street where we chose to perform is situated just above the Artisan’s Park, and looks out onto the Bosphorus strait over the Kılıç Ali Pasha Mosque andİIstanbul Museum of Modern Art. The street and the park are always full of a mixed crowd of children, students, artists, elderly people and, not infrequently, tourists.
One afternoon, we approached the pavement with our lab coats on. We might have looked serious if only we weren’t carrying tiny schoolbags designed for four-year-old children. This additional touch helped us to create the humorous atmosphere that Fluxus events demand. These bags were our Fluxkits and they contained tooth brushes, shaving brushes, hygienic pads, cologne, deodorants and other such items. With fluorescent green tape, we framed the area between two street lamps and then divided it into three, creating our “stage.”
Some passersby greeted us with warm _kolay gelsin_s, a very common phrase used in Turkish, which means, “Hope it goes smoothly.” The more attentive and curious ones asked what we were doing and we said, “We are cleaning,” and when they asked, “Why?” we replied, “Because it’s dirty.” By stating the obvious, we stirred their imagination. We overheard their discussions; some speculated that we were a CSI unit, a group of kids suggested that we were removing some obscene graffiti, old ladies carefully examined our inventory and kindly warned us that the items were not suitable for cleaning. We shrugged and they convinced each other that we were promoting those materials. After a tiresome but meditative process which lasted about an hour, we packed up, removed the tape from the pavement and then walked away. The curtains of reality closed; that ordinary, warm summer evening, the pavement was a little bit brighter.