Reporting on the Gezi trial and Osman Kavala

The celebrations were short-lived for supporters of Osman Kavala, a prominent cultural philanthropist in Turkey who has spent the last 841 days behind bars. Just hours after an Istanbul court acquitted Kavala and eight co-defendants on widely derided charges of trying to overthrow the government, he was ordered to remain in detention as part of a previous investigation against him.

“The judiciary in Turkey has lost its independence and its institutional coherence,” Professor Murat Somer, a political scientist at Istanbul’s Koç University, told Hyperallergic. “It is almost impossible to explain what has happened based on legal criteria because this is not about a judicial process, but rather about politics.”

Read the rest of my news report, "Turkish Arts Philanthropist Acquitted, Then Detained Again," on Hyperallergic.

The artist walking between two seas in Istanbul

Over the past seven years, artist Serkan Taycan has been walking in the western outskirts of Istanbul, documenting a nearly 40-mile route between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea that traverses landscapes few locals, and even fewer visitors, ever see. A cave inhabited in Paleolithic times that now sits unnoticed above a highway. A rural village where storks have built dozens of nests atop utility poles and fig trees. Ottoman-era stone bridges. Old lignite quarries that have been reclaimed by nature.

All this, and much more, stands to be swept away by a massive shipping canal, dubbed “Kanal İstanbul,” which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has vowed to build as a new connection between the two bodies of water. An environmental impact assessment report for the canal was approved by his government in January despite serious concerns about the project’s ecological impact.

Read the rest of my article, “The Artist Walking Between Two Seas in Istanbul,” on Hyperallergic.

Year in review: freelance highlights for 2018

One of the first pieces I published this year was also my favorite (and for one of my favorite outlets): the story of an inspiring housing cooperative in western Turkey. I learned about the Düzce Hope Homes while reporting a big piece on political urbanism in 2017 and spent a rainy day in January at the construction site with members of the community, who sent me off on my bus trip back to Istanbul laden with jars of their homemade yogurt and preserves.

The 'Most Hopeful' New Housing in Turkey
Twenty years after being displaced by an earthquake, families in Düzce, Turkey, are getting homes that they helped design and build themselves.
CityLab, 23 February 2018

It's far too easy to waste all day on Twitter, but I wouldn't have published this piece without the social-media platform: spotting a call for pitches in a tweet led to my first story for Hyperallergic, and my first on performance art.

Artists Fill Six-Story Istanbul House with 672 Hours of Performance Art
The house w…

Year in review: freelance highlights for 2017

With all the juggling involved in a freelancer's life -- pitching, writing, invoicing, researching, editing, fact-checking, drumming up new work, updating websites and social media, following up on emails, and on and on -- it's easy to lose track of the big picture while constantly chasing after the next assignment and rushing to meet the next deadline. So it was good to take a moment to look back at the year and acknowledge that I'd published some pieces I was really proud of. Here's my personal top five stories from 2017:

1) Science, Interrupted
War and strife have uprooted many researchers. Can their life’s work be saved?
Discover, September 2017
This feature on displaced scientists and researchers struggling to resume their careers as refugees was one of the most rewarding projects I worked on this year.  It's always a pleasure to work with Discover and my stellar editor at the magazine, who believed in me and this story enough to encourage me to take my kernel o…

The forgotten ruins of Bathonea

On a warm day in June 2016, I was part of a hearty band of hikers who hacked through the thick and thorny brush surrounding Istanbul's Küçükçekmece Lake to reach the largely forgotten remains of a bustling Byzantine trading port.

The ruins of Bathonea, located on the outskirts of the city far from its historic center, came as a magical surprise to me, but archaeologists have been working for a decade to uncover their secrets.

I highlighted a few of their finds in a short piece for Discover magazine's November 2017 issue: "The Secrets Beneath a Suburb."

Istanbul art madness

Art-lovers in Istanbul were spoiled for choice this fall, with the annual art fair Contemporary Istanbul changing its usual place in the calendar to coincide with the Istanbul Biennial, and dozens upon dozens of museums, galleries and artist-run spaces opening new shows at the same time.

Trying to catch them all made for an exhausting but invigorating few weeks of exhibition-hopping, during which I wrote four pieces of arts coverage, for Lonely Planet and Selections magazine:
"Istanbul's Biggest Art Festival Branches Out to Greece," on the Istanbul Biennial and its "neighboring event" on the Greek island of Lesvos
"New Date, Director and Galleries Reinvigorate Contemporary Istanbul in Art Fair’s 12th Year," on the latest edition of Contemporary Istanbul
"This Stunning Ottoman Villa in Istanbul is Open to Visitors for the First Time with Contemporary Art Exhibition," on the Ömer M. Koç Collection exhibit at the Abdülmecid Efendi Köşkü

Paint's dance with water

“Your hand must be like a machine, with a nice, steady rhythm — not dropping the paint with too much or too little force,” says Bahar Kocabaş. “You have to be patient, but when the colors open up, it’s beautiful.”

That's how Kocabaş, an artist and teacher in Istanbul, described the art of paper marbling to me. Known in Turkish as ebru, the process has been inscribed on UNESCO’s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity -- a list that Morning Calm, the inflight magazine for Korean Air, is featuring in a series of cover stories. I was asked to write the magazine's feature on ebru, which appeared on the cover of Morning Calm's July 2017 edition, and delved into controversies about the art's origins and the way both tradition and innovation are playing a role in keeping it alive.

You read my piece, "Water Colors," accompanied by lovely photos by John Wreford, in the online version of Morning Calm (requires a Flash-enabled browser).