Ben, Istanbul

CityX - Ben, Istanbul

Art Project 2014/15

Starting: Contemporary Istanbul 2014

The metropolis of Istanbul has always been marked by two different worlds: located between the continents of Europe and Asia, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, the traditions and discrepancies of Christianity and Islam intersect here. These opposites are clearly present in Doris Graf’s pictograms. Behind the popular sites of the city, representations are found of social diversity, cultural divisiveness and even corruption and despotism. At the same time, the artist emphasises the parallel existence of different religions in the city’s long history by placing the drawings of the Islamic and Christian places of worship next to each other in the pictogram, where mosque, church and synagogue merge into a single building. Compared to other cities in the CityX project, in Istanbul religion is awarded a central focus.

In the tradition of historic cityscapes, many participants in Istanbul draw typecast panoramas in which the famous mosques – the Blue Mosque first and foremost – and the Galata Tower rise up above the coast line at sunset. The often repaired Galata Bridge and the Bosphorus Bridge, which was the first to unite the European and the Asian parts of the city, are as much an integral part of the city as urban everyday life with its traffic chaos and lack of green spaces. Furthermore, cultural traditions such as drinking tea, the sesame pastry simit and the eye on the Hand of Fatima are found in the 16-part cityscape. Contrary to the abovementioned tensions between the cultures, these symbols represent a global and multi-cultural city with a positive sense of connectedness. With great sensitivity, Graf enhances the cultural image of the city in the pictograms through a framing ornament.

Topographic aspects of a cityscape are of fairly great permanence. Collective attitudes and the emotions of people are usually subject to shorter sequences. In light of current political events, one might question how up-to-date cityscapes and, particularly, the pictograms created based on individual snapshots, really are. Would the people of Istanbul today – hardly two years after the project was conducted – draw and denominate different aspects?

Drawing Performance 2014, Kadiköy, Istanbul, Turkey
Drawings “CityX - Ben, Istanbul”
Art Karlsruhe Gallery ABTART, “CityX - Ben, Istanbul”, 2016, Germany


Drawings “Ben, Istanbul”


According to a so-called artistic appropriation process, Doris Graf used the drawings produced in Istanbul to develop an image of the city in the form of pictographic visualisations.

Piktogramm "Behind the Beautiful Sights"
Behind the Beautiful Sights
Piktogramm "Split"
Piktogramm "I
I'm Missing
Piktogramm "Appreciation"
Piktogramm "Traffic"
Piktogramm "I Love Istanbul"
I Love Istanbul
Piktogramm "Sunset"
Piktogramm "Hosgeldiniz"
Piktogramm "Smoking Cat"
Smoking Cat
Piktogramm "Metrobus"
Piktogramm "Where is Atatürk"
Where is Atatürk
Piktogramm "Adhan"
Piktogramm "Bazar"
Piktogramm "Bosphorus Bridge"
Bosphorus Bridge
Piktogramm "Galata Bridge"
Galata Bridge
Piktogramm "Diversity"