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Author as Swindler (Sülün Osman), performance, 2015. Photo Credits: Michael Önder. Commissioned by Ibraaz: 

Author as Swindler (Sülün Osman), 2015

Osman Ziya Sülün, known as ‘Sülün’ Osman, is a famous swindler and an urban legend from 1950s İstanbul. Among many stories that are attributed to him,  some of the most famous are those where he sells Galata Bridge, Dolmabahçe Clock Tower and Galata Tower.

However, according to historian Rıfat Bali, most of the ‘Sülün’ Osman stories are about another trickster or swindler, Eyüplü Halit (Halit of Eyüp. Eyüp being the name of one of the oldest neighborhood of Istanbul). It seems then that ‘Sülün’ Osman not only pretends to own and then sell material public goods, icons of modernity or national treasures, but also appropriates immaterial ‘commons’ of urban legends and stories.

The idea of a swindler that takes over the commons from below becomes more interesting if we consider the plundering of the city from above by big capital, the state, and bureaucracy. The tactic of the swindler may be imagined as an invitation to a horizontal, temporary world and contract where everything is free to appropriate and use until the power (capital, state, police, law and so on) interrupts.

In this performance, realized on 3 December 2015, the artist follows ‘Sülün’ Osman’s strategies and tactics to appropriate and sell both the story and Galata Bridge itself, and starts a conversation around related topics.

For more on these ideas see Free Society of Fools and Crooks.

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