İstanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş has recently introduced new regulations governing theaters, which has caused outrage among members of the theater community. The new regulations will transfer the authority of İstanbul City Theaters from the general art director to the hands of a newly formed council, which will be composed of not only the theater community but also representatives of civil society organizations, academics and officials from the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality, in an attempt to open İstanbul City Theaters to a wider range of ideas.
However, in the face of escalating criticism, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced plans on Sunday to privatize theaters currently funded by municipalities, escalating a row that pits the theater community against the government.
Yeni Şafak’s Salih Tuna says the debate on the independence of theaters has, as of late, turned into an old debate on Islam’s approach to art. Tuna underlines journalist Rasim Özdenören’s views on this issue, saying that a Muslim artist can take every subject as a theme in his work; his beliefs do not limit his art. But they may influence his art just as an ideology can.
Arguing that there can be no such thing as conservative art, but that there might be conservative artists, Sabah’s Nazlı Ilıcak says Erdoğan’s statement “You see how these despots [criticizing artists] look down on us and our nation. They insulted us and conservatives over a regulation change,” indicates that Erdoğan took offense at the recent criticisms that “there is no such thing as conservative art.” Ilıcak says she finds the reactions against the regulation change too exaggerated and made too early. She adds that, without giving much thought on how the new regulation will turn out, they exaggeratedly reacted and used an insulting tone towards the prime minister. However, she also finds Erdoğan’s statements too harsh. He chose to break ties with artists instead of reconciling with them, she says. Ilıcak also said a leading figure should not be offended by artists and should not turn his back on them; on the contrary, he should be more sensitive towards them.
Radikal’s Cüneyt Özdemir, on the other hand, highlights a question Erdoğan has suggested: Do artists have a monopoly on art? Özdemir thinks the answer to this question is no, as art consists of a number of independent artist voices. There is no domination of one, but every artist contributes to the development of art with his/her views, and more importantly, it can never be monopolized by the state, that’s for sure, Özdemir says.