Being organized for 13 times to date and gaining important works to Eskisehir, the Earthenware Symposium meetings has evolved into a different collective work when it was affected by the pandemic. Nearly 60 artists created works for the memory of hundreds of health care workers who have lost their lives in the pandemic and these works have turned into the "Your Existence Our Health" chimney monument.
Prof. BILGIHAN UZUNER
Even though it was estimated that life wouldn't goes on as before, it could not be thought that it would be interrupted to this extent. While the pandemic is restraining nearly all events for two years, it can be said that it makes the environment ready for artists and art workshops to work more productively in this period. As is known, artists wish to stay alone and work focused, art workshops are like the sanctuaries of artists, the loneliness here is in fact a different kind of crowd and multiplication. Conditions of creativity is of course not the same in all branches of art; while painters often work individually, some artists produce collectively for technical necessity and their preference. Technical extended, heavy crafting branches of art like ceramics is more tended to collective production. And Eskisehir International Earthenware Symposium is a big collective work which has been organized 13 times between 2000 and 2020 and can be deemed as one of the exemplary and productive meetings of collective production.
Earthenware Symposium meetings have also been affected by the pandemic. And as being the Symposium family, we wanted to turn this period of time where we cannot create together into productivity by developing a method of remote collective working. We have shown awareness to incidents that hurt society like losing 304 miners to occupational accident and there were special monumental works produced before in our symposium works. And while the pandemic deeply affects the whole world, loosing health care workers during the fight against the disease, has given us a deep sorrow. We could not stay unaware to this tragic period. We deemed a stand in honor of their memory suitable and designed a monumental work to our health care workers who have ignored their health while working devotedly for people's health. We organized meeting about the symposium that has been specially supported by Tepebasi Mayor Dr. Ahmet Atac for years and planned who we can get in touch with, what and how to do regardless of the restrained period. The most important issue that challenged us is the question in what form and how we can tell the Covid 19 disease, deaths and Pandemic. And we thought that, instead of telling the death, we should memorialize the continuity of life and health care heroes who enable it. With the suggestion of our Mayor Dr. Ahmet Atac, we adopted the idea of making it in a chimney form. Just like a fuming chimney resembling the existence of life, we thought that the monument would impose a similar perception. It's a known fact that chimney is a symbol in Eskisehir which's a center of brick tile factories and silhouette of the region. In guide of all these known facts, all the meetings have come to an end and it became definite to make the monument in a chimney form.
The meaning of the monument would be constituted by engraving the name of each health care worker we lost onto one brick and aligning them on to the chimney together with ceramic works. After deciding what we do we needed to find and answer to how we make this work. While the "Your Existence Our Health" work was still on the thought phase, having 60 Turkish artists who we hosted in the past symposiums and deem as the members of the symposium family, were constituting our most important sentimental value. We were thinking that we can collectively form a new big work of art together with our artist friends who would show awareness and put effort for the monument and who we can easily explain what we designed. As it would probably be the most gathering and extensive work which will be jointly created by Turkish ceramic artists, we were not wrong that our friends would also share the same excitement with us.
But there were still the restrictions of the Pandemic circumstances applying to the application phase. As we could not meet with the artists directly, there was the possibility of occurring of many unclear setbacks. Artists would work on the pieces of works they will be working in their workshops and send them to Eskisehir. Appropriately to the restrictions, it was also needed to set up the application team and phase with as less people as possible and the whole work was needed to be completed with remote meet ups. We went into action with our narrowed down symposium team, Cultural Manager of Tepebasi Municipality Serkan Sengul and Yigit Mumcu and called on all of our ceramic artists. 37 artists from the Earthenware Family have founded our invitation suitable. Upon the requests to our artists, our 20 artist friends have been later included to the project team and the total participation was designated as 57 people.
Yigit Mumcu corresponded and talked by phone with the artists one by one and conveyed our thoughts and I also had some meetings on some of the details. While everyone was producing with their means in their own cities, we were proceeding on other preparations. The priority was designating the place of the monument. Eti Street located in Tepebasi region had many old chimneys and many earthenware works being located on this street was giving enough reasons to build up the monument in this region. Our Mayor also showed a particular sensibility for the monument and the surrounding to be planned as a square that lasts long and appropriate for health care workers to gather here. Another issue that needs preparation and estimating was the measurements of the monument. The form should be majestic as a factory chimney, at least 6 meters height and as big as having a surface opening where the names of the health care workers and the works of the artists can fit in. Additionally, with the advantage of being a work made jointly by many artists, we also targeted to make it bigger than the ones that have been made to date in the symposium.
A very long labor was given to print the names on the bricks belonging to the health care workers and glaze them. Tepebasi Municipality ceramic workshop staff started to print the names of the 75 health care workers we lost and glaze them in October 2020. We requested our artists to shape their works in scales with reference to the brick thought because we were planning to cover the chimney structure by aligning the scales nested with health care workers’' bricks. Although we have desired to rise the chimney by using the works of the artists as load-bearings like real bricks, as is known, the bricks we produced could be covered on the main form afterwards as long as the chimney bricks are not made in special shapes and sizes. Within the time we designated, 57 artists have created 450 glazed and non-glazed ceramic scales at various sizes, shapes, slopes, some completing a whole some can be used as independent pieces. the monument's construction was shaped pouring cement into mold. Due to the incredible increase in the number of deaths, the first sizes of the chimney had to be enlarged so we did it. The most challenging phase of the work was probably the placing of the pieces by arranging them due to their quite different shapes. We traced a template of the chimney body and made Despite all of our tryings of arrangement before mounting, we could see that sticking the pieces on the surface with grout can be completed only experimentally. I must point out that Veysel Ozel from the symposium committee has given me the most significant support during the mounting phase. Four experienced masters of the Municipality have begun working in August 2021 and in a short time of two weeks, covered the chimney with the name bricks of 425 health care workers and 450 works of the artists. The construction of the monument has begun in the death of 75 health care workers and the number of our losses has reached to 425 when it was finished. the opening ceremony of the monument was made according to the Pandemic circumstances in 25th August 2021. The brick of Prof. Dr. Cemil Tascioglu, our first loss to Covid 19 disease, was placed on the monument by his wife Dr. Didem Tascioglu and our Mayor Dr. Ahmet Atac. Eskisehir Tepebasi Municipality has made the 14th Earthenware Symposium happen by producing a very meaningful monumental work of art such as "Your Existence Our Health". We remember all our health care workers who put their lives at stake for our health, with respect and gratitude. We thank all our artists who have added value to this collective work. According to the data from Ankara Chamber of Medicals, we know that we have 512 losses while this article is being written.