Forbidding Forbidden: Forum on Internet, Art, Censorship and Democracy

Taking as a starting point a range of censorship phenomena from Turkey to Italy, from the wider Mediterranean area to the United States of America, the Forum: Forbidding Forbidden will address and debate the role of the Internet in a world that appears to be increasingly devoid of borders and barriers and within which concepts of identity, nationality and state appear to be without both power and appeal.
Saturday, 17 September, 2011 - 09:00 - 10:30
Saturday, 17 September, 2011 - 13:00 - 18:30
Lanfranco Aceti
Andrew Donovan

Chair: Lanfranco Aceti
Forum Organizer: Erim Serifoğlu, Herman Bashiron Mendolicchio

The Myth of Digital Democracy (Matthew Hindman, 2009) is one that has generated intense debates with some people defending the role of the Internet and its social platforms and others pointing to the faults.

Within the contemporary space both censorship and mass reactions on the Internet have gained strength in the past ten years in a fight that has increasingly eroded basic liberties and principles of democratic engagement, but also scored emotive and staggering victories for Internet democracy.

The absurdity of forbidding in Internet searches the word forbidden speaks to a new level of censorship that is not only hysterical in its mediated representation of humorless content but also unaware of the strength of social changes and demands for democratic transparent interactions.

The Forum: Forbidding Forbidden uses the multiple meanings constructed by the juxtaposition of these two words to highlight the intensity of the contemporary conflict between two different perceptions of society: one that enforces the surveillance of digitally empowered masses to increase transparency and another that by creating obscurity through censorship operates through illegal frameworks hidden behind a shabby veneer of democracy.

What then is the role of the Internet today? That of a mythological inconsequential community that provides discourses unable to promote change? A tool under threat from reactionaries and hierarchical structures? Or a new medium, fighting against the bridles of censorship, to construct a new participatory society? Can and should art – and new media art in particular – play any role in this conflict?

Taking as a starting point a range of censorship phenomena from Turkey to Italy, from the wider Mediterranean area to the United States of America, the Forum: Forbidding Forbidden will address and debate the role of the Internet in a world that appears to be increasingly devoid of borders and barriers and within which concepts of identity, nationality and state appear to be without both power and appeal.

Opening Session: 9.00 – 10.30

Lanfranco Aceti
Andrew Donovan
Joost Smiers

Session 1. 13.00 – 15.40 (Break 14.30-14.45)

Internet & Censorship & Transparency of and Right to Information

Chair: Lanfranco Aceti

Danny Schechter, Joost Smiers, Erdem Dilbaz, Özgür Uçkan, İsmail Hakkı Polat, Işık Barış Fidaner

Session 2. 15.50 – 18.30 (Break 16.45-17.00)

Contemporary Art & Censorship & Institutional Criticism   

Chair: Özden Şahin

Pelin Tan, Amina Abdellatif, Pelin Başaran, Eylem Ertürk, Banu Karaca, Burak Arıkan

Bios of the Presenters


Lanfranco Aceti works as an academic, artist and curator. He is Visiting Professor at Goldsmiths College, department of Computing, London; teaches Contemporary Art and Digital Culture at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Sabanci University, Istanbul, and is Editor in Chief of the Leonardo Electronic Almanac (the MIT Press, Leonardo journal and ISAST). His work has been published in Leonardo, Routledge and Art Inquiry and his interdisciplinary research focuses on the intersection between digital arts, visual culture and new media technologies.

He is specialized in inter-semiotic translations between classic media and new media, contemporary digital hybridization processes, Avant-garde film and new media studies and their practice-based applications in the field of fine arts. He is also an Honorary Lecturer at the Department of Computer Science, Virtual Reality Environments at University College London. He has exhibited works at the ICA in London and done digital interventions at TATE Modern.
Previously an Honorary Research Fellow at the Slade School of Fine Art, he has also worked as an AHRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Birkbeck College, University of London, School of History of Art, Film & Visual Media and as Visiting Research Fellow at the Victoria and Albert Museum.


Andrew Donovan is Director of the Australia Council’s Inter-Arts Office, with responsibility to nurture artists working within interdisciplinary and hybrid arts as well as develop policy initiatives that progress the practice in Australia. He is also leading and developing the Inter-Arts Office focus on practice-led arts research. He has extensive experience across the arts having worked as an actor, playwright, writer, researcher facilitator and arts administrator.

Andrew joined the Australia Council in 1994 working initially in community cultural development and was Manager of Council's New Media Arts Board from 2001 until is dissolution in 2005. More recently, Andrew has been developing and implementing major initiatives such as the cross-disciplinary art/science initiative Synapse, the interdisciplinary ArtLab research and development initiative, the Connections Residency program and the first artist residency at the Allosphere at the University of California, be offered to Australian artists in 2011.


Born in Istanbul, 1982, Erdem Dilbaz is an interdisciplinary activist/artist and an organizer of May 15th "Hands off my internet" demonstrations in Istanbul. Erdem Dilbaz has studied electric/electronic at a high school level, won a scholarship from Istanbul Bilgi University, Management of Performing Arts department, researched and wrote extensively on popular cultures of design, architecture, music, art and technology, found a company called "Kafa Ayarı" and has been deeply researching on cybernetics based performing arts and technology - human interaction. For the last couple of years, he has been managing a network called "NERDWORKING". He is also an administrator of


Dr. Özgür Uçkan is currently lecturing at Bilgi University on information economy, network economy, information design and management, communication design and design management. Among many other things, he is a consultant of Tunisian Socialist Party, information technology policies at Turkey Information Technologies Association and member of the consultants committee at the project called "Civicweb/Young People, the Internet and Civic Participation". He publishes and translates to a great extent on various journals about politics, humanities, media, informatics, urban planning, economy, internet and law, culture and arts. On April 2003, his book "E-Government, E-Democracy and Turkey" has been published. On his website, he advocates for "göçebe bilgi" or "nomadic knowledge", a concept of his invention which is described as  following: "Breaking into the side ways, venturing to deviate from wheel traces, experiencing the liquid network of currents between artistic events and everyday life practices, artistic language and social processes, art and politics; in short, art and life."


Joost Smiers is a leading expert on decision-making in cultural matters and new approaches to cultural and intellectual property. He is perhaps best known for his proposals to eliminate copyright and to break up large publishers, music producers, and movie studios in order to encourage cultural diversity and eliminate market dominance by a small number of corporations.
Smiers received his Political Science in 1977 from the University of Amsterdam. He is currently Professor Emeritus of Political Science of the Arts and a Research Fellow in the Research Group Arts & Economics at the Utrecht School of the Arts, the Netherlands, where he served as Professor from 1985 until his retirement in 2007. He is Dutch and lives in Amsterdam. He speaks Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish.

He is a member of the AHRB Research Network on New Directions in Copyright Law, Birkbeck, University of London, University of London. He was a member of the board of trustees of ERICArts, the European Research Institute for Comparative Cultural Affairs and the Arts, and an expert for the Council of Europe in Moldova.


Danny Schechter is a founder and the Vice President/Executive Producer of Globalvision, Inc., a media company formed in 1987. At Globalvision, he created the award winning series "South Africa Now," which aired for three years. He co-created and co-executive produces "Rights & Wrongs: Human Rights Television," anchored by Charlayne Hunter-Gault, an award-winning globally distributed weekly television newsmagazine series. Mr. Schechter has also produced and directed seven independent films. Mr. Schechter has written: "The More You Watch, The Less You Know" (Seven Stories Press" (Seven Stories Press and the forthcoming "News Dissector: Passions, Pieces and Polemics (Electron Press.) He is the creator and executive editor of The Media Channel, a media and democracy supersite on the worldwide web. His left involvement stretches back to Ramparts Magazine, through the anti-war and civil rights movements of the sixties, and into the present day.

Schechter graduated from Cornell University in 1964, where he wrote for the Cornell Daily Sun and was a member of the Quill and Dagger society. He later received his Master's degree from the London School of Economics and an honorary doctorate from Fitchburg State University. He was a Neiman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard University, where he also taught in 1969. He was an adjunct professor at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, and recipient of the Society of Professional Journalists' 2001 Award for Excellence in Documentary Journalism.

Schechter worked as a civil rights worker and communications director of the Northern Student Movement, and worked as a community organizer in a War on Poverty program. Schechter also served as an assistant to the Mayor of Detroit in 1966.

Schechter's media experience in the major U.S. corporate media is considerable. His career began as the "News Dissector" at Boston radio station WBCN. Later, Schechter was a producer for the ABC newsmagazine 20/20. He produced 50 segments for ABC and won two national Emmy Awards and was nominated for two others. Schechter joined the start-up staff at CNN as a producer based in Atlanta. In all, Schechter has reported from 49 countries.
Schechter helped found, and serve as the executive producer of, Globalvision, a New York-based television and film production company. He founded and executive-produced the series South Africa Now and co-produced Rights & Wrongs: Human Rights Television. His work specializes in investigative journalism and producing programming about the interface between human rights, journalism, popular music and society.

From 1999-2010, Schechter was also the executive editor of, for which he was "blogger-in-chief" and wrote a nearly-3000-word daily blog entry on media and society.


He is the first in the known intellectuals of the sector on mobile technology and new media who worked for the companies of technology sector such as Siemens, Ericsson, Turkcell. İsmail Hakkı Polat has graduted from Middle Eastern Technical University Electric/Electronic Engineering on 1989 and has been lecturing on new media at Kadir Has University since 2004. He has participated in the establishment of the first and still only New Media university department in Turkey. Besides, he has serviced as a manager and consultant in the development of interactive services related to mobile communications of Doğan Holding, Merkez Yayın Grubu and Ciner Media Group. He has a column in Bloomberg Business Week Türkiye where he shares his opinions on new media on a weekly basis. He is a member of the Alternative Information Technologies Association based in Ankara.


Işık Barış Fidaner is a software engineer from Istanbul, currently working on his PhD thesis on Bayesian computational methods with Taylan Cemgil in Boğaziçi Uni. CMPE Dept.

He was born in Ankara, 1983. He is programming since 1992 and playing games since time immemorial. His first computer was an Amiga 500. Throughout his education, he went on to code interesting programs in his spare time; small experiments to see what we can do and show by software: Physical simulations, mathematical tools, textual toys, small games with AI, etc.

He studied Computer Engineering and undertook projects in diverse fields such as computer graphics, artificial intelligence, image processing and machine learning. His MS thesis was on object tracking in digital video.
He is a member of the Alternative Information Technologies Association based in Ankara.


Özden Sahin completed a BA in Translation and Interpreting Studies at Bogazici University in 2007 and received an MA in Cultural Studies at Sabanci University in 2009. Her thesis titled Censorship on Visual Arts and Its Political Implications in Contemporary Turkey: Four Case Studies from 2002-2009 sought to explore cultural manifestations of recent art censorship in Turkey through the narratives provided by artists. Her main areas of interest are visual culture, documentary filmmaking, and alternative photography.
Conference and Program Director to ISEA2011 Istanbul, Ozden currently works at Sabanci University Kasa Gallery as the vice director and in-house curator. She is also the editorial manager to Leonardo Electronic Almanac (Leonardo/ISAST).


Burak Arikan is an artist based in New York and Istanbul. His work confronts issues ranging from politics and economics to cultural sustainability in networked environments. His systems have been featured in online and onsite exhibitions in the form of prints, animation, software, and installations.
Arikan has presented his work internationally at institutions including Museum of Modern Art (New York), Neuberger Museum of Art (New York), Venice Biennale (Venice), Ars Electronica (Linz), Sonar (Barcelona), DEMF (Detroit) and at independent venues such as Art Interactive (Cambridge), Künstlerhaus Bethanien (Berlin), Hafriyat (Istanbul), Club Phazon (Tokyo), FilmWinter (Stuttgart), Turbulence (online), Upgrade! International (online). He has lectured and did workshops at institutions including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rhode Island School of Design, New York University Interactive Telecommunications Program, Istanbul Technical University, Bogazici Universtiy, Sabanci University, and Istanbul Bilgi University.

Arikan completed his master’s degree at the MIT Media Laboratory in the Physical Language Workshop (PLW) led by John Maeda. While at MIT, he pursued research exploring networked systems that address the transition from connectivity to collectivity in the context of creative expression. Prior to MIT, he received an MA degree in Visual Communication Design from Istanbul Bilgi University in 2004, and a BS degree in Civil Engineering from Yildiz Technical University in 2001.


Pelin Tan, (1974- Germany), researcher/writer based in Istanbul. Tan, holds BA in Sociology (1996) with the subject of postmordern theory. MA in Art History “globalization and contemporary art after 1990s”, (2003, ITU). She completed her Phd. thesis “Locality as a Discoursive concept in recent Socially Engaged Art Practices” (2009, ITU). Tan, was guest professor in the Architecture and Urban Studies MA program at the Art Academy of Nürenberg (2008 winter), DAAD granted Ph.D. candidate at Humboldt Univ. (2006-2007, Berlin), guest lecturer at Berlin Technical University – History of Art (2006-2007). IASPIS residency (2008).Her fields of specialisation are contemporary art and related globalization issues in context of space production, conflict spaces and architecture. In addition to her academic fields she is extensivly involved with alternative art publishing. She is the producer and co-editor of Muhtelif contemporary art magazine, co-editor of contemporary art and public space with S.Boynik (Bilgi Univ.Press, 2007). Guest editor of Arch+ Architecture Magazine Istanbul issue (Berlin, 2009), Guest editor of Re-Thinking Marxism (NY, 2010). Her book “Derrida’s notion of Hospitality and Architecture” (forthcoming, Disko,, Germany, 2009).

As a writer she contributed books such as: self-service city: Istanbul (b-books); Kulturelle Topografien (Metzler), The [un]common place (Actar), TRACER 1-2 (WdW), FROM/TO - Karl-Heinz Klopf, Mega-Structures Reloaded (H.Cantz), Berlin Biennale Catalogue (2008), Istanbul Biennale Catalogue (2007), Spatial Production, Practices and Politics In The Middle East (Moutamarat/Bidoun), Sarai Reader07. Contributed art and architecture journals such as: Derive, E-flux Journal, Bidoun, Untitled, Metropol M, IDEA, Springerin,  XXI architecture, Doxa, arkitera, Graz Architecture Magazine, Betonart architecture magazine, and several others.

She co-curated exhibitions and projects: Tracer (2003-2004, WdW / Tent-Rotterdam), "Dwelling as a Negotiation"( 2006-Istanbul), “Lost in Translation” (9.Int.Istanbul Biennale, 2005), “Questioning Alternative Practices” with A.Vidokle (2006, Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center, Istanbul), INURA Istanbul urban workshop (2008, 2009), Innocent Act, Studio Kahem (10.Int.Istanbul Biennale, 2007), Economical/Social Outcome of Urban Transformation (Anadolu Kultur, 2008). Curatorial adviser of SkulpturenPark (Berlin), London Architecture Foundation Istanbul-London Exchange.


Pelin Başaran was educated at the Political Science Department of Middle East Technical University in 2002 and The Institute of Turkish Modern History in Bogaziçi University. The subject of her master thesis is “The Privatization of Culture and The Development of Cultural Centers in the post-1980 period in Turkey”. 
While she worked in History Foundation as the manager of Darphane-i Amire historical building which was functioned as cultural center, for three years, she attented cultural manager workhops organized by European Cultural Association. She gave “Social Structures and Historical Transformation” lessons in Yıldız Teknik University for one year, and now, she has been working in garajistanbul contemporary performing arts space as a cultural manager. She is one of the founders of siyahbant organization which is established to both survey and generate a platform for discussion among artists about the cultural policies and censorship mechanisms working on art in Turkey.


Eylem Ertürk is a project coordinator in Diyarbakır Art Center managed by Anadolu Kültür which is a civil initiative, committed to fostering mutual understanding through arts and culture, and has been working as an NGO on the sharing of culture and artistic production, focused on community development, participation, and a multi-stakeholder approach since 2002. She is one of the founders of siyahbant organization which is established to both survey and generate a platform for discussion among artists about the cultural policies and censorship mechanisms working on art in Turkey.


Amina Abdellatif is a young digital artist, web-art curator and an activist from Tunisia. Studied design at Arts et Métiers, Amina specialized on web-art directing throughout her professional service at Jwt Tunis, wezign and Havas euro rscg. Amina also won the award for the best event logo at the Twestival in October 2011.


Banu Karaca is a visiting alumni at Sabancı University Cultural Studies program. She is also among the consultants committee of siyahbant organization which is established to both survey and generate a platform for discussion among artists about the cultural policies and censorship mechanisms working on art in Turkey.