On Monday, June 28th I had a great conversation with Hakan Topal, member of xurban_collective and doctoral student in Sociology at the New School for Social Research, here in New York. Hakan is from Ankara, Turkey, and was an engineer in a former life. He is an artist and a researcher. A research artist?
This conversation reminded me of how important it is to keep speaking with people we admire, who share our struggles with life and work, and who are dedicated to finding creative ways to move in the world.
Here is one part of our conversation, with many more to come.
Hakan asks the first question.
H: So what are you doing this research for? For your thesis? For the magazine? Or both?
A: I got stuck a while ago because I realized I wanted to do something that was not exactly social science, even though I’m in a social science degree program. So that became a problem, right? And then I decided that one way to kind of like loosen up would be to keep a blog about things I like.
A:So I started doing that, and actually it’s been really helpful, because I can just have an idea, or a thought, or see a fashion spread that I like, or whatever, and everything can just go into the blog—
H: Mm hmm
A: I don’t have to think about organizing it into chapters, and stuff—
H: Yes, perfect, yes…
A: And since I’m interested in what I’m calling “archival practice,” which is different than just what we traditionally think of as archival research, the website is actually a good archival practice for me—at least a good way to think of archives, in practice. And now, I’ve come to realize that I can’t really think or read or write outside of blog format anymore…
H: Yeah, wow! [laughs]
A: Yeah I can’t read [academic] JSTOR articles anymore. I can’t read monographs, much less write one. So I started to realize my work has to be about this process—
H: Mm hmm, mm hmm…
A: About how I can’t do it anymore, but I still want to do “it.”
H:Right. [The blog] is forcing you to write something, even though it’s scattered—forcing you to concentrate on bits and pieces.
H: And once you sit down, you can combine them into something.
A: Yes, that’s the thing: finding the form.