(Interview) a “strange” activist: Luk Sips


We know him from the meeting that happened 2 years before against IMF which was full of violence. He was giving roses to people and to policemen. He was dancing inside the gas bombs and water spray. Turkish media showed him as a stranger. And of course he had beaten by police. Probably, everybody that see the shows, will remember him. His name is Luk Sips…


Furthermore, he was showing derwish performance with costumes in the declamatory meeting on 1 May 2010. He was again a stranger on Turkish media. He was also performing at the “2 Milyon İstanbullu” meeting against to 3th bridge project, that organized by Türkish Green Party at 2 October 2010 on coast side of bosphorus.


Luk Sips is a performance artist. He is a green. He has created an alternative art center, ÜsküdArt 2010, at the same time of “2010 Cultural Capital of Istanbul” project. In ÜsküdArt 2010, many artists from outside or inside of Turkey have come together. In these days the project getting finish with a finish exhibition. We, Yeşil Gazete (Green Newspaper) wanted to talk with him about exhibition and especially to know him closer. Adding to remind; there is a party at the end of the exhibition, on saturday.


We know you from Turkish media as “the stranger”. Could you inform us yourself.


My name is Luk. And I am from Belgium. I studied “social work” and worked for more than 10 years with young people in Belgium. Also with immigrant boys from Turkish and Moroccan origin.
Later I started an extra master at Brussels University in Art Education.
After i finished that, i decided to stop having a “normal job” and to follow my teen-age dream: making theatre…
But this time: without any school. I just started to make performances and to follow workshops and trainings.

Already at the age of 13 years old i knew “later i will vote for the Belgian green party. Because i did not like war, and i did not want children in Afrika having hunger…
My part of the country, Flanders, has one of the first green partys in the world, the first in Europe. And the first in the world to have people voted in the parliement.
The name of the party was originally “AGALEV” from “Anders Gaan Leven” wich means: “to start living differently”. The founding father of this group was a Katholic priest… Luc Versteylen…
His filosophy was much more deep than only “saving the nature”. It was already in the ’70’s concerning “saving historical streets & buildings” , working on “public transport and traffic problems” as well as a revolutionary theory about sexuality for young people…
He is also the one that first used the colour green in the meaning : “to protect the weak and supressed people”…
I was very happy to meet him at the age of 16… He was making the service of the funeral of a friend of me that died from cancer…
So from that time i was active in the original green movement.

Core values of this social movement were quiet, solidarity and soberness. In the political translation this became Pacifism, solidarity and ecologism…
For me this 3 values are still the basics of green politics.
Iİn my opinion every decision must be checked on this 3 topics.

When I was 19, I was elected in my village for the local ecologic party. But I gave my “seat” to a friend. He is still active there.

8 years ago i finished my membership of this Belgian political party…
During the times they were part of the ruling government, they made to many compromises that were absolutely not ‘green’…

For me ‘green’ or ecology does not only mean “saving the nature”. For me green is a ‘holistic’ ideology. Everything is connected with everything in this world. And ecology is trying to see the whole story…
Actualy communism (Marxism) and kapitalism are making the same mistake… They both make economy the most important issue in the world.
This is not true. If you want to change society, change the world… many different topics have the same value and need same attention and energy: the social, the educational, the cultural, the economical, and even religeous practices are part of our world…
The Christian bible as well as the Koran are very ecological writings :) The other religions i don’t know that much, but probably they all tell about the same respect for people, animals and nature…

So if you want to be green, you have to start to make a good isolation in your house… Otherwise you spoil energy and support nuclear centrals.
You have to repair all your leaking taps in bathroom and kitchen… Otherwise you spoil water. And in Africa people die because of lack of water…
You have to be open to other cultures.
You have to support 3th world economy by buying products from these countries.
As well as support local agriculture.
You have to be against the army and any kind of violence…
You don’t have your coffee at Starbucks.
and if you really want to eat meat, take a lokal kebab in stead of BurgerKill of FuckDonalds.

Yes, it is quite difficult to live a green life…

And of course… İ am only trying.
Nobody is perfect.

So. Am I still a “yabancı” (Strange) now ?



Why did you choose this country? How long have you been there? How did you find the idea to start the project “Open art studio – üsküdart”, in Istanbul? What is Üsküdart?


5 years ago I came to Istanbul for the first time.
2 reasons.
First. İn Belgium we have 0090- festival, organised by my friend Mesut Arslan. (www.0090.be) This festival brings contempory arts: music, theatre, dance, painting, sculpture, film,… to a Belgian audience.
In this festival i used to work as a volunteer. So I met many artists and friends from Istanbul.
Second. In a dance workshop the teacher made the students “turn” for 1 hour.
I really likes this body-experience. So I started whirling at home and in the studio.
Without knowing anything about sufism or Mevlana & Shams.
Yes. I saw the traditional sema on television. So I knew it was “something from Turkey” and “something with Islam”.
But I was just turning.

These 2 reasons brought me in İstanbul a first time in 2006. Visiting my artist friends, and finding a school or teacher for the real sema.

I discovered the whole Istanbul art scene: çatı-dans, kargART, Galataperform, İstanbul Modern, İstanbulİmpro, Garajİstanbul, and many many galleries and concerts…
And I found a very open minded teacher in Oruç Güvenc (www.tumata.com)

Since that time i visited İstanbul 8 times.

In 2007, I presented a Belgian performance in İstanbul. “PREY / AV” . About male body & identity.
İn 2009 I made an İstanbul performance: “GenderWish”, together with Sinem Beykurt, a beautiful İstanbul dancing lady. This performance is about “gender”, male & female body & identity. We talked and worked very open about relations, mother/daughter, communication, divorce, intimacy, sexuality, jalousy, grand-parents, … Every topic you can imagine about being man and woman. But in the performance we only used… sema…
And we used pop music. From folk to reggae and house …
I like this mix of cultures and different art forms.
One of my dervish performances in Belgium was about “war & peace between different religions”.

Already 3 years ago people told me İstanbul would be “Cultural Capital of Europe” in 2010.
For me this was a super idea: Turkey is not yet member of Europe, but already the Cultural Capital.
That’s the spirit !
So I wanted to be here the full year.
But many of my Turkish friends said: “I hate İstanbul 2010”. Especially young artists.
“Why?” I asked.
“They do nothing for the artists… only for the big museums and theatres.”
OK. That’s true. Same problem we had in Belgium. This European Capital is mostly about tourism and city-management.
On the other hand, it is important that historic buildings get renovation. And that tourists discover this beauty.
So my reaction was: “Why not do something ourselves ? In empty buildings, or the streets… And this way take our profit of the extra tourists during this year.”

Like this I came to the decision to rent an empty depot…
and make it open to all youg artists, to be free to work and meet other cultures.
We had a piano, a drum-kit, 5 theatre-lights, 1 microphone with a street – speaker, some bruches – paint and paper… and even a sewing machine to make clothes.

This way all kinds of art could be practiced and come together.


Would you like to tell something about swirling derwishes and you.


Ya. Just I like turning :)
And for me it is interesting to put my body in extreme conditions.

Of course. In Belgium there is a lot of racism and nationalism.
So, using an art-form coming from the country of our “immigrants” is automatically a political statement too.
After the years I also start to read more about Mevlana & sufism. It is inspiring. But İ not extremely deep into it.
Especially I love Shams… he was green! He was defenitely green :)


You wrote : “Rose is power” “open your imagination” What did you mean with this expression? And would you like to tell something to Turkish police :P  :)

In the anti-IMF demontrration I wanted to participate with my limited time (2 days later there was premiere of our performance)
And I did not want to participate in the violence, the molotov-cocktails.
Only screaming “Fuck the police” is of no use. These guys are just doing their jobs…

So I wanted to use a slogan about Creativity… In ’68 the students used: “Power to the Imagination”.
I like this slogan. But the translation in Turkish was too difficult.
So I asked the night befor to my friends. “What is Power to the Rose” in Turkish? like in Flower Power.
Because I already decided I would be white man and give roses to people around and to police.
And yes. “Gül Güçtür” is super poetic. It has a double meaning because also means “smile”.
And there was a joke in it… because you have a politician with this name…

By doing semah in the middle of this empty gaz Taksim.
And by resisting the water kanon…
My image went around on all the television news.
And. Yes. You see. İt works. Using ART in politics. And it works much better than violence and molotov’s, because all the people find it funny, charming, … And if they like my act, it is more easy that they like my ideas…

Interesting… the only critics came later on the internet by other activists. They blamed me to be “a tourist activist”. You take it easy. You go back to Belgium later. But we, Turkish people live with this situations every day.
I am sorry. I don’t want to be an imperialist activist.
So I was happy to come back for 1 year.
And also dance sema in Anti Nuclear meeting. In you Turkish “bir mayis”. And in anti-Köprü meeting…


Again. I don’t want to be imperialistic. But please allow me 1 advice.
Don’t make the same mistake as “the greens” in Europe…
They focussed only on “save the earth”.
But this is just normal for green.
It is much more interesting to focus on education and school-system.
Social security.
Good health care…

With this topics you can reach much more people.

With strict “nature” topics. You reach the hippies, the vegetarians and the greenpeace people.
But they are already convonced. They vote green anyway.

It is much more important to communicate with Mohamed and Fatima…
And… everybody is interested in a good education for the children and in a healthy city where children can play…


About polis ?
Let them do their jobs.
But their job is: to protect the citizens.
So also the activists must be protected.

5 years ago polis took me several times because i was making street-performans or streetmusic.
And of course they are in a strange way racistic… “Ow… you are Belgian tourist. Sorry”… But the gipsies stay in prison…

On the other hand.
After the gaz attack in IMF I walked back to the empty Taksim…
And there I found Molotov-cocktails…
So there are also very agressive activists.
Just stop this agression. And polis will change.
OK Also İ was beaten by civil polis. But all the people hated this polis man and they liked me.
So activism is more powerfull if you use art, or music, or dance.
Like Direnistanbuş… They were playing samba music. They were standing with 20 “clowns” in front of police.
Police can not beat a clown… this is ridiculous and nobody will like this police…

Because of visa problem I had to stay for 3 nights in Taksim police station this year. And this police men where very friendly and non violent.
Not only for me. Also for the gipsies, and the alcoholists, and the travestites…
So I think poice education is changing…
But the Yabancılar Police… where all the illegals and refugees are collected for deportation (i was there 1 night). They have no respect. They need education … English lessons … and social behaviour – training :)

I think more important is the army.
Organise the possibility to have alternative, social or cultural service.
You can serve your country in a much better way by social work than by stupid exercices in a stupid militaristic system.
Let’s just STOP the NATO. en start to shut down all the armies…

Yes… I am still dreaming…



You were shouting as “ya Allah ya Selam” on anti-imf meeting. What does it mean to you?

This is a song that sings about peace in 6 different languages.
There was so much violence that day.
So I started singing about peace.
Being against IMF means for me in the first place: being agains violence. Physical violence, social violence, economical violence…
In the first place I am a peace activist I think.


As an artist, you are critisizing the european capital of culture project. What do you think about İstanbul European capital of Culture ?

Actualy I like it.
Of course it is full of big business.
But it is super powerful to choose the cultural way to come more close to Europe.

And Yes. Things can be organised more democratic. And not every artist or project can have financial support. (I got no help at all for my “üsküdART 2010”, even not free fotokopies)
But do you really think Brussels Cultural Capital was different ? Nope. Exactly the same.

More important is for young people not to stay in passif criticism. No. Go on the streets. Paint the walls. Dance in the İstiklal.
Perform your ideas and creativity in empty buildings…

Istanbul needs more underground i think. More “avant-garde”.



You joined the remonstrance of 3th Bridge campaign ” 2 million people from Istanbul”  as a person who live in Istanbul. I was wondering your opinions about this campaign, and the bridge project.


Haha. For an ecologist this is very easy…
More bridges and more streets and beton… only will bring more cars…
The only way is: less cars.
This means: more public transport. Cheap public transport. And yes. Keep the petrol price high. No problem for me.
Maybe the busses, dolmuş and taxi’s can drive on gaz or electrcity in the future
Electricity coming from sun-energy. And wind – energy of course…
You have so much sun in your country.
Use it.

And you know. There are very easy solutions.
Everybody was against the law that wants no more sponsoring by alcohol companies for youth-events.
Why ?
Make this law more green:
No more reklam for sigarets. They are bad for healt…
No more reklam for alcohol. İt ia a hard drug…
And… no more reklam for cars… they kill people…



And there is an end exhibition in üsküdart? What is it about? Could you give some information..


After 1 year we close this project.
It was made with only my personal money and energy.
And this is completely finished after 1year.
But also it was my plan: 1year.
I like to put my energy in art. not in managing a building…

But many (mostly international) artists worked in the studio.

They left many paintings, installations and sculptures.
We will present a selection of this workd.

During the first months we had also children atelier every sunday.
We will also show work of the children.
And probably some musicians will play during the opening on 09/04

On saturday 16/04 we will finish the exhibition and the project with a party…
Bring your own drinks…
Bring your own MP3’s…
Bring your friends and dancing shoes…



The Program of the exhibition:

“Open Studio Closed”
Overview of all the works by our artists in residence during İstunbul 2010.


Visual artists:

Tuba Olgun (TR / Türkiye)
Nihal Koparan (TR / Türkiye)
Henrik Hedinge (SWE / İsveç)
Luk Sips (BE / Belçika)
Anne Weyler (DE / Almanya)
Martina Janssen (DE / Almanya)
Özgür Kulaksiz (TR / Türkiye)
Levent Duran (TR / Türkiye)
Jan Rijmenants (BE / Belçika)
Pisteffo (BE / Belçika)
Hakken Beuken & Christoffel Hendricks (BE)



Çağdaş Tanik (TR): piano / guitar
Levent Duran (TR): strings / vocals
Gökçe Kölüsüz (TR): drums / percussion
Utku Öğüt (TR): guitar / violin / vocals
Luk Sips (BE): harmonica / bagpipes


Opening: Saturday 09/04/2011 : Cocktail at: 18.00

End: Saturday 16/04/2011 : PARTY at: 20.00


After 1 year open arts studio in Üsküdar, during the İstanbul 2010, European Capital of Culture,

We close the project.

Many international artists, dansers, painters, musicians, actors, writers,… found their way to “üsküdART 2010” and worked together.
Now the space is empty again… but…
full of traces of this artistic energy…
We organise a last “soup & show” to bring all the friends and volunteers together again.
And for those people that could not find the time to visit yet
“The İstanbul Underground Space of 2010” :
Take your last chance !

Welcome / Hoşgeldiniz

Click for the exhibitions facebook link.

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