Art worker, visual anthropologist, writer & editor in Berlin

The Humboldt Forum in Berlin is one of the most controversial museum projects of recent times. Cihan Küçük, lately graduated from the M.A. Visual and Media Anthropology, has been researching the decolonization of cultural institutions in his master's thesis. Here he talks about his studies as well as his creative projects in the colorful art and culture scene of Berlin.

Recently, you graduated from the master's program Visual and Media Anthropology at Media University Berlin. Congratulations! What are you doing now?

As I studied under conditions of the pandemic, currently I am enjoying post-pandemic life. I started working for an exhibition project called Owned by Others while I was studying. Right now, we are working on the catalog of the exhibition. I am also continuing to research my thesis topic: decolonization of the art institutions. Recently, I wrote an article about the challenge of decolonization of the museums for the University of Illinois Chicago's Fwd: Museum Journal and it will be published this year.

What was the topic of your master’s thesis? Could you please tell us a bit about how you discovered your research topic? What was your greatest learning from this research experience?

My thesis topic was “A palace and protest in Berlin for the whole world: The Coalition of Cultural Workers Against the Humboldt Forum”. I am an art worker, who has been working in the field of museology for a very long time. I am also writer and editor at e-Skop, a Turkish critical art theory and politics website. I am responsible for the section we call museum politics. I have been following protest movements related to museums for the last ten years. Art washing, art workers' rights and decolonization are some of the topics that I am highly interested in.

When I moved to Berlin in 2020, the protests against the Humboldt Forum had already started. I decided to stick with this topic as I have been working on it for years and it is related to my professional field. During my research, I followed the protest group The Coalition of Cultural Workers Against the Humboldt Forum. I realized that the problem of decolonization is much deeper and more problematic than I thought. I focused on decolonization in the beginning but later, with the guidance of my thesis supervisor Dr. Mark Curran, I discovered the social and economic layers of the colonial past of Germany.


Why did you decide to study M.A. Visual and Media Anthropology?

I was working for a contemporary art museum called Arter in Istanbul while I applied for this program. We were in between moving to a new museum building. For the first semester, studying online was the most suitable plan for myself. Also, as I was responsible for production, I was always into filmmaking. Social sciences were always one of my interests. I have been writing for years and the idea of telling a story with filming was tempting.

Did you get any further work experiences during or prior to your master studies that you would like to share with us?

Before I decided to go on with my education, I was making exhibitions for museums. During my research, I had a chance to visit an exhibition by Owned by Others. It was mainly about the function of the Museum Island in Berlin. For the second version of the exhibition/intervention, I had a chance to work with them. It was a quite interesting experience for me. I have been to Berlin many times before I moved here. I have visited the Museum Island as a tourist several times. But now, my perception of the island itself changed after I was involved in this exhibition. I also had a chance to work with Raul Walch and Lutz Henke, the creators of this project. It was a good opportunity for me to get to know the art scene of Berlin.



In your opinion, from which experiences/courses/projects during your studies did you benefit the most in your professional life?

There are several courses that I benefited from. Methodic classes such as “Ethnographic Methods” taught me how to do proper ethnographic research. I really enjoyed “Digital Anthropology”, “Space and Place” and “Artistic Practice in Transcultural Context” too. I decided to leave my career and go on with my education to take time for myself. I tried to get as much as possible from every class. As my thesis topic was about decolonization, I benefited a lot from the “Decolonized: Images, Race and Representation” class.

I describe myself as an art worker. Part of my job is to realize artworks and exhibitions. Besides that, I keep going producing my own works too. I have been taking analog photographs for years, it is one of my passions. I do screenprints, postcards and zines. I tried to use my knowledge and production skills to do the assignments for the classes. For “Digital Anthropology”, I did a screencast movie project called: “Are you a bot? A political Voight-Kampff test”. I made two zines as assignments. For “Artistic Practice in Transcultural Context” a zine called “Wuseuw” and for “Space and Place” one called “Graffiti Flâneur”.

What did you like the most about your studies/the study program in general?

Working with Dr. Mark Curran as my thesis supervisor was quite an experience for me. I had already known his works before I applied to this program. His guidance was exceptional. Writing/filming a thesis project is quite stressful as I experienced before. But working with him, it was more about discovering different layers. I really enjoyed the whole process of finishing a master’s thesis even under the conditions of the pandemic.

I have to mention my classmates too. It is always very interesting and informative to share your experience and talk about your research topic with others.



What’s your advice for (prospective) students who are thinking about studying the program Visual and Media Anthropology?

For me, doing a master’s degree is all about taking time for yourself. I didn’t have an anthropology background. Now it is part of my life. I still go on reading about it, thinking in the way of an anthropologist. If you don’t have an anthropology background like me, I highly advise them to dig into it. Also, deciding what to do as a thesis project at the earliest possible stage would be very helpful. While we were deciding on our thesis subjects, we had a chance to discuss our ideas with our classmates. That was very helpful too.


What are your plans for the future?

I will keep working in the art field. I want to focus more on my projects and productions. Berlin’s art scene has lots of opportunities to realize a project. I also believe in the idea of lifelong learning. I might go on my education with a PhD after a couple of years.

Thank you very much for sharing your experiences and projects with us. We wish you all the best for the future!