Deniz Tortum

Deniz Tortum is an artist working in film, video and new media. He is a graduate of MIT Comparative Media Studies and the Open Documentary Lab. Tortum grew up in Istanbul and came to MIT after studying film at Bard College. As an undergraduate, he was interested in international art house cinema and avant-garde films that were in close dialogue with the video art world. At Bard, he made experimental films and one independent fiction feature film, Zayiat, which was selected for SXSW and !f Istanbul Film Festivals. Curator Ulya Soley says of his single channel video, Corridor of Memories Walkthrough, this anti-game “stands at the intersection of game and video art, which enables a sort of slacktivism, inviting the audience to watch but not to participate.”

Tortum’s most recent film If Only There Were Peace (co-dir Carmine Grimaldi) premiered in 2017 at True/False Film Festival. He is currently a fellow at Harvard Film Study Center where he is working on a film about a hospital in Istanbul. He also is a Creative Advisor for the CMS course Hacking VR at MIT. Current research interests include virtual reality, machine vision aesthetics and decentralized computing.

Tortum’s work interrogates how technologies of vision—from linear perspective to virtual reality—shape the way we make sense of the world.

Deniz Tortum received a grant from the Council for the Arts at MIT in support of a VR documentary about the Istanbul Pogrom called September 1955 which was presented in the Keller Gallery at MIT. Tortum worked with co-creators Cagri Hakan Zaman (PhD Student, Design and Computation Group, Department of Architecture) and Nil Tuzcu (Research Fellow, Department of Urban Studies and Planning).

During the Istanbul Pogrom in 1955, over two days many shops and houses of the non-Muslim minorities in Istanbul—Greeks, Armenians, etc—were destroyed by mobs. The virtual reality piece is a reenactment of the riots, giving viewers the perspective of a local shop owner. September 1955 draws on the photographic archive of Maryam Sahinyan (1911–1996) and Osep Minasoglu (1929–2013), Armenian photographers who lived in Istanbul at the time of the attack.

Filmmaker Magazine: True/False 2017 Critic’s Notebook 1: Resistance and Futility

Daily Sabah: Virtual Reality takes center stage at Istanbul’s Independent Film Festival

Buzzfeed: Perception And Embodiment In A VR Documentary

Huffington Post: Uncertainty in Post-Coup Turkey Is Refueling Istanbul’s Art Scene

September 55 VR piece, installation view, Istanbul, 2016. Photo: Courtesy of Deniz Tortum.