He studied management in Istanbul Technical University and State University of New York at New Paltz. Before he decided to move to New York 4 years ago, worked as a columnist in Milliyet and Radikal, editor in GQ Turkey and Hurriyet, but it was the reporter position in Tempo his first job in journalism. After couple of new media classes in NYU, he launched a content agency; Fingertips Digital. We had a conversation with Ali Tufan Koç who is quite busy with his book –Kimse Olmez Bu Sehirde, publicity, arranging workshops about living in a metropol and working on a gastronomy magazine ‘Sumac’.
How do you describe the New York subway? What would be the feeling when you take it for the very first time?
Ali Tufan Koç: It’s like an alternative ‘Sliding Doors’ movie in every moment! A group of 30-40 people would be your travel buddies for 10-20 mins, and these walker-ons keep changing every couple of seconds. Despite of all the ‘performance’ in restaurants, meetings, right behind our family and friends, there is no acting here it is just a human being on the subway. As you forget the crowd surround you, you just dive into your feelings, book, cellphone and you let your guard down. That is the best moment to observe the most natural gestures and weaknesses. NY subway is like a miniaturised version of the World. The way that each person effects from dreams, passion and energy of surrounders is dazzling! It is enough to take a trip in the NY subway at any hour to dream, collect ideas, explore the World and make love to people.
How many hours do you spend on subway?
Ali Tufan Koç: Approximately 1.5 hours in a day. It is the place that you recall each person is the same, either it’s homeless, grumpy, ignoble, dull, this or that… As it reminds you mortality, ordinariness and you are just one of the 7 million people, it also pops your safety baloon with a niddle. The way you find yourself in a “questioning the reality” kind of ridiculuos conversations, faces you with the rawest version of life. It is not neccesary to understand life from books, tv shows or internet, you just need to raise your head on the subway.
What was the motivation behind writing a book about subway?
Ali Tufan Koç:
The way that I feel when I am on the subway, it is so intense… So, I couldn’t take it anymore and I started to write about them. I was half way there when I realized that I was working on this book. There was imagination and the reality of examination of modern human itself and its inner voices recklessly. And then it fell in places naturally.
In your own words, you wrote this book to give courage to the ones who has deadlock. Did you ever had a ‘life deadlock’? what would you say about it?
Ali Tufan Koç: All the time! I convince myself by thinking that it is not my life in deadlock, it is thoughts, my vision. As the life continues, all you have to do is to let it go. Of course it is easy to say… Sometimes it catch us off guard or we think that way just to not deal with it. I did insist on not to face with my jealousy, hostility and hatred, but it makes more of you when you accept and embrase it. As Ego considered the rage as a tour de force, it became the biggest obstacle. However, the ones who are flexible and soft enough survived in all conditions. Nature shows us, we need to be more obdient to stay as a whole. A Chinese belief reminds that, it is more important to be wise and flexible like a willow tree, instead of being as stubborn to try to carry all the snow in a storm and in the end lost a branch as pine-trees. As the life is like an eternal flow, not changing is like a backfire to the universe. So, there should always a chance for evolution… But, it is important to keep the balance in life, giving meaning to it and wiping out the deadlocks.
Your moving into NY decision was a bit sudden. Could you speak about why you decided to change your life while you were a publicist in Turkey? What are your recommendations to the others like you?
Ali Tufan Koç:
I could share my experiences instead of giving advices, cause each person has different stories and struggling with different troubles… As I realized that the effort of being stucked into a title, seat or institution just for comfort is a dementor, then this change had come… I believe, the attempt of fitting into the form of a job or a title brings the uniformity and alienate a person from itself. I created a more ‘me’ version of journalism inside my head instead of trying to be a journalist or a writer… Of course its qualifications are open to discussion. I am much more of a person who prefer to feel ‘whole’ by producing in its way, not a person who do more popular jobs but feel quite half… This is the same for ateliers, speeches, book, magazine each and every work that I do, at least for now! As I wanted to produce my wishes in my way, I had to read and learn more, work harder with all rises and falls, so I changed my direction.
You are arranging workshops about living in a metropol and modern lives when you are in Turkey. What are your observations about the needs, expectations and doubts of today’s human beings?
Ali Tufan Koç: One of my workshops in The School of Life is all about ‘making life fun despite everything’. I figured that out, the way that we think on living, get worried and complaining makes us forget living! The instinct of being ready for the next thing pushed us to it, but nevermind live your life! It is inevitable to bump into the tree in front of you, while you keep staring at the window mirror, so let them hit your back! Believe it or not, the things that you scared of are not harmful they are even useful. And the worst concerns are about ‘not realizing yourself’… How can you be so sure about tomorrow? The thing that you scared to hell may never be happen? Let’s assume that you get hurt… It’s just a scarve, it will cure itself in time and you will only have its mark. I consider them as experiences! “There is no such thing as good or bad, thought make them to.” Says Shakespeare. As life continues, it’s not technically possible to be sure about if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that happened to us. I’m the kind of person who sees good in everything, but it’s up to you. There is this Polyanna line you need to be aware. A realist optimism is good, nice and harmless… It is important to embrace this in a quite realistic way. Realist optimism is also a thing that welcomes negative situations, ideas and feelings and overcomes them by defining what could be done. This is what my workshops all about.
We heard about that you are working on a magazine about gastronomy. What will be the content?
Ali Tufan Koç: ‘Sumac’… It’s been a year since we started and the first issue will be out this season. Asia Kate Dillon from ‘Billions’ is on the cover, she is an activist also known as ‘non-binary gender’. It’s not the kind of gastronomy magazine that you know, it is actually based on stories, memories, interviews. This magazine, aims to strenghten the dialogue between groups, identities, ideas and cultures by using food as a tool. The way that new order ghettoises us, we have zero tolerances to outsiders. Sumac is a product of me thinking ‘What can I do, by using my know-how, interests and sources?