Construction policies in an era of building and demolishing

by Nora Tataryan
Photos by Sahir Uğur Eren

The factory was closed for years and then some weeks ago they also demolished it. I came to visit my uncle last year and noticed that they hadn’t pruned the trees. When I asked, Behçet told me that they didn’t want the factory to be seen so much. It was to cover the demolition I guess, to stop the dust, I don’t know. It was a strange building. Like you could see its ribs. Well they demolish everything nowadays. Maybe they will do a hotel like the Titanic. My aunt’s son got married there, it was a really nice wedding.

These lines belong to Cem, one of the characters from Ali Taptık’s project which he produced specially for the Istanbul Biennial, called Friends and Strangers. The project, in which we witness stories and urban experiences of three fictional characters with different occupations, comprises a combination of photographs which are exhibited at the Galata Greek Primary School and the stories which are presented on its website. Friends and Strangers not only tell us about Istanbul through the perspectives of three different people, but also records the rapidly changing face of the city due to construction.

The 15th Istanbul Biennial harbours other works which centre around demolish-and-build policies and urban living, aside from that of Ali Taptık. Among these, Alper Aydın’s work called D8M, which is exhibited at the Istanbul Modern, is the one which handles the subject most directly. For this installation, a bulldozer bucket, one like we are used to seeing inside of the city, was placed inside the museum. The installation, which is named after this piece, shows the yellow bulldozer bucket dragging actual trees that have been cut down on account of the airport being constructed north of Istanbul. With this work, Aydın not only problematizes the effects human actions have on nature, a subject he treated in his earlier works as well, he also refers to a current visual exhaustion.

In her installation called All the way up to the Heavens and down to the depths of Hell, named for a Latin phrase which indicates that relations of property continue beyond the existing world, Lydia Ourahmane, who was born in Algeria, tackles issues such as private property, industrialization and colonialism. The work is based on a plot of land purchased in Arzew, a small port city that has become uninhabitable due to surrounding heavy industry and toxic emissions. A 4 x 4 metre platform surrounded by pillars, same as that plot of land, was built inside the Istanbul Modern. This platform, on which there is a small pond of dirty water, referencing waste, not only visually represents the irregularities in the real estate market, environmental pollution and the magnitude of the harm humans can cause to nature in Algeria, but also supports this representation aurally by means of the tune a trumpeter occasionally plays by getting on the platform.

Fluctuating borders in search of an alternative history

by Nora Tataryan

Brazilian artist Victor Leguy is participating in this year’s Istanbul Biennial with his work called Structures for Invisible Borders. While the installation, which is being exhibited at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, might seem like it’s all about a number of personal objects hung next to each other and half painted in white, its conceptual framework and references are much broader. For this installation, Leguy, who has been approaching issues such as forced migration and displacement within the context of São Paulo through a creation of alternative history in his art practice for a long time, focused on a library/coffee shop called ‘The Pages’ in the Fener neighbourhood of Istanbul. As he spent more time in this café where young people who had to immigrate to Turkey from different countries -especially Syria- socialize, the artist found the opportunity to listen to their stories and develop relations with them. The objects which are exhibited at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art are compiled of certain belongings which Leguy obtained from the migrants he had met by means of exchange. The artist explains this collective work, which can also be interpreted as a critique of official history narrative:

My first goal was to think about the connection, about the idea of how these micro-histories could build the macro-histories though common practices. How we could re-read the history and how we could understand our inner-selves within a bigger compass? In that sense I tried to create different flows of history, open my work to collaboration and be more active, but not reactive. Nowadays it became much more difficult to be self-reflexive since there are so many things going on in the outer world. So my work involves this primitive idea of exchange of objects after which we can actually begin to talk, through a simple connection. There are many people from different origins involved in this project: Indians, South Americans and different people from different part of the globe. For me, it has a symbolic layer as well since I wanted to reflect upon the ways in which we embrace this practice and add another layer to the practice of art including different histories within. I think it is a fertile ground to grow these ideas.

This work it is part of a series I have started 3 years ago with the idea to deconstruct a textbook that tells immigrant stories in Brazil. I wanted to work on this book because this is how children learn about immigration. I thought on the following question ‘how you can one tell/convey this experience to the other?’ As a result,  starting an exchange of the objects with them, I wanted to tell that the history I am trying to build is their history. My project in the Biennial has a similar logic.

About the objects being half painted in white, Leguy says:

I was trying to create different narratives in the same space, which is a museum. The idea was to create a line with all the exchanged objects and then erase them. We have the horizon line which is something symbolic. The colour white erases, but it could also create a place that you could project something into. This idea of a white cube in which you could always create a new work was also an inspiration. It looks like the objects are cut. But when you come closer you see that the objects are still there.
 

Opti and Pesi: A Neighbourly Song, a children’s book by the 15th Istanbul Biennial takes young audiences on a Biennial journey after two seaguls

A children’s book was published within the scope of the 15th Istanbul Biennial with support by Bernard Leer Foundation. Featuring narratives by author Yekta Kopan and drawings by Gökçe Akgül, Opti and Pesi: A Neighbourly Song is prepared to get young audiences aquainted with contemporary art in enjoyable ways with striking drawings, your-turn sections and rich content.

The story develops around two seaguls, Opti and Pesi, embarking on a journey to the venues of the 15th Istanbul Biennial and introducing seven works that children may relate to. Offering insight into the theme of this year’s Istanbul Biennial, a good neighbour, by playful excercises, the book also has a glossary of contemporary art concepts.

Distributed with no fee at the Biennial venues and selected book shops, the book that was published in Turkish in its first edition will soon become available in English to be shared with arts institutions around the world to pose as an example to develop new tools to engage more with younger audiences.

A new project with the collaboration of the 15th Istanbul Biennial, Liverpool Biennial and Protocinema

A special offsite project was created by the artist Burak Kabadayı under the Education Exchange Programme between the Istanbul Biennial and the Liverpool Biennial. Influenced by the conceptual frameworks of the 15th Istanbul Biennial: a good neighbour and Liverpool Biennial 2018: Beautiful world, where are you?, the project called From the Beginning has been developed in collaboration with Protocinema.

Influenced by the conceptual frameworks of the 15th Istanbul Biennial and Liverpool Biennial 2018, From the Beginning has been carried out in 6 different neighbourhoods of Istanbul, with 48 children aged 4-14. Sound, video and an intricate map of networks form an entity that relates to the broader notion of the biennial titles; a good neighbour and Beautiful world, where are you?

In the project, children were invited to select and interpret a verse from their favourite song. Their interpretations were recorded and combined, then transformed into a single track. A video, streaming in sync with the audio, was edited to make each of the verses visible. Places, children, songs and sentences that display the process and the conceptual motivation of the project have also been mapped on Graph Commons to show their relation to one another.

The choices children make between the songs depend on many factors, such as personality traits, age, family, environmental relations, regional origin and place of residence. The children’s preferences point to relationships and ideas of social/cultural interaction, building a certain space, an environment, and a sense of belonging.

From the Beginning takes this environment and belongings in an individual and spatial sense through the concepts of proximity – distance and similarity – difference, creating a zone in which to rethink.

Artist Burak Kabadayı was born 1989 in Kırşehir. He lives and works mostly in Istanbul, where he pursues his graduate studies at Marmara University. He has participated in exhibitions at various art spaces in Istanbul including Alt Art Space, DEPO, Mixer and Pasaj-ist.

Ali Uygur Erol collaborated in editing the sound and technical aspect of the project.

Burak Kabadayı would like to thank Pasaj in Tarlabaşı and TAK in Yeldeğirmeni for their support.

The recording compilation of the project will be broadcasted on Açık Radyo, a local radio channel in Turkey on Wednesday November 1, 2017 at 18:00 İstanbul local time. Please tune in by clicking here to listen.

Map of networks may be accessed here.

The documented work and sound mappings will also be showcased through the Liverpool Biennial’s website and social media platforms at the end of 2017.

For more information about the Liverpool Biennial, please click here.
For more information about Protocinema, please click here.

Flâneuses exhibition is coming to an end on 3 November with a performance by Yasemin Özcan

For the exhibition Flâneuses, Yasemin Özcan produced the artist book titled Marmalade Skies featuring short stories that invite the reader to think about the presence of women in public space via different histories, geographies and characters. At the artist’s lecture performance titled The Heart of the Flâneuse, which draws strength from this book with a wink to the memory of İstiklal Street and Marais, we will hear the heartbeats of flâneuses who contribute to sway under marmalade skies.

Yasemin Özcan’s book Marmalade Skies is available online in Turkish, English and French. Please click here to read or download.

The Heart of the Flâneuse
Lecture-performance
Yasemin Özcan
3 November Friday, 19.00

English and French surtitles are available.

Please kindly fill out the online form in order to confirm your attendance by clicking here. Official documentation of identification is required for entrance as legislated by the Consulate General of France.

The Flâneuses exhibition hosts the artists Aslı Çavuşoğlu, İnci Furni, Güneş Terkol, Yasemin Özcan, and İz Öztat & Zişan, who have worked at the Turkey Workshop in the Cité des Arts over different periods, with works all based on “flânerie”. Please click here for further information about the exhibition.

‘Can a biennial be feminist?’: The fourth floor of the Pera Museum and our dreams hidden in curtain patterns

by Nora Tataryan

At the press conference of the 15th Istanbul Biennial, Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset answered the question; ‘Have you taken into account male-female equality while choosing the artists?’ by saying they did indeed pay attention to equality in terms of number but more than that, they made a point of building the Biennial with a feminist approach. Today, when we consider the ratio of female artists to male artists in both mixed and solo exhibitions, we are faced with the harsh reality that female artists are not given as much space.1 2 The first change to be desired in such unequal circumstances is, without a doubt, for women to be granted more opportunities.

Considering the fact that twenty three out of fifty five artists are women, this year’s Istanbul Biennial gives a good account of itself but when we argue about the matter taking into consideration numbers and the binary sexual system, a number of important questions fall prey to statistics: Is the numeral multitude of women enough to make an exhibition feminist? Are female artists completely exempt from using a masculine language? Where do non-cisgender artists fall under according to these statistics?     

When we reach the fourth floor of the Pera Museum with these questions in mind, we see that the venue is completely reserved for women artists, except for Vajiko Chachkhiani. The floor, vibrant with female energy, from Bourgeois to Aude Pariset through Andra Ursuta to Liliana Maresca, is a space where the feminist approach the curators talked about crystalises. Most of the works on this floor are based on personal experiences of the artists and focus on the notion of private space. This choice indicates that, rather than a conceptual feeling of being stuck, we need to start discussing the origins of patriarchy from our private lives, bearing in mind what has become the moral of second-wave feminism: What’s private is political.

 

Louise Bourgeois, Femme Maison, 1984 (1990)

 

Louise Bourgeois’ Femme Maison (Housewife)3, is one of the most significant examples of this choice. In the painting, we see a naked woman figure who carries a house on her shoulders where her head should be. This iconic piece, in which the tension between inside-outside and private-public spaces is portrayed, emphasises both the fact that women’s labour becomes invisible inside the house and the possibility of a potential union that might result from this fact. Right across Bourgeois, we see Monica Bonvicini’s Hausfrau Swinging (Housewife Swinging). In this 1997 video installation, which is a direct reference to Bourgeois’ painting, we watch as a woman bangs her head covered with a white model house against white walls. Right behind the TV where this video is consecutively replayed, there is a cornered wall similar to the surface in the video against which the woman bangs her head. Housewife Swinging, where the suppressed female body and rage are depicted, indicates a limiting and undesired privacy, rather than a serene and pleasant home.

 

Monica Bonvicini, Housewife Swinging, 1997
Photo by Sahir Uğur Eren

 

In her sculpture Spreken (To Speak), Berlinde de Bruyckere shrinks the limits of the notion ‘home’ altogether to reinterpret the blanket covering two people conversing in secret as the line between private and public space. These figures prompt us to reflect upon notions such as communication, disguise and closeness under a disappearing privacy.

 

Berlinde De Bruyckere, Spreken, 1999
Photo by Sahir Uğur Eren

 

The room on the right of the main venue is reserved completely for Gözde İlkin. The artist used patterns that seem familiar to most of us as canvases and embroidered them with compositions inspired from her family photographs. İlkin’s pieces, which carry names such as Inverted Home, Adjacent Territory and Bonds of Love, The Deficient Joint Gap, not only transfer the patterns of curtains and bed sheets we all used to look at and dream away as children to bearers of collective memory, but also emphasise the dream-like reality of private space.

 

Gözde İlkin, At-Home Day, from the series Please Clear the Dance Floor!, 2009
Photo by Sahir Uğur Eren

 

When we revisit the issue of feminist art or a biennial built with a feminist perspective, we arrive at the possibility to talk about forming a new language around the matter. And for this very reason, Elmgreen and Dragset’s claim that they built the Biennial with a feminist approach – regardless of whether they have succeeded or not – is invaluable considering the ground for argument it helped create.

The works at the Pera Museum can be visited until 12 November.

 

1 Arzu Yayıntaş shared the comprehensive research she did regarding this subject during the speech entitled ‘Why Do We Need a Feminist Biennial?’ she delivered at Aksanat on 19 October.

2 During the exhibition called Is It Even Worse In Europe? which took place at the Gaia Gallery last summer, Guerrilla Girls showed that the statistics in Europe are also underwhelming.

3 The piece exhibited at the 15th Istanbul Biennial is a single painting chosen from the series Femme Maison.

Underground life in Beijing and Sim Chi Yin’s Rat Tribe

by Nora Tataryan

The underground shelters built by Mao Zedong as protection against Soviet air strikes are now home to Beijing’s migrant workers who work in the service industry. Today, more than one million residents of the city live in these windowless rooms, which are literally ‘underground’. Sim Chi Yin, who participates in the 15th Istanbul Biennial with her series of photographs called Rat Tribe, documents this underground life through portraits as part of a project she has developed in five years, starting from 2010. Looking at the artistic production of the artist – who works more like an anthropologist – we witness an asymmetrical relationship the photographer built with her protagonist, rather than an agitated representation of migrants. We talked with Sim Chi Yin about Rat Tribe and her practice in photography.

Could you tell us about how you got involved with the Biennial?

Some time last year, I got an e-mail from Ingar and Michael’s studio telling me the curators wanted to include my Rat Tribe project in the Biennial. I’m not sure how they came across my work so it was a very pleasant surprise. I’d started researching and documenting the Rat Tribe from 2010 to 2015 and so when they called, the work had already been published in magazines, websites in many countries, and had been in a couple of exhibitions in New York and Seoul for instance. 

The Rat Tribe photo project is about low-wage migrant workers in China living underground in the city’s former air-raid shelter. From your photographs I assume it has an ethnographic component since you photographed the migrants in their private spaces. Could you tell us about the process and the project itself?

Yes, I often work like an ethnographer or anthropologist – with a camera. I was trained as a historian at the London School of Economics and then went into journalism for 15 years, so I’ve carried all those skills and background into my work as a documentarian artist now. I’ve had a long term interest in migration and labour. I was a labour reporter in Singapore earlier in my career and I’d written a book on Indonesian women who leave their villages to work as domestic helpers overseas, published in 2011 by the International Labour Organisation. When I moved to China in 2007, I was also always interested to pick up on the theme of migration and migrant workers. 

When I went freelance and into full-time visual story-telling in 2010, the Rat Tribe – which is also a portrait of migrant workers in China – was one of the first projects I did. I’d heard about basement rooms from some years earlier, and then in 2010, a local Beijing newspaper labeled the migrants who live in the basements ’the rat tribe’, or ‘shu zu’ in Chinese. I felt it was an unfair label and decided to start documenting the community that lives in this universe beneath Beijing’s skyscrapers. I started to befriend all the migrants I could and invited myself to their basement homes. And I also started just going to basements to knock on doors, explaining that I’m a photographer and I wanted to make their portraits – in order to show how normal they are, and how they look no different from their wealthier neighbours who live upstairs. I went in with a pitying attitude – these people have no sunlight or good air – but the more people I made portraits of, the more I felt inspired by their tenacity and spunky can-do spirit: to make a short-term sacrifice for a better future.

As far as I know you also have a film as the part of this project. Could you tell us a little bit about your larger art practice?

I have become more multidisciplinary with time, as I like to explore just the best ways to tell each specific story, do each project. My main medium is photography, but I also do a little film, sound and I write text and work with archival material too in subsequent projects. I am now also experimenting with making a VR piece. This Rat Tribe piece is mostly done in stills, film and text. So yes, there is a little filming part.
 
What does it mean to you to exhibit your work in this city in this specific time period when lots of migrants in Turkey are faced with very similar problems like the ones in Beijing and all over the world? 

I hope people who have seen the work in the context of the other pieces in that gallery in the Biennial take it all in as a whole. I hope people find / have found resonance with the situation of their own societies, Turkey included. Migration has been with us for a long time, but the nation state and its structures have made it a critical issue in our time. The Rat Tribe might remind us that there are people in our midst that we don’t see, or have made invisible, but once we see them for who they are, the distance between us and them is actually rather small.

Our most intimate restlessness and the uncanny houses at the Istanbul Biennial

by Nora Tataryan

The German word Das Unheimliche (Uncanny), which means ‘not a house’ or ‘not clandestine’, was used by Freud to describe things or situations which seem familiar but are not, in fact, very much so. Instead of referring to an absolute distance or a state of foreignness, this notion, which is related to the feeling of intimacy, indicates the strangeness and uncanniness of the familiar. In other words; what makes something uncanny isn’t necessarily our fear of it, or the fact that we haven’t seen it before. On the contrary, it becomes fearful because that which belongs to us shows us a side of it we are not familiar with.
 
Most of the works exhibited at the Istanbul Biennial, which is organised this year around the title of a good neighbour, revolve around an idea of uncanniness to destroy the structures or the concepts of ‘home’ and ‘closeness’. From Volkan Aslan’s video Home Sweet Home to Gözde İlkin’s curtain pattern, which we all dreamt away to as children, through the upside down studio apartment of Young-Jun Tak to the museum which Mahmoud Khaled designed for the Crying Man, we get to witness how the privacy of our homes might not always be safe and warm but can easily be mysterious. While the notion of ‘home’ keeps unfolding in our globalizing world and particularly in Turkey due to its political atmosphere, most of the works in the Biennial manage to name even our most personal restlessness by taking an insider’s approach to the idea of ‘neighbourhood’.

 

Volkan Aslan, Home Sweet Home, 2017
Photo by Sahir Uğur Eren

 

Leander Schönweger’s labyrinth-shaped construction installed in the terrace of the Galata Greek Primary School is one of the most apparent examples of this unfolding. In this work, the artist invites us to a dream-like experience, consecutive white rooms and their varying dimensions that turn the voluntary game into an uncomfortable experience. While our journey becomes increasingly fearful with the voices coming from inside the walls, we lose control of the route and experience the emotional equivalents of this architectural arrangement.

 

Leander Schönweger, Our Family Lost, 2017
Photo by Sahir Uğur Eren

 

Pedro Gómez-Egaña’s glorious portrayal of home, which is exhibited on the ground floor of the Galata Greek Primary School, installed onto metal constructions, tells a similar unfolding through the ability to fragment and diffuse. Thanks to the installation and the performance the artist calls Domain of Things, we witness the machine-like mobility and transformability of original domestic venues. By virtue of the performance artists, the house transforms into an autonomous space of pleasure instead of the sum of furniture we see on the surface.

 

Pedro Goméz-Egaña, Domain of Things, 2017
Photo by Sahir Uğur Eren

 

The work of the collective Yoğunluk, called The House, for which they transformed their house-turned-atelier in Asmalimescit district into an installation, is another work where the feeling of uncanniness in question materializes. The experience starts when we walk into a pitch-dark room. Sticky furniture and various objects placed inside the room become visible for a few seconds owing to visual and audio interventions. With this piece, which makes it harder for us to experience wholly the room, we are left with the feeling the venue gives us.

Another artist who tackles the notion of ‘home’ in the Biennial is Kaari Upson. In the series which she built as the sequel of her previous work, The Larry Project, Upson takes the objects we are used to seeing at home out of context and rearranges them in such a way that allows them to express their own memories. These wavering objects, which belong neither to our fantasies nor to the real world, allow us to visually experience how our memories work.

With her sculpture called Spreken, Berlinde De Bruyckere minimizes the limits of the notion of ‘home’ to the point where she reinterprets a blanket with which two people cover themselves over as the line between private and public. The figures of two people talking to each other underneath the fabric that covers them prompts us to think about concepts such as understanding each other, disguise and closeness.

 

Berlinde De Bruyckere, Spreken, 1999
Photo by Sahir Uğur Eren

 

The 15th Istanbul Biennial and its containing homes can be visited until 12 November.

The Silence and Eloquence of Objects: a ‘one-room’ hung on the ceiling of Istanbul Modern

by Nora Tataryan

For the 15th Istanbul Biennial, Young-Jun Tak hung a replica of his former one-room Seoul apartment upside-down on the ceiling of Istanbul Modern and created the piece called The Silence and Eloquence of Objects. Most of the furniture which used to occupy the artist’s one-room in South Korea was specially brought from Seoul and installed on the ceiling of the museum after having been painted white. With this work, Young-Jun Tak, who critiques political and social events through personal experiences, hints at the global economic crisis which he was born into and the fluidity of the concept ‘home’. We talked with Young-Jun Tak about his work and general art practice. 

Could you describe how you got involved with the Biennial and how your project has been evolved?

I took part in a group exhibition, The Others, at König Galerie in Berlin, which was also curated by Elmgreen & Dragset. Afterwards, I received an invitation to the Biennial from them again.

I have never really liked places where I lived in South Korea. Particularly, the scrappy small ones that I’ve rented for myself in its capital city, Seoul, were nothing but private warehouses for clothes and books, five-minute breakfast stations and sleeping spaces. But, somehow, thanks to the poor housing conditions, I might have been able to reach out to their outer surroundings more often, and those experiences such as visiting art exhibitions and openings have structured the current me. As I recently relocated my whole life in Berlin, I decided to convert one of them into an artwork as a homage to dislike of my previous apartments in Seoul.

The Silence and Eloquence of Objects is an installation inspired by your flat in South Korea and it explores domesticity, being confined in a private space, mobility etc. Could you describe your work, the feeling behind it and the ways in which it speaks with the title of the Biennial, a good neighbour?

This new project is a full representation of the 24 square meters of my second flat in Seoul. Most of the furniture and items in the piece are mine. The work’s size and objects’ arrangement are also measured up to the actual flat. Few exceptions are belongings to the flat, so, in order to substitute them, I found the most similar furniture to ones that I used. It might be quite big as an artwork, but perhaps not so grand as a living place. In Seoul, where living-cost and rent fee are rocketing high in comparison to low income, lots of young people live in such a tiny room-like apartment, called “one-room”. There’s no division between a bedroom, kitchen, living room, and sometimes landlords even separate one big room into two small ones by installing an awkward wall. If you’re unlucky, your landlords might increase the rent fee every single contract year according to the city’s non-stoping gentrification. I didn’t have any pleasant feeling to my places and simply didn’t care about interior design or cosy ambience. As a result, my area started being complied with cheap, easy-to-carry furnishings. Not only in Seoul, but also in many crowded cities in the world, people – especially young generation – would live up with such housing issues. My generation welcomed our 20’s with global economic crisis and was overwhelmed by depression and frustration upon the shadowy present and future. And, now, never-ending political turbulences in many places in the world are damaging lots of precious values that we’ve agreed upon and preserved. My youth has been very grateful just to stability, not even to progress. Of course, for us, home ownership is an unreachable life goal unlike former generations.

Perhaps, that’s why the whole one-room is hung from the ceiling upside down like as our reality and given circumstances. My life is not grounded in it anymore. Even when I lived in the very space for two years, I denied to identify any aspect of it with myself and rather thought about what comes next. For some people, the notion of ‘home’ can be still something settled and stable, but what I’ve experienced so far regarding that concept is more close to fluidity. Also, as a young gay man who lived in a sexually conservative society, I have preferred this kind of metropolis-oriented urban life to involve myself in bigger gay communities, and flexibility and adaptation have become priority in my ways of living.

In my work, all object surfaces are structured with white acrylic paste and then painted in white acrylic. While I was painting the entire surface in white in this white cube of Istanbul Modern, it was like erasing the whole form. However, as you can see the painterly structured surface all over the work, I gave it very expressive skin, and its existence is created and emphasised by every single brush stroke. It corresponds to how home affects your identities. No matter if you hate your unattractive place or not, and if you try to eliminate any evidence of your personality and character from the ugly home or not, your being there in your place in/directly marks on you, and vice versa. And, of course, covering a young single man’s apartment with creamy paste and liquid paint in white evokes a certain sexual connotation. Also, white is an easy colour for audience to picture their own memories, thoughts, feelings and imaginations about home and living upon the work. Like a blank white canvas or MS Word page on your computer screen.

Ironically, the place that I always looked down on became something that everyone looks up now. It’s also a bit weird that some people comment on it as a ‘beautiful’ artwork just because the place is only simply covered with white paste and paint, although my living style and housing condition in the squeezed space were trivial and shabby. I wasn’t willing to invite anybody in the place, but finally now I can say ‘welcome to my home!’

How this specific installation speaks with your art practice in general? 

My works combine contrasts and bring conflicts in. They can be about historical, art historical, political, ideological, religious, or social issues. For instance, Salvation (2016) is a life-sized praying Madonna sculpture and it is collaged with black and white flyers, which were printed and distributed by conservative Korean Protestant groups to oppose and hinder the development of LGBT rights. In The Silence and Eloquence of Objects, I played with art historical sides more. From a distance, you might be able to see minimalistic forms in my work. But, the more you come close to it, the more you would discover impressionistic painterly aspects. Also, again, from far away, you would read it as an abstract sculpture through its squares and grids, but in close-up you can realise that it consists of variety of readymades in everyday life. Furthermore, I wouldn’t mind if you define it as an installation, sculpture or even painting.

In terms of art making, I enjoy time-consuming, patient, receptive processes like collages, overlapping paint layers, and hand rubbing clays. In this new project for the Biennial, the continual strong brush strokes are very noticeable. These sorts of working methods are actually not so welcomed in our speedy society. I wouldn’t have allowed to indulge myself with doing such stuff, particularly, when I lived in the apartment in Seoul. Also, I don’t aim to duplicate things as a result of the repeated activities. Every single line, curve, bump and lump on the paste layer are all different. In the end, it depends on how you perceive them. 

What do you think of Istanbul? What does it mean to you to exhibit your work in this city in this specific time period? 

The notion of ‘neighbour’ can exist because of me and you, and where you’re located. We can start to think of neighbours or a good neighbour from looking at where and how I live(d). Even though my work is a replica of a very specific place belonged to me, I hope viewers expand their thoughts on the Biennial’s theme by bringing their own stories about housing issues through the piece.

This is my second time in Istanbul. Istanbul has been my dream city since my childhood. Strolling around Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Topkapı Palace and exploring newly gentrified Karaköy and Asian side of the city fascinate me. But, this time, I feel more like ‘living’ here than just visiting. And then, naturally, if your imaginary dream becomes daily reality, it can be quite harsh and tough sometimes.

Erkan Özgen, Wonderland and childhood as a hometown

by Nora Tataryan

Erkan Özgen’s video Wonderland, which is shown at the Galata Greek Primary School as part of the the Istanbul Biennial, focuses on the story of Mohammed, who had to flee Kobanî in January 2015 due to the ISIL siege of the city. During the four-minute video, we watch Mohammed, who is hearing and speech impaired, expressing the war he has witnessed through his body. Wonderland is a video which is hard to watch, and which invites its viewers to take responsibility. With this video, Özgen both tells the massacre in the region in a striking way without turning it into pornography of violence and makes us question the circumstances and boundaries of such a representation. Wonderland, which in this sense meets its viewers somewhere beyond language, without worrying about translating all that has happened in the region for the West, not only prompts us to reflect upon war and forced migration, but also rubs our noses in the massacres that have taken place in this part of the world. When this uncomfortable encounter is over, we don’t get to assume that we have grasped the meaning of war and to clear our consciences, on the contrary, we are left alone with a haunting feeling. Erkan Özgen talks about the process which evolved into Wonderland:

I wish I hadn’t met Mohammed under these circumstances. The region was turning upside down and it seemed like this time it would take much longer and be much more barbaric, when compared to others. The fact that this ‘herd of murderers’ called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ‘Dawlah al-Islamiyah fil-’ Iraq wa ash-Sham’, its Arabic name, was especially attacking regions where the Kurds lived, meant that some of the relationships in the Middle East were to be broken, and some were to be reformed. The Kurds were forced to migrate from scratch after the Halabja Massacre, also known as ‘Bloody Friday’, DAESH targeted Yazidi Kurds and afterwards a massive wave of migration towards our – not particularly good – region took place. Camps were formed for those who made it to Mardin and Diyarbakır. There were groups that were formed by the administration of Diyarbakır Municipality before the co-mayors were replaced with a trustee, and groups that were volunteering. I joined one and I was working, taking time off my day. One of the migrant families had come to Derik, my hometown, and started to live there with help from those around. It was a family of fifteen. I had bought some clothing and gone to visit them. That’s when I met Mohammed. Mohammed wasn’t able to hear or speak, but he wanted to express the things he had experienced through his heart, his eyes, his hands. I rendered palpable the message Mohammed wanted to get across to the world.

Erkan Özgen used similar themes in his earlier works. In his work Adult Games, dated 2004, which is being exhibited right now at MARSistanbul as part of the exhibition Collateral, Özgen depicts, through a playground, being a child in a war zone. When asked where Wonderland fits in his general art practice, Özgen answered:

Adult Games was one of my early video works, but at the same time, there were other elements which made it special for me; it indicated a breaking point for video production, language-wise. In Adult Games, children with snow masks, who lived their childhoods almost like adults, step into action in order to enjoy, for one last time, the childishly naïve; what has been irrevocably gone. They too, were mute, just like Mohammed. It’s like what Murathan Mungan says: ‘Childhood is a hometown in itself, it’s one’s homeland. (...) As we grow older we miss our homelands more and more, life becomes increasingly foreign. (...) To grow up is to go to foreign lands. (...) Narrating is the second life.’ When I think about it like that, I feel that life has already become foreign for these children. In Wonderland, there is a reference to Alice in Wonderland, one of the tales of my childhood: Just like Alice, Mohammed goes down the rabbit hole – or consequent holes – and finds himself in a silent world.

One of the most widely covered works of the 15th Istanbul Biennial by the press, Wonderland does not only induce us to feel the weight of watching violence from an exhibition venue in the midst of the war we have been witnessing, but also reveals how this video that qualifies as a document pushes the limits of an artwork.

Candeğer Furtun and neighbouring bodies

by Nora Tataryan

Candeğer Furtun, the ceramic artist who is best known with her body forms and organic shapes is taking part in the 15th Istanbul Biennial with her existing work, Untitled. The artist has been producing her works in her studio in Şişli, Istanbul since 1964. Despite making use of traditional ceramic techniques, Furtun’s works are highly unorthodox. In this piece, which consists of nine pairs of male legs placed side by side, Furtun emphasizes the concepts of individuality and anonymity. We talked with Candeğer Furtun about her art practice and her work, which can be visited at Istanbul Modern Museum during the course of the Biennial.   

How did you become acquainted with ceramics? How did you start to produce your own works?

I enrolled in the Department of Painting, Istanbul Academy of Fine Arts in 1954. After having completed my studies at the Nurullah Berk Painting Atelier, I switched to ceramics for my higher education (college level) and graduated in 1959. I remember myself saying “I will work with clay” the first time I touched it in Hüseyin Gezer’s modelling class. The same year, I did research on clays and minerals at the Istanbul University, Department of Chemistry, simply because I was curious about the kind of raw materials we had in Turkey. Afterwards, I worked at Eczacıbaşı Ceramics Workshop for a while, and produced ceramic objects which were sold at stores in Nişantaşı and Şişli. However, I realized that I was not sufficiently qualified as I wished to be, so I applied for Fulbright Scholarship and went to the United States and received my master’s degree in ceramics from the Rochester Institute of Technology’s School for American Craftsmen. Before having returned from the United States, I briefly worked as a teaching assistant at Worcester Craft Center and there I had my first solo exhibition in 1963. When I came back to Turkey, I wanted to have a private studio. I started in 1964, but it took rather long to establish it, because back then clay ovens were not produced in Turkey, so I wanted to build one with the help of Turkish engineers, but it was not successful, then I began working with an imported oven. I have been working in this atelier for fifty-three years. In the beginning like all ceramists I concentrated on the art of pottery, because traditionally it is something that should be mastered before turning to ceramic art. After that, you get the opportunity to choose your own path; the same thing holds true in the United States. I can say that I battled with the pots and my aim was not to concentrate on functionality, but on creating different forms and taking those forms a step further. What I was interested most was human forms; so I used them as a subject matter and I tried to express my thoughts and feelings through them. I had seven solo exhibitions, each one was composed with a different concept. The work I am exhibiting in this Biennial, the set of legs, can be evaluated in many ways, thus it fits very well to the concept of the Biennial.

In ceramics, you make use of traditional materials but you produce organic forms. Could you talk about your work in the Istanbul Biennial within this context? What I mean to ask is, what does the relationship between material and form mean to you? I also wonder what these male legs sitting side by side represent, since this specific manner of sitting is frequently discussed in feminist circles and is now referred to as ‘manspreading’.

I first exhibited this piece as a series at Maçka Art Gallery. The reason why I’m only exhibiting legs is that we are now living in a world where individualism no longer exists and pluralism is more important. Our bodies used to be significant as a whole, unique, but now it is fragmented. However all these fragmented pieces still point to a whole body, so by putting those legs up there I wanted to emphasize the disappearing of individualism and the fragmented body. My work in the Biennial consists of nine pairs of legs. Each pair represents an entity of its own and is neighbouring the next. Turkey has eight neighbours and that makes nine pair of legs with Turkey. My intention was to emphasize the fact that they could all sit side by side in a harmonious manner. I stressed the fact that the material is ceramic just to show how far I could push the limits of the material.

On your other question, what you mentioned is very important indeed. Every position, every space has its own meaning. For instance, these legs can be placed either in a hammam or a waiting lounge. I examined the way people in our country sit and noticed that this is how we sit. This, of course, represents men’s self-confidence and a certain dominance. 

We often see body figures in your works. I’ve seen your hands series earlier and I know that you made Füreya Koral’s hand out of ceramic before she passed away. In this sense, how does the series Untitled fit into your general art practice?

Yes, that is true. An exhibition named İzler was organized as a tribute to previous generation of artists and I wanted to pay my tribute with Füreya Koral’s hands. I generally work on torsos and body parts, as a result of different ideas and feelings which are in line with the zeitgeist, and this in a sense is also the essence of my art practice. I think these works have the potentiality to multiply and transform not only by me but by others interpretations as well.    

As an artist who exhibited her works in the United States as well, do you feel there is any difference between exhibiting your works in Istanbul and abroad?

The difference is that when I exhibited in 1963 in United States, it attracted more attention, more closely monitored and reviewed in daily press. It was not so in Turkey. Maybe the fact is that I treated ceramics in a different manner, not very traditional. But I think, over time, my work was better understood. I did not have any difficulties in this field, but then again, ceramics was usually associated with women traditionally. That is not the case anymore. There are many female artists in the United States producing powerful works. Male artists have shown interest in the art of pottery, as well. So, I guess these distinctions no longer exist.

Tuğçe Tuna and about dance, a modern art form

I have this natural bond with the theme of the biennial since to me another body has always meant a neighbour. So, bringing different neighbours; different bodies with various dynamics and attitudes together under this dome, inside the holistic structure of this venue is very functional. This piece is going to be wholly produced and exhibited here. As a choreographer who works location-specific, when I produce a piece for a certain venue, I prefer to leave it there as a gift and not carry its baggage.

Lungiswa Gqunta and a lawn in Cape Town on which we can’t run around and play

Lungiswa Gqunta is taking part in the 15th İstanbul Biennial with an installation she produced by breaking Coca-Cola bottles to form a lawn. The cutting edges of these bottles filled with green liquid look magnificent and they also symbolize the forms of segregation in Cape Town where she lives. This lawn, on which we can’t run around and play, represents feelings of discomfort, urgency and frustration, according to the artist. With this piece, she not only brings into question policies on racism and gentrification in South Africa, but also invites viewers to reflect upon the universality of these subjects. We talked with Gqunta about her art practice and the function of art as a form of protest.

Could you tell us little bit about how got involved with the Biennial? How the process has been evolved?
I was setting up for my master’s exhibition, on the day of my opening I bumped into Ingar in London, he got to see the body of my work, he encountered with the Lawn piece and it probably stayed with him. A few weeks later he proposed me to participate to the Istanbul Biennale. I mentioned that I wanted to do the piece again but in a larger form this time. He came back with me and suggested to go big for the exhibition. It has been great, even though I have done it once there is something new about doing it in this space since it has its own politics and   I am enjoying the process a lot.

Lawn is a work that is emotionally and politically very loaded furthermore it is situated within a specific context, post-apartheid South Africa. Could you tell us little bit about the work itself and its possible connotations?
Every time I speak about it, it changes. The piece, it is called Lawn  and it consists of broken bottles filled with green petrol. It looks like a petrol glass but obviously it is not and this creates a conflict with the actual space, which is a lawn. It is not pleasant, it is dangerous and it imposes some sort of restriction upon the viewer.  All of those restrictions that they were put in the place will be felt when you interact with the work. It is kind of playing around the notion of privileged spaces and accessibility. You find these nice and lush lawns in the wealthy part of the city, these are places where people have access to the land. It started to be very specific to South Africa where the segregation still exists. That is how my work is speaking with both the history of the colonialism and the present. Because, this has not changed much since then. White people are still living in better places. In my work I use that kind of language that could be quite aggressive and dangerous but it is also my way of protesting thought my art, making my voice heart. So it will never be a conformable experience and it is not meant to be.

Where does this specific work stand in your larger art practice?
My work is focused on a specific history and questions how people are living in this weird bubble thinking that there is so much progress and we need to be happy with that. I am kind of looking at my own experiences of these past couple of years, I have moved to Cape Town, struggled to find an affordable place to stay and seen what is happening with the gentrification in the city. Art is the only space that I can vent. If I am not protesting on the street, this is the way that I remind people that nothing has changed. I am done with being content. I don’t have time for that.

What does it mean to you to show your work in Istanbul?
As I have been working here I have been speaking to people who are working with me and they are telling us about the space. We have been talking about the gentrification that has been going on here in Istanbul. I come from the same thing. This work stems from multiple of things and that being one of them. There is so much construction going on. It is important to understand that this thing is so huge so invasive and exclusionary and it is spreading everywhere like disease and it is killing me. In that sense there is so much similarities.

Ali Taptık and his project ‘Friends and Strangers’ which tells Istanbul to Istanbul

‘The blue reflection isn’t from the sea. Are my eyes that badly gone that I mistake the blue minibuses for the sea? I should get them checked but first I have to pay for the trip to Santa Tropez. The sea view is blocked now but it’s going to come back. They should just directly publicize all the shore line, like Castro did, so at last we can see a bit of the blue. That small shack is surrounded by water, why do I have to miss it so much. The crowd always have their backs on the sea. Getting a seat on a 45 minute minibus ride is more important obviously.’

These lines belong to Merve, one of the characters in Ali Taptık’s project ‘Friends and Strangers’ which he produced exclusively for the 15th Istanbul Biennial. ‘Friends and Strangers’ is both an online and a physical multidimensional installation which enables us to witness the stories and urban experiences of three fictional characters with different occupations. The piece, which is made up of the dialogue between the photographs at the Galata Rum Elementary School and the stories available on the project’s website, not only documents the zeitgeist but also helps us experience Istanbul’s urban life through someone else’s perspective. While Cem, a worker at a printing house, Merve, a young architect, Mikail, both an arts sponsor and a businessman all talk to Ali Taptık, we get a chance to reflect upon concepts such as closeness, coexistence and empathy. Taptık tells us that, for this project, he invited people from his entourage to his studio to chat and meanwhile photographed their portraits. In this sense, Merve, Cem and Mikail, whom we see online, are fictional characters filtered from dozens of interviews conducted by the artist. However, either with the ambiguity it creates between fiction and reality or with the artist making himself a part of the process as the subject through correspondence and visuals, ‘Friends and Strangers’ tells a real story of Istanbul. Ali Taptık explains his production:

‘Lately I’ve become interested in how we can oppose our loved ones and how we can embrace the ones we oppose. The stories included in my work at the biennial are concerned with this matter, as well. I based my thoughts about coexisting in Istanbul on the experiences of various friends of mine with public transportation. On the other hand, I was interested in how people who have never met before can establish a bond. I’ve been dealing with Max Frisch’s Questionnaire for a long time. I asked the questions there to my friends and photographed them while doing so, and the process in a way unfolded on its own.’

‘Friends and Strangers’ is an installation which demands time and effort from its viewers: The stories of Merve, Cem and Mikail invite us to breathe, even for a little while, by making us take a break from urban pace and to take a look at Istanbul. ‘Friends and Strangers can be viewed at the Galata Rum Elementary School during the course of the biennial, and at www.friendsandstrangers.net.

A tribute to Liliana Maresca

A solo restrosptective exhibition in tribute to the biennial artist Liliana Maresca is on view at the Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires until 5 November. Featured also in the Biennial, Maresca is known for her sculptures and actions done in the wake of the Argentinian dictatorship and ensuing state violence, which ended in 1983: a period of state terrorism, bloody strife and numerous unresolved disappearances.

This major retrospective of Liliana Maresca’s work, titled Liliana Maresca: The Keen Eye. Artworks 1982 – 1994, covers twelve years of artistic production: from 1982 to 1994, the year of her death. Curated by the Museum’s Senior Curator, Javier Villa, the exhibition was set in train four years ago by a research project, in which the Moderno set out to rescue and pay tribute to the power of an artist so vital to an understanding of the present, and keep her relevance and accessibility alive for all.

Maresca’s untitled series of photographs from 1984 is on view at the Pera Museum as part of the 15th Istanbul Biennial.

Liliana Maresca was an emblematic figure for the Argentinian visual arts scene of the ’80s and ’90s, and one of the most active builders of the interdisciplinary artistic community that took shape toward the end of Argentina’s last military dictatorship. She was an artist whose work tackled problems central to society from a critical standpoint, like the political state of Argentina in the ’90s or HIV/AIDS, which affected her personally. In the words of Javier Villa,

Maresca placed her body centre stage and expanded out from that intimate realm onto the art scene and from there into society as whole. Like a powerful antenna, she was able to pick up and broadcast everything that was key and critical during turbulent times.

Heba Y. Amin, conspiracy theories and ‘The General’s Stork’

by Nora Tataryan

In 2013, a migratory stork bearing a tracking device caused a fisherman to become suspicious and was captured by authorities for espionage and put behind bars. The video installation of Heba Y. Amin, As Birds Flying, exhibited at the 15th Istanbul Biennial, is inspired by this detained stork and encourages us to reflect upon concepts such as political unrest, paranoia and state surveillance with the help of digital and random footage, which make them all the more striking. Through this incident, which similarly had happened in Turkey as well, we witness the absurdity of the laws and the legal system and also the paranoid atmosphere that this detention indicates. 

Born in Egypt, Amin’s work incorporates extensive research. She is more of a ‘detective’, in her words. Amin also performed a piece titled ‘The General’s Stork’, also influenced by the detained stork at the Public Programme of the 15th Istanbul Biennial, coordinated by Zeyno Pekünlü. During her speech, the artist explained the development process of the project and the history of the images she had used in the film. Amin described As Birds Flying in which panoramic footage seemingly recorded by a spying stork accompanies the soundtracks and dialogues from Adel Imam’s film Birds of Darkness, released in 1955, as her own response to the current political state of the Middle East.

When asked about how this piece fits into her larger art practice, Heba Y. Amin answered:

I’m very interested in history and I feel like I can’t comment on the contemporary situation without really looking at how it’s contextualized within history, so I’m quite interested in looking at contemporary moments, contemporary incidents and seeing what led up to them. Most of my work deals with historical narratives and I’m almost acting as a historian, a little bit as a detective, because I really dive into all sorts of material from archives to internet to whatever I can get my hands on. It’s that process that I really enjoy, because I uncover all these things that never saw the light of day. History is fascinating, especially in our region, because often times, the contemporary political contexts are completely decontextualized from history. In many ways I’ve discovered that this is my role as an artist and that’s how I like to work.

As Birds Flying can be viewed at the Galata Greek Primary School throughout the Biennial.

The 15th Istanbul Biennial Public Programme kicks off with Fred Wilson’s speech

by Nora Tataryan

The ‘Public Programme’, coordinated by Zeyno Pekünlü and runs parallel to the Istanbul Biennial, has kicked off with the speech artist Fred Wilson delivered at the Pera Museum. Wilson, who is participating in the biennial with his work Afro Kismet, thoroughly explained all his previous works and the piece with which he had represented the American Pavilion at the 50th Venice Biennial. He also answered questions regarding his working method. Having resumed with the ’Chosen Families’ symposium on Saturday, 16 September, the Public Programme’s detailed calendar could be followed on the website.

Wilson, who is known for his critique of the politics of museumification, not only problematizes traditional exhibition techniques but also encourages viewers to question what they see by playing around with the mechanisms of collection and naming.

Fred Wilson on Afro Kismet and politics of museology

Whether we’re regular exhibit-goers or ordinary museum visitors, it’s hard to claim that we have perceptions independent of the politics of display while experiencing a work of art. The 15th Istanbul Biennial this year is not exempt from these politics, either. With both its theme and its shrinking size, it is producing an idiosyncratic exhibition practice. Some of the works in the Biennial directly address this issue and encourage us to reflect upon museology: Mark Dion’s work, The Persistent Weeds and Resilient Marine Life of İstanbul, in which ecosystems that resist urban life are explained through scientific exhibition techniques, Dayanita Singh’s architectural space designed for an imaginary curator named Museum of Shedding, Mahmood Khaled’s work Proposal for a House Museum of an Unknown Crying Man, for which he transformed ARK Kültür into a house museum, are only a few examples.             

Fred Wilson, who had produced a similar piece before for the Venice Biennial, is participating in the Istanbul Biennial this year with his work named Afro Kismet. Bringing together historic photographs, late 20th century African figures, engravings and oil paintings, and contemporary İznik tile panels and sculptures, Wilson depicts the role of black people in the Ottoman culture and various aspects of colonialism in his installation. These pieces, some newly produced and some gathered from the collections of museums, not only question the power of knowledge through exhibition techniques by rendering the differences between contemporary art and historical artefacts invisible, but also shed light on a history not thoroughly discussed.

The artist explains his installation named Afro Kismet:

My work is about an issue which is both personal and universal. I dealt with something like this in Venice, as well; I researched the role of black people in the history of that area. Now I want to do something similar here to see how things were in the Ottoman Empire. I think this topic is very in line with the theme of the Biennial: getting to know our neighbours. Unlike in the United States, the situation of the Afro-Turks is more specific, historically. And treating this subject in the form of a museum exhibition reflects my point of view. So, what I’m actually doing is creating a division. A new meaning emerges from the coming together of art and history, since I unite man-made pieces with historical pieces. Therefore, I bring a fresh perspective to things we are used to seeing in museums. You can say that I tell a history which is not adequately discussed from my own viewpoint.

Afro Kismet can be viewed at the Pera Museum during the course of the 15th Istanbul Biennial.

Home Sweet Home: Volkan Aslan and our mobile homes

by Nora Tataryan

Volkan Aslan is participating in the 15th Istanbul Biennial this year with his video installation named Home Sweet Home. In the video, time and perspective move forward by ramifying into three channels and we witness a seven-minute section of the lives of two women. Home Sweet Home is a video that can be more accurately described by the feeling it leaves you with rather than the story it tells. The inside of a house, a boat moving slowly across the Bosphorus and the floating of that boat on the water: At the end of these alternating images we find the opportunity to reflect upon the concepts of neighbourhood, mobility and vagrancy. We met with Volkan Aslan, the creator of Home Sweet Home, which is going to be exhibited on the island of Lesvos on 17 September and talked about his work.

How did you come up with the idea of making this video and what has the process been like?

Home Sweet Home is a project I’ve been working on for a long time. It waited on my board in the atelier as a draft for a while. First I decided to make little sculptures of it. I started with model fishing boats I found. There were an ongoing, violent war and millions of people who were forced to be displaced because of it within earshot. I can say that people who had to migrate due to various social, political and economic reasons and the fact that we have been witnessing all these were the starting points of the video. I came up with the idea while thinking of a way to tell this process, the issue of forced displacement without further agitation. During Elmgreen & Dragset’s visit to the atelier last year, we decided to realise the idea as part of the theme a good neighbour, then followed a ten-month production process. The filming took two days but pre and post-production process took very long. Valuable people who are very good at their jobs contributed their efforts to this project. I couldn’t have realised it if it weren’t for them.

Watching the video from three different channels causes a fracture in both time and place and we understand at the end of the video what this serves to do. Could you tell us how this choice of yours relates to the theme of the video?

Mainly, simultaneous stories flow on all three screens. The two stories and one scenery that we have been watching all merge at one point and commence the main story; a story of which we will never know the ending and the beginning. It wouldn’t be wrong to call these screens ‘windows’. While these distanced, separate stories keep moving forward, we widen our gaze for a moment and see the ‘big picture’. A picture I would rather not see. Another reason why there are three separate screens is to give the audience the liberty to watch whichever life they like, so it doesn’t oblige them to a continuity.

We don’t have much information about the protagonists of the video but we witness small fractions of their lives. In this sense, what would you say Home Sweet Home pertains to?

Yes, we don’t really know these two women. We don’t have a clue where they come from or where they are going. They themselves don’t have a clue anymore, either. We watch a seven-minute part of an ordinary day in their lives. Their belongings, the objects they use, how they organise the space they live in... All these elements make me think that this is a video that pertains to those who have a will to be alive and keep alive, no matter what. Why are they passing through here, where are they going and most importantly, are they going somewhere? Is there ‘anywhere’ to go? The video is a fiction orbiting around these sorts of questions. Two unconnected women who keep living their lives despite all the constriction proceed, but I don’t think they arrived someplace yet. Nor do I think they stopped.

In your previous works, you produced pieces combining old materials at hand. This piece involves combining different places. How does this piece fit into your general art practice?

I can’t say that it falls into a different category in my art practice. It’s true, I work with different materials and different types of expressions: sculpture, photography, off-the-shelf objects, videos… When I think about all the works that have been produced from past to present, it leaves me with a sense of a broad collage. Two old materials combined together, an old and a produced material combined together… It is about combining. This piece combines two lives in a fictional way. And when objects are concerned, like you said, it combines different places.

When we take into consideration the times we are going through, migration, mobility and the increasing ambiguity of the concept ‘home’ have become the dominant mood of our day. What does it mean to you, in this sense, to be exhibiting your work in Istanbul during such times?

Knowing the sea is right behind the wall on which the projections are reflected, and then watching the people I love leave one by one… It’s very sad. However it is that way for very personal reasons. The brief moment we get to witness the story of the two women is while they are crossing the Bosphorus. So it’s like these two people crossed the Bosphorus last June and I, as someone who lives in this city, witnessed a seven-minute part of that crossing.

Week long journey of Boncuk the donkey at the Biennial

A donkey named Boncuk brought to the garden of Istanbul Modern from a northern village in Istanbul for the opening week is a part of the performance by Xiao Yu, Ground (2014/17). Apart from taking part in the durational performance in which it drags a plough through the exhibition space that has been filled with wet cement, Boncuk also spent time with the biennial visitors during the preview days, including Ai Wei Wei who was in town for the opening of his solo exhibition.

Boncuk will return to its village after its last performance on Friday morning, 15 September, between 10.00 and 11.00. The video documentation of the performance will be screened at Istanbul Modern for the duration of the Biennial.

Xiao Yu’s performance is a direct expression of an act of labour, one link in a chain of ecological and anthropological processes that persist widely though precariously, and are increasingly unseen by an urban public. With the furrows, the animal and human create what in a real field would be means for new life, but the use of concrete opens questions about urban expansion and development and their effect on rural land and agrarian tradition.

A plough led by an animal and a human represents one of the most ancient forms of agricultural activity. Yet in an increasingly urban world, many people have never experienced such labour. The work speaks to the interdependence of nature and agriculture, the taming of animals and their relationship to humans, as well as notions of labour. Increasingly, with ecological fragility and the threat of a coming age of water and food scarcity, it is perhaps no longer the human who controls nature, but the opposite: nature exerts it grip on humanity as the direction of the tracks reverses.

 

Elmgreen & Dragset on Xiao Yu’s Ground

We understand and take very seriously any concerns regarding the abuse of animals in the context of public entertainment and also in art. In cases where animals are caged or exploited in ways that go against their nature and well-being, there is always reason to react, since such behaviour is, in our opinion, unacceptable.

However, the use of a donkey in the artist Xiao Yu’s work Ground in the Istanbul Biennial did not involve unnatural tricks or dressing the animal up in a funny costume – the donkey was treated with the utmost respect and care. Two Chinese farmers worked together with the donkey and spent a proper amount of time on a farm getting to know the animal, creating a bond with it. The donkey was given plenty of time to rest and was well-fed and cared for.

Xiao Yu’s work Ground is an important contribution to the discussion of how humans and animals have been co-existing for centuries, and how we co-exist with animals today. In our current moment, a time when the relationship between urban and rural areas is rapidly changing, the work mirrors different living modes created in the span between traditional farming production and an increasingly capital-driven mass-farming industry, which, in Turkey, as in most places in the world today, unfortunately also includes intense and destructive farming methods. Sadly, in the interest of human expansion, the conditions for farm animals have worsened over the past decades, as farming methods have become increasingly industrialized. 

In Ground, the donkey only took part in a traditional farming activity like ploughing – however this activity was moved to an urban context in the center of Istanbul, exactly to point out the often imbalanced relationship between the urban and the rural, and our increased need for a sustainable farming today.

At Istanbul Modern, the donkey had a specially constructed shelter with hay inside, where it could rest and be on its own, away from the public eye, and it was not forced to work at any point. If the animal showed any signs of not being willing to drag the plough, it was left to rest, eat, or go back to its shelter. There was also a professional veterinarian who was involved in the project since the very beginning, and who checked on the donkey every day. We would claim that the animal – during the short period it appeared at an outdoor venue in front of Istanbul Modern – had far better conditions and was taken much better care of than the majority of farm animals today. Now, the donkey is already back on the farm and in good health.

As this work itself encourages, we wholeheartedly welcome any debate concerning animal rights.

 

İKSV’s objective with the Istanbul Biennial, as with all its endeavors, is to enable and provide platforms for artists and curators to display their artistic production with freedom, and therefore we do not interfere with the artistic content of the works that are being exhibited. This also holds true for artworks that contain living beings. İKSV ensures that the best conditions are being provided for animals and in this case as well, has taken every precaution for the animals’ safety and well-being during the process.

Istanbul Biennial and Koç Holding present the city with a permanent artwork

Organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Art (İKSV) and sponsored by Koç Holding, the 15th Istanbul Biennial (16 September – 12 November) is getting ready to bestow a present to the city with the support of Koç Holding. Within the scope of the Biennial, celebrating its 30th anniversary, world renowned artist Ugo Rondinone’s rainbow, which was displayed at the Taksim Square in 1999, reunites with Istanbulites at the Mustafa Kemal Cultural Centre near the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge.

Within the scope of a new agreement signed between the Istanbul Biennial and the 2007-2026 Biennial Sponsor Koç Holding, the biennial will leave the city a permanent work in every edition, starting with this year. The first surprise of the project is Ugo Rondinone, one of the most racy and prolific figures of today’s art scene, who is participating in the 15th Istanbul Biennial with a permanent installation of his neon sculpture, Where Do We Go From Here? that is a part of his series, Rainbow Poems (1997–2017).

Ugo Rondinone’s rainbow sculpture composed of neon lights was made for the 6th Istanbul Biennial eighteen years ago in 1999 and was displayed at the Taksim Square. Now in the 30th anniversary of the biennial, a new arrangement of the work will be placed on the roof of the Mustafa Kemal Cultural Centre (MKM), which is located near the European leg of the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge on the Bosphorus and which has been a significant cultural venue for Istanbul since 2004.

Rondinone’s iconic work, Where Do We Go From Here? will be displayed in Istanbul permanently with the support of Koç Holding. To be displayed next to the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, the neon sculpture will be viewed by thousands crossing the bridge every day, and have Istanbul join the other cities of the world where Rondinone’s works are publicly displayed. Ugo Rondinone says: ’My intention is to make a poetic touch in public space through the paradox of a night-time rainbow.’

The work asks the question ’Where do we go from here?’ with the aim of making the passers-by think about their future and their hopes. The colours emerging from darkness represent a harbinger of hope or a positive message. By re-installing the same work he displayed in the 6th Istanbul Biennial at the beginning of his career, Rondinone also gives a reference to the history of both the biennial and the city.

 

Who is Ugo Rondinone?

Born in 1964 in Switzerland, Ugo Rondinone graduated from the Hochschule für Angewandte Kunste in Vienna in 1990. A winner of multiple awards, his works concentrate on such themes as desire, longing, and conception. He currently continues to work in New York, creating mixed-media installations that include sculpture, painting, video, sound, and photography. Conveying his profound interest in the contemplation of everyday life and activities in many of his works, Rondinone opts to mould reality in a poetic style. Rondinone has represented his home country in the 2007 Venice Biennale, and his work can be found in the permanent collection of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York. He has displayed his works at prestigious venues, including The Garage (Moscow), Place Vendôme (Paris), Palais de Tokyo (Paris), Rockbund Art Museum (Shanghai), and Museum of Contemporary Art (Sydney). He was bestowed the Honorary Award by the Bomb Benefit Gala in 2015. Rondinone is a pre-eminent figure in the field of art in public space.

Tuğçe Tuna is at the Biennial with her new choreography, Body Drops

Tuğçe Tuna; choreographer, dance artist, academic, and movement therapist. For the 15th Istanbul Biennial, she has created a new choreography entitled Body Drops (2017), performed by nine dancers on a regular schedule throughout the exhibition. Body Drops focuses on kinesthetic empathy, accumulations of the body, invisible losses of the body and what the body leaves behind in mind and space.

The artist brings together neighbouring bodies under the dome of the hammam, creating a choreography inspired by the architectural characteristics of the space and the star signs of the performance artists.

Choreography days and hours
16-17 September 2017, 17.30 and 20.30
Every Saturday at 17.30 and 20.30 for the duration of the Biennial
The audience should make a reservation via rezervasyon.iksv.org.

The body is matter, it is conductive;
it conveys the life cycle.
The body will accumulate what is yours, your befores and afters.
The body remembers and transforms.
This cycle is a cosmic cycle.
The body has invisible losses.
The body evaporates as well. Each component that forms the body is found in stars, each body is a star.

T. Tuna, Istanbul, 2017

Concept, Choreography, Director: Tuğçe Tuna
Choreography Artists: Ekin Ançel, Pınar Akyüz, Gülçin Erdiş, Aybike İpekçi, Erdem Kaynarca, Koray Çivril, Melih Kıraç, Hilal Sibel Pekel, Sinan Özer, Tuğçe Tuna
Sound Design: Tuğçe Tuna, Vahit Tuna
Light Design: Utku Kara
Project Production Assistant: Yonca Hiç
Venue Manager: Lale Madenoğlu

Flâneuses at L’Institut français à Istanbul from 13 September to 3 November

The exhibition, Flâneuses brings together five of the artists who have participated in the Turkey Workshop at Paris’ eminent Cité Internationale des Arts Artist Residency Programme, rented by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) in 2009 for 20 years for artists from Turkey to benefit. The exhibition, curated by the Director of the Istanbul Biennial Bige Örer, will be open at the L’Institut français à Istanbul from September 13 to November 3.

The Flâneuses exhibition hosts the artists Aslı Çavuşoğlu, İnci Furni, Güneş Terkol, Yasemin Özcan, and İz Öztat & Zişan, who have worked at the Turkey Workshop in the Cité des Arts over different periods, with works all based on “flânerie”.

“Walking” plays a pivotal role in the exhibition, comprising works which were inspired by the interaction the artists formed with the studio they stayed in as well as with the city. Approaching walking in philosophical, geographical, spiritual, social, political, and literary terms, the artists turn their stroll through streets across the city into an unconventional field of experience, both allowing flâneuses to witness unexpected instances, and transforming their trajectory of walking into a form of memory.

Deriving from a rich literature on walking spanning a vast geography across different generations, the exhibition Flâneuses focuses mainly on the figure of “flaneur/flâneuse”, who emerged as an important figure in French literary culture in Paris in the 19th century, and who in later years, has assumed a timeless and universal character.

On the opening night of the Flâneuses, at 19.30, Yasemin Özcan will deliver a performative presentation entitled “Heart of the Flâneuse”. GuGuOu, a new group by Oğuz Erdin, Güçlü Öztekin, and Güneş Terkol, will also be in the opening at 20:15, with a performance they have developed on walking in the city, getting lost, and flânerie.

The exhibition book, designed by Özge Güven, features Bige Örer’s introduction on the exhibition and Fatih Özgüven’s article on the flânerie experiences of women authors in Turkish, as well as Özge Ejder’s interview with the artists and curator Bige Örer.

Due to the security measures of L’Institut français à Istanbul, visitors are required to fill out a registration form via the web page that can be accessed by clicking here.

Two neighbouring pieces in Istanbul Modern: Yonamine’s posters and Latifa Echakhch’s frescos

by Nora Tataryan

The theme of the Istanbul Biennial this year is a good neighbour. It is possible to relate all the works that take place in the Biennial to this theme and deduce different readings. Besides, whole new sets of meanings emerge from the interactions of neighbouring pieces with one another. Two of the best examples of this dialogue are Latifa Echakhch’s installation named Crowd Fade and Yonamine’s collages at Istanbul Modern. What these two pieces have in common is that they are both destroyed. This way, they not only present an alternative to traditional methods of exhibition, but also encourage their viewers to reflect upon this act of destruction.

Yonamine, who has lived in many countries including Angola, France, Germany and Zimbabwe so far, produces multi-layered collages, comprising torn and demounted posters that we frequently see on the streets of large cities. Featuring elements that seem to hint at the critique of colonialism, urban transformation, pop culture and racism, these collages are made up of the artist’s own designs or found materials. The prints are made using newsprint paper and drawing ink by Yonamine, to be destroyed by the artist in end, like they would be on the streets. The final product that meets the viewer is series of posters that are barely legible, evoking the presence of both the freedom of expression and the intensity of censorship. The artist explains his work, which he produced exclusively for the Istanbul Biennial: 

It’s chaos, actually. A piece inspired by the streets, the posters. I’m very curious about the reaction it will get here in Istanbul, because in this installation I touch upon the problems in my country, in Europe and in Asia. I love working with simple materials and producing first and then destroying is also a part of this process. If you were to hang these posters in the streets, they would be perished in twenty minutes. In this sense, what I’m doing is actually destroying something I worked very hard for. One of the things I value most in life is freedom of expression. I am someone who communicates by talking and that is what I try to get across with my work. Producing to destroy is a part of it. 

Next to Yonamine’s posters, Latifa Echakhch, winner of the 2013 Marcel Duchamp Prize, makes us see the culture of protest in an unusual form with the installation she designed in situ for the Istanbul Biennial. The artist, who in her words was raised inside of a tradition of disobedience, creates a world in between reality and imagination by destroying the frescos on which she painted public demonstrations. Covering two facing walls of a hallway in Istanbul Modern, Crowd Fade not only highlights the history and rootedness of the concepts of ‘streets’ and ‘disobedience’, but also reveals the political potential of them. These images do not belong to a specific city or context but are as fluid as scenes from a dream and as old as the fresco aesthetic implies them to be, Echakhch says. 

The neighbourhood of the works of Echakhch and Yonamine is precious, since both construct a new semantic world without fully revealing the culture which they criticize or are a part of. The pieces the artists created by destroying can be seen at Istanbul Modern until the end of the Biennial.

A conversation with Tuğçe Tuna on Body Drops

Choreographer, dance artist, academic, and movement therapist Tuğçe Tuna is among the artists of the 15th Istanbul Biennial with a performance she will be presenting at Küçük Mustafa Paşa Hammam. Let’s hear what the artist has to say about the performance she entitled Body Drops and how it relates to a good neighbour.

Body Drops can be seen at 17.30 and 20.30 every Saturday at Küçük Mustafa Paşa Hammam for the duration of the Biennial. The performance will also be held on the first Sunday of the opening week, 17 September, at the same hours.

Public Programme: chosen families and our non-human neighbours

by Nora Tataryan

Is a good neighbour cooking for you when you’re sick? From a neighbouring country? Reading the same newspaper as you? Someone who just moved in? We understand from the questions on the posters of the 15th Istanbul Biennial which are spread through the streets of the city that in our people-based world, when we hear the word ’neighbour’, we first think about a person. It is certain that the works which will be exhibited during the biennial will diffuse this perception and make us ask new questions. The Public Programme that is organised within the scope of the biennial also aims to take the concept ’neighbour’ out of its customary connotations and create a new platform for discussions. The programme of which artist Zeyno Pekünlü serves as a coordinator will enable us to perceive the theme a good neighbour as the neighbourhood of disciplines, with participation of researchers, activists and musicians from different fields. Pekünlü explains the intellectual background of the series of activities that are going to be taking place over the course of two months:

The theme a good neighbour might seem simple but it is actually a substantial subject. Especially within the context of Turkey, when the neighbouring countries and the heavy collective memory are taken into account, the number of layers to consider increases. The word ’neighbour’ has a nostalgic connotation in people’s minds. On the other hand, the last few years have seen an increase in the number of neighbourhood forums and the social centres that derive from those and institutions which work with refugees. So I tried to envision the concept ’neighbour’ in a way that would include all these connotations and I thought about all the things we have been talking about over the past five years and all the things we are going to be talking about over the next five years. That is how we decided to limit the Public Programme to these two lines: ’chosen families’ and ’mutual fate’ that we share with our non-human neighbours.

In the opening symposium of the Public Programme, Shahrzad Mojab from the University of Toronto is going to deliver a speech on migration through violence and women’s bodies, drawing from his own experiences while Joseph Massad is going to give a speech where he criticizes the liberal manifestations of multiculturalism and Şükrü Argın is going to make a presentation about the lines we draw inside and outside of national borders.

Among those who will take place in the closing symposium are Massimo de Angelis, Stavros Stavrides and Ayfer Bartu Candan, who conduct researches on practices of commonising both in urban and rural areas. As part of the program, Kadir Has University academic Ezgi Tuncer is going to host a workshop in which chefs from different countries will cook a meal together and have a chat, with regard to migration and food, while academic Sezai Ozan Zeybek is contributing to the programme by making a presentation about the history of the city alongside the history of dogs. Istanbul’s emigrant and resident musicians are coming together to deliver an impromptu performance at a meeting organised by Evrim Hikmet Öğüt. Collective Çukurcuma is organising reading events at the new free space formed on the ground floor of Deniz Palas, the building in which Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts is located. The Hamisch - Syrian Cultural House in Istanbul is going to collaborate with The Goethe-Institut for the workshop where Syrian refugee children will be creating their own super heroes with the help of young Syrian artists.

Please click here to view the events of the Public Programme.

a good neighbour billboards are at Plovdiv with the collaboration of the Goethe Institut Bulgaria and Plovdiv 2019

Plovdiv in Bulgaria was one of the host cities of the a good neighbour billboard project, which intends to share the questions of the 15th Istanbul Biennial with residents of many other cities around the world. We acknowledge the kind collaboration of Goethe Institut and the support of Plovdiv 2019 towards the realisation of the project.

Volkan Aslan is at the 15th Istanbul Biennial with his new video, Home Sweet Home


Volkan Aslan (b. 1982, Ankara, Turkey) lives in Istanbul, Turkey. He studied painting at Mersin University Faculty of Fine Arts, Turkey. His solo exhibitions include The Perfect Day, Pi Artworks Istanbul (2015); A Day Not Yet Lived, Pi Artworks London (2014) and Don’t Forget to Remember, Arter, Istanbul (2013). Various group shows in which he has participated include Harbor, İstanbul Modern (2017); Istanbul. Passion, Joy, Fury, Maxxi Museum, Rome (2015); The Moving Museum, Istanbul (2014) and Mom, am I barbarian? (13th Istanbul Biennial, 2013). Aslan is also co-founder of 5533, a non-profit independent art space in Istanbul.

Alejandro Almanza Pereda and the forests in our living rooms

by Nora Tataryan

Alejandro Almanza Pereda is an artist who produces his art in both Mexico City and New York City and his dynamic life reflects on his work. Pereda, known for his works of photography and sculpture, is exhibiting his series called Horror Vacui, a project in motion since 2010, at the 15th Istanbul Biennial. The installation, which deals with the tension between private and public spaces through the relationship of humans and nature, invites us to witness how walls take possession of anonymous paintings of nature. We talked with the artist about his exhibition on display until November 12, his practice of production and the disruptive nature of art.

How did you get involved with the 15th Istanbul Biennial and how your project has evolved?

The invitation came direct from the curators, from Ingar and Micheal. I met with them in Berlin and we talked about all sort of stuff: we talked about Berlin, we talked about Istanbul, and actually we talked about the concept of the city in general. They asked me to participate with this specific work of mine. I have never worked with somebody this determined. They were really right to the point. That is actually very good for an artist. They didn’t let me do ‘whatever I want’. They did know what they ask for, so it made my work easier. That was my only interaction with them. This series has been exhibited in other places previously, but because each time the paintings involved are different, the work keeps changing.

How do you describe your work? Could you talk about where it takes its inspiration from and the ways in which it speaks with the theme of the Biennial: a good neighbour?

This work is about how we see the nature and more than that, how we see it in a fragmented way. We always see the nature when we are outside. The paintings in my work are ordinary paintings that people put in their living rooms. They are beautiful depictions of nature. They are just perfect and you put it in the most artificial place in the world, your living room! The living room is where you feel conformable and safe from the nature. We need these shelters to survive. It is also interesting to see nature surrounded by walls. There is definitely a fascination with nature and a longing to be outside of it. The tension between inside and outside is what lies behind this installation.

Another motivation behind this work is the dependency between the wall and the painting. In big museums, massive paintings are hung on the walls. At one point, I started seeing them as sculptures, which are dependent on the wall. The painting needs a wall to be exhibited in the museums, just like us. I tried to imagine what would happen when wall depends on painting, rather than painting on wall. So I basically brought the wall back into the picture. Along with the theme of the Biennial, the easiest way to interpret this work might be to see it as a tension between concrete and nature, but there is another dimension to it, which is dependency.

Are these paintings original, do you paint them?

To be honest, I cannot even hold a brush. I collect them from thrift shops. They are mostly anonymous. This year, the Biennial team helped me collect these paintings, thus they are from Istanbul. We had luck and we found these three pieces because they are not that easy to find and they are heavy. They will be casted in the museum and be like a new part of the Pera Museum. I am aware that they are not beautiful walls; they are modernist, but not pleasing.

Your works usually explore the relationality of objects and your sculptures depict everyday-life objects that are connected to each other with light pulps, suggesting a balance and tension in between. How does this specific work of yours fit into your larger art practice?

My practice deals with materiality, physics, perception and assumption on materials and objects. Assumption and values, it is how we see the objects. We connect to an object through its materiality but it is much more than that. For instance, something plastic could be a gift from your dad and it could have more value to you than it is actually worth. In my works, I want to talk about the tension between material and value. My practice, in a way, is about seeing something beautiful when it is destroyed. So we have this idea of preciousness and beauty towards a painting, but in this installation I destroy them with a concrete wall. My work is aggressive, not pleasant at all. I am not an artist for pleasing, I love challenging the viewer.

Alejandro Almanza Pereda’s work can be seen at the Pera Museum

One of the landscape paintings that the Mexican artist Alejandro Almanza Pereda found from fleashops in Istanbul and covered with concrete is placed within the permanent collection of the Pera Museum and opened to visit a month before the opening of the Biennial. A painting from the Orientalist Painting Collection of the Museum was replaced with the new piece from Pereda’s series, Horror Vacui, that he has been working on since 2010. Two more works from the series will be exhibited at the Biennial.

Photography: Poyraz Tütüncü

These cameras are not there to watch, but to be watched

by Nora Tataryan

One of the works on display at public spaces at the 15th Istanbul Biennial belongs to Burçak Bingöl, an artist known for her works of ceramics and patterns. The artist makes a critical interpretation of the surveillance culture of our day by ornamenting the surveillance cameras, which have gradually become one of the common sights of cities in the last ten years with plant patterns she collected from Beyoğlu. By placing the ceramic cameras around the city, Bingöl takes these panoptic gadgets that spy on us and makes them into observable objects of art. In this reverse relationship, instead of urban life, the cameras record the disappearing phytogeography of Beyoğlu. Burçak Bingöl is an artist who often uses ceramics and ornamentation in her works. This series, in which she produced pieces similar to her solo exhibition in 2011, Cabinet of Curiosities, aims to functionalize regular objects in perspective of art, with concepts of alienation and collective memory in mind, in her words. Here’s the story behind the surveillance cameras, which are inspired by Istanbul:

I can describe this work as an alienation theme that started out personal but merged with Istanbul. Back when I was living in Ankara, I wasn’t exposed to cameras this much; I was a research assistant at a university and had a life full of green, of forest. All that changed when I came to İstanbul. Being directly exposed to objects you used to know from a distance and knowing that every moment of your life is being recorded brings about a different state of existence. We are used to seeing this material as plates on our table, or sinks in our bathroom, so in this case we can talk about a twofold alienation; of both form and material. I have always found kitsch floral patterns interesting due to their feminine structures. Bringing these elements together resulted in a reverse tracer-traced relationship and this is something we don’t ordinarily see, so it raises awareness.

Bingöl’s cameras can be seen during the Biennial at over twenty locations among which are Kumbaracı 50, Pera Museum, Şimdi Café, LeBon Patisserie, Istanbul Modern. Elmgreen and Dragset previously stated that the exhibition venues which are within walking distance constitute a sort of temporary neighbourhood, thus a new reality. In this new reality, in a neighbourhood full of ’non-surveillance’ cameras, the work of Burçak Bingöl makes us think: ’Is a good neighbour someone who doesn’t spy on you?’

Online article series on a good neighbour

Every Monday, writers, editors, curators, thinkers and many others write about a good neighbour on the special section dedicated to the 15th Istanbul Biennial in the online newspaper, T24, available only in Turkish. You may read the articles by clicking on the titles below.

İyi Bir Komşu: Dokuzyüzonbir
M.K. Perker

Leştirmek ve leşmek
Deniz Gül

Komşu hakkındaki mahkeme kararları
Rita Ender

Komşu komşu hu, oğlun geldi mi?
Murat Meriç

Komşum insan değil
Sezai Ozan Zeybek

“İyi, kötü, çirkin” bir komşu
Yaşar Adnan Adanalı

İyi bir komşu hayat kurtarır
Alper Canıgüz

İyi bir komşu mu dediniz? Durun anlatayım
Aslı Perker

Bir Komşuluk Retrospektifi
Elif Kamışlı

Yoldaşımsın, öyleyse varım
Murat Alat

İyi Bir Komşu: Dokuzyüzonbir
M.K. Perker

İyi bir komşu iyi bir insan mıdır?
Yasser M. Dallal

Şişli’de bir apartıman
Murat Uyurkulak

Baklavanın gücü
Kaan Sezyum

Komşuluğun bir sinefile düşündürdükleri
Melis Behlil

İyi bir komşu seninle aynı müziği dinleyen birisi midir?
Melis Danişmend

İyi bir komşu sizin gibi yaşayan birisi midir?
Binnaz Toprak

Bir yaşamsal zorunluluk olarak komşuluk
Talat Parman

Komşuluk
Murat Belge

Komşuluk Alfabesi 2
Haydar Ergülen

Komşuluk Alfabesi 1
Haydar Ergülen

Sınır komşusu
Ertuğ Uçar

Olmayan komşu
Şebnem İşigüzel

Zoraki komşu
Anna Turay

Sükûnet apartmanında paltolama ve yalıtım işleri
Yasemin Özcan

Komşular arasında
Selçuk Orhan

Komşuluğun yeni halleri
Bekir Ağırdır

Gözün kayıp oyuğu
Sema Kaygusuz

Komşudaki anahtar...
Metin Solmaz

"En iyi komşu ölü komşudur!"
Barış Acar

Mainimiz var! Kimse bize gelmiyor
Leyla Bektaş-Ata

Yandı bitti kül oldu
Rober Koptaş

Komşu ev demekti...
Evren Balta

Mükemmel bir komşu nasıl kapıyı açar?
Süreyyya Evren

15th Istanbul Biennial is in the neighbourhood with a good neighbour posters

You can also share the questions of a good neighbour with your neighbourhood by hanging the posters on your windows. Posters can be obtained, free of charge, from box offices at İKSV, Pera Museum, Istanbul Modern and selected Biletix sales points.* 

*Afişlerinizi Caddebostan Migros, Cevahir AVM, Kadıköy Sahne, Akmerkez Vakkorama, Beyoğlu Demirören AVM, Capitol AVM, Capacity AVM, İstinye Park, Forum İstanbul, Kanyon ve City’s Nişantaşı.

Artists announced for the 15th Istanbul Biennial

The 15th Istanbul Biennial, entitled a good neighbourand curated by artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset, reveals the participating artists of this year’s edition, which takes place from 16 September to 12 November 2017. Organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) and sponsored by Koç Holding, the 15th Istanbul Biennial brings together artworks by 55 artists from 32 countries, all addressing different notions of homebelonging and neighbourhood. The biennial takes place in six neighbouring venues: Istanbul Modern, Galata Greek Primary School, Ark Kültür, Pera Museum, Yoğunluk Artist Atelier, and Küçük Mustafa Paşa Hammam.

Your neighbour might be someone who lives quite a different life from yours. And hopefully you, unlike many politicians lately, are not the one who chooses to deal with your fear of otherness by fencing yourself off. The artists in the 15th Istanbul Biennial raise questions about ideas of home, neighbourhood, belonging and co-existence from multiple perspectives. Some of the artworks examine how our domestic living conditions and modes have changed and how our neighbourhoods have transformed, while others focus on how we cope with today’s geopolitical challenges on a micro-level. The Biennial takes its form from the invited artists’ personal or analytical statements: an engaging mixture of hopes and visions, of sadness and indignation, of history and present day.

Elmgreen & Dragset, curators of the 15th Istanbul Biennial

By the numbers: 15th Istanbul Biennial

2 months
55 artists
32 countries
6 exhibition venues
30 new commissions

Please click here to view the artlist list.

Elmgreen & Dragset on the 15th Istanbul Biennial

Elmgreen & Dragset talk about the 15th Istanbul Biennial in a conversation held by The Biennial Foundation at Venice.

From Moscow to Sydney: the International Billboard Project

In anticipation of the exhibition, the 15th Istanbul Biennial launched an International Billboard Project to share the theme of a good neighbour in different cities around the world. Through collaborations with cultural institutions worldwide, the International Billboard Project displays a carefully curated selection of photographs by Lukas Wassmann, which capture unexpected encounters paired with questions asking what makes a good neighbour. Host cities include Moscow (Russia), Sydney (Australia), Milan (Italy), Ljubljana (Slovenia), Armagh, Ballynahinch, Belfast, Downpatrick and Newry (Northern Ireland), Southhampton (UK), Calgary (Canada), Plovidv (Bulgaria), Chicago (USA), Seoul and Gwangju (South Korea). The most recent stops were Liverpool and Manchester for the project that will continue until the end of 2017.

The 15th Istanbul Biennial to open its doors in six venues

The 15th Istanbul Biennial, entitled a good neighbour and curated by the artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset, will take place from 16 September to 12 November 2017. The 15th Istanbul Biennial will be located in the heart of Istanbul, and can be visited free of charge at six nearby venues within walking distance.

Bringing together a variety of artworks dealing with different notions of home and neighbourhood, the 15th Istanbul Biennial exhibitions will take place at Istanbul Modern, Galata Greek Primary School, Ark Kültür, Pera Museum, an artist collective’s studio, and Küçük Mustafa Paşa Hammam.

Please click here to view the venues of the 15th Istanbul Biennial.

The 15th Istanbul Biennial’s Public Programme

The public programme of the 15th Istanbul Biennial, coordinated by Zeyno Pekünlü, will kick off during the opening days of the Biennial. In addition to the symposia to be performed during the opening and closing week, there will be periodic events in which the audience will cook, read, and make music, as well as discussions, debates and workshops around the theme of the Biennial, a good neighbour.

Please click here for the details of the Public Programme.

The second stop of the 15th Istanbul Biennial’s international billboard project is Limerick City Gallery of Art

Having launched at thirteen spots in Armagh, Ballynahinch, Belfast Downpatrick and Newry in Northern Ireland on 27 February – 12 March as part of the St Patrick Festival, the 15th Istanbul Biennial’s international billboard project continues its route with Limerick. Realised in collaboration with EVA International and Limerick City Gallery of Art, the billboard carries the question of “Is a good neighbour someone who just moved in?” next to a photograph by Lukas Wassmann.

The 15th Istanbul Biennial, curated by the artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset, entitled a good neighbour, will deal with multiple notions of home and neighbourhoods, exploring how living modes in our private spheres have changed throughout the past decades. The biennial will approach home as an indicator of diverse identities and a vehicle for self-expression, and neighbourhood as a micro-universe exemplifying some of the challenges that are faced in terms of co-existence today. Against this backdrop, the 15th Istanbul Biennial initiated an international billboard project in anticipation of the exhibition, and spreads its theme of a good neighbour to many different cities around the world from Manchester to Sydney, and from Havana to Delhi.

The international billboard campaign is realised through collaborations with multiple cultural institutions worldwide and will display a carefully curated selection of photographs by Lukas Wassmann. Wassmann’s photographs which capture unexpected encounters are paired with questions asking what makes a good neighbour. The project is a collaboration between the curators Elmgreen & Dragset, graphic designer Rupert Smyth, and artist Lukas Wassmann, questioning the ways in which neighbourhoods have changed all around the world.

15th Istanbul Biennial is "worth travelling for"

USA magazine Newsweek presented the 15th Istanbul Biennial among the exhibitions in 2017 that are "worth travelling for".

Editor Francesca Gavin stated: 

Turkey’s political turbulence won’t stop Scandinavian artists Elmgreen and Dragset from unveiling their take on the Istanbul Biennial in September. Their project is based on the idea of collaboration, and it is likely to reflect their fascination with display and archive.

Please click here to read the feature.

The title and conceptual framework of the 15th Istanbul Biennial is announced

The 15th Istanbul Biennial’s title and conceptual framework was announced by the curators Elmgreen & Dragset at a media conference on Wednesday, 7 December at Salon İKSV. The 15th Istanbul Biennial will take place between 16 September and 12 November 2017.

The media conference started with a live act involving 40 people, each asking a question as to what constitutes a good neighbour. Throughout the media conference photographs were projected behind the performers, selected by artist from Turkey, Ali Taptık in relation to the framework of a good neighbour from a series he has produced in Istanbul.

The director of the Istanbul Biennial Bige Örer made a welcome speech following the live act. The curators Elmgreen & Dragset then announced the title and gave a brief curatorial statement about the conceptual framework of the 15th Istanbul Biennial.

Elmgreen & Dragset spoke about some of the themes that can be associated with the title and said that the Biennial’s format will bear traces of being curated by artists: 

a good neighbour will deal with multiple notions of home and neighbourhoods, exploring how living modes in our private spheres have changed throughout the past decades. Home is approached as an indicator of diverse identities and a vehicle for self-expression, and neighbourhood as a micro-universe exemplifying some of the challenges we face in terms of co-existence today.

The curators then introduced the biennial’s billboard campaign, created by graphic designer Rupert Smyth together with artists. This international campaign will be realised through collaborations with multiple cultural institutions worldwide, questioning the ways in which neighbourhoods have changed all around the world.

Following the presentations, the curators Elmgreen & Dragset and the Istanbul Biennial Director Bige Örer answered questions. The media conference was open to art and media professionals.

The preview of the 15th Istanbul Biennial will be on 12-13 September (media only) and 14-15 September 2017 (media and art professionals). The biennial will take place in different venues throughout the city and, in addition to the exhibition, will include a series of performative interventions as well as a film and public programme.

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Construction policies in an era of building and demolishing

Some works at the Biennial take record of the rapidly changing face of the cities due to construction.

Conversation with artist Victor Leguy on his work at the Biennial

The objects which are exhibited at the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art are compiled of certain belongings which Leguy obtained from the migrants he had met by means of exchange. The artist explains this collective work, which can also be interpreted as a critique of official history narrative.

Opti and Pesi: A Neighbourly Song, a children’s book by the 15th Istanbul Biennial takes young audiences on a Biennial journey after two seaguls

The story develops around two seaguls, Opti and Pesi, embarking on a journey to the venues of the 15th Istanbul Biennial and introducing seven works.

A new project with the collaboration of the 15th Istanbul Biennial, Liverpool Biennial and Protocinema

A project by artist Burak Kabadayı, From the Beginning has been carried out in 6 different neighbourhoods of Istanbul, with 48 children aged 4-14. Sound, video and an intricate map of networks will be available on the local radio station, Açık Radyo, and the web page of the Liverpool Biennial.

Flâneuses exhibition is coming to an end on 3 November with a performance by Yasemin Özcan

Bringing together works by five artists from Turkey who worked at Paris Cité des Arts artist residency programme over different periods, Flâneuses exhibition is ending with a performance by Yasemin Özcan on 3 November.

‘Can a biennial be feminist?’: The fourth floor of the Pera Museum and our dreams hidden in curtain patterns

Is the numeral multitude of women enough to make an exhibition feminist? Are female artists completely exempt from using a masculine language? We looked at the fourth floor of the Pera Museum to find answers to our questions.

Underground life in Beijing and Sim Chi Yin’s Rat Tribe

Sim Chi Yin participates in the 15th Istanbul Biennial with her series of photographs called Rat Tribe, documenting the life of Beijing’s migrant workers through their portraits inside the underground shelters they live.

Our most intimate restlessness and the uncanny houses at the Istanbul Biennial

’Most of the works exhibited at the Istanbul Biennial revolve around an idea of uncanniness to destroy the structures or the concepts of ‘home’ and ‘closeness’.’

The Silence and Eloquence of Objects: a ‘one-room’ hung on the ceiling of Istanbul Modern

For the 15th Istanbul Biennial, Young-Jun Tak hung a replica of his former one-room Seoul apartment upside-down on the ceiling of Istanbul Modern and created the piece called The Silence and Eloquence of Objects.

Erkan Özgen, Wonderland and childhood as a hometown

Erkan Özgen’s video Wonderland, which is shown at the Galata Greek Primary School as part of the the Istanbul Biennial, focuses on the story of Mohammed, who had to flee Kobanî in January 2015 due to the ISIL siege of the city.

Candeğer Furtun and neighbouring bodies

An interview with Candeğer Furtun on the series of legs on show at the biennial and her decades-long art practice.

Tuğçe Tuna and about dance, a modern art form

I have this natural bond with the theme of the biennial since to me another body has always meant a neighbour. So, bringing different neighbours; different bodies with various dynamics and attitudes together under this dome, inside the holistic structure of this venue is very functional. This piece is going to be wholly produced and exhibited here. As a choreographer who works

Lungiswa Gqunta and a lawn in Cape Town on which we can’t run around and play

Lungiswa Gqunta is taking part in the 15th İstanbul Biennial with an installation she produced by breaking Coca-Cola bottles to form a lawn.

Ali Taptık and his project ‘Friends and Strangers’ which tells Istanbul to Istanbul

‘Friends and Strangers’ is both an online and a physical multidimensional installation which enables us to witness the stories and urban experiences of three fictional characters with different occupations.

Liliana Maresca is commemorated in Buenos Aires with a retrospective

Featured in the Biennial with an untitled series of photo-performances on view at the Pera Museum, Liliana Maresca is commemorated with an extensive retrospective at the Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires simultaneously with the Biennial. The exhibition covers 12 years of artistic output of the dissident artist.

Heba Y. Amin, conspiracy theories and ‘The General’s Stork’

Heba Y. Amin responds to the absurdity that occurs in moments of political strain with her film As Birds Flying (2016) that greets the audience at Galata Greek Primary School, as well as the lecture performance she presented on 15 September, ’The General’s Stork’.

The 15th Istanbul Biennial Public Programme kicks off with Fred Wilson’s speech

Bringing together a number of handcrafted items related to Ottoman culture and the roles of black people within it in his installation for the Biennial Afro Kismet, on view at the Pera Museum, Wilson was the first guest of the Public Programme with an artist talk he delivered at the auditorium of the Pera Museum on 14 September.

Home Sweet Home: Volkan Aslan and our mobile homes

Commissioned for the 15th Istanbul Biennial, and filmed on the Bosphorus, Volkan Aslan’s video installation Home Sweet Home (2017) is a meditative take on displacement. With its disjunctions of time and perspective, and imagery of water and travel, the work commemorates individuals forced to make long journeys.

Week long journey of Boncuk the donkey at the Biennial

A donkey named Boncuk brought to the garden of Istanbul Modern from a northern village in Istanbul for the opening week is a part of the performance by Xiao Yu, Ground (2014/17). A reminder of the ecological fragility of our age, Ground will continue its course with a video installation that will be screened at Istanbul Modern throughout the Biennial.

Istanbul Biennial present a permanent gift to the city in its 30th anniversary

Ugo Rondinone’s spectecular neon sculpture, Where Do We Go From Here?, exhibited first at the Taksim Square as part of the 6th Istanbul Biennial in 1999, returns to the city to be displayed permanently. With the support of the 2007-2026 Biennial Sponsor Koç Holding, a new sculpture will be offered to the public domain with each Biennial.

Tuğçe Tuna is at the Biennial with her new choreography, Body Drops

Body Drops, a new choreography conceived by Tuğçe Tuna for the Biennial, is at Küçük Mustafa Paşa Hammam on every Saturday for the duration of the Biennial, and on the first Sunday after the public opening.

A neighbouring exhibition curated by Istanbul Biennial Director Bige Örer: Flâneuses

The Flâneuses exhibition, opening on 13 September, hosts the artists Aslı Çavuşoğlu, İnci Furni, Güneş Terkol, Yasemin Özcan, and İz Öztat & Zişan, who have worked at the Turkey Workshop in the Cité des Arts over different periods, with works all based on “flânerie”.

Yonamine and Latifa Echakhch present neighbouring works at Istanbul Modern

Two neighbouring, site-specific works that are brought to life at the centre of Istanbul Modern by Yonamine and Latifa Echakhch, welcomes the street aesthetic into the Biennial. The works in dialogue prove that destruction might be as productive as construction. Here is our quick conversation with the artists during the installation.

A conversation with Tuğçe Tuna on Body Drops

Choreographer, dance artist, academic, and movement therapist Tuğçe Tuna is among the artists of the 15th Istanbul Biennial with a performance she will be presenting at Küçük Mustafa Paşa Hammam. Let’s hear what the artist has to say about the performance she entitled Body Drops and how it relates to a good neighbour.

A conversation with the Public Programme coordinator Zeyno Pekünlü

The programme of which artist Zeyno Pekünlü serves as a coordinator will enable us to perceive the theme a good neighbour as the neighbourhood of disciplines, with participation of researchers, activists and musicians from different fields. Pekünlü explains the intellectual background of the series of activities that are going to be taking place over the course of two months.

a good neighbour billboards are at Plovdiv with the collaboration of the Goethe Institut Bulgaria and Plovdiv 2019

Plovdiv in Bulgaria was one of the host cities of the a good neighbour billboard project, which intends to share the questions of the 15th Istanbul Biennial with residents of many other cities around the world.

Volkan Aslan is at the 15th Istanbul Biennial with his new video, Home Sweet Home

Teasers of Home Sweet Home, video commission of the 15th Istanbul Biennial to artist Volkan Aslan, are now online.

A talk with Pereda on his grotesque walls

Alejandro Almanza Pereda on the three-piece work he made for the Istanbul Biennial, one of which has recently been launched at the Pera Museum in anticipation of the Biennial.

Pereda’s work is on display at the Pera Museum

Alejandro Almanza Pereda is at the Pera Museum with one of the new pieces he has added to to his seminal series Horror Vacui from Istanbul. The series comprise found Romantic paintings covered by lumps of concrete. The work replaced a painting from the Orientalist Painting Collection of the Pera Museum.

These cameras are not there to watch, but to be watched

A conversation with the artist Burçak Bingöl on her ceramic surveillance cameras that she will install on the façades of over 20 buildings in the most crowded centre of the city.

Online article series on a good neighbour

Every Monday, writers, editors, curators, thinkers and many others write about a good neighbour on the special section dedicated to the 15th Istanbul Biennial in the online newspaper, T24, available only in Turkish.

15th Istanbul Biennial is in the neighbourhood with a good neighbour posters

Posters can be obtained, free of charge, from box offices at İKSV, Pera Museum, Istanbul Modern and selected Biletix sales points.

Artists announced for the 15th Istanbul Biennial

The 15th Istanbul Biennial brings together artworks by 55 artists from 32 countries, all addressing different notions of homebelonging and neighbourhood.

Elmgreen & Dragset on the 15th Istanbul Biennial

Elmgreen & Dragset talk about the 15th Istanbul Biennial in a conversation held by The Biennial Foundation at Venice.

From Moscow to Sydney: the International Billboard Project

In anticipation of the exhibition, the 15th Istanbul Biennial launched an International Billboard Project to share the theme of a good neighbour in different cities around the world.

Biennial to open its doors in six venues

The 15th Istanbul Biennial will be located in the heart of Istanbul, and can be visited free of charge at six nearby venues within walking distance.

a good neighbour at the city of Limerick

Launched at thirteen spots in collaboration with the St. Patrick Festival, the 15th Istanbul Biennial’s international billboard project continues its route in collaboration with Limerick City Gallery of Art.

The 15th Istanbul Biennial is "worth travelling for"

According to Newsweek, the 15th Istanbul Biennial is among the five exhibitions of 2017 that are worth taking the trip.

The title and conceptual framework of the 15th Istanbul Biennial is announced

The media conference started with a live act involving 40 people, each asking a question as to what constitutes a good neighbour. Throughout the media conference photographs were projected behind the performers, selected by artist from Turkey, Ali Taptık in relation to the framework of a good neighbour from a series he has produced in Istanbul.
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