Impressions from the 14th Istanbul Biennial, Vol. 1: İstanbul Modern, Galata Greek School, DEPO
The Istanbul Biennial exhibition at Istanbul Modern begins with the “Canal” Project and illustrates the origins of the biennial’s conceptual framework; here it is possible to encounter works by artists including Tacita Dean and Song-Ming Ang as well as documents from various scientific studies. In the corridor leading to the main gallery area, Prophets by Richard Ibghy and Marilou Lemmens lies like a monument, composed of graphic-sculpture works made of simple, every day materials and representing economic data. Then Pillars, Marwan Rechmaoui’s sculpture series appear before our eyes, dramatically revealing the atmosphere of rapid urbanization and destruction in the Middle East. On the other hand, Georgia Sagri’s powerful work My First Science Fiction Book, Religion questions the Notion of religious beliefs through a 3D video performance in which individuals from different religious backgrounds pray together.
Georgia Sagri (left). Michelangelo Pistoletto (right). Istanbul Modern. Photo: İ. Yeğinsü
The Venus of the Rags (1967), one of the most impressive works in the main gallery area belongs to Michelangelo Pistoletto, one of the leading figures of Arte Povera. The curator often tackles the issues of ’68 student movements and, as part of an artistic movement aiming at combining the dynamism of everyday life with high art, this work has a similar reference. Another great artwork is a multi-channel video installation by the Australian artist Vernon Ah Kee titled Tall Man, narrating interracial tensions and the resulting Palm Island riots. The room containing the Yirrkala drawings made of natural pigments on barks, again from Australia, is one of the biennial’s must-see areas. It is also gratifying to discover that the curator’s selection includes some of the most important names from Turkish art history such as Bedri Rahmi Eyüboğlu and Fahrelnisa Zeid.
Andrew Yang, Galata Greek School. Photo: İ. Yeğinsü
The works in the Galata Greek School focus on timelessness, labor and the cultural memory of this region, thus turning into an archaeological site. The Salt Traders by Anna Boghiguian questions the present through the remains of a lost ship that reemerges in the future. While Neochronophobiq, Emre Hüner’s installation composed of sculpture and multi-channel video presents a poetic narrative about our fear of time, The Flesh Is Yours, The Bones Are Ours by Michael Rakowitz extraordinarily elaborates on the themes of crafts, memory and cultural heritage. Andrew Yang’s IO-OX: A Dialogue concerning Two World Systems invading the school’s attic is perhaps the most interesting work at this venue; the artist identifies a connection between the mythology of the Bosphorus and astronomy, inviting the viewer to produce sounds that will propagate in space, into infinity.
Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller, The Vault Karaköy. Photo: inenart.eu
DEPO is yet another biennial stop to be seen. The Silence of Ani by Francis Alÿs, one of the leading names in contemporary art history, takes the viewer to a journey into the remains of the city of Ani situated near the Armenian border, blowing new life into the once illustrous city with his call. On the other hand, at the lower floor of Vault Karaköy the House hotel a very interesting surprise is awaiting the biennial visitors. Once you enter a gloomy room and press a red button, the show suddenly begins: the Sad Waltz and the Dancer Who Couldn’t Dance, the robotic installation by Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller fills us with a deep nostalgia for a nameless past.
Click for Vol.2
Click for the biennial’s conceptual framework