The 15th İstanbul Biennial poses lots of questions about the meaning of “a good neighbour.” Is a good neighbour someone you rarely see? Is a good neighbour a family without pets? Is a good neighbour someone who just moved in? Is a good neighbour reading the same newspaper as you? Is a good neighbour your friend on Facebook? Is a good neighbour genderless? Is a good neighbour someone who makes you feel at home, while you listen to low voices through the wall? Is a good neighbour a woman in love, humming as she prepares a meal for her girlfriend? Is a good neighbour the homeless guy next to you?…
Curated by artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset, this iteration of the İstanbul Biennial hosts 56 artists and 150 artworks. Organized by İKSV, the biennial takes place at Galata Greek School, Istanbul Modern, ARK Kültür, Pera Museum, Yoğunluk Atelier and Küçük Mustafa Paşa Hammam.
Closing its doors in 2007 as a school, Galata Greek School has been a recurring biennial venue. The classrooms now serve as exhibition spaces. Jonah Freeman and Justin Love turned one into a dynamic young culture zone in California, beginning with wild underground vibes and ending in a luxurious collector space. In an another classroom, Olaf Metzel created a gathering spot, as the world needs more and more safe places to protect people from outside dangers.
Istanbul Modern hosts nineteen artists’ projects. One of them is Latifa Echakhch. She uses two big walls to show the gradual disappearance of people who protest and march for democracy around the world. As the audience walks in between those walls, they are immersed in the reality of these protests instead of watching from afar.
Ark Kültür art space is dedicated to Mahmoud Khaled’s Proposal for a House Museum of an Unknown Crying Man. The story goes back to when 52 gay men were arrested in 2001 in Egypt. One of them was photographed crying and became an icon for the Egyptian LGBT community. Khaled designed this fictional house for him. As visitors walk through the house with audio guides, they listen to stories from the crying man’s life, his passions and his relation to world outside.
After closing in Turkey last fall, the 15th İstanbul Biennial is on the move. Twelve of the original 56 artists are showing their biennial projects in Munich at the Pinakotek der Moderne museum through April 2018.
Photographs and writing courtesy Begüm Erginbay, with Cathy Byrd.