The 17th Istanbul Biennial has opened its doors at beloved venues and forgotten streets of Istanbul. As the Istanbul Chronicle team, we were at the premiere of the biennial. The press members engaged it without the crowd. That was not optimal for a visitor, as they would like to experience the whole atmosphere with people in it. That is what contemporary art brought to the art world.
The biennial's main aim is to make people talk and discuss the ideas in artists' minds and not to take quick snapshots of the scene. So, the map was full of both famous and forgotten streets. Beyoğlu, with its rooted culture, was the home of 6 places hosting the biennial. Some are already in use of art, others are exciting places no one thought would host an art event, like the abandoned Central Greek High School for Girls.
Starting with the most famous one, Suna and İnan Kıraç Foundation Pera Museum is curated for the biennial with three full floors total. The place has been hosting the biennial since 2015. This year it didn't disappoint! There were video performance arts, installations, and a photo gallery. Three floors had six rooms in total, and they were designed to draw attention to different topics, from war to feminism to the underrepresented beliefs of unheard people. We were lucky to have Irwan Ahmett walking us through his and Tita Salina's artworks of video performances and installations named The Call of Fragility. A room had musical instruments made out of nails and brass pieces, which made visitors consider deeply. An enormous place was reserved for the war diaries of Turkish and Asian people, referencing gory events. Another artwork was about feminism and how Turkey responded to this year's feminism protests, a video performance from the scenes of the Istanbul convention protests. Pera Museum also offered a trembling video/installation project, which addressed all senses, and was a mind-blowing experience.
Artworks at Pera Museum
Performistanbul Live Art Research Space (PCSAA), is smaller than Pera Museum but that was not a problem for artists to suit their artworks and engage visitors through it. The place had small objects sparkled on the table and references to the sounds they create. Almost the visitors could hear the sounds by how descriptive that environment was. Visitors also could take a better look at PCSAA, an organization working on researching live art performances. There were also works about feminism, a video of banners prepared by women.
Artworks at Performistanbul
Next comes the cozy colored room of Büyükdere35. The place hosted one of the events of the Buffalo Festival. The room included mirrors on the walls with writings and all-natural ingredients semolina desserts. Even though the place was small, it contributed to the natural environment of the biennial's events and many conversations happened there while sitting and eating semolina desserts.
Another place is SAHA Studio, an organization working with artists for given periods to contribute their artwork's process with discussion environments. Visitors can go there and observe the ongoing discussions. Of course, it is an office for many so it will only be open on certain days.
Next important place is Central Greek High School for Girls. This place was forgotten when the school closed due to the insufficient number of students. After that, a family keeps the place tidy and natural as much as it could survive. The biennial entered this forgotten place and without impacting much of the history there, it created a great place for exhibit. The place was full of tablets, playing different videos, documentaries of protests, and important events, on a relatively low voice. The place was complete with low voices of recording and once a playground for young girls, a closed room with long windows.
Artworks at Central Greek High School for Girls
The last place on the list is Metro Istanbul Tunnel, Taksim. It is right beneath Gezi Park, a historic place for protests. It opens to the different aspects of the city, the blue Bosphorus side and the greenest Harbiye gardens. The place was curated to address the senses, and it catches the visitors into its trap by engaging 200 meters-long walking path.
The biennial is a stimulating the senses type of event. It requests you to open your eyes, listen closely and touch anything if you are wondering! Discussions are always welcomed whatever place you enter on the map, and Beyoğlu places are a great start for visitors.