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by Amy Bruce

Is a Good Neighbour…? Semts, Scale and the 15th Istanbul Biennial

The 2017 edition of the Istanbul Biennial was on the scale of a neighbourhood, Beyoğlu. The small exhibition of only 56 artists was largely held in a part of the city that is fractured by migrant, religious, and secular groups. The six venues included a villa, a former Greek primary school, a warehouse turned contemporary art museum, a neoclassical hotel turned museum, an apartment used as artist-collective studio, and an abandoned bathhouse. These venues centralized community and locality. With the title and theme, a good neighbour, the artist-duo curators Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset gestured for the incomplete phrase to be appended into full sentences. The lingering title suggests they advocate for an open-ended contemporaneity with various possibilities for discussion within the context of Turkey’s polarizing political landscape.

The curatorial theme of neighbours and neighbourhoods is also central to this essay. I situate the Turkish word semt[1] as a critical concept to mobilize characteristics of the central neighbourhood of the biennial, Beyoğlu. As such, I position the curation of a good neighbour as propelling the historical identity of the Beyoğlu semt, as a hybrid and negotiated neighbourhood with a history of interrelations between identities, specifically Eurocentric and non-Eurocentric values, to promote a curatorial vision of diversity and possibility through the site-specific exhibition venues and artworks within contours of a relational historicity to deploy nuanced and locally situated histories and subjectivities. This edition of the Biennial occurred in an increasingly tense city after a failed coup d’état and divided political ideologies, arguably curatorially advocating for civil discourse. In addition to contextualising the Beyoğlu semt, my arguments are reinforced by a visual analysis of the performance Body Drops (2017) by Tuğçe Tuna at the Küçük Mustafa Paşa Hammam.

More broadly, I see this 15th Istanbul Biennial edition and its curatorial concept through the framework of the semt to mediate on local and global contexts of interpretation. That is to say, globally biennials have been debated as producing and replicating processes of globalisation as “Westernisation” and processes of capital accumulation. This edition of the Istanbul Biennial could be argued as participating in circulating a particular set of dominant values that align with notions of the global white cube.[2] Comparatively, many scholars argue that biennials are dissent sites to hegemony, which could be equally argued about this edition.[3] I do not contend that this edition is isolated from these discourses and echo Simon Sheikh’s understanding of biennials as heterotopic in order to see biennials, as both and between, being mechanisms of hegemony and examples of neoliberal capitalism.[4] What is proposed for consideration by this essay and by this biennial case study is considering the scaled co-existence and implications of global and local analyses of the biennial; that is, how the curatorial narrative simultaneously exists within and against polarising biennial discourses.

Curating Semts
Regarding the importance of the Istanbul Biennial and its role to the curation of the 15th edition, Elmgreen & Dragset’s stated that they “would not have made ‘a good neighbour’ in a different city.”[5] The symbolic significance of buildings and neighbourhoods in Istanbul is inevitably important to them. The curators themselves understood the key concept of neighbours beyond simply pertaining to domestic relationships but to a broader global understanding. As they said, “We don’t see the term ‘neighbour’ as just applying to people, but to geographic and geopolitical neighbours as well, but today these ‘neighbourly’ relations do not only pertain to the countries across nearby physical borders.”[6] The curatorial concept of neighbours, for the curators, extends beyond confrontable interactions to consider distanced and relational frameworks of social, political, and economic connectedness, which may directly relate to specific geopolitical contexts.

Conceptualising the Istanbul Biennial around the idea of the neighbourhood uniquely resonates with Turkish culture. While the word neighbourhood in Turkish is mahalle, semt provides a looser definition that can be used conversationally to refer to neighbourhoods or boroughs. There has been a conceptual and linguistic move by locals in Istanbul to use semt for the public meaning of mahalle, where semt is considered a more inclusive word for referring to neighbourhood areas.[7] Even though semt has become a synonym for mahalle, they are less defined and less official areas than mahalles. A key distinction between mahalles and semts in most cases is that where mahalles are used by locals to refer to a general area or neighbourhood, they are also the smallest electoral district. A mahalle has an elected official, known as a muhtar. In larger cities, muhtars function as neighbourhood presidents within their elected district, working with municipal administrations and city mayors. Smaller cities or villages may only have a muhtar as the only locally elected representative. Alternatively, semts do not have any official legal or electoral definition, and they do not have an administrative use. Although some mahalles can be locally understood as semts, not all semts are mahalles.

Notably, Elmgreen & Dragset do not refer to mahalles or semts in their exhibition texts or in their edition of the biennial.[8] However, I have chosen to focus on the term semt because it adopts contemporary usage and public parlance for neighbourhoods in Istanbul. Particularly, it is my understanding that the word semt allows for more fluid borders around neighbourhoods since they are not official spatial categories, but alternatively, are individually and locally defined. As general areas, semts refer to various urban spaces that include municipalities, mahalles, and other unofficial boroughs. As Binnaz Tuğba Sasanlar distills, “Semts are not bounded by administrative borders but rather mental ones.”[9] The mental borders around any semt could overlap with another semt or otherwise recognised neighbourhood. Semt, as a critical concept for this edition of the Istanbul Biennial, is a term that is flexible and relational to the location of the venues in the Biennial, which more accurately encompasses multiple official and unofficial mahalles and semts.

This framework of semt also encapsulates Elmgreen & Dragset’s distinction of Beyoğlu as the neighbourhood of the Biennial. Even though the Istanbul Biennial venues were not exclusively restricted to the larger Beyoğlu semt, Beyoğlu as a semt was curatorially critical for being rooted in local urban histories and academic discourses that framed the curatorial concept of the 2017 Biennial edition. Specifically, the Küçük Mustafa Paşa Hammam is located in Fatih, a municipality separated from Beyoğlu by the Golden Horn, outside the administrative and even arguably the mental boundaries of Beyoğlu. The inclusion of an exhibition venue outside of Beyoğlu maintains a focus on relationality and the lived exchanges and overlap between neighbourhoods and societal urban dynamics. Undeniably, logistical unknowns and availability could have contributed to the use of particular sites over others. Yet, given the curatorial focus on neighbours and the historically present characteristics associated with Beyoğlu, I would contend it was curatorially significant for a good neighbour to be narratively situated within Beyoğlu.

By curatorially constituting the 15th edition of the Istanbul Biennial with the semt, I posit that the exhibition sites functioned as documents, of sorts, of the city’s layered pasts, present, and future. Their inclusion not only fixates the curatorial narrative of the biennial but explores discursive pasts in the present. Peter Osborne argues that one of the temporal problematics of biennials is the periodic rhythm where the logic of contemporaneity is perpetuated every year of a biennial edition.[10] As Osborne puts it, every year is this year and contingent with the present. The biennial form then, operates in and for the present yet in perpetuity. Terry Smith reiterates this point by stating that because biennials focus on contemporary art, they provide a “timetabled openness to contemporaneity.”[11] I reiterate their arguments, especially given that most artworks at biennials are conceived of as site-, or at least, event-specific works. The location of or ephemerality of the biennial is essential to the meaning of the work, integrating venues to the exhibitions and artworks’ significance. Since its inception in 1986, the Istanbul Biennial has relied upon and uses different venues for each edition. The venues used for this edition and past editions inscribe the city in the Biennial differently than being housed in a central location (although, arguably there are some exceptions and some venues are reused. For instance, in this edition the Galata Greek Primary School and the Küçük Mustafa Paşa Hammam were both used in previous editions). A precedent has been set for the Istanbul Biennial to critically and conceptually integrate exhibition sites[12]—and for this edition, the curators mobilized historical connotations by way of site-specificity to carry the city’s past, with a particularly nuanced history, into their present edition.

Beyoğlu connects to Istanbul’s old city centre by crossing the Golden Horn by the Galata Bridge or the Unkapanı Bridge. Beyoğlu is on the European side of Istanbul and it includes the catalogued referenced mahalles, Asmalı Mescit and Kılıçali Paşa.[13] It is one of Istanbul’s 39 electoral municipal districts with an elected mayor. It is not an official mahalle because of its size. However, it is known in public parlance as a semt. Initially, when the Istanbul districts were drawn in 1858, Beyoğlu was the sixth of fourteen municipal districts. According to the municipal website, its designation as the sixth district was to honour Beyoğlu after a revered and prosperous district in Paris.[14]

Prior to the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, Beyoğlu was known as the Greek Pera. Marketing scholar, Özlem Sandıkcı, outlines that Pera was established in the 13th century as a Genoese trading colony, separate from the Byzantine empire. Pera maintained its independence even after Fatih Sultan Mehmet captured Istanbul in the 15th century and formed an alliance with the Ottoman Empire. Increased trade between Europe and the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century propelled socioeconomic changes with an accompanying desire for European modernisation.[15] During the 19th century, European traders and embassies resided in Beyoğlu because of the docks and trade centres located along the Golden Horn. This larger and diverse Western population reflected a “European paradigm of urban sophistication”[16] in Beyoğlu. Newly forming ideas regarding modern urban organisation in Europe captivated the reformist elite in Istanbul, who were interested in mirroring a “Western city.” City planning initiatives inaugurated Beyoğlu as a municipal government, transforming Beyoğlu with street maintenance, garbage collection, the construction of sewer systems and waterways, and commercial regulations. Beyoğlu was among the first areas of Istanbul to have telephone lines, gasoil torches along its central street, Grand Rue de Pera, followed by electricity, trams, and the world’s second subway line, the Tünel in 1875.[17] By the end of the 19th century, department stores, cafes, restaurants and nightclubs lined Grand Rue de Pera, defining urban activities and sociability at that time.[18]  

The historical characteristics of Beyoğlu remain and situate it, according to translation scholars Şule Demirkol-Ertürk and Saliha Paker, as a site of “interculture.” For them, interculture is understood as a “cultural network that is inherently hybrid.” They examine the translation and publication of Armenian and Kurdish texts from publishers operating in Beyoğlu, which they argue “created new spaces of intercommunication and interaction, standing against ‘structured’ differences among ethnic and linguistic collectivities.”[19] They outline Beyoğlu as having a history of intercultural exchanges, to which Sandıkcı similarly agrees in her essay on the drag/transsexual subculture that was historically and is presently active in the district.[20]

In some regards, drawing on this modality, Elmgreen & Dragset similarly understood and relied on Beyoğlu’s historical framework as “a multicultural district.” For them, its diversity was central to their curatorial values and theme for understating of what is important in neighbourhoods and to questions of neighbourliness, who is a good neighbour, and what defines a neighbourhood. “Neighbourhoods, in their most positive sense,” they state, made them “think of belonging, co-existence, and diversity. The best neighbourhood in our eyes would be one in which your neighbours are not exactly like you.”[21] The pluralism and history of intercultural exchanges provided a critical framework for the Biennial. Unlike other semts, such as Fatih or Tophane, which are locally known as being more conservative with a larger following of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), disapproving of secular lifestyles such as alcohol consumption and different styles of dress, it made sense to locals for the Biennial to be hosted in Beyoğlu. As Istanbul resident Çiğdem Arıkan puts it: “The Biennial is a cool thing. It is art. For this reason, it suits Beyoğlu much more. If the locals of Fatih saw a poster ‘There is a Biennial in Fatih,’ they would say ‘What the heck? What is this thing called Biennial?’ Afterwards when they learn what it is, they may not be happy with it.”[22] Alternatively, Beyoğlu, as the hosting semt, provided an accepting, diverse and welcoming neighbourhood for a good neighbour.

Constructing Neighbourhoods in Istanbul Since the 1990s
The macro shifting parameters of culture and politics in Istanbul since the 1990s reverberate on a micro or neighbourhood level. The significant changes that have taken place are the result of the leadership and sustained power by Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party the AKP. The politically conservative party’s rise to power is in part due to municipal and mayoral elections throughout Turkey. These elections helped the AKP win governmental leadership by a “landslide” in 2002. The resulting parliamentary changes, states politics and government scholar Arda Can Kumbaracibasi, has enabled the formation of the first single-party government since 1987 in Turkey. After local elections in 2004, party power was consolidated and after the 2007 elections, the party’s electoral base strengthened even more.

Prior to his recent re-election victory as president in 2018, Erdogan was the prime minister for 11 years and before that the mayor of Istanbul from 1994-1998. His position as mayor of Istanbul in the 1990s gave him national prominence, and since his leadership of the city, Istanbul has been the base of his support.[23] Neighbourhood politics are significant in Turkey with the 1994 municipal election considered one of the most important; the Islamist precursor to the AKP began its political rise with Erdogan’s initial electoral victory as mayor of Istanbul.[24] Even The New York Times highlights his neighbourhood upbringing in the mahalle of Kasımpaşa, a conservative working-class neighbourhood, which is known for its gangs, petty crime, and pickpockets, as influencing his demeanour and political approach.[25] His supporters know him as “Kabadayı” or “Mahalle Kabadayısı,” which translates in English to a tough uncle or protector of the neighbourhood.[26]

As the leader of the AKP, Erdogan has undertaken a process of new nation-building. This process includes architecturally transforming the city of Istanbul, which was socially engineered after the First World War. Turkey became a Republic, led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, when the Treaty of Lausanne was drawn in 1923. The process of nation building in the early 20th century was similar to Erdogan’s goal of constructing a unified national identity for the new republic.[27] To do so, the AKP has portrayed itself as a “modern,” moderate, centre-right party with Islamic roots, which therefore required strategic balancing of these often-opposing fundamental values and strategic management. This was achieved by turning political conflict into policy concerns thereby optimizing party institutionalisation.[28]

Istanbul’s changing landscape has also been the result of Erdogan’s almost complete focus on the city since his 2011 election campaign. He announced the production of three architectural megaprojects, which included a Bosporus bridge, a new airport, and shipping channel.[29] The development of these projects is to showcase Istanbul internationally and nationally as a “role-model” city and to “set the stage for economic and political grandeur.”[30] However, architectural historian Dennis Mehmet frames the AKP’s agenda as “‘re-writings of the city’s history,” which are trying to “establish a continuity with the imperial past.” The continuity, Mehmet continues, will “streamline the history and appearance of the city into a conservative Sunni Muslim narrative, systematically excluding many Others in favour of an imagined community of heirs of an empire that in that form never existed.”[31] For instance, the Atatürk Cultural Center (named after Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic) located in Taksim Square (where the Gezi Protests of 2013 took place) has been demolished and rebuilt. In its place, AKP government announced a new cultural centre that will not be limited to an “elitist” audience (fig. 1).[32] The Chamber of Architects criticize the demolition of the Atatürk Cultural Centre as part of “systematic attacks on the Republican era’s symbolic buildings.”[33]

Construction outside of Istanbul Modern, 2017. Photograph by: Amy Bruce.

Küçük Mustafa Paşa Hammam and Tuğçe Tuna’s Body Drops (2017)
The inclusion of the Küçük Mustafa Paşa Hammam (fig. 2) interrogates the unmarked boundaries of neighbourhoods and supports notions of mobility in the Istanbul Biennial. The hammam is across the Golden Horn and “situated near the Greek Patrimony, in the Ayakapı suburb of the Fatih region in Istanbul.”[34] The Fatih district, a poorer neighbourhood, according to geographic historian Amy Mills, is located on the historical peninsula with an Islamist cultural-political identity that would align more with the current dominant party.[35] It was the furthest exhibition site, yet still a manageable walking distance from the other venues and the Beyoğlu semt.

The Küçük Mustafa Paşa Hammam, 2017. Photograph by: Amy Bruce.

As an exhibition venue, the hammam could necessitate Orientalist provisions, since cultural exposure does not resolve Orientalism. That is to say, as a site included as part of a biennial, the exhibition and institution of the model appeals to an international tourist audience. Simultaneously, current and historical cultural attitudes are revealed by what buildings a city chooses to preserve, restore, and reuse. In shaping localities, then, there is an indivisible link between architecture, time, and memory.[36] As a public exhibition venue, the hammam’s adaptive re-use maintains and creates a collection of practices as a built object of the past and an artistic site to project potential futures.

Tuğçe Tuna is a Turkish performance artist and choreographer. Her performance, Body Drops (2017) (fig. 3-4), was in the male section of the hammam, making it is difficult to ignore strictures of female subservience and accompanying physical and aesthetic pressures. While Mills observes that hammams are affiliated with Islam, they were also public forums and were not only for enjoyment but also for the exchange of news and even sites of public unrest.[37] Although speaking about Moroccan hammam cultural practices, cultural studies scholar Said Graiouid stresses that the hammam experience should be framed by the power relationship that regulated the gender designation of space. Gender solidarity and bonding are promoted through hygienic practices. Since public spaces in Istanbul are dominated by male spatial practices, women’s strategic use of the hammam as a communal space was a “grassroots alternative.” Graiouid clarifies that it is not because women’s access to public spaces was limited, but it is women’s appropriation of the hammam to “short-circuit the intrusive patriarchal structure that must be highlighted.”[38] Reading the hammam as a site for public unrest conjures negotiated interpretations of a patriarchal presence in the hammam, and more broadly, for the city.

For Tuna’s performance, visitors were invited into the hammam after the performers were in place, lying in various positions on their backs and sides on the floor. With the lights off, Body Drops (2017) began with dancers gently moving their limbs as if stretching in anticipation of their own performance. Synchronized with backlights, the performers pull a sheet of plastic to the surface of the floor and start crawling around it. Slowly rising to stand, the dancers in staccatoed movements that were simultaneously still and gestured. Their bodies individually collapsed then expanded to make seemingly erratic, dipping and twirling movements—their elbows pointed when still—until they were all facing out in a large untouching circle.

Dancers performing Body Drops (2017). Image courtesy of the artist.

In many ways, Body Drops had elements of singularity, as each dancer moved uniquely yet with unity, as a reflection of Tuna’s feminist and inclusive motivations. She regarded the dancers as neighbours, working together and individually. “Maybe it was my inner intention,” Tuna remarked about Body Drops, “to show that those who possess very many identities are able to stand side by side, together, under the dome of the sky, and share LIFE together, and create together. And maybe it was my intention to remind the viewers the richness of diversity and compassion, and to spread all of this from the hammam to Beyoğlu, to Istanbul, and then to Turkey.”[39] Metaphors of complex urban connectivity come to mind, as Tuna refers to her conceptualisation of the dancers as neighbours.

fig. 4 Dancers performing Body Drops (2017). Image courtesy of the artist.

Good Neighbourly Conversation
While some international critics of this edition felt its curators offered a politically hesitant edition, a good neighbour reinforced the discursive modality of the Biennial.[40] Istanbul-based curator Naz Cuguoğlu does not disagree with the politically subtle messaging, but evaluates the Biennial’s subdued curatorial political message as implicating the edition as the most political event of 2017.[41] Art historians Julia Bethwaite and Anni Kangas, who confront the polarized interpretations of biennials, state that the mechanisms of cultural dominance produced and reproduced by and with biennials are co-implicated “with different understandings of politics: representation, contestation, hegemony, and empowerment.”[42] Where globally this edition may not have been received as insufficiently critical of contemporary political affairs, arguably, its stakes locally offered subtle discourses to be evaluated in tandem.

Amy Bruce is a PhD candidate at the Institute for Comparative Studies in Literature, Art, and Culture at Carleton University. She is interested in global contemporary art, and more specifically, how biennials have emerged as vital sites for transmitting and negotiating world or global art history.



[1] Although the concept will be discussed further momentarily, semt, according to the Redhouse Turkish-English Dictionary means “Neighborhood, part, district, quarter (of a city/a town).” Serap Bezmez and C.H. Brown, The Redhouse Turkish-English Dictionary (Istanbul: SEV Matbaacılık ve Yayıncılık, 1999), 750.

[2] Elena Filipovic, “The Global White Cube,” in The Biennial Reader, eds. Elena Filipovic, Marieke van Hal, and Solveig Øvstebø, (Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2010 [2005]), 322-345.

[3] For more on this debate, see George Baker, “The Globalization of the False: A Response to Okwui Enwezor,” in The Biennial Reader, 446–453; Okwui Enwezor, “Mega-Exhibitions and the Antinomies of a Transnational Global Form,” in The Biennial Reader, 426–445; Ranjit Hoskote, “Biennials of Resistance: Reflections on the Seventh Gwangju Biennial,” in The Biennial Reader, 306–321; Julia Bethwaite and Anni Kangas, “The Scales, Politics, and Political Economies of Contemporary Art Biennials,” Arts and International Affairs (February 7, 2018), accessed June 27, 2020, https://theartsjournal.net/2018/02/07/the-scales-politics/#_ftn6.

[4] Simon Sheikh, “Marks of Distinction, Vectors of Possibility: Question for the Biennial,” in The Biennial Reader, 150–163.

[5] Michael Elmgreen & Ingar Dragset in email, May 20, 2019.

[6] Eva Sharrer, “The Biennale Can Function as a sign of solidarity with the Art Scene in Turkey: Interview with Elmgreen & Dragset,” Spike, September 14, 2017, accessed June 27, 2020, https://www.spikeartmagazine.com/en/articles/biennale-can-function-sign-solidarity-art-scene-turkey.

[7] Lale Eskicioğlu in conversation, July 2019.

[8] In the Turkish translation of the exhibition catalogue, the word komşu, meaning neighbour or neighbouring, appears more frequently than mahalle or semt. Presumably this is because of the legal connotation of and translation associated with mahalle as a district and semt as locally understood areas.

[9] Binnaz Tuğba Sasanlar, “A Historical Panorama of An Istanbul Neighborhood: Cihangir From the Late Nineteenth Century to the 2000s” (MA Thesis, Boğaziçi University, 2006), 8.

[10] Osborne states that Terry Smith and others refer to this “expanded reproduction” that subsumes “the biennial to capital at the level of its temporal form” as “overproduction.”

[11] Terry Smith, “Biennials within the Contemporary Composition,” Liverpool Biennial Stage #6 (April 2017): 6.

[12] The 9th edition of the Istanbul Biennial in 2005 even conceptually incorporated the city of Istanbul itself. The edition was simply titled Istanbul, and was curated by Charles Esche and Vasif Kortun with assistant curators Esra Sarigedik and November Paynter. According to the curators, the title was “a metaphor, as a prediction, as a lived reality, and an inspiration has many stories to tell and the Biennial will attempt to tap directly into this rich history and possibility.” http://9b.iksv.org/english/

[13] The mahalles Asmalı Mescit and Kılıçali Paşa are identified in the a good neighbour catalogue as part of the addresses of five of the six venues, the Galata Greek Primary School, ARK Kültür, Istanbul Modern, Yoğunluk Atelier, and the Pera Museum. Asmalı Mescit and Kılıçali Paşa are official mahalles, each with a Muhtar. This is also the case for the Yavuz Sultan Selim mahalle, where the Küçük Mustafa Paşa Hammam is located.

[14] Beyoğlu Municipality website, “Beyoğlu and Beyoğlu Municipality,” http://en.beyoglu.bel.tr/beyoglu_municipality/default.aspx?SectionId=2086, accessed September 6, 2019.

[15] Özlem Sandıkcı, “Strolling Through Istanbul’s Beyoğlu: In-Between Difference and Containment,” Space and Culture 18, no. 2 (May 2015): 198–211.

[16] Asu Aksoy and Kevin Robins, “Changing Urban Cultural Governance in Istanbul: The Beyoğlu Plan,” KPY Working Paper 1, Istanbul Bilgi University (2011), 5, accessed September 9, 2019, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/267786881_Changing_Urban_Cultural_Governance_in_Istanbul_The_Beyoglu_Plan.

[17] Beyoğlu Municipality website.

[18] Sandıkcı, “Strolling Through Istanbul’s Beyoğlu: In-Between Difference and Containment,” 201.

[19] Şule Demirkol-Ertürk and Saliha Paker, “Beyoğlu/Pera as a Translating Site in Istanbul,” Translation Studies 7, no. 2 (May 4, 2014): 173.

[20] Sandıkcı, “Strolling Through Istanbul’s Beyoğlu: In-Between Difference and Containment,” 198-211.

[21] Elmgreen & Dragset in email, May 20, 2019.

[22] Çiğdem Arıkan in conversation with Eskicioglu, July 2019.

[23] The AKP lost the governor/mayor of Istanbul to a progressive candidate in 2019.

[24] The importance of local elections was recently felt with the mayoral win by AKP opposition leader, Ekrem İmamoğlu, in Istanbul. This loss for the AKP was seen as a political and symbolic challenge to the AKP’s power. Several newspapers have speculated the 2019 Istanbul mayoral election has demonstrated a weakening of Erdogan’s political power. See Soli Özel, “Turkey’s Municipal Elections: A Political Game Changer,” Institut Montaigne, April 12, 2019, accessed October 2, 2019, https://www.institutmontaigne.org/en/blog/turkeys-municipal-elections-political-game-changer.

[25] Deborah Sontag, “The Erdogan Experiment,” The New York Times, May 11, 2003, accessed October 22, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/11/magazine/the-erdogan-experiment.html.

[26] Lale Eskicioğlu in conversation, July 2019.

[27] Mustafa Kemal Bayirbağ, "Negotiated urban revolution: Dynamics of 'roll-out urbanization' in the Global South,” Lecture, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, March 14, 2018.

[28] Arda Can Kumbaracibasi, Turkish Politics and the Rise of the AKP: Dilemmas of Institutionalization and Leadership Strategy (London; New York: Routledge, 2009), 4, 6-31.

[29] Dennis Mehmet, “The Architects of New Turkey: Globalization of Urban Space in istanbul and the New Islamic Gentry,” in Dislocating Globality: Deterritorialization, Difference and Resistance, ed. Sarunas Paunksnis (Leiden: BRILL, 2015), 159.

[30] Ibid., 159.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Daily Sabah, “New Atatürk Cultural Center at the heart of Istanbul to be completed by 2019,” November 6, 2017, accessed July 1, 2019, https://www.dailysabah.com/istanbul/2017/11/06/new-ataturk-cultural-center-at-the-heart-of-istanbul-to-be-completed-by-2019.

[33] Ibid.

[34] About the Monument,” The Kucuk Mustafa Pasa Hammam, accessed February 20, 2019, http://kucukmustafapasahamami.com/en/index.html.

[35] Amy Mill, Streets of Memory: Landscape, Tolerance, and National Identity in Istanbul (Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 2010), 2.

[36] “Daniel Libeskind: Time is Out of Joint,” domus, April 12, 2018, accessed March 10, 2019, https://www.domusweb.it/en/architecture/2018/04/12/daniel-libeskind-time-is-out-of-joint.html.

[37] Cichocki cites the incidents of the Patrona Halil Revolt in 1730, which originated at the Bayezid Hamam and the Çemberlitaş Hamamı Baskim Vak’asi (the Case of the Police Raid on the Çemberlitaş Hamamı), a riot that began in the hammam in 1810, both in Istanbul.

[38] Said Graiouid, “Communication and the Social Production of Space: The Hammam, the Public Sphere and Moroccan Women,” Journal of North African Studies 9:1 (2004): 104-130,112.

[39] Tugçe Tuna in email, July 6, 2019.

[40] See Matthew Mclean, “15th Istanbul Biennial, Various venues, Turkey,” Frieze, December 16, 2017, accessed June 26, 2020, https://frieze.com/article/15th-istanbul-biennial-0; Maria Ines Plaza Lazo, “The 15th Istanbul Biennial Gets Political and Personal,” Sleek Magazine, September 21, 2017, accessed June 26, 2020, https://www.sleek-mag.com/article/15th-istanbul-biennial/; or Hannah Ellis-Petersen, “Istanbul biennial hires provocative curators, but where’s the political art?,” The Guardian, September 15, 2017, accessed June 26, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/15/istanbul-biennial-hires-provocative-curators-but-wheres-the-political-art?CMP=share_btn_fb.

[41] Naz Cuguoğlu, "15th Istanbul Biennial," ArtAsiaPacific (November 2017): 117.

[42] Bethwaite and Kangas,“The Scales, Politics, and Political Economies of Contemporary Art Biennials.”

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Issue 46 / June 2020

Contemporary Art Biennales – Our Hegemonic Machines in Times of Emergency

by Ronald Kolb, Shwetal A. Patel, Dorothee Richter


by Daniel Knorr

European Influenza

by Roma Jam Session art Kollektiv

Detox Dance

by Delia Popa

Mice Insanity

by Diana Dulgheru

50 HZ

by Daniel Knorr

Instant Community

by Farid Rakun


by Raqs Media Collective


by Defne Ayas and Natasha Ginwala


by Ekaterina Degot


by Yung Ma


by Eva González-Sancho Bodero and Per Gunnar Eeg-Tverbakk


by Raluca Voinea


by Răzvan Ion


by Daniel Knorr

Trams and Institutions

by Lara van Meeteren and Bart Wissink

Biennials and Hegemony: Experiences from the Thai Laboratory

by Raqs Media Collective

Freeing the Weights of the Habitual

by Robert E. D’Souza

Before, During, After Biennale

By Manifesta 12 Creative Mediators: Bregtje van der Haak, Andrés Jaque, Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli, Mirjam Varadinis

The Planetary Garden. Cultivating Coexistence.

WHW in conversation with Omar Kholeif

Curating the Revolution: Meeting Points 7 [1]

by Henk Slager


by Vasyl Cherepanyn

East Europe Biennial Alliance

by Ksenija Orelj

We’re Off

by Catherine David

documenta X

by Okwui Enwezor

The Black Box

by Sabeth Buchmann and Ilse Lafer

On the Documenta 14 in Athens

by Julia Bethwaite and Anni Kangas

The Paradoxes of the Biennale

by Federica Martini

One Biennale, Many Biennials

by Vittoria Martini

Venice, the Biennale and the Bees