Istanbul Biennial


08 Sep - 04 Nov 2007

Not Only Possible, But Also Necessary:
Optimism in the Age of Global War
8 September - 4 November 2007

Hou Hanru

Hamra Abbas
Adel Abdessemed
Vahram Aghasyan
Buthayna Ali
Allora Calzadilla
Selçuk Artut
Kutluğ Ataman
Fikret Atay
Jonathan Barnbrook
Ramazan Bayrakoğlu
Justin Bennett
Ege Berensel
Ursula Biemann
Bik Van der Pol
Cao Fei
Banu Cennetoğlu
Lia Chaia
Paul Chan
Chen Chieh, Jen
Chen Hui, Chiao
Claire Fontaine
Teddy Cruz
Nancy Davenport
Burak Delier
Democracia Atom Egoyan
İdil Elveriş, Zeren Göktan
Extramücadele / Extrastruggle
Daniel Faust
Didier Fiuza Faustino
Christoph Fink
Nina Fischer, Maroan El Sani
Vicky Funari, Sergio de la Torre
Bodil Furu, Beate Petersen
Rainer Ganahl
Jean-Baptiste Ganne
Renée Green
Ivan Grubanov
Ha Za Vu Zu
Erdem Helvacıoğlu
Huang Yong Ping
Emre Hüner
Sanja Ivekovic Eleni Kamma
Kan Xuan
Ömer Ali Kazma
Ian Kiaer
Sora Kim
Taiyo Kimura
Gunilla Klingberg
Aleksander Komarov
Rem Koolhaas / AMO
Markus Krottendorfer
Lee Bul
Minouk Lim
Lu Chunsheng
Cristina Lucas
Ken Lum
MAP Office
Ramón Mateos
Julio César Morales
Els Opsomer
Ou Ning
Ferhat Özgür Peng Hung-Chih
Anu Pennanen
Alexandre Périgot
Tadej Pogacar
Julien Prévieux
Radek Community
Michael Rakowitz
Raqs Media Collective
Jewyo Rhii
Porntaweesak Rimsakul
Lordy Rodriguez
Sam Samore
Fernando Sanchez Castillo
Allan Sekula
Taro Shinoda
Sophia Tabatadze
David Ter, Oganyan
Nasan Tur
Katleen Vermeir, Ronny Heiremans
Wong Hoy, Cheong
Xu Zhen
Yan Lei
Yan Pei Ming
Yang Jiechang
Tomoko Yoneda
Young Hae Chang Heavy Industries
Yushi Uehara / Berlage Institute
Zhou Hao, Ji Jianghong
Zhu Jia

We are living in a time of global wars.

Most of these wars, conflicts and clashes take place in the developing world. The centre of the Empire has ruthlessly exported violence to other parts of the world. On the other hand, there is a difficulty faced by the developing world in enduring and suffering the challenging transition from decolonization, independence to modernization and globalization.
The Third World is a project by the non-western world to become independent after years of colonization, and to invent their own nation-states based on the principles of self-recognition, independence and equality. Modernization becomes the route towards such a goal, and multiple modernities provide the very ideological guidelines. Thus, the Third World is by definition a global project. To convince the masses of the importance of modernization as the only way for the Third World, the elite class has to resort to top-down models of imposing modernities and reforms that depend on the acceptance, cooperation and support of the lower classes, the military forces, and international aid. This imposition has often been violent and dictatorial, and people respond to the degeneration of their living conditions by protesting against the privileges of the dominant classes, reclaiming their social rights through mass mobilization and protestations against external and international agencies of liberal capitalist powers such as IMF and World Bank. These social mobilizations have also awakened some longtime buried conservative ideologies and values such as rightwing nationalism, ethnocentrism, racism and religious fundamentalism, and have allowed these groups to be resurrected and become popular within dramatic social vacuums.
The Third World is now facing a contradiction; it has become both a crisis and challenge to arrive at a renaissance. The key question is whether the non-western world can still reinvent effective models of modernization to face the challenges of globalization which are driven by liberal capitalism and dominated by Western powers.
Turkey, as one the of first non-western modern republics and a key player in the modernization of the developing world has proved to be one of the most radical, spectacular and influential cases in this direction. But, a fundamentally crucial problem is that the modernization model promoted by the Kemalist project was still a top-down imposition with some unsolvable contradictions and dilemmas inherent within the system: the quasi-military imposition of reforms, while necessary as a revolutionary tool, betrayed the principle of democracy; the nationalist ideology ran counter to its embracement of the universality of humanism, and the elite-led economic development generated social division. Populist political and religious forces have managed to recuperate and manipulate the claims from the bottom of the society and have used them to their own advantage.
In this age of global wars and globalization of liberal capitalism, it is not impossible but also necessary to revitalize the debate on modernization and modernity and put forward activist proposals to improve social progress. Today, modernization should be carried out in diverse models, relevant to local conditions and ideals, and in the negotiations between individual localities and the global. In other words, a bottom-up, truly democratic project of modernization and modernity that is based on the respect of individual rights and humanist values is necessary to bring Turkish society out of its contradiction. And this is also true of the global situation in transition.

Contemporary art has been a product of modernization and modernity. Along with globalization and the integration of many developing countries in the global system of production and communication, contemporary art is now being created and presented everywhere, far beyond the West.
Founded 20 years ago, the Istanbul Biennial should be understood as a part of the modernization project of Turkey in her search for both internal cultural development and international status. The Biennial has gained a certain maturity and is now facing the task of injecting new blood and reinventing itself as a forerunner in the creation of contemporary art.
In todays geopolitical reality, it is necessary and urgent to deal with the question of modernization. Urbanization, or explosive urban expansion in the Istanbul fashion, is the most visible and significant sign of modernization. Exploring the urban and architectural conditions of Istanbul has hence become a starting point and a central reference to the conception of this Biennial. And contemporary art as an avant-garde in cultural experiments should engage with the city, and it is through this engagement that the biennial will acquire fresh energy and significance in a new reality. The biennial should become a laboratory for innovative projects and strategies, and a site for experiments and productions with different, multiple models of modernization.
To critically reexamine the promise of modernity, we have chosen some of the most significant modern edifices and venues including the AKM, İMÇ, Antrepo, santralistanbul and KAHEM. They symbolically and physically mirror the various facets and models of urban modernization in the city. In these sites, the utopian project of the republican revolution and modernization meets with the lively, ever-changing and chaotic reality, at once harmonious and conflicting. They are sites where the top-down vision of the modern city clashes with the bottom-up imaginations and actions promoting difference and hybridity.

In such a debate, artistic actions, including the Biennial itself, can certainly find their roles in prompting cultural and social changes through innovative forces of intervention -a form of the urban guerrilla. Facing this infinitely dynamic, complex and exciting reality of a metropolis, artists and other creators are highly inspired to mobilize their imaginations and creativities.
From the very beginning, the Biennial project has been clearly defined and structured beyond a conventional exhibition model. It embraced the rationale of merging it with the vibrancy of real urban life: from research to the development of the project; selection of venues and forms of actions and presentations in these sites; dialogues and collaborations among artists and other participants; spatial designs and their realizations through interventions and transformations of spaces; as well as defining communication strategies. It is a project of collective intelligence, reflecting perfectly the structure and function of the Multitude.
Spatially, the Biennial project will cover a wide range of urban zones, from theEuropean to the Asian sides, from the central areas to the peripheries. In terms of time, the project goes beyond a conventional office-hour presentation and takes on the reality of life in this sleepless city; it will function twenty-four hours a day continuously in different sites. With four major exhibitions and numerous special projects and parallel events, the Biennial is a dynamic complex system. It is an non-stop machine for production of new urban life. It is an endless urban maze.

Tags: Hamra Abbas, Adel Abdessemed, AES+F, Kutlug Ataman, Fikret Atay, Ramazan Bayrakoğlu, Ursula Biemann, Lee Bul, Allora & Calzadilla, Fernando Sánchez Castillo, Banu Cennetoglu, César, Lia Chaia, Paul Chan, Po-i Chen, Wong Hoy Cheong, Lu Chunsheng, Democracia, Daniel Faust, Didier Fiuza Faustino, Cao Fei, Claire Fontaine, Bodil Furu, Rainer Ganahl, Gimhongsok, Renée Green, Ivan Grubanov, Lu Hao, Li Hui, Chen Hui, Chen Hui-Chiao, Emre Hüner, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, Sanja Ivekovic, Zhu Jia, Yang Jiechang, Eleni Kamma, Ali Kazma, Ian Kiaer, Sora Kim, Gunilla Klingberg, Rem Koolhaas, Markus Krottendorfer, Yan Lei, Ji Lei, H.H. Lim, Minouk Lim, Cristina Lucas, Ken Lum, Yan Pei Ming, Li Ming, Julio Cesar Morales, MAP Office, Els Opsomer, Ferhat Özgür, Yan Pei-Ming, Huang Yong Ping, Tadej Pogacar, Bik van der Pol, Julien Prévieux, Rainer Fetting, Michael Rakowitz, Raqs Media Collective, Jewyo Rhii, Porntaweesak Rimsakul, Sam Samore, Nina Fischer / Maroan El Sani, Nina Fischer & Maroan el Sani, Allan Sekula, Nasan Tur, Kan Xuan, Li Yan, Tomoko Yoneda, Xu Zhen