Public domain rediscovers 13th Istanbul Biennial with Gezi Park
ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
The protests at Gezi Park have left a mark on all aspects of society, including the art world. With just a few months remaining until the 13th Istanbul Biennial, the primary focus of which will be the public domain as a political forum, the demonstrations are providing an opportunity for all to adopt a new approach to the public sphere. AA photo
The Gezi Park protests have shaken Turkey for the past weeks, leaving a mark on all aspects of society, including the art world. With just a few months remaining until the 13th Istanbul Biennial, the primary focus of which will be the public domain as a political forum, the demonstrations are providing an opportunity for all to adopt a new approach to the public sphere.
“The resistance movement, which began with the uprooting of one tree at Taksim Gezi Park on May 27 and the torching of tents set up by activists, evolved into a nationwide – even worldwide – demonstration and has shown us a unique example of solidarity,” curator Fulya Erdemci said on the biennial’s website. “This peaceful youth movement, which envisioned and realized the solidarity of different (and perhaps clashing) worldviews with honesty and openness, has been a transformative experience none of us could have imagined. We have learned, and continue to learn, a great deal from this experience.”
At the moment, the main biennial is not inside but in Gezi Park, South African artist Kendel Geers told daily Radikal this week ahead of the police’s attack on the square and the park on June 11.
Kendell Geers’ approach
“As a former anti-Apartheid activist who never gave up the fight to leave the world a better place for future generations, and with the curiosity of a contemporary artist, I found myself at the forefront of the protests upon my arrival in Istanbul. I dedicate my exhibition to those who still believe and don’t give up hope,” he said after arriving in Istanbul and immediately participating in the protests.
In fact, with the creativity on display in the park, Geers even questioned the need for a formal biennial. “When I look at this park, I think the biennial should be cancelled,” he said, adding that the public wanted the area to remain part of the public domain and that they did not need curators or a manager to direct them. The ultimate mission of the biennial is to “serve as a matrix to generate ideas and develop practices that question contemporary forms of democracy, challenge current models of spatio-economic politics, problematize given concepts of civilization and barbarity, and most importantly, highlight the role of art in this context,” according to the event’s website.
Since an announcement about the biennial’s workshops, which largely focus on the public, the public domain and the environment, the event has encountered protests from various groups.
Demonstrators have said they oppose “income” strategies relating to urban transformation. “The event is showing public domain areas [which are a part of the economic power of urban transformation] as places to show art, which also signifies gaining power over the ‘culture industry,’” one group said in a statement.
Erdemci expressed her regret at some of the protests that have occurred against the biennial, saying, “We are sorry about the incidents that took place on May 10 at the “Pubic Alchemy” program, as well as unfortunate subsequent developments.” In order to prevent misinformation, Edemci said: “Due to the negative experience of the protests … at the “Public Alchemy” program at the Istanbul Technical University Maçka campus, which obstructed the presentations of Eren Erdem and Adbusters (as well as university classes and exams), we took an incorrect attitude at our third event, for which we apologize.” She has also said a protest on May 10 that took place during the lecture-performance disrupted the audience’s experience of the performance.
Erdemci said the police have become involved not because of the protests, but due to a personal provocation and harassment and that there was mutual litigation. No complaint has been filed in regard to the protest or against the protestors, she added.