A suggestion for a new life

A suggestion for a new life

A suggestion for a new life

This year, the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial is gathering different kinds of learning strategies for design under the title “A School of Schools.” The biennial, curated by Jan Boelen with associate curators Nadine Botha and Vera Sacchetti, opens to the public on Sept. 22. 

Speaking at the press conference of the event, curator Jan Boelen said the biennial’s theme takes on an idea beyond design education as we know it. “We aim to show there are many possibilities and there is something potential that we know; we aim to show it is possible to raise awareness with design.” 

A suggestion for a new life

Bolean believes that not everything needs to be explained, we can just experience them as they are. So the biennial is not representing very clear solutions, but aims to doubt the answers and even the questions. 

According to Bolean, there are always new ways and new spaces of education, and maybe this biennial is one of them; in fact, each work at the biennial stands as a suggestion. In some, it is a suggestion to live better, suggestion to survive, suggestion to save the world or ourselves. 

More than 200 interdisciplinary practitioners from across the globe such as designers, architects, artists, and theoreticians gathered to explore the many dimensions of design and learning. By naming the design biennial “A School of Schools,” Boelen aimed to go beyond the traditional “school-as-institution” connotation. According to him, everything and everywhere is a school, and every single interaction we have with design is pedagogical. Ninety-nine years after the Bauhaus, the design discipline, the world is a very different place, while design education has mostly remained the same, said Bolean. And yet, education traditionally allowed spaces of exception where experimentation and new ideas can be tried and tested. 

That’s why the aim of the biennial is to ask “Can a biennial emulate these spaces?” “A School of Schools” manifests as a set of dynamic learning formats encouraging creative production, sustainable collaboration, and social connection. 

Six venues in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district – Akbank Sanat, Yapı Kredi Culture Center, Arter, Pera Museum, SALT Galata, and Studio-X Istanbul – are hosting the biennial works. The venues are also places that will transform into “schools,” where new ideas in relation to expanded notions of design and its role in contemporary culture are explored. 

Each venue is presenting a school, and each school has different participants. Each venue suggests a new way of thinking space and new experiences. 

At Akbank Sanat, “Unmaking School” tells us a complex, ever-changing relationship between humans and machines. At Yapı Kredi Culture Center, “Currents School,” aims to investigate the multitude of connections and networks of exchange that are unseen or unnoticed. At Arter, “Earth School” questions the prioritization of capitalist growth over the planet’s natural resources, while also suggesting an alternative future. On the other hand, at the Pera Museum, “Scales School” interrogates established norms, standards and values. At SALT Galata, “Time School” offers possibilities for manipulating time. At the last venue, Studio-X Istanbul, “Digestion School” redirects focus from the brain to the gut as a site of cognition. 

The importance of the design biennial 

Speaking at the press conference, İKSV chair Bülent Eczacıbaşı said how important the sustainability of the design biennial was. “Today, from the economy to culture and arts, sustainable development to technology, design has a key role to play in many areas,” Eczacıbaşı said. 

Noting that it’s possible to say the future will be shaped by people and institutions that effectively use design-focused methods and tools, Eczacıbaşı added that the internalization of a design culture and search for design-based solutions that improve life are critically important not just for individuals but for the future of our world as well. 

The chair said the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial will also contribute to raising design awareness in Turkey. 

The 4th Istanbul Design Biennial can be visited free of charge until Nov. 4.