Istanbul Biennial to ponder ‘a good neighbor’

Istanbul Biennial to ponder ‘a good neighbor’

Hatice Utkan Özden - ISTANBUL
Istanbul Biennial to ponder ‘a good neighbor’ “Is a neighbor someone you really see?” This is how the press conference for the announcement of the framework for The 15th Istanbul Biennial started. 

For the media conference, curators Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset created a live performance for the conference involving 40 people. Each person asked a question about the meaning and existence of a neighbor such as “Is a good neighbor someone with a bigger family than yours?” or “Is a good neighbor someone who leaves you alone?” On one hand, the questions addressed the local lives that each person experience each day, while also addressing the international and political problems that people encounter in general.

“Art is not about giving answers but asking questions, and that’s why the biennial aims to ask the question about how we live in micro levels such as, in our homes and in our neighborhood,” Elmgreen said during the press conference.

“The title ‘a good neighbor’ is about looking at the small unit in our lives and looking at the micro level of our living,” said Elmgreen. “A home is a place where we dare to be ourselves and the neighborhood is kind of an example of how we live together. The biennial will be addressing different forms of the neighborhood.” 

The final format of the biennial will be determined with the artists, meaning it will be an exhibition where artists are curators.

While the neighborhood concept is a part of Turkish culture, the curators aim to handle this concept from an international point of view. The biennial will deal with localities and the international conception of the concept of the neighborhood. 

The concept could be explained with the billboard campaign that will be created exclusively for the 15th Istanbul Biennial. The international campaign will be created by graphic designer Rupert Smyth together with the help of artists. Each billboard will ask a question about neighborhoods. 

The campaign will be realized through collaborations with multiple cultural institutions worldwide, questioning the ways in which neighborhoods have changed all around the world.

Creating a semantic approach

The concept of “home,” according to Elmgreen and Dragset, is approached as an indicator of diverse identities and a vehicle for self-expression. While they met with each artist to discuss the framework, they wanted to create a semantic approach about the meaning of neighborhood and home. 

“The biennial will involve between 50 and 60 artists, and we are in communication with each of them,” Elmgreen said. 

By doing so, they are trying to create a semantic approach or a semantic frame within the biennial. “The conceptual frame and ideas correspond to the words and communication,” added Elmgreen. 

The campaign for the biennial is also about the semantic approach that the curators would like to create. 

“The neighborhood is a micro universe exemplifying some of the challenges we face in terms of co-existence today,” said Dragset, adding that they would also like to present this with the billboards that will be unveiled in different cities around the world.

Ultimately, the 15th Istanbul Biennial is both about and not about Istanbul. It stands on the international meaning of the neighborhood and is about people, how they live in their micro universe and how they change their world along with their neighborhood.