210909: Istanbul Biennial: Istanbul Biennial

Istanbul Biennial: Istanbul Biennial Under the sign of Bertolt Brecht The 11th International Istanbul Biennial undertook an extreme balancing act. “What keeps mankind alive?” - the song title from Berthold Brecht’s “A Threepenny Opera” is written across an exhibition banner. WHW, the Croatian curator collective and its members Ivet Curlin, Ana Devic, Natasa Ilic and Sabina Sabolovic, attempted to radiate a 1920-style glamour. But the question was: with which visual forms of language and grammar will WHW respond to the global economic situation, which cynically received the name “crisis” only in 2007. Evidently the symbols must be inspired to dance; in an emancipated way - as a sequel to the dynamics of previous Istanbul biennials. In view of a trembling megacity, which is not patchwork, but a work of patches stretched to the breaking point. A city with intertwined districts and life plans, whose mycelia cords of architectural growths, which dramatically reflect the economic contrasts and their dizzying wage and price differences, while the sign language of Islamic everyday life and Turkish scenes meld/interlink. At this venue, it seems equally logical to explicitly force socio-economic forms of art as well as positioning the diversity of contemporary art. However, this leads to flaws and polarisations. The outposts of the exhibition at Tütün Deposu, a former tobacco warehouse and the Ferlköy Rum Okulu school, which was closed down in 2003, are too linear, formally monotonous and somewhat like visual allegories. At the central location of the show, the warehouse Antrepo No. 3, next to the Museum Istanbul Modern near the Galata Bridge – a differentiated net of formally diverse positions of critical art are assembled forming a concentrated exhibition, which seduces one to follow topical and semiotic tracks from different junctions. Decoded works that draw on the art of cartography as well as critical political realities, as those by the Slovenian Marko Paljhan or the French bureau d’études, are contrasted by an installation of the Argentinean group “Etcétera…” (Loretto Garin Guzman, Federico Zukerfeld), who, similar to Peter Sloterdijk in his “Critique of Cynical Reason”, present the Errorist cabaret (2009) as a walk-in Dada-installation: a cabaret-like puppet theatre in historic space geography. George W. Bush Jr. appears in addition to philosophers, revolutionaries and pioneers of science, such as Sigmund Freud. In her lovingly made and amusing multi piece video installation, the Lebanese artist Mounira Al Solh dubbed males with female voices as they- standing in front of the concrete buildings and the jagged rocky coast line of Beirut - are recounting their daily swimming pleasures. An ethnographic view on body cult and male friendship complemented by photographs and a collage, which precisely characterize the locations of the action like a 3D storyboard; and all this in a section, which deals with gender, emancipation and working conditions (for women). Among them a photo series by the German Hans Peter Feldmann, which records 50 years of a conventional female life, excerpts from Michel Journiac’s work and Canan Senol’s animation video “Ibretnüma /Exemplary” (2009). Figures presented as if in a zograscope, partly like cutout sheets from One Thousand and One Nights and from cheap fashion magazines, comment on role attributions and paradigms of the suppression of Turkish women. Numerous historic film works complement all of this. That is exactly the way in which exciting ways of thinking evolve for interconnecting the aesthetic with the social. By Roland Schöny Istanbul Bienniale Istanbul, until 08.11.09 www.iksv.org/bienal11/

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