In a world of increasing digital connection, we once again turn our attention towards Istanbul’s contemporary art masterpieces this month. The Istanbul Biennale opened 17 September and promises a critical program that inspires social connection and cultural exchange across mediums, identities, and geographies. Realized during months of social isolation, the 17th Istanbul Biennale asks how to revitalize public cultures across distance. And yet, the curators make a sobering statement – “Let this biennial be compost”. 

It is through compost that we can understand Istanbul’s art scene, spaces, and perspectives. Compost exists in its original state only temporarily, before the forces of nature begin to break down complex molecules into their most basic elements. The same can be said about recent focuses on some of the core perspectives in Istanbul’s art – from the Biennale and beyond, a renewed focus on identity building highlights the composting of physical space and an ascension into the digital world, a state exacerbated by the pandemic. 

Here are some of Based’s Biennale picks to look out for as we traverse the physical/digital space of art, creation, and identity together. 

Installations at arthereistanbul: arthereistanbul is a multidisciplinary space in Kadikoy founded by Syrian artists in 2014, and this is their first year included as an official Biennale venue. 

Çark 2022: a collaboration between Through the Window Project and KOLI Art Space. A parallel event to the Biennale, Çark 2022 creates digital connections between queer artists, activists, thinkers, and night workers from Turkey, the Netherlands, and beyond.

Keep an eye out for some of these groundbreaking contributors to the Biennale: 

  • Annex – Oda Projesi: an artist collective actualizing digital and physical spaces of communal exchange 
  • Açık Radyo: a 27-year volunteer-run endeavor, Açık Radyo has been at the forefront of celebrating diversity, human rights, and freedom of conversation. 
  • Disobedience Archive [Ders Bitti]: installed at the Central Greek High School for Girls, curator Marco Scotini intensifies questions around the obedience of national populations and mass demonstrations. 
  • Dumpling Post – Hrant Dink Foundation & 23.5 Hrant Dink Site of Memory: a collaboration between two entities calling attention to Hrant Dink’s legacy. 
  • Dictionary of Sensitive Sounds – Elif Öner & Evrim Kavcar: a participatory process that spans across disciplines to trace cultural layers of sound, based on collective work since 2018. 
Images: David Levene & Sahir Uğur Eren