‘It’s tough not to panic’ – Istanbul Biennial targets waste, greed, rubbish and gorgons

6 min read

Japanese arrowroot blankets a Alabama countryside, slaying a trees and fields. An unconstrained tyre dump stretches to a horizon. Plastic rubbish accumulates in a oceans, combining a seventh continent. In fact, a merger of cosmetic rubbish floating about in a Pacific is infrequently referred to as a Seventh Continent. An complaint of a approach we live, a ever-growing rubbish patch is covenant to a wastefulness, heedlessness and greed. The Seventh Continent also provides a pretension for curator Nicolas Bourriaud’s exhibition for a 16th Istanbul Biennial. The biennial is itself another kind of accumulation, and one that is itself not though a possess element and ecological cost, a possess domestic ramifications.

There is too many going on in this disproportionate and during times inflexible exhibition, in that what depends as rubbish and what is value keeping, or looking at, is a consistent question. It is always so, over that we live in a time of disaster. As it is, a biennial was roughly sunk before it opened. Little some-more than a month ago, it was detected that a primary venue – a Haliç shipyard, in a aged majestic arsenal of a Ottoman sovereignty in a Golden Horn gulf – could no longer be used. The site itself was soiled by asbestos. Biennials are not defence to a things they describe.

Monochrome, by Ozan Atalan. Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian

The 16th-century shipyard would have been a fantastic venue, with a works commissioned in a labyrinthine arrangement on a singular floor. Now, Deniz Aktaş’s large-scale, breathtaking ink drawings of tyre dumps have a room all their possess in a exhibition, relocated in a entirety to 4 floors of a refurbished former room due to free subsequent year as a Istanbul Painting and Sculpture Museum. we like a morality of Aktaş’s drawings, a responsible recording of these dour and endless fields of tyres. Their title, The Ruins of Hope, recalls Caspar David Friedrich’s 1823 portrayal The Wreck of Hope. There isn’t many wish here, anywhere.

Water buffalo delight in chalky H2O in a film by Ozan Atalan. A spotlit, frosty white skeleton of another buffalo rests on a petrify chunk in a center of a room. The animals’ medium has been mislaid in Istanbul’s stream expansion, and a building of a enormous new airfield and attendant motorways. Istanbul teems and builds and buries a Bosphorus seashore in concrete, towers and identikit housing developments swelling as distant as a eye can see. Humans are an invasive species, too.

A uncover within a show, Feral Effects – by a Feral Atlas Collective, a organisation of over 100 scientists, artists and thinkers – shows us photographs of a smothered Alabama countryside, and describes, among many else, how offshore windfarms, oil platforms and concreted shorelines yield ideal conditions for jellyfish polyps to multiply and over-multiply. On headphones, we can hear a noisy underwater cacophony of shipping, a auditory universe that fish and cetaceans now inhabit. The justification accumulates, in videos and photographs, papers and watercolours. It is overwhelming. It is tough not to panic.

It’s a Small World, by Simon Fujiwara. Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian

The biennial itself induces feelings of being engulfed. Here’s a disposed physique irradiated by embellished lesions lain on a section bier. Next an examination in limbs and organs, potion and plastic, leather and metal. All synthetic life is here. And now a demonstration of wallpaper, balloons and bushy monstrosities. It goes on. Johannes Büttner’s inverted total – cybermen sculpted from earth, clay, throw metal, motors and dirt – mount on their heads and judder in a room filled with doomy noise. An indoor margin of watermelons yield a tongue-tied assembly to a filmed shadow-puppet play, in Max Hooper Schneider’s installation. The melons, a wall content willingly explains, are “incarnations of destiny neomorphic brain-bodies”. Well, we never.

Suddenly, one comes opposite something smashing and moving, like Jonathas de Andrade’s O Peixe (The Fish). Shown in London progressing this year, a film shows Amazonian fishermen holding and caressing a vast fish they maintain on, a proposal welcome of hunter and hunted.

Simon Fujiwara’s It’s a Small World uses a heads of Bart Simpson and Batman’s Joker, Disney characters and Iron Man as a basement for a array of architectural models – panoptic prisons and a hospital, a gymnasium of cattle stalls and gym equipment, all populated by little realistic figures. You could flicker and counterpart for hours, losing yourself in this cold – and chilling – world.

People watch Spaghetti Blockchain, 2019, by Mika Rottenberg. Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian

Ylva Snöfrid is sitting on a building portrayal a enormous eye. She has been portrayal here all summer, surrounded by tables, chairs and any series of surfaces she has covered, mostly with her possess image. She paints teen fear film bloody mouths and severed torsos, masked self-portraits, grey and pinkish caves. This is a artist’s studio as goth bedroom. Her mural decorates chair seats, and her physique is embellished on tabletops – a shocking import being that we could lay on her face and eat off her body. It is all really arch and wan.

Give me instead Mika Rottenberg’s Spaghetti Blockchain, a madly interesting and charming film that somehow blends industrial potato harvesting, painted and boiled eggs, gelatinous, rootless Swiss Rolls, hair care, a blazing molecular model, Siberian throat-singers and a Cern complex. Rottenberg carries we along a magical, tranquil and absurd tour in this visually and aurally impediment film; good choreographed and edited, it is one of a few genuine highlights of a biennial. we came out discombombulated.

More artists fill a tip dual floors of a Pera Museum. Charles Avery continues his scrutiny of an hypothetical island, with a fish marketplace containing trays and buckets of squirming handblown potion eels, uncanny cephalopods and illusory molluscs backing a walls. Avery’s drawings are no compare for a potion fruits de mer.

Like Avery, Norman Daly combined an entire, hypothetical culture, and fills a gallery with a ostensible artefacts of Llhoros, along with learned faux-academic explanations, labels and even music. That a objects themselves are subsequent from flare handles, lemon squeezers, polystyrene wrapping and other hackneyed objects adds to – rather than detracts from – his fiction. The change of sculptor David Smith, Joan Miró, early Giacometti, as good as Assyrian and other ancient cultures is also apparent.

Elephant Mask, from Civilization of Llhuros, 1972, by Norman Daly. Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian

But this arrange of over-annotated anticipation universe doesn’t do many for me. we cite a hazard and balefulness of Melvin Moti’s film, desirous by Russian cosmism, an esoteric, early 20th-century sight of suspicion that related tellurian events with sunspot activity and other, irregular vast influences. Often dark, a shade can detonate into life, display an old, black and white re-enactment of a beheading of Mary Queen of Scots. Archive footage from 9/11, ominous sound of shouts and aroused cries, a shocked male rising from dust-filled dejection are interspersed with interstellar darkness, and Nasa footage of solar flares and a working aspect of a sun. we couldn’t wait to leave, though we couldn’t rip myself away.

In an Istanbul park filled with children and picnicking cats, Monster Chetwynd has commissioned a children’s slip in a form of a fantastical gorgon. Over on Büyükada, an island in a Marmara Sea, she has placed a series of large, fantastical creatures – a snake, crocodile, a spider and a bat (a repeated Chetwynd motif) – underneath a portico of a busted mansion. We need her playfulness.

Several of Büyükada’s disproportionate and deserted summer residences yield venues for other artists. The best is a courteous designation of work by Glenn Ligon. In one room, he shows Istanbul-born film-maker Sedat Pakay’s 1970 documentary From Another Place.

The film follows James Baldwin erratic a streets of Istanbul, seeking what it means to be a black American, a happy man, a author stalled in Istanbul, where he lived, on and off, for about a decade from 1961. Baldwin gets out of bed, talks and smokes and walks. This insinuate mural is a truest and many noted work in a biennial, brought here by Ligon, another African-American happy man, who has had Turkish subtitles combined to Pakay’s film, and presents it along with his possess neon and light works, as good as dual serve films shot by Ligon himself, casting himself adrift with a camera and following Baldwin’s footsteps around a city.

Ligon films bland life, accompanied by a soundtrack by Don and Neneh Cherry, and by Turkish musicians. Past and benefaction and voices collide. “I am a kind of witness, we suppose,” says Baldwin. At their best, that is what artists are, too, however illusory their inventions infrequently are.

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