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Mom, Am I a Barbarian?
Zbigniew Libera, Opowieści afrykańskie według Szekspira, fot. Aleksandra Wieczorek
Exhibition at the 13th Biennale in Istanbul. On the image: Zbigniew Libera "African Tales According to Shakespeare", 2011, photo Aleksandra Wieczorek

At the 13th Istanbul Biennial, participating artists explore the notion of public domain as political forum. Poland will be represented by Akedemia Ruchu, Zbigniew Libera and Agnieszka Polska, with the Adam Mickiewicz Institute as an organizing partner.

The Istanbul Biennial has become, alongside Venice, Sao Paulo and Sydney, one of the premier contemporary art exhibitions since its establishment in 1987. The 2013 edition will take place under the theme Mom, Am I Barbarian?, taking its title from Turkish poet Lale Müldür’s book.

In her conceptual framework, curator Fulya Eremci elaborates on the idea:

In the current context, what does it mean to be a barbarian? After all, galvanizing the limits of the civilized, the “barbarian” reflects the “absolute other” in society, circumnavigating the frames of identity politics and multicultural discourses. But, what does the reintroduction of barbarity as a concept reveal today? Is it a response to an urge to go beyond already existing formulas, towards the unknown? [...] Through the unique interventions of artists, the biennial exhibition aims to explore further such pressing questions and will ask if art can foster the construction of new subjectivities to rethink the possibility of “publicness” today.

Of the 88 artists and art groups taking part, most come from outside the European and Anglo-Saxon world, contrary to the custom generally favoring those cultures at international art exhibitions. Invited artists will arrive in large part from Latin America, South Africa, Turkey and the Middle East - with Poland joining in on the barbaric fun.

Agnieszka Polska, kadr z filmu Włosy, 2012, video HD, 46 min, fot. dzięki uprzejmości artystki / CSW Zamek Ujazdowski w Warszawie
Agnieszka Polska, still from Hair, 2012, video HD, 46 min, photo courtesy of the artist / CSW Zamek Ujazdowski w Warszawie

Agniesza Polska, the video artist and photographer nominated last year for the Future Generation Prize, will present the Biennial with her film Włosy / Hair (2012):

On the example of the phenomenon of the Polish hippie movement the artist asks a question about the character of the revolutionary idea which in the different social and political context underwent transformation and got distorted with respect to its original. What is the meaning of the evolution process for the idea and what is the catalyst of changes?

Zbigniew Libera, Lekcja historii, 2012
Zbigniew Libera "History Lesson", 2012

Zbigniew Libera will present photographs from his recent New Histories series, which play on our growing apprehensions of a possibly apocalyptic future:

The scenes that seem impossible, or conversely – the scenes that we are certain will come to life sooner or later. In various ways Libera illuminates the most obvious of futurist frames – the apocalyptic notion. He takes on the role once again of an insightful critic of the cultural stereotypes of today, as opposed to that of an engaged prophet. These new images bring back the histories of old: the figure of the Other, power struggles, exclusion, colonisation and liberation.

Akademia Ruchu, akcja Potknięcie 1, Świnoujście, 1976, fot. Jan Pieniążek, © autor i Akademia Ruchu
Akademia Ruchu, performance "Stumbling 1", Świnoujście, 1976, photo Jan Pieniążek, © author Akademia Ruchu

Finally, Akademia Ruchu, an art group specializing in interdisciplinary representations including visual arts, performance and film, will present two projects. Europa, shot in 1976, features a futurist poem by Polish poet Anatol Stern. In the darkness, barely visible actors brandish verse on banners: "the massage of propaganda – the gospel of terror – this is the chasm – into which we jump – since we cannot jump – into heaven".  Two videos will also be shown from the performance Potknięć / Stumbling (1975-1977) filming people stumbling over the same apparently innocent sidewalk.

The event is co-financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, and is organized jointly with the Adam Mickiewicz Institute.

13th Istanbul Biennial
Mom, Am I Barbarian?
14/09 – 20/10/2013
Curator: Fulya Erdemci
Director: Bige Örer
Organizer: Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts
Location: Antrepo 3, Galata Greek Primary School, ARTER, SALT Beyoğlu, 5533

Sources: Adam Mickiewicz Institute, Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts, Center for Contemporary Arts Zamek Ujazdowki, Raster Gallery, own materials.
Author: Agnieszka Sural, 11/09/2013

Translated and edited by LB, 12/09/2013

Photography & Visual Arts
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