The ideas analyse the present in order to imagine the future. “The Future Is Not What It Used to Be” – is the title (drawn from words of the poet Paul Valéry) of the second Istanbul Design Biennial.
Organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV), the Biennial is directed by the young Deniz Ova and this edition is curated by Britain’s Zoë Ryan of the Art Institute of Chicago, aided in a process that has lasted more than a year by Meredith Carruthers. Ryan’s biennial asks many questions but also provides answers. The manifesto format is a courageous one that offers alternative manifestos in the form of objects, fashion accessories, food, menus, maps, buildings, systems and services.
This Biennial started with an open call that selected 53 projects by 200 designers from more than 20 countries, all asked to answer the same question: “What is the future now?” The ensuing exhibition is arranged over the five floors of the Galata Greek Primary School (2,300 sqm, in the Karakoy neighbourhood) and couples each room with a statement on the designs presented, clarifying or stressing their intentions. In a period such as the current one, do we need manifestos, explicit announcements that steer the world in a precise direction? Or that interpret it?
If the purpose of biennials, wherever they may be, is to act as a platform for the experimentation of new thoughts, a zone free from ties and constraints in which to express a personal vision then Zoë Ryan has hit the bulls-eye, successfully creating the right atmosphere and a curious desire to look at the present, narrate it and use it as a harbinger of a better future; the adjective employed may be trite but serves here to convey a universal wish. The two curators have certainly channelled an enthusiastic approach and abundant passion into this ambitious yet delicate operation. At a time when geopolitical balances are once again being questioned, it is perhaps no coincidence that Istanbul, a historic frontier between two worlds, has opened a biennial that looks to the present and imagines the future.
This project’s statement is: “It’s time for design to get personal”. On the mezzanine, Elena Manferdini, from Bologna but based in Los Angeles, reproduces digital-still-life-painting in large format with her Still Life to Living Pictures. “The Exhibition as Manifesto” section is exemplary: a selection of 13 influential exhibitions in the history of design (1956-2007) including “Italy: The New Domestic Landscape” (1972), “Memphis” (1981) and “Man transForm” (1976). As well as statements recited in large letters in each room of the exhibition, and in the best political-propaganda tradition that sees the manifesto as the first step towards the public circulation of a particular thought, this Istanbul Tasarim Bienali also holds a weekly radio show. Everything works towards assigning design the difficult task of providing answers for the future.
Not far from the Greek School, the SALT Galata cultural centre is the venue for the “From England with Love” exhibition, with an impressive installation by Ismail Saray, a tangle of strings created in 2014 during his residency at the Saint Martin’s School of Art.
until 14 December 2014
2nd Istanbul Design Biennial
The future is not what it used to be
Biennale Hub: Galata Primary Greek School, Istanbul