Magazine article Sculpture

ISTANDUL: "Saltwater" 14th Istanbul Biennial

Magazine article Sculpture

ISTANDUL: "Saltwater" 14th Istanbul Biennial

Article excerpt



14th Istanbul Biennial

As a migration crisis unfolded in Turkey (refugees on rubber rafts were trying to reach Greece from the Turkish coast), a biennial titled "Saltwater" seemed an amazing coincidence. But innocuous as the title appeared, the theme encompassed political, spiritual, mystical, and scientific metaphors reaching back into history through the present and into the future. "Tuzlu su" ("Saltwater") featured venues that could not be seen, installations in obscure locations, and ferry trips to the Princes Islands in the Sea of Marmara and up the Bosphorus.

The organizer of the 14th Istanbul Biennial, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, who referred to her role as drafting a "composition," took on the metaphor of saltwater as a synonym for "transformation and change on the planet...It is a theory of life." Christov-Bakargiev does not believe in separating art and science. The flow of water is equated in her mind with the flow of ideas, waves with movements of resistance and outrage, knots with arrested movement and the conflict between art as an empathic political statement and art as capitalism. The knots refer to resistance, which explains why a video about knots in water by the physicist William Irvine appeared beside a riveting film by oceanographer Jeffrey Peakall of a large underwater river that surges up the Bosphorus in opposition to the surface flow.

Under the Sea of Marmara, entirely invisible to viewers, Pierre Huyghe's Abyssal Plain. Geometry of the Immortals (2015-ongoing) is located near the inaccessible island of Sivriada. Huyghe is building a "concrete stage...around existing rock formations on the bottom of the Sea of Marmara...over the next few years, it will become a platform for objects taken from the surface, production left over from the history of the Mediterranean region, including the artist's own production." Through the power of natural currents, the existing creatures of the sea will join the human artifacts on the "stage."

In Salt (A collection), Tacita Dean played with material substance and immaterial association, pairing a ball crystallized in potash and several postcards referring to her attempt to visit Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty in 1997. The original 1968 Smithson film was included at the very back of the installation, like a deep archaeological layer that clearly served as a primal inspiration. In an anonymous video, Christov- Bakargiev herself visits the Spiral Jetty site (which appears and disappears periodically, in response to water levels in the Great Salt Lake, much in the spirit of the exhibition). …

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