Fulya Erdemci reflects upon the recent 13th Istanbul Biennial that overlapped with a most striking – and unique – civic awakening, the Gezi Resistance, that erupted in the Summer of 2013 in Istanbul and other cities across Turkey.
They do not only converge in terms of time, but also in terms of the questions posed by the Biennial on the public domain, and in terms of the city's function as the spatial component of the democratic apparatus. These issues lie at the centre of the collective resistance triggered by imminent plans to transform Gezi Park in Taksim Square into a shopping mall taking form as a reconstruction of the Ottoman-era Taksim Military Barracks.
The Gezi Resistance and the ensuing public protests exposed the local authorities’ lack of responsiveness; instead of listening and responding to the desperate voices in the streets, the authorities chose to violently repress these voices through police force. For this reason, the organisers of the 13th Istanbul Biennal began to question what it means to realise art projects in urban public spaces, with the permission of the same authorities curtailing their own citizens’ freedom of speech, and therefore withdrew from the urban public spaces to continue the discussion within the exhibition venues. The ultimate goal being to highlight presence through absence: by asking the audience to listen to the voices of the streets.
Fulya Erdemci was the curator of 13th Istanbul Biennial: Mom, am I barbarian? (2013)
Text from Artspace.