The Istanbul Biennial, launched in 1987, has become a fixture on the international contemporary art map and gained a reputation for its experimental and unique character. The Biennial formed a platform of interaction involving the Biennial itself, the contemporary art scene in Istanbul, and the international art community. The Biennial has served as a dynamic plane of interaction, a meeting point, and a critical site for the development of new aesthetic and political visions. In a period of increasingly rapid communication and sharing of experiences, the Biennial has become the main hub in Istanbul for the introduction, debate, and assessment of current paradigms in both the theory and practice of local, international, and transnational contemporary art.
The title of the 16th Istanbul Biennial sounds like the title of a movie, so strong is the image conjured up by The Seventh Continent. One of the most visible effects of the Anthropocene, the new geological era characterised by the impact of human activities upon the planet, is the formation of a huge mass of waste that has been called The Seventh Continent – 3.4 million square kilometres, 7 million tons of floating plastic in the Pacific Ocean. The 16th Istanbul Biennial will explore this new continent: a world where humans and non-humans, our mass-productive systems and natural elements, drift together, reduced to particles of waste.
Today, we are acknowledging that the canonical western division between nature and culture has come to an end. The Anthropocene theory has contributed to this awareness, as the impact of human activities on nature generates an intertwined world where culture is reintegrating into nature, and vice-versa. Meanwhile, due to the increasing interconnections between cultures, as well as the development of transportation and migratory flows, the old centres are turning into megapolises sheltering a multitude of micro-cultures.
The Seventh Continent is an anthropology of an off-centred world and an archaeology of our times. It defines today’s art as an archipelago of diverse enquiries into global life, tracking the prints of human activity on the earth and our impact on its non-human inhabitants.
haegue yang, installation view of the instanbul biennial, 2019