The Silent University (estd. 2012) is an international education platform, initiated by Ahmet Öğüt. The platform currently has active branches in Stockholm and Ruhr (Mülheim). Previously there were branches in Amman, Athens, London and Hamburg. The main motivation of the platform is the belief that everybody has the right to an education, and that systemic failure is no excuse for outlawing those who are seeking asylum. In order to address these concerns, the platform offers transversal pedagogical programmes led by lecturers, consultants and research fellows who are displaced people and forced migrants. The platform operates without language limitations or bureaucratic obstacles. For the 17th Istanbul Biennial, The Silent University has organised an Orientation Program with a number of online lectures and on-site events under the supervision of Ahmet Öğüt in collaboration with Kunstverein Hamburg. The lectures focus on acting beyond the limitations of border politics and in solidarity with collectives around the world. In parallel, The Silent University Orientation Program conducts local research and work interactively at and in collaboration with SAHA Studio, Istanbul, Turkey.

The Silent University Orientation Program Team
Ahmet Öğüt (Initiator)

Ahmet Öğüt (b. 1981, Diyarbakır, Turkey) is an artist, socio-cultural initiator, and lecturer. Working across a variety of media, including photography, video, and installation, Öğüt often uses humour and small gestures to comment on pressing social and political issues. He regularly collaborates with people from outside the art world to create shifts in perception. He has exhibited widely, more recently with solo presentations at MoCA Skopje – Museum of Contemporary Art, Skopje, Macedonia; Kunstverein Dresden, Dresden, Germany; Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen, Denmark; Chisenhale Gallery, London, UK and Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, Netherlands. He co-represented Turkey at the 53rd Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy (2009) and has participated in numerous group exhibitions, including the 5th Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Germany (2008); the New Museum Triennial, New York, US (2009); the 12th Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul, Turkey (2011); the 7th Liverpool Biennial, Liverpool, UK (2012); the 13th Biennale de Lyon, France (2015); the British Art Show 8, UK (2015–17); Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale, Japan (2018); Zero Gravity at Nam SeMA, Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul, South Korea (2019); In the Presence of Absence, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Netherlands (2020); Asia Society Triennial: We Do Not Dream Alone, New York, US (2021); Survival Kit 13 – Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art, Riga, Latvia (2022) and FRONT International – Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art, Cleveland, US (2022). Öğüt has been a guest professor, mentor, tutor, advisor and research teacher at several schools and was awarded the Kunstpreis Europas Zukunft, Museum of Contemporary Art, Germany (2010); the De Volkskrant Beeldende Kunst Prijs 2011, Netherlands (2011); the special prize of the Future Generation Art Prize, Pinchuk Art Centre, Ukraine (2012) and the Visible Award for the Silent University (2013).

Yelta Köm (Program Coordinator)

Yelta Köm (b. 1986, Istanbul, Turkey) is an architect, artist and researcher who combines architecture, artistic and spatial practices to discuss social and political issues. He is a researcher at the Topological Atlas project hosted by TU Delft; guest lecturer at Berlin International University of Applied Sciences; co-founder of Herkes İçin Mimarlık (Architecture for All), an Istanbul-based non-profit organisation providing democratic and collaborative design processes between architects, urban designers and citizens, and a member of Arazi Collective working on different spatial scales focusing on the Southeast region of Turkey. Köm’s work is mainly influenced by the perception of the environment, the image of the city, neo-liberal transformations, the tension between nature and technology, and collective movements. His methodology and media demonstrate the diversity of each project, and collaboration with others is a vital part of it. Köm writes articles for newspapers, magazines and books, ranging from academic to scientific to popular culture. He curated the Caution! Slippery Ground, Istanbul Modern Museum, Istanbul, Turkey (2016); was the associate curator of the Vardiya (The Shift), Pavilion of Turkey, Venice Architecture Biennale, Venice, Italy (2018); participated in the Istanbul Design Biennale a couple of times with different projects and designed Füsun Onur’s exhibition Once Upon a time… at the Pavilion of Turkey, 59th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy (2022).

Pelin Tan (Consultant)

Pelin Tan (b. 1974, Hilden, Germany) is a sociologist, art historian and currently Professor of Fine Arts Faculty, Batman University, Turkey. She is a member of Imece Refugee Solidarity Association; co-founder of Imece Academy; advisor of The Silent University and the pedagogical consortium of Dheisheh Palestinian Refugee Camp, Palestine. Tan was a Phd scholar of DAAD Art History, at Humboldt Berlin University, Germany (2006); Post-doctoral fellow on Artistic Research at ACT Program, MIT (2011); Associate Professor of the Architecture Faculty at Mardin Artuklu University, Mardin, Turkey (2013–17); Visiting Professor at School of Design, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong (2016) and at the Department of Architecture, University of Cyprus, Cyprus (2018); a fellow of Bard College of the Human Rights Program and Center for Curatorial Studies, NY, US (2019-2020); a Senior Fellow of the Center for Arts, Design and Social Research, Boston, US (2020–2021); researcher at the Architecture Faculty, University of Thessaly, Volos, Greece (2020-2025) and a guest professor at Ashkal Alwan, Beirut, Lebanon (2021). She was the curator of Urgent Pedagogies project organised by IASPIS, Stockholm, Sweden (2018); curator of the Gardentopia project by Matera ECC 2019, Metara, Italy (2019) and the co-curator of the Cosmological Gardens: Land Cultivation and Care project by The Center for Arts, Design, and Social Research, Spoleto, Italy (2020). Tan was the 6th recipient of the Keith Haring Art and Activism award.

Amal Jibril (Team Member)

Amal Jibril (b. 1987, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia) lives and works in Istanbul, Turkey. She is the co-founder and creative director of Migration Jam, a storytelling platform founded and run by refugees and migrants to inspire and empower communities worldwide. She is a driven behavioural-change communications expert with a knack for developmental solutions and storytelling. Amal has experience in community outreach, behavioural-change communications, storytelling and event organisation and coordination. She has worked in the deep field and country offices with the UNHCR in international protection, humanitarian assistance, case management, economic inclusion and behavioral-change communications.

Suha Nabhan (Team Member)

Suha Nabhan (b. 1990, Damascus, Syria) lives and works in Istanbul, Turkey. She is from Syria and Palestine and the co-founder and strategic director of Migration Jam, a storytelling platform founded and run by refugees and migrants to inspire and empower communities worldwide. She is a strategic communications specialist, a volunteerism enthusiast and an entrepreneur. Nabhan has worked on several strategic communication campaigns focused on raising awareness for migrants from Asia, Africa and the Middle East with international organisations. She has also founded projects in Syria. She is passionate about building strong networks for social impact, justice and equality and is currently working as the co-founder and strategic director of Migration Jam with the aim to change the mainstream negative narrative about migration through storytelling.

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