The film selection of the Istanbul Biennial ended on its 19th week

In the early phase of the pandemic that dramatically changed the world, the Istanbul Biennial presented an inspiring film selection spanning different geographies and ideas with the hope to increase accessibility to arts in these times of physical restraint. In the course of 19 weeks, from 3 April until 7 August, two artist films were opened to online access every Friday, in collaboration with 37 artists, artist duos and collectives who have participated in the past editions of the biennial.

Maider López, Basoa (Forest), 2017 [video still]

Every week, each film reached an average of 6 thousand views and 40 thousand page views on the Vimeo page of the Istanbul Biennial. The films were followed in 48 countries from Turkey to Croatia, and Chile to Denmark and Japan. The unique selection that brought together films exhibited in the past editions of the biennial and more recent works of the biennial artists enabled audiences to engage with the artists and their new works in these times of uncertainty.

We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to all the artists who have collaborated with the Istanbul Biennial once again, for their contribution to the sustainability of culture and arts. Please click for details of the films in the selection.

Films by:

Maider López, Volkan Aslan, Francis Alÿs, Emre Hüner, Jonathas de Andrade, Adrián Villar Rojas, Mika Rottenberg, Santiago Sierra, Pierre Huyghe, Melvin Moti, Halil Altındere, Vajiko Chachkhiani, Amar Kanwar, Ozan Atalan, Phillip Zach, Kim Heecheon, Cheng Ran, Jonah Freeman & Justin Lowe, Ed Atkins


Basim Magdy
13 Essential Rules for Understanding the World, 2011
Super 8 film transferred to HD video
5’ 16”

Basim Magdy
Magdy was born in 1977 in Asyut, Egypt. He lives and works between Basel, Switzerland and Cairo, Egypt.

Viewers of Basim Magdy’s works of art invariably find themselves in a place where ambiguity and confusion meet, as Magdy’s artistic interests centre around the ideas of incongruity and the absurd. According to the artist, ‘there is a certain poetic quality to ambiguity that lingers and, like an organic entity, keeps growing and multiplying until it reaches a point where it can’t grow anymore. This is the point where either you get what the work is about or you just let it go.’ This final point corresponds to our notions of learning and knowledge. Within all of this absurdity, the question that underlines much of Magdy’s practice is how you know that you know what you know. Magdy’s piece 13 Essential Rules for Understanding the World (2011) exhibited at the 13th Istanbul Biennial, is a fiveminute Super 8 film that was transferred to high-definition video. The video presents images of tulips, with faces painted on them, interspersed with seemingly arbitrary visuals, such as shots of balloons flying, architectural details, a sculpture of a dog, while a narrator speaks over solemn music, itemising the 13 principles and offering condensed explanations for these specific rules. Rule number 7 lists ‘never try to make a point’, since ‘no one will ever care’; rule number 8, ‘never use logic’, is succeeded by the reason ‘abstract behaviour is the way of this world’. But who are these rules for? Is this the world through the eyes of these tulips? Are the principles directed at the audience, other artists, the scientific community, or perhaps Magdy himself? The first rule in the film also applies to much of Magdy’s practice: ‘never presume or pretend to understand anything’ (the reason for which, we are told, is ‘we all know you don’t, just like we don’t’). The ‘you’ here can be either the audience or Magdy, but the ‘we’ definitely refers to the tulips, a point that, in the practice of Magdy, makes perfect nonsensical sense.

– Written by Theodor Ringborg for the catalogue of the 13th Istanbul Biennial.

Volkan Aslan
Home Sweet Home, 2017
Single channel video

Volkan Aslan
Aslan was born in 1982 in Ankara, Turkey. He lives and works in Istanbul, Turkey.

Volkan Aslan’s video installation Home Sweet Home (2017) is a meditative take on the realities of displacement. With its disjunctions of time and perspective, and imagery of water and travel, the work commemorates individuals forced to make long journeys, such as migrants or those who have suffered a loss of home. Home Sweet Home is also a poetic parable about the way in which we all share an itinerant and fragile human condition, even though each of us may experience this condition differently. The video, set within the Bosporus Strait in Istanbul, takes as its starting point a tragic image of human itinerancy: a hybrid boat-home structure commonly found in poor areas within large cities, and used to create temporary dwellings on bodies of water. A woman sits on the front of a boat, looks out onto the water and observes the passing landscape. Scenes of domestic interiors and daily routines meld with views of landscapes, shores and city views. As the work develops, we see, with biter-sweet irony, that the three places in the film – which initially seemed distinct – are in fact depictions of different views onto linked realities. The film speaks of various forms of collapse: of the security of home; of the architecture of inside and outside. It reflects meditatively on a world upended and inverted, in which many are on the move and in disarray, where even tragedies that initially seemed to be too distant to affect us are closer than we think, and neighbours we may not know are in fact right beside us.

– Written by Pablo Larios for the catalogue of the 15th Istanbul Biennial.


Francis Alÿs
The silence of Ani, 2015
HD video, sound
13’ 21”
In collaboration with Antonio Fernández Ros, Julien Devaux, Félix Blume and the teens of Kars.

Francis Alÿs
Alÿs was born in 1959 in Antwerp, Belgium. He lives and works in Mexico City, Mexico.

For the 14th Istanbul Biennial, Alÿs presented a new film and installation titled Silence of Ani. This project, developed after a research trip to Ani on the border with Armenia, is based on are cording of children of the region playing little flute-like instruments that mimic a variety of bird calls. They reach out to various species of birds. In the ruins of Ani, once a roaring city where children now play amongst the rubble, each makes the sound of a different bird; together the songs become a monodic collective call for the return of the birds.

Courtesy the teenagers of Kars, the artist, Antonio Fernandes Ros, Felix Blume, Julien Devaux, David Zwirner and Peter Kilchmann Galleries.

Produced with the support of Dilijan Art Initiative & IDeA Foundation, and David Zwirner Gallery.

Elmas Deniz
Human-less, 2015
Video, Pal 16:09, colour and sound
6’ 11”

Elmas Deniz
Deniz was born in 1981 in Bergama, Turkey. She lives and works in Istanbul, Turkey.

Human-less presents camera recordings taken by a drone. In the video, we get a bird's-eye view of the pristine Caucasus Mountains. At first, we admire the landscapes, but eventually, they lead us to question humankind's ambivalent relationship with nature as well as our ways of observing and perceiving nature. The eye, watching this extraordinary natural landscape is neither a bird's eye nor a human eye, is mechanical. As we watch in awe as if we were birds soaring through the succession of natural landscapes, the main artistic intervention in the video is done through text.

The video was commissioned for the ALANICA International Symposium in Vladikavkaz in March 2015. Post-production support for Till Its Gone exhibition (2016) at Istanbul Museum of Modern Art.


Emre Hüner
Neochronophobiq, 2015
3 channel video, sound
Cast: Tómas Lemarquis
Courtesy of Rodeo Gallery.

Emre Hüner
Hüner was born in 1977 in Istanbul, Turkey. He lives and works in Istanbul, Turkey and Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Neochronophobiq is centred around various sculptural elements in different spaces including natural and man-made interiors, reminiscent of isolation chamber-experiments – landscapes of Anatolian Neolithic ruins, ritual sites such as Göbeklitepe, volcanic land formations and stone quarries. These objects are moved by a human figure that simultaneously collects and observes them, played by actor Tómas Lemarquis. The main characters of Neochronophobiq – which are of unknown functions, at once archaeological, organic, and futuristic – are the forms on the middle screen, linking the exteriors and interiors. The sculptures have undecipherable meanings and embody contradictions between scientific and magical interpretations. They perpetually spin like asteroids in space to be observed from all angles in all possible dimensions. The sites in this work shift possible relationships to geographic/geological time with traces of architecture and unidentifiable topographies and materialities. These places bring the viewer along the way to a non-time and to the idea of a world outside of the mind, language, beyond what may be graspable.

The title of this work, Neochronophobiq, is constructed in a similar way to the work itself: it is both new and Neolithic. Chronophobia is the fear of time, Ubiquity is omnipresence, the state or capacity of being everywhere at the same time. In Neochronophobiq these objects and landscapes are alive. Like extreme metaphors of a petrified language, they have the sound of cracking glass, moving and transforming slowly, a tactile knowledge, objects of ritual, thought-forms, fired and glazed clay pieces which serve for a nonlinear narrative in a post-human instance.

Rossella Biscotti
La Stanza Rossa, 2013
Super8 film transferred to video, no sound, colour
Courtesy of the artist and Wilfried Lentz Rotterdam.

Rossella Biscotti
Biscotti was born in 1987 in Molfetta, Italy. She lives and works in Rotterdam,The Netherlands.

La Stanza Rossa is a 3’ film, part of what the artist calls “notes”. Filmed with an 8mm camera with no sound, the composed footage is a sort of a diary of small events in which the act of filming is not separated from the active participation in the recorded life of manual labour or in its making that concerns majority of the scenes. The camera has an equivalent role of any other tool. In this film the discovery of a cemetery under a kitchen floor opens up fundamental questions on our history and identity, breaking through the intimate atmosphere of a family house. The act of digging becomes a way to slowly and collectively uncover them.


Jonathas de Andrade
O Peixe (The Fish), 2016
16mm transferred to 2K, video, Sound 5.1, 16:9 (1.77)

Jonathas de Andrade
De Andrade was born in 1982 in Maceió, Brasil. He lives and works in Recife, Brasil.

Borrowing from storytelling, folklore, ethnography and anthropology, Jonathas de Andrade explores issues surrounding the colonial legacies of Latin American history, its current brutalities and what the artist calls its ‘urgencies and discomforts’. De Andrade’s 2016 film O Peixe (The Fish) was made with a group of fishermen from Piaçabuçu and Coruripe in the Northeast of Brazil. We see them engaging in a ritual involving catching the fish, then tenderly holding their prey to their chests until they stop breathing. Through this gentle pastiche of early ethnographic films, de Andrade comments on human and natural relations, and an entanglement between expressions of care and suffocation. The film also nods to exclusionary systems of narration and documentation that are imbricated in colonialist and ethnographic enterprises, while presenting a form of mythmaking that teases at earlier objectifications and mythologisations.

Maider López
Basoa (Forest), 2017
Video, HDV, 16:9 (1920 x 1080)

Maider López
López was born in 1975 in San Sebastián, Basque Country, Spain. She lives and works in San Sebastián, Basque Country, Spain.

Something seems to move in a forest, even if you might don’t know what it is exactly. One of the trees is moving. If the same scene is watched from another perspective, a person walking with a trunk will be seen.

Basoa means “forest” in Basque. The project questions the limits of landscape and reality; at the same time that it makes visible the constant transformation of nature; nature is constantly moving at a very slow pace, sometimes imperceptible to the human eye.


Alper Aydın
The Way, 2019-20
Video documantation
Commissioned within the scope of SAHA Studio programme and produced with the support of SAHA Association.

Alper Aydın
Aydın was born in 1989 in Ordu, Turkey. He lives and works in Ordu and Istanbul, Turkey.

With the intervention in the forested areas in Nazarköy, Izmir and Belgrade Forest, Istanbul, Aydın suggests a new path for the flow of water through a labyrinthine path that he has made with clay. The water previously flowing with the natural angles and coves in nature now continues to flow through the shapes dictated by the labyrinth. While the perfect form of the clay structure is affected by the process, the water returns to its natural path. The labyrinth’s previously determined exit and entrance and nature’s own way of emergence and disappearance can be observed in the process. Human intervention in nature and nature’s own intervention into this constructed process create a cycle of two dynamics interwoven, each with its own rules.

Adrián Villar Rojas
Unknown Soldier, 2016
Colour video, sound
Commissioned by Marrakech Biennale 6. Film produced by Rei Cine SRL under the direction of Adrián Villar Rojas.
Courtesy of the artist, REI cine, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York/Paris/London and kurimanzutto Mexico/New York

Adrián Villar Rojas
Rojas was born in 1980 in Rosario, Argentina. He lives and works nomadically.

“Adrián Villar Rojas has prolifically produced various monumental sculptures and installations across the world, which deal with ideas pertaining to futurity, the Anthropocene, decay and the death of things. His obsession with time, the labour of man, the glory of nature have synthesised into a post-apocalyptic language in making art uniquely his own. His installations are filled with drafted sculptures, imagined fossils of an unattained future and a non-existent past, looming in debris of discarded objects, junk, trash and rotten vegetation, etc. A world-nomad, Villar Rojas operates with a team of collaborators, settling and exploring new territories, fascinated with material vestiges, creating site-specific yet far-reaching projects that embrace the common detritus of the world.

In February 2016 and after journeying through the outskirts of Marrakech’s various townships renown for their various handmade crafts – Tamasloht, Ourika, Dumnass, Asni, he produces his third known film project. ‘Unknown Soldier’ unfolds as a sequence of almost holy, nativity scenes, like paintings, in a slow motion of hands, clay, pots, fossils, mounds of fruits and vegetables, etc. These images feel like sensual odes to the makers of crafts, those who have found serenity and equilibrium with their surroundings.”

Fadda Reem, Unknown Soldier, Marrakech Biennale 6, 2016


Mika Rottenberg
NoNoseKnows, 2015
Single-channel video, sound, colour
Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

Production Credits
Producer and Director of Photography: David Hollander (Fourth Density Productions)
Cast: Bunny Glamazon and the employees of AngePerle
Director of Set, Props, and Special Effects: Katrin Altekamp (4DEE Productions)
Digital Imaging Technician: Loïc de Lame (Laryenco Production)
Set: Joshua Pelletier
Gaffer: Alan Hostetter
Sound Design and Mix: Ronen Nagel and Nati Taub (Sound Around Studios)
Special Effects: Alexander Lemke
Production in China: Matt Clarke and Clark Wang
Special thanks to Wu Rong Mei.

Mika Rottenberg
Rottenberg was born in 1976 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She lives and works in New York, USA.

NoNoseKnows tells us about the ordinary working day of a woman capable of producing ready-to-eat meals just by sneezing. This gift – or handicap as the case may be – is then exploited in a standardised production chain. To increase her productivity, scents of flowers are disseminated by a ventilator, worked by pulleys, handles, and a string.

After following this simple mechanism, the camera moves from her office into a different reality – a production site of fresh-water pearls in the Zhuji province in China, where women graft, then split open mussel shells to extract pearls. The heroine of the video is placed on the same level as those unfortunate shellfish: irritated – and even tortured – to extract a marketable substance.

Georgie Nettell
Every lie has an audience, 2019
Colour video, sound

Georgie Nettell
Nettel was born in 1984 in Bedford, UK. She lives and works in London, UK.

‘Wigner's Friend’ is a thought experiment that shows how the strange nature of the universe allows two observers – say, Wigner and Wigner’s friend – to experience different, conflicting realities. Since it was first proposed in 1961, physicists have used ‘Wigner’s Friend’ to argue over whether objective facts can exist. This year, scientists performed the first experiment that suggests they don’t.

Wigner's idea was tested with an experiment in which four people observed two pairs of entangled photons. Two of them could arrive at conclusions about the photons that were correct and provable and that yet still differed from the observations of their friends – which were also correct and provable.

‘It seems that, in contrast to classical physics, measurement results cannot be considered absolute truth but must be understood relative to the observer who performed the measurement... The stories we tell have to adapt to that’ the scientist said. ‘Back when facts existed, it was intellectually responsible to doubt them’ he continued. ‘With things the way they are these days, it’s the opposite.’


Santiago Sierra
The Through (El Bebedero), 2016
Single-channel video, sound, black&white
Courtesy of the artist.

Santiago Sierra
Sierra was born in 1966 in Madrid, Spain. He lives and works in Madrid, Spain.

This piece was made in two parts and in two different places with an interval of almost a year between them. The first part took place in July 2015 in Trento, Italy, as part of an artistic event. The second was recorded on location at the Karni Mata Temple in India, where rats are worshipped. Two cultures that mark a deep contrast in their relationship with signs, two world views that are reflected in each other. Beyond the political intentions of Santiago Sierra's works, and the role of provocateur that he is often accused of, his work is endowed with a symbolic, self-representative and reflective dimension that is not always sufficiently addressed by commentators.

Anna Bella Geiger
Bureaucracy (Burocracia), 1982
Colour video
VT Davi Geiger
Performance: Noni Geiger, Anna Bella Geiger, Teresa Corção and Paula Nogueira
Courtesy of the artist.

Anna Bella Geiger
Geiger was born in 1933 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She lives and works in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

A wordly-known word, BU-RO-CRA-CIA that retards the rights of any citizen for his own rights. 4 women, including the artist herself, pronounce slowly the 4 syllables, so to be heard and understood in this ridiculous attitude. ALMOST Kafka.


Pierre Huyghe
De-Extinction, 2014
Film, colour, stereo sound
Courtesy of the artist, Hauser & Wirth, London, and Anna Lena Films, Paris.

Pierre Huyghe
Huyghe was born in 1962 in Paris, France. He lives and works in New York, USA and Santiago, Chile.

A navigation through an amber stone, a situation frozen in time, and a search of the earliest known specimen caught mating million years ago.

The film, made with macroscopic and microscopic cameras, records insects encased in amber. The soundtrack is made up of the whirring sounds of the motion control camera.

Suzanne Husky
Earth Cycle Trance, led by Starhawk, 2019
Courtesy of the artist.
Commissioned by the 16th Istanbul Biennial.
Produced with the support of Berrak & Nezih Barut.
Presented with the support of Institut Français.

Suzanne Husky
Husky was born in 1975 in Bazas, France. She lives and works in San Francisco, USA and Bazas, France.

Husky’s film Earth Cycle Trance, led by Starhawk focuses on the figure of Starhawk, a feminist writer, ecofeminist, witch, priestess and sacred earth activist. In the film, Starhawk leads viewers through a ritual trance that channels through a cycle of growth, death and regeneration: ‘Down and down and realising again that this earth is not solid’, she says, ‘it’s like a three-dimensional labyrinth of caverns and arches and pillars and spaces’. Husky draws from Starhawk’s attunement to a mode of human behaviour that goes beyond species-exceptionalism and communes ethically and holistically with the people, land and ecosystems around us.*
*Written by Pablo Larios for the guidebook of the 16th Istanbul Biennial.


Melvin Moti
The Prisoner’s Cinema, 2008
35 mm film with sound
Courtesy of the artist.

*The film is not subtitled upon the artist's request. Please click here to download the subtitles in English, and here for subtitles in Turkish.

Melvin Moti
Moti was born in 1977 in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. He lives and works in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

In 1954 scientist John Lilly first used a sensory deprivation tank, also known as an isolation tank. In order to respond to the hypothesis that the brain will fall asleep after prolonged lack of sensory stimuli, Lilly conducted several sessions in his tank and discovered that instead of falling asleep, the brain will do the exact opposite; it becomes hyperactive. As an effect, one starts to have intense hallucinations.

The Prisoner’s Cinema is a phenomenon which is described in neuro and optical science as visual hallucinations as a result of prolonged visual deprivation. Prisoners confined in a dark cell have repeatedly reported this phenomenon, hence the name. Whenever a person is completely cut off from visual information, as a result of looking at a ‘blank screen’, visual hallucinations will appear. They take the form of geometric light shapes which are seemingly ‘projected’ about a hand stretch away from the subject.

This experience can be related to cinema, as well as an ‘inside-out’ experience of ones own body (Whatever happens inside of us is directly projected outside, without interference of external stimulus). Although these ‘projections’ can clearly be seen, it is impossible to record the experience, thus remaining as hyper-personal visual experiences; much like dreams.

Erkan Özgen
Breath, 2008
Single channel digital video, colour, sound
Courtesy of the artist.

Erkan Özgen
Özgen was born in 1971 in Derik, Mardin, Turkey. He lives and works in Diyarbakır, Turkey.

In this video, we see a man in a balaclava pounding the streets of Diyarbakir until he reaches a valley in the outskirts of the city. When he gets to a hilltop overlooking the valley, he takes off his balaclava, looks over the city and breathes deeply. Seeing him walk in the empty streets creates an uncanny feeling. Emptiness does not produce the same feeling in the city as it does in the nature. We expect to see people on the streets of the city. This perhaps explains the fearful character’s strife to get out of the city. He attempts to get rid of the terror and the chaotic fear that an empty city triggers.

This work takes on an extra meaning in the actual context of the COVID-19 crisis, as we have all been faced by the emptiness of our streets and cities, and can feel the invisible fear growing with each day of the lockdown restrictions.


Halil Altındere
Angels of Hell, 2014
Colour video
Courtesy of the artist.

Halil Altındere
Altındere was born in 1971 in Mardin, Turkey. He lives and works in İstanbul, Turkey.

Altındere produced Angels of Hell (2014), a video that depicts a form of hell where both angel and devil enjoy ambiguity. Famous stunt actors from 1970s Turkish cinema are starring in this video. Surprise factor appears with the lead actors: the 118 cm tall Mirac Bayramoğlu, the female body building champion Işıl Aktan and Göksel Kaya who resembles Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The video can be seen as a parody of the mafia-like power relations in Turkey.

Zeyno Pekünlü
A Bathroom of One’s Own, 2015
Colour video
Courtesy of the artist.

Zeyno Pekünlü
Pekünlü was born in 1980 in İzmir, Turkey. She lives and works in İstanbul, Turkey.

The video A Bathroom of One’s Own sneaks into men’s bathrooms and their intimate moments, which they voluntarily share on an open web platform. The work is a collage of various homemade videos that ordinary users upload on YouTube to share their experience about how to comp, dry, shape and style their hair. Those men, who show hair style techniques for minutes in front of the camera, not only present an imposing performance of casual information, but also invite us to their peep hole to observe the fragility and eroticism of manhood and to witness the making and sharing of casual information from private man-to-man chats to digital public space.


Song-Ming Ang
Something Old, Something New, 2015
HD video
Courtesy of the artist.

Song-Ming Ang
Ang was born in 1980 in Singapore. He lives and works in Berlin, Germany.

Inspired by a chance encounter with a 19th century music stand, Something Old, Something New is Song-Ming Ang’s attempt to replicate the ornately carved music stand. The video forms part of an installation combining various media, first shown at the 14th Istanbul Biennial, SALTWATER: A Theory of Thought Forms in 2015. The trace seen in the video was eventually used to produce a life-size glass sculpture of the wooden music stand. In substituting glass for wood, Ang’s sculpture appear less sturdy and more fragile, losing its functionality and becoming an aesthetic object in its own right.

Vajiko Chachkhiani
Winter Which Was Not There, 2017
Colour video
Courtesy of the artist, Daniel Marzona, Berlin and Scai the Bathhouse, Tokyo.

Vajiko Chachkhiani
Chachkhiani was born in 1985 in Tbilisi, Georgia. He lives and works in Berlin, Germany.

Film, Winter Which Was Not There can be seen as a metaphor for the liberation of an individual from his or her own history. In the film, a man watches a monumental concrete sculpture of a man being hoisted out of the sea. The sculpture is clearly reminiscent of a classic heroic monument but in a strange, and somewhat uncanny way, the face and figure of the sculpture look amazingly like the man who’s watching it rise out of the sea. A strange narrative ensues eliciting questions typically raised by Chachkhiani’s work. How can we understand and describe the relationship between historical and political circumstances and their effect upon the psychological development of an individual? How do the public and the private sphere interfere with and influence our consciousness? What do we mean when we say ‘I’?*
*Written by Daniel Marzona


Pelin Tan & Anton Vidokle
2084: a science fiction show / Episode 2: The Fall of Artists’ Republic, 2014
Video, sound
Courtesy of the artists.

Pelin Tan & Anton Vidokle
Tan was born in 1974 in Germany. She lives and works in Mardin, Turkey. Vidokle was born in 1965 in Moscow, Russia. He lives and works in New York, USA.

The second episode of 2084 is the latest in a three-part science fiction series that speculates on the future of art, directed by Pelin Tan and Anton Vidokle. Filmed on location in the fairground modern ruins by utopist architect Oscar Niemeyer Tripoli, Lebanon, this video is set in a future where the Artists’ Republic, an artist-run city-state, has collapsed and art has become a thing of the past. Despite the demise of art, artists inexplicably continue to exist, albeit as animals. These new animal-humans are trapped in a cement dome where they ponder questions of labour, economy, religion, art, and literature while trying to come to terms with their new existentialist condition.

Amar Kanwar
A Love Story, 2010
HD Video
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery.

Amar Kanwar
Kanwar was born in 1964 in New Delhi, India. He lives and works in New Delhi, India.

A Love Story is a miniature narrative in four acts where time becomes fluid as the image is distilled to its inner self. The film lies at the fringe of the expanding Indian city, a world of continuous migration and therefore of continuous separations. It is in this terrain of separation that A Love Story is located.


Ozan Atalan
Monochrome, 2019
Video, no sound
Courtesy of the artist.
Commissioned by the 16th Istanbul Biennial.
Co-produced by the 16th Istanbul Biennial and MO.CO. Montpellier Contemporain with the support of SAHA – Supporting Contemporary Art from Turkey.

Ozan Atalan
Atalan was born in 1985 in Gelibolu, Turkey. He lives and works in İzmir and İstanbul, Turkey.

Cultural evolution is proceeding to the detriment of nature within the anthropocentric delusion of human’s superiority to the non-human beings. Construction activities constitute only one of destructive human impact on Earth. Ozan Atalan’s video –as an integral part of his installation Monochrome produced for the 16th Istanbul Biennial– documents how urban intervention towards Northern Forests of Istanbul disturbs the indigenous forms of life-based specifically on the water buffalos in the region. The video, juxtaposing water buffalos in their natural habitat and a fragmented nature, depicts the destruction of the civilization’s endless expansion caused by a human-centred legitimisation through a comparison of what it is and what it should be, past and now. The work focuses on respect to the biotopes of the non-human in order for the natural and the beautiful not to consist of a representative image in the future.

Armin Linke
Alpi, 2011
16mm, transferred digital file, stereo sound, 16:9, colour
Camera: Armin Linke, Sound: Renato Rinaldi, Editing: Giuseppe Ielasi.
Based on a research project of Piero Zanini, Renato Rinaldi and Armin Linke.
Courtesy of the artist and galleria Vistamare / Vistamarestudio, Pescara / Milano.

*Please click here to download the subtitles in Turkish.

Armin Linke
Linke was born in 1966 in Milano, Italy. He lives and works in Berlin, Germany.

Alpi is the result of seven years of research on contemporary perceptions of the landscape of the Alps, juxtaposing places and situations across all eight bordering nations and spanning the territories of four languages. In the film, the Alps are encountered like an island that is connected to various global transformations. We undertook many journeys in the alpine region, which, ironically, led us as far as Dubai. The film shows the Alps as a key location, owing to its delicacy and environmental importance, where one can observe and study the complexity of social, economic, and political relationships. In the Europe of today, the Alps are a hotbed for modernity and its illusions.
–Armin Linke, 2010

Going to the Alps? Thinking of trekking outdoors? Dreaming of skiing in Switzerland? Watch Armin Linke′s film first. Beware. You will always be inside, deep inside laboratories, factories, ski resorts, or Swiss bunkers hidden in the mountains. Armin Linke has succeeded in doing with film what he has been doing for years with photography: situate the envelopes inside which our existence unfolds. This is the most uncritical film ever made about the utter artificiality of the modern world. But ‘uncritical’ has to be taken just as positively as ‘artificial.’
–Bruno Latour, 2011


Işıl Eğrikavuk
The Interview, 2008
Video, colour, sound
Courtesy of the artist.

Işıl Eğrikavuk
Eğrikavuk was born in in İzmit, Turkey. She lives in Berlin, Germany and works for Berlin University of the Arts (UDK).

In the year 2008, the USA is on the verge of a deadly epidemic, the Bird Flu, and only one person can save the country: A 27-year-old doctor from Iraq, Anmaar Abdul-Nabi. Upon an invitation by the US government to find a cure for the deadly disease, he becomes a new hope for Americans.

This semi fictional video actually comprises two separate interviews. On one screen, we see Abdul-Nabi getting interviewed by local TV reporter Anne Marie Berger, and on the other Eğrikavuk coaches Abdul Nabi on how he should formulate his answers.

The video is an indirect narration of Abdul-Nabi’s real life story, an Iraqi doctor, who comes to the United States after 2003. Through the metaphor of the Bird Flu, Eğrikavuk discusses the issues of war, migration, and the idea of homeland.

Phillip Zach
Double Mouthed: Yarımburgaz Cave, 2019
HD video and sound installation
Courtesy of the artist.
Commissioned by the 16th Istanbul Biennial.
Produced with the support of Ahmet Kocabıyık.

Phillip Zach
Zach was born in 1984 in Cottbus, Germany. He lives and works between Los Angeles, USA and Berlin, Germany.

On view is one of the two videos from Phillip Zach’s installation Double Mouthed (2019), which follows the artist’s investigations on Yarımburgaz Cave, located on the outskirts of Istanbul. With its history spanning over a million years, this cave holds a significant archaeological value.

‘Known for his works that draw upon the sub-sensory or suppressed aspects of materials and history, Phillip Zach participates in the biennial with a multi-channel video and sound installation. Contents of the two videos projected on opposite walls range from documentary-style interviews with archaeologists, to fictional scenes and psychedelic sequences, as well as sound elements drawn from field recordings and specifically composed cinematic scores. The work looks at two sites, both caves: Los Angeles’s man-made Bronson Cave, which has been used in films and TV shows from Star Trek to Twin Peaks to Mission: Impossible; and Yarımburgaz Cave, outside of Istanbul, which has been weathered by different forms of imprint: graffiti, destruction caused by film productions, tunnels illegally burrowed by treasure hunters, or earlier cultural markers, such as ancient cave drawings. Oscillating between time and place, and drawing on such referents as Ursula K. Le Guin’s novel The Dispossessed: an Ambiguous Utopia (1974), Zach’s work imagines caves as sites of transplant and transmutation between locations, temporalities and histories, hyper capitalism and anarchy. Ultimately, it shows how fiction-making and history alike proceed through contamination, mutations and accidents.’*
*Written by Pablo Larios for the guidebook of the 16th Istanbul Biennial.


Theaster Gates and The Black Monks
Walk With Me, 2015
Video, colour, sound
Courtesy of the artist.

Theaster Gates
Gates was born in 1973 in Chicago, USA. He lives and works in Chicago, USA.

In this video, Theaster Gates with long-time musical collaborators The Black Monks performs a song called Walk With Me. This song is also included in the track list of the Monks’ 2019 album Amalgam.

The Black Monks, formerly The Black Monks of Mississippi, has been a through line in Theaster Gates’ artistic practice. Their music is rooted in the Black music of the South, including the blues, gospel and wailings, but also linked to ascetic practices, related most closely to Eastern monastic traditions. It is an experiment around the specificity of Black sound and a way to give life to the abject everyday objects that Theaster Gates collects. The Black Monks often function as “amateur historians, senior docents, and non-sponsored bootleg preachers” expounding the word of art alongside the word of god. Through this gospel soul chant reverberation, Gates paints another picture of the potentialities within culturally specific but broadly received artistic practices. It is Gates’ body and the bodies of The Black Monks that help us understand that the Black voice is a specific voice – even if the subjectivities of those voices are universal subjectivities.

Kim Heecheon
Lifting Barbells, 2015
Single-channel HD video, black&white
Courtesy of the artist.

Kim Heecheon
Heecheon was born in 1989 in Seoul, South Korea. He lives and works in Seoul, South Korea.

Where do we pass our daily lives? In ‘real’ life, or within the simulated habitus of screens? Today, even our most acutely felt, corporeal experiences are monitored, recorded and visualised through medical tracking, GPS and surveillance.

Kim Heecheon’s black and white video Lifting Barbells (2015) captures a condition, experienced by many, of alienation from one’s own experiences – mediated by travel, by screens, or by the distance of the digital. A narrator in Seoul, South Korea, reads a series of personal letters in Spanish to his girlfriend in Argentina, where it is summer. The narrator writes from the middle of winter in Korea, a duality that mirrors the oppositions between life and death, real and artificial explored within the video. On the screen, impersonal footage of the city of Seoul is combined with 3D-rendered architectural views of the skyline and cityscape, surveillance-camera recordings, imagery of transit zones such as airports, and digital animation of human movement. The crux of the video arrives when the narrator tells of the death of his father while on a bicycle ride: we see digital footage of the father’s movements on Google Map data via GPS recorded on his smartwatch, the location of the bike accident, and his cardiograph data as he is dying. The narrator states: ‘The bicycle path he took has been flattened into a pile of data.’

Lifting Barbells’ tugging sense of itinerancy and homesickness provokes more general questions about the way we live now, at a time when everyday life is punctuated by simulation and the unreal. It was made just after the MV Sewol disaster in 2014, when a South Korean ferry capsized, leading to the death of hundreds: an incident that –for the artist– demonstrated larger failures in society’s workings. The video’s title resonates with aspects of the film: the lifting by the narrator, on the request of a paramedic, of his deceased father’s head and the girlfriend’s innocuous question as to whether the narrator has been ‘lifting weights’ recently. Such ‘heavy lifting’ becomes a cipher for personal struggles to overcome the weight of the past. Have you been lifting weights? Yes – we all have.*
*Written by Pablo Larios for the guidebook of the 15th Istanbul Biennial.


Rashid Johnson
The Hikers, 2019
16mm film transferred to digital with sound
Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

Rashid Johnson
Johson was born in 1977 in Chicago, USA. He lives and works in New York, USA.

Rashid Johnson’s work often references African-American culture and pop culture through signifying materials such as shea butter, black soap, books and vinyl records.

In the film The Hikers, we experience a kind of tender ballet, in which two men wearing masks move through nature, each on a separate hike. When they meet, they remove their masks, and find brief joy in each other’s presence before continuing on their individual paths. The film is a testament to the anxiety of navigating unfamiliar space and the comfort that can be found in being in the presence of another who shares aspects of your identity.*

* Written by Pablo Larios for the guide book of the 16th Istanbul.

Kristina Buch
“One of the things that baffles me about you is that you remain unmurdered.”, 2012-2016
HD-film colour.
Courtesy of the artist.

Kristina Buch
Buch was born in 1983 in Meerbusch, Germany. She lives and works in Cambridge, UK.

The work touches on many different issues, such as the fine line between murder and censorship, the fine line between curating and censorship, the line between real and false sacrifice, a profound wanting to know the Other, whilst always being thrown back at the 3 square centimeters of one’s own soul.*

*Written by Kristina Buch in 2016.

In a work the artist created between 2012 and 2016, “One of the things that baffles me about you is that you remain unmurdered.” the boundary between a houseguest and a bouillon becomes a thing unresolved, open for incessant deliberation. For the piece, Buch cohabitated with a live chicken for what could be considered an extravagant period of time: more than 900 days. Her initial teleological intention for the work (proposed some hundreds of days earlier) was to cook the bird into a soup and feed it to her guests at a vernissage of an exhibition that should have featured the chicken. The gallery she was meant to present the work in balked at this proposed menu and asked her to use a grocery shop stunt chicken to make the meal, which she refused to do. Thus, she lived with the chicken until a resolution for the work presented itself. The artist documented this living gesture with moving and still images, providing humorously poetic insight into this unlikely cohabitation. [...] We are invited to consider what it is to live with a thing that possesses the ideological identity structure of meat, i.e. of death. The project renders it a thing not merely alive but abstracted from its own identity. And by completing the project and offering it for view, Buch’s bird becomes doubly existent and inexistent. It is gone, save for this film and Buch’s record of events, yet it is more alive to us than the paillard we will consume for dinner. And the piece itself does not go wholly unmurdered; it is subjected to a censorial murder via an article in Süddeutsche Zeitung (December 2015) which was meant, in part, to bring the work to conclusion. In the process of printing the 500 thousand issues, the head of Feuilleton censored the work’s title in the publication, “eroding an internally agreed final version,” according to Buch. [...] A brutally frank and witty email exchange ensued with the head of Feuilleton. [That] email exchange, as well as the censored and uncensored version of the work has now become part of the final work.*

*Excerpt from the text "The Curve of Fate, the Beginning of a Smile: Kristina Buch" written by Aimee Walleston and published in Mousse Magazine, 2018


Ursula Mayer
Atom Spirit, 2016
16 mm on HD
Courtesy of the artist.

Ursula Mayer
Mayer was born in 1970 in Ried im Innkreis, Austria. She lives and works in London, UK and Vienna, Austria.

The film Atom Spirit is a speculative narrative set in a near future of increasing biomedical innovation. The film, partly set in Trinidad & Tobago, follows the work of a group of evolutionary geneticists studying and collecting DNA from all forms of life in order to create a cryogenically frozen Noah’s Ark. Atom Spirit presents a cyborgian future of techno-science in which the residual resonances of extinct civilisations are still felt. Through blending science and mythology, Atom Spirit ruminates upon the effects of computational and biological technologies on future iterations of humanity and the environment.

Cheng Ran
The Lament: Mountain Ghost, 2018
Single channel HD video, 16:9, colour, sound
Copyright by artist Cheng Ran, K11 ART FOUNDATION and Martin Goya Business.

Cheng Ran
Ran was born in 1981 in Inner Mongolia, China. He lives and works in Hangzhou, China.

‘The Lament’ is the first romantic poem of ancient China that is inundated with fantasy and metaphors of reality that outline an idyllic yet pro-active political and scholarly attitude. Under such a context, through the use of a variety of mediums, Cheng Ran extracts the subtle yet complex emotions in the poem. This first instalment of The Lament: Mountain Ghost takes its cue from the ghostly imagery present in Qu Yuan's poem. By constructing a mysterious ritualistic dance that oscillates between fiction and reality, Cheng expresses his attitude towards a rapidly developing city and also the dilemma between ideals and reality.


Jonah Freeman & Justin Lowe
The San San Trilogy, 2014-2016
Single-channel video
Courtesy of the artists and Marlborough Contemporary.

Jonah Freeman & Justin Lowe
Freeman was born in 1975 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA. He lives and works in New York, USA. Lowe was born in 1976 in Dayton, Ohio, USA. He lives and works in New York, USA.

The San San Metroplex is an urban corridor that exists along the coast of California. It is based on an idea put forth by futurists Herman Kahn and Anthony Weiner in their 1967 book The Year 2000. He speculated that the coastal area between San Diego and San Francisco would grow into one giant metropolis. This never happened. We have taken this veritable fiction and made a trilogy of films.

The films take the form of faux-ethnographic cut-up narratives illustrated through a series of props, environments, pictures and architectural models. The aesthetic is inspired by the surrealistic banality of a breakfast cereal commercial. The physical setting is the placeless and timeless location of the ‘set’. People exist solely in pictures on the wall, footage on monitors or voices from a stereo.

The San San Trilogy is comprised of three distinct and autonomous chapters: The Floating Chain, Scenario in The Shade and Mercury City.

Kaari Upson
Prairie Fundamentalism, 2019
HD film, colour, with sound
Courtesy of the artist and Sprüth Magers.

Kaari Upson
Upson was born in 1972 in San Bernardino, California. She lives and works in Los Angeles and New York, USA.

Working across a range of media, Kaari Upson examines the lines between the self and the other, as well as our intimate connections to the spaces we inhabit. Casting and mold-making are intrinsic to her sculptures, for which she often creates latex impressions of the surfaces of objects and architectures from her past –both real and imagined– and recasts them as uncanny doubles of their original source. In the video Prairie Fundamentalism, this process of ‘skinning’ things for their physical and psychic imprints is enacted as a performance, in which Upson slowly and laboriously peels back a layer of latex covering a bathroom shower in her childhood home. Digitally blurred, her figure is subsumed by both the latex and the filmed image, merging with her surroundings, and the real-time, durational aspect of the work connects to early video and performance practices of the 1960s and 1970s. The themes at play in Prairie Fundamentalism –psychological introspection and gestures to art history and everyday culture– thread through Upson's work as a whole, which continually explores the ever-shifting relationships between space, memory, and the human psyche.


Ed Atkins
Death Mask 5, 2019
Single-channel video
Courtesy of the artist.
Originally put together for Kunstnernes Hus in Oslo. Shards of something similar were sequenced for videoart at Midnight in Berlin.

Ed Atkins
Atkins was born in 1982 in Oxford, UK. He lives and works in London, UK and Berlin, Germany.

In his video works, Atkins plumbs the corporeal depths of digital moving imagery. Computer generated animation, emo musical theatre, collaged stock imagery, field recording, performance capture, disease, motion graphics and starless humour muster within his videos. Atkins’ unique visual language, both melancholic and absurd, confronts the viewer with intimate, arcane visions that seem caught in a purgatory of afterwards.

For his presentation in Kunstnernes Hus’ cinema, entitled Death Mask 5, Atkins presented a specially compiled mix of works from the past decade. Sequenced and edited like a particularly adventurous provincial multiplex programme, Atkins’ assemblage will feature unseen tests, trailers and teasers interspersing sections of significant works from his catalogue.*

Included in the screening are fragments from the following:

  • ‘up/down, in/out’, 2017 
  • ‘DEPRESSION’, 2012 
  • ‘A Thousand Centuries of Death’, 2010 
  • ‘Death Mask III’, 2011 
  • ‘Good wine’, 2017 
  • ‘Good bread’, 2017 
  • ‘Good smoke’, 2017 
  • ‘Hisser’, 2015 (Screened at the 14th Istanbul Biennial.)
  • ‘A Primer for Cadavers’, 2011 
  • ‘A Tumour (In English)’, 2011 
  • ‘Cur’, 2010 
  • ‘An Echo Button’ with James Richards, 2011 
  • ‘Performance Capture’, 2015/16 
  • ‘Even Pricks’, 2013 
  • ‘Untitled’, 2018 
  • ‘Happy Christmas!!’, 2014 
  • Test for ‘Material Witness OR A Liquid Cop’, 2010 
  • Teaser for ‘Material Witness OR A Liquid Cop’, 2011 
  • Trailer for ‘Happy Birthday!!’, 2014 
  • Tease for ‘Recent Ouija’ at Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 2015 
  • Tease for ‘Safe Conduct’ at SMK, Copenhagen, 2016 
  • Tease for ‘Warm, Warm, Warm Spring Mouths’, 2013 
  • Super 8 footage from 1988 ‘Hair by Ed’ for Mark Leckey, 2014

*Written for Kunstnernes Hus, in August 2019.

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