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Turkish and English with simultaneous translation available.

Jeremy Narby & Suzanne Husky, Elizabeth A. Povinelli & Ursula Mayer, Umut Yıldırım & Elmas Deniz, Patrick Degeorges & Johannes Büttner

The 16th Istanbul Biennial offers the image of a ‘new world’ with The Seventh Continent: even if this huge mass of floating plastic wastes cannot be inhabited, it is a territory which is now explored by artists, scientists and thinkers. Their dialogue is the core of the two talk sessions inaugurating and closing the Biennial. An anthropologist, a philosopher, a sociologist, will be associated with one of the participating artists in order to produce new points of view upon the Anthropocene, witnessing the mutations of contemporary thought. A renewed idea of anthropology expanded to the non-humans, and crossings between feminisms, decolonisation theory, cosmology or sociology, will be the main issues of those dialogues.

The dialogue sessions on the opening and closing weeks of the 16th Istanbul Biennial are mapping new territories in contemporary theory, bringing together anthropologists of the non-human or philosophers of the vegetal life, thinkers crossing the boundaries between aesthetics, feminist theory or sociology, as a critical response to the apparition of the floating seventh continent. In which way, and to what extent, will the Anthropocene transform contemporary thought? Every author is paired with an artist from the exhibition, and their two short interventions are followed by a discussion.


Jeremy Narby & Suzanne Husky
Elizabeth A. Povinelli & Ursula Mayer
Coffee break
Umut Yıldırım & Elmas Deniz
Patrick Degeorges & Johannes Büttner

"All the world’s milieux" by Jeremy Narby

Moving beyond human-centered concepts such as nature, environment, and anthropocene is needed as we ponder how to think about, respond to and act within a more-than-human world. The French concept of milieu does not presuppose the separation of the world into nature and culture, subject and object, human and all the rest. It may be of use to start thinking of humans as part of the planet’s living tissue.

Jeremy Narby is an anthropologist who has worked for the last 30 years raising funds and advocating for indigenous Amazonian initiatives such as land titling, bilingual and intercultural education programmes and sustainable forestry and fish farming, on the understanding that tropical rainforest is best protected by its indigenous inhabitants. He has also written several books, including “The cosmic serpent: DNA and the origins of knowledge” and “Intelligence in nature”, and he co-edited with Francis Huxley the anthology “Shamans through time”.

Suzanne Husky (b. 1975, Bazas, France) is based in San Francisco, USA and Bazas, France. Trained in horticulture, permaculture and herbalism, Husky is a multimedia artist whose work addresses people’s relationships to the natural environment. The works revisits cultural representations, informed by ethnobotany and plant knowledge. She’s a founder of the artistic duo Le Nouveau Ministère de l’Agriculture (The New Department of Agriculture) that creates subversive art work on agribusiness and agtech. Husky has shown in Bay Area Now 5 at YBCA, San Francisco, the De Young Museum, Southern Exposure, Out of the Box Biennale, Switzerland; The Headlands Center for the Arts.

Elizabeth A. Povinelli & Ursula Mayer

"Bait, Lure, MacGuffin: The Ends of an Anthropology of Art" by Elizabeth A. Povinelli

Using the KarrabingFilm Collective as a case study, this talk explores a transposition between aesthetics and ethnography in anthropology and critical curatorial practice. As anthropologists refashion ethnography into art, affects, and aesthetics as a mode of thought, critical curatorial practice sees art and aesthetics as an alibi for ethnographic and citizen science research. Rather than choosing sides “Lure, Bait, Social MacGuffin” asks what are the ends and modes of the critical arts outside science and aesthetics.

Elizabeth A. Povinelli is an anthropologist and filmmaker. She is Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University, New York and one of the founding members of the Karrabing Film Collective. Recent publications include Geontologies: A Requiem to Late Liberalism (2016).

"Mythopoesis for Techno-Living Systems" by Ursula Mayer

The end of the universe:
its beginning.

An avatar, a hybrid of technical schematic and somatic gestures, a techno-living system. With the glitchy glitter of enticing arms, she beckons us towards her. In her new work ‘The Fire Of Knowledge Burns All Ashes to Karma’ Mayer imitates Idle animations like in video games, where Avatars in various forms of waiting, revert to the players character, when not under direction from the game player. Updating Haraway's cyborg for the 21st century, as an icon for the posthuman, in which the human as always already entangled within more-than-human networks. Blending artificial and organic phenomena, Mayers practice produces a hybrid space in which distinctions between human and nonhuman entities dissolve, to instead envision what our shared "natureculture" future can be. We will explore together contemporary forms of embodiment and materiality in our digital mileu.

Ursula Mayer’s practice spans a range of media, including film, video and sculpture. Her single and multi-channel films are crystalline circuits of images, composed of signs borrowed from architecture, fashion, literature, politics, mythology, geology and science. Using the grammar of cinematography and montage, Mayer’s practice strives to indicate how spatial composition, human choreography and narrative construction inform and contribute to one another. Mayer interweaves myth, biopolitics and the semiotics of cinema to visualize and ruminate upon future posthuman ontologies.

Umut Yıldırım & Elmas Deniz

"Breathing under Blockade: Ruined and Radical Ecologies in a Middle-Eastern Heritage Site" by Umut Yıldırım

With an ethnographic focus on the 8000 year-old Hewsel Gardens in Diyarbakır, a UNESCO Heritage Site located in upper Mesopotamia, my talk proposes to mobilise anthropology for mindful ecological praxis. The talk proposes to conceptualise ecology as a militarised frontier of genocidal continua, a toxic multi-species constellation, which enacts politics “in the now” in the context of the imminent climate devastation among genocidal rubble and ruins. What I hope to rectify through my work is the militaristic and corporate views of ecology as something made up of inert matter, external to resistance, and open to destruction in the name of progress and security. Concurrently, my project seeks to contribute to a remedy of a contemporary parochialism in the social sciences that fleshes out the carnal facets of militarist violence, and under-theorises Middle Eastern geographies as devoid of ongoing life and political praxis.

Umut Yıldırım is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the Institute of Cultural Inquiry in Berlin, Germany. Since her graduation from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Cambridge in 2011, she has taught graduate courses at different universities in Istanbul. She has published in Anthropological Theory, Cultural Anthropology and Current Anthropology. She is currently working on two book projects: A monograph entitled Militant Experts based on her doctoral dissertation in the city of Diyarbakır in mid-2000s; and an edited book volume connecting the arts and anthropology entitled Affective Ecologies, Anarchic Fragments: Documenting Militarized Worlds by ICI Press, 2020.

"Those that Vanish with Lost Waters" by Elmas Deniz

We are familiar with the names of grand rivers; but how about small streams, creeks? They vanish along with the living beings that surround them. I am interested in the transformation of geography in the hands of the human, and searching for the traces of the past in today’s language and geography. I care about thinking of Anthropocene in terms of Capitalocene; re-thinking the past by interpreting it in different forms, seeking new possibilities and ways of engagement.

This talk that I have conceived for the 16th Istanbul Biennial will be built upon the questions that emerged in the course of my research towards the production of two artworks dedicated to lost rivers. I will speak of Istanbul’s creeks, and my observations around a now-vanished creek with no remaining name which I have shared with the residents of an ancient city by the name of Gryneion that is nearby Bergama, the town where I spent my childhood.

Elmas Deniz (1981, Bergama, Turkey) lives and works in Istanbul, Turkey. Her works investigate the intersections and points of entanglement between economics and nature. The capitalism-led deterioration of nature, and our perception of it, as well as the related consumerist culture, are the central concepts in Deniz’s practice. She questions how the economic system continuously reshapes our perception through subtle but consistent manipulations. She sheds light on the illusional distribution of value. Deniz, further focuses on the human-nature relationship, the idea of nature throughout history, and ecological concerns.

Patrick Degeorges & Johannes Büttner

"The Fourth Way: Cosmobiopolitics in the Anthropocene" by Patrick Degeorges

We are now living in a no-analogue world. By pointing to the unprecedented global existential risks that distinguish our epoch from all other cultures and social forms, as a result of the change of scale in the relationship between human societies and the Earth-System, the Anthropocene induces a deep “cognitive estrangement” that may prove to be extremely politically disruptive. As the scientific community calls for a “Great Transition”, within the present decade, to stabilize the Earth in a habitable state, different “meta-narratives” are competing to strategically map transformative pathways. We will explore in this talk and in the following conversation with Johannes Büttner how humanities and arts engage in “geostory telling” to liberate the ecotopic potential of the Anthropocene.

Patrick Degeorges is a philosopher. He has been directing, since September 2017, the Anthropocene Curriculum of the Ecole Normale Supérieure of Lyon. He is a member of the Complex Systems Institute (IXXI), the Michel Serres Institute and the INRIA (Datasphere Team). In 2013, he cofounded the French Portal for Environmental Humanities. From 2004 to 2010, in the French Ministry of the Environment, he was responsible for the implementation of predator management policies (wolves, bears, lynx...). Then, from 2010 to 2017, as senior advisor in foresight and strategic issues, he directly participated in the design of policies for biodiversity conservation and adaptation to climate change, both nationally and internationally.

"Future" by Johannes Büttner

Johannes Büttner's work deals with current and past, speculative and science-based visions of the future. A recurring motif in his practice are utopian narratives and counter cultural practices. By focusing on the precarious and remote moments in this world like current global and political crises, discourses on energy and new forms of work in digital capitalism as well as conspiracy theories and esoteric ideas, sci-fi novels, automation and the relation between human and machine, his narratives are oscillating between reality and fiction.

Johannes Büttner (1985) lives and works in Berlin and Amsterdam, where from 2015-17 he had a fellowship at De Ateliers. He participated in exhibitions at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, at La Panacée in Montpellier and at Akademie der Künste in Berlin. In 2018, he had solo exhibitions at Kunstraum C28 in Hanover and at Simultanhalle in Cologne. He showed performances at the Stedelijk Museum, the De Appel Art Center in Amsterdam, Museum Abteiberg in Mönchengladbach and at the Moscow Biennale 2018. 2019 he received the C.o.C.A commission price.

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