Time Present Time Past

Exhibition Sponsor: Morgan Stanley, BP, P&G
Video Area Sponsor: Calyon-Credit Agricole Group

Highlights from 20 Years of The International İstanbul Biennale

6 September - 2 December 2007

On 6th of September 2007, "Time Present, Time Past" will open to the public at İstanbul Modern. The exhibition will include a selection of works from the past 20 years of the İstanbul Biennial, which introduced contemporary art to Turkey. Comprised of 50 works by 42 artists, "Time Present, Time Past" will occupy the entire ground floor of İstanbul Modern, as well as several areas outside of the Museum and will remain open until 2nd of December 2007.

While documenting the past evolution of the Istanbul Biennial with a view to exploring its future development and possibilities, "Time Present, Time Past" will also include a number of iconic works by both Turkish and international artists that have partaken in the previous Istanbul Biennials. These works will be accompanied by plasma screen documentation of the works from past Biennials shown in situ. The works in the exhibition will be brought from Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Korea, Scotland, Spain, Sweden and U.S.A.

Co-curated by İstanbul Modern Director David Elliott and İstanbul Modern Chief Curator Rosa Martínez, the exhibition will open concurrently with the 10th Istanbul Biennial, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The exhibition is designed not only to reveal the ways in which the rapid changes that have taken place in the art world over the past years have been reflected in the Istanbul art scene, but also to show how a generation of young Turkish artists has become integrated within a broader international framework.

Twenty years have passed since the Istanbul Biennial first started in 1987. In the early Biennials, works of art selected from across the world were displayed in various parts of the city, including historic areas, museums and cultural sites. Subsequent biennials maintained this approach and extended to "non-art" areas and public spaces. In this process, a wide spectrum of the best in Turkish and global contemporary art was introduced to Turkey and the rest of the world.

In putting together "Time Present, Time Past," İstanbul Modern asked the eight former Artistic Directors of the Biennial (Beral Madra, Vasıf Kortun, René Block, Rosa Martínez, Paolo Colombo, Yuko Hasegawa, Dan Cameron, Charles Esche)– all well-known international curators in their own right - to select what they felt were the most inspiring and iconic works from the biennials they had organized. Originating from the U.S.A., Germany, Scotland, Spain, Italy, Japan, and Turkey, these curators have assembled a kaleidoscopic vision of the work of many key artists who have left their mark on contemporary culture and art.

The exhibition will reflect the transformation of the art scene in Istanbul and the role of the past Biennials within this change, with each curator writing an article for the exhibition catalogue about their experiences of the city, the Biennial they curated and their perspectives on the future. To accompany the exhibition, an extensive illustrated catalogue that examines the evolution of the Biennial over the past twenty years, and gives the views and perspectives of its Artistic Directors from the past to present, will be published.

"The Future of Biennials": An International Symposium
In connection with the Opening of the 10th Istanbul Biennial on 6th September and in co-ordination with them, İstanbul Modern will organize an international symposium on the 7th and 8th of September 2007. The symposium will be held at the Mimar Sinan University Auditorium in collaboration with AICA Turkey. Sponsored by Garanti Bank, the symposium will be in English with simultaneous translation into Turkish.

The symposium will include the previous artistic directors of the past Biennials, as well as Hou Hanru, the artistic director of the 10th Istanbul Biennial, and some of the artists participating in the exhibition. The past, present and future of the Biennials in general and Istanbul Biennial in particular will be discussed from various aspects and a Q and A session will be held for the audience.

Moderated by İstanbul Modern Director David Elliott, the symposium speakers will include Selim Birsel, René Block, Dan Cameron, Hannah Collins, Paolo Colombo, Ayşe Erkmen, Charles Esche, Yuko Hasegawa, Hou Hanru, Vasıf Kortun, Beral Madra, Sarkis, Solmaz Shahbazi, Nedko Solakov, Magnus Wallin and xurban_collective.

On the first day, the curators will make a short presentation of their work in the Biennials they directed and their views, to be followed by a general panel discussion. Topics to be discussed include the past, present and future of Biennials in general that of Istanbul Biennial in particular; the integration of Biennials with cities; their changing role at a time of art market boom and the recent impact of globalization.

On the second day, these subjects will be picked up by a number of the invited artists who will make short presentations on aspects of their work and comment on the role that Biennials have played in their artistic development and oeuvre. These differing, non-curatorial perspectives will provide a valuable insight into the central topic.

In the course of the symposium, topics to be discussed include: What do biennials provide that other large art exhibitions do not? What is the role of Biennials around the world— does their local and international impact differ according to their location?
Going global. Is this the future? The symposium will end with a general discussion that includes all of the speakers.

Several Works are re-created for İstanbul Modern
Works by artists such as Haluk Akakçe, Gardar Eide Einarsson, Ayşe Erkmen, Cildo Meireles, Sarkis, Serhat Kiraz, and Sislej Xhafa will be re-created at İstanbul Modern.

For the İstanbul Modern exhibition, Haluk Akakçe will re-create the mural, He Who Seeks Will Find, He Who Knocks Will Be Let In, which he designed for the 1999 İstanbul Biennial.

Gardar Eide Einarsson’s work, which was originally placed on the rooftop of the Deniz Palas Apartment in Beyoğlu, will now stands on the roof of İstanbul Modern. This neon sign makes a simple promise with multiple meanings and says, "The World is Yours" to Istanbul and to Istanbul’s art world once again. At a time when no single city can rightly claim to be the capital of Contemporary Art, the slogan gives İstanbul the freedom to place itself center stage and equally greets the city’s aspirations of self-empowerment.

Ayşe Erkmen, who created an installation titled, Ceremony to the Past on the Eastern façade of Hagia Eirene during the 2nd International Istanbul Biennial, will now cover the exterior sign of İstanbul Modern with gold embroidered fabric for the "Time Present Time Past" exhibition. Thus, the artist will maintain the conceptual framework of her work at Hagia Eirene, yet bring to it an entirely new visual quality befitting the changed time and location.

An internationally acclaimed conceptual artist who creates installations that offer the viewer an entirely sensual experience, Cildo Meireles’s Homeless Home will be re-created for this exhibition. Meireles had participated in the 8th Istanbul Biennial with this work which consisted of four separate spaces that were built at four different points on the Galatasaray Square in Beyoğlu. These were designed as different rooms of a regular house, each with different functions: living room, bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. Meireles thus extracted the house from a private space and installed it into a public one. The "rooms" which will be built in the parking lot of İstanbul Modern will now appear in a different context and, as a result, will evoke different associations. Homeless Home was seen in the 8th Istanbul Biennial in 2003 and Dan Cameron selected this work as one of the most outstanding works in his biennial.

Sarkis will participate in the exhibition with three different works. In his 1987 installation titled Dance in the Baths of Hagia Sophia at the Hagia Sophia Hamam, Sarkis contemplated both Sinan’s architecture and its function. For the purposes of this exhibition, Sarkis transformed the "göbektaşı" (central platform in a Turkish bath) into a kind of theatrical replica. He intends that this new setting should communicate the 1987 installation’s initial experience as it can be retold at İstanbul Modern today. Having created a central meeting point "Arena" for artists and visitors at the 4th Istanbul Biennial in 1995 in his Rice and Discussion Place, Sarkis will now re-design the same work with the same community function at İstanbul Modern, a museum which already has a restaurant as one of its facilities. In addition, Sarkis’s two double-sided, offset color lithographs "Çaylak Street" which are part of a special edition portfolio, originally displayed in 1995, will also be shown.

In his work entitled, God of Religions, Religions of Gods, Serhat Kiraz questioned the religious past and function of three of the world’s great religions as they related to Hagia Eirene in 1989. Now, the artist will carry this work to İstanbul Modern and adapt it to the greatly transformed time and environment.

Albanian-born artist Sislej Xhafa’s Elegant Sick Bus was originally shown in 2001 and highlighted issues of immigration and unemployment. Now this brightly mirrored coach which has no effective engine in it will be pushed close to the museum as part of an action to co-incide with the Opening on the evening of 5th September. It will remain at the parking lot throughout the exhibition.

Outstanding and controversial names in Contemporary Art
As one of the most controversial of contemporary artists, Shirin Neshat will participate in the exhibition with her works from her series Women of Allah, which was part of the 4th İstanbul Biennial in 1995. In René Block’s biennial, Neshat’s work was introduced to the international community and widely discussed. The Iranian-American artist, who participated in the 4th, 5th and 8th İstanbul Biennials, was recognized internationally after her Women of Allah series, in which she used the images of Iranian revolutionary women who were ready to die for their convictions and combined a poetic expression with a problematical political content. Neshat left Iran in 1979 at the time of the Iranian revolution to resume her studies in the U.S.A. and had to live in exile until 1990. When she returned to her country after having spent 11 years in the U.S.A, she began questioning the role of women in the public sphere under the Islamic regime; in the series Women of Allah, which she produced between 1993 and 1997, she concentrated on issues relating to womens’ body, text and political action.

As a pioneer of the arte povera movement and a leading name in contemporary art, Michelangelo Pistoletto’s 1967 Venus of the Rags is one of the most significant and exciting works in the exhibition and a piece that he had worked on since 1967 ad the 1987 version will be presented in the exhibition. Comprised of a statue of Aphrodite installed before a mound of old clothes and rags, this masterpiece stands out as a pioneering work that questioned western perspectives of world dominance before such issues were widely thought about, as well as stereotypes of centre and periphery.

An unorthodox contemporary artist, Pipilotti Rist participates in the exhibition with one of the most remarkable works from the 5th Biennial, curated by Rosa Martinez. In Rist’s installation titled, My Boy, My Horse, My Dog (1997) Istanbul-born singer Saadet Türköz performs a love song that begins with the lyrics "My horse, my dog, my boy, my man, my queen, my swan". Pipilotti Rist’s work masterfully combines popular culture and video clip aesthetic with challenging cross cultural and gender issues. A similar approach also characterizes one of the most striking works of the previous Istanbul Biennial: British artist Phil Collins’s the world won’t listen is a video trilogy. In it, he invites people in cities around the world to perform karaoke versions of tracks from the album of the same name by the 1980s band The Smiths. In Istanbul, Collins advertised his work in dance clubs, and fly posted the streets with posters soliciting "the shy, the dissatisfied, and the narcissist", and he found no shortage of willing participants. This work serves as a potent antidote to Western stereotypes and media myths that imagine Turkey as cut-off from the rest of the world or as a fundamentally anti-modern nation hindered by tradition and dealing with the ghosts of its past.

Curators: David Elliot, Rosa Martinez


Austrian Cultural Institute
British Council
Embassy of Finland
French Cultural Center
Goethe Institut İstanbul
Consulate General of Sweden
Italian Cultural Center


A4 Ofset
Asya Nakliyat / Fine Art Logistics
Borsa Lokantaları A.Ş
Global Tanıtım Halkla İlişkiler
Lafarge Dalsan
İETT İşletmeleri Genel Müdürlüğü
İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyesi
Kayra Şarapları
Lafarge Dalsan
Yapı Merkezi

Up: Sislej Xhafa, Elegant Sick Bus, 2001
Previous Page (Left): Eiija-Liisa Ahtila, If 6 was 9, 1995