‘Thank you for your understanding’
2. INTERNATIONAL ANTAKYA BIENNIAL / TURKEY
Curators: Arzu Yayintas - Dessislava Dimova
15 October – 20 November 2010
a77 / adalet akbaş / muhammad ali / günay alkan /burak arıkan / vartan avakian / pierre bısmuth / hakan bitmez / luchezar boyadjıev / rana çuhadaroğlu / burak delier / hülya dolaş / natalya dyu / ışıl eğrikavuk / volkan eray / mehmet fahracı / emel sıkar genç / nadi guler & m. hasan / demirci / özlem günyol & mustafa kunt / sanja ivekovic / simon kentgens / fevziye koku / daniela kostova / cüneyt / kurt / ghassan maasri / renzo martens / ivan moudov / vesselina nikolaeva / bora petkova / ferhat özgür / larissa sansour / bastiaan schevers / aygül sezer / mary hyunhee song / emel sökmen / fatih tan / kezban tatlı / sevgi tatlı / güneş terkol / varol topac / issa touma / gönül türker / macide yalçınkaya & zehra güzel / fadı yazıgı / mediha yeniocak / ediz yenmiş / ela yılmaz / sevcan yılmaz / nalan yırtmaç
21st century turned out to be century of crisis. It is not only the big economic crisis that we are going through, it is also a period of profound social crisis: a fragmented and increasingly fundamentalist social world, an environment in danger, high unemployment rates, precarious and underpaid work life and political system failures. It seems that it is time to look through the globalization and neoliberalization and the social, economical and urban transformations that we are subject to in recent decades.
2nd Antakya Biennial is inviting artists to question the effects of globalization and neo-liberalism and the social and cultural transformations that we are going through and to explore the way our collective life is organized today in order to open up new possibilities for alternative coalitions, free alliances. We believe that it is important to emphasize the notion of collectivity within this context because today alongside the economic globalization, there is a global trend of rising fundamentalism and nationalism which effects our life in all layers. Questioning the globalization inholds also the critique of the art world and mainly the notion of biennial since art world - the system globalized itself.
What kind of a city?
2nd Antakya Biennial is aiming to questioning the transformation that we have been going through in the last decades through focusing on the urban life and the cityscape since as David Harvey put forward the question of what kind of city we want cannot be separated from what kind of people we want to be and what kind of social ties, relationship to nature, lifestyles, technologies and aesthetic values we desire. Therefore it is an individual right to change ourselves by changing the city and this transformation inevitably depends upon the exercise of a collective power to reshape the processes of urbanization.
Many cities in different parts of the world have experienced a fundamental economic, cultural and social transformation in recent decades and most of them have become nodes of goods and consumption and turned into products rather than places to live.
Approaching Antakya as the site for yet another Biennial we were confronted to a city like many others, facing transformations and expansion, yet different. Antakya is located in southern Turkey, near the border with Syria. In ancient times the city was known as Antioch and has historical significance for Christianity, being the place where the followers of Jesus Christ were called Christians for the very first time. The city of Antioch was founded in 300 BC, and went on to play an important part in the history as one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire and Byzantium, a key location of the early years of Christianity, the Antiochian Orthodox Church, the rise of Islam and the Crusades. It has a rich architectural heritage, which has not totally discovered yet.
Being so near the Syrian border Antakya is a cosmopolitan city unlike most of the cities in Turkey today, and it has not experienced the 1980s and 1990s mass immigration of people from eastern Anatolia. As a result both Turkish and Arabic are still widely spoken in Antakya although written Arabic is rarely used. In some regions people even don’t know Turkish and speak only Arabic. Although most of the inhabitants are Muslim there are still Christian communities in the city. With its long history of spiritual and religious movements Antakya is still a place of pilgrimage for Christians and Muslims. Sunnis, Alevis, Catholics, Orthodox, Armenians, Arabs and Kurds continue to co-exist in the city today.
Antakya has not been gone through a rapid transformation of the 1980s like most of the cities in Turkey and has been a cosmopolitan city since the very beginning. Contemporary Antakya is a wealthy city in a process of fast development. Its historical and geographic connections to Syria have been recently reinforced by the visa exemption agreement between Turkey and Syria and changes in the Turkish government policies have confirmed its place as a cultural, touristic and trade centre. People in Antakya begin to undergo the same processes of urbanisation, gentrification and gradual increase of control of public space that have advanced with varying speed and extent elsewhere. But there was something in the mixture between the traces of ancient history and the remnants of humanity and innocence amid the growing concerns for profit and efficiency that made us hope for an almost utopian promise for something different to be found. Is there something for us to learn from contemporary Antakya and something from the experience of other places and other histories to teach to its citizens? Antakya is a place where the streets and even the shops still do little to encourage a hectic consumerism. The banks of the river and the hills outside the town offer benches to contemplate the view but no cafes or restaurants to capitalize on it. The many historical and architectural sites continue to be part of the daily urban life and cultural heritage programs have not yet turned the city into a museum. The only museum has no shop and it is even difficult to find postcards from Antakya. However the city culturally, socially, spatially and economically going through a rapid transformation. A new airport is being constructed, most of the big old houses are being turned into hotels, each day a new souvenir shop or tourism office is being opened instead of small ateliers and etc. Just recently a big shopping mall construction has started in the outskirt of the city, which will definitely change the social, and public life of the inhabitants and understanding of the public space. And inevitably these transformations are followed by gentrification process (or we should say concurrently) in the city center and Antakya Biennial is also a result/part of this transformation. The Antakya biennial finds itself in between the needs and ambitions of the growing and developing city, and the foreign, often nostalgic, gaze. But between the drive towards globalization and its reverse but inherent demand for local difference, is there something of the old universal we can rescue, some common ground that can unite us, while still respecting all particularities?
Through focusing on the social and cultural transformations that we are going through and exploring the way our collective life is organized today, the 2nd Antakya Biennial is aiming to explore the social and cultural structure of today’s society through Antakya and build a discussion platform for Antakya inhabitants to question these changes and to invite them to take an active part in the re-making the city in other words remaking themselves since the city itself, as the spatial model of the way society is organized and functions today, that is one of our common grounds of experience as human beings. Within its spatial metaphor we can share common references and unify our dispersed struggles. Cities territorialize social injustices, but also define the space to fight them. The remaking of the city is the remaking of ourselves and as such it is one of our most fundamental, human rights.
The biennial will also expand internationally and each of its editions will collaborate with different partner countries. In 2010 these are Belgium, Holland and Bulgaria. Under the umbrella of Antakya Biennial, parallel events co-organized with local institutions will take place in Brussels, Amsterdam and Sofia. They will extend the questions we pose in Antakya and confront them to different local contexts.
Antakya Biennial is the sole international art exhibition in the region. As a result it has a stronger impact on the locality than most other biennials. This is why Antakya biennial proposes a structure that is much more locally oriented. Such a structure will be a more challenging but less standardized framework for the collaboration of local and international artists and organizations on the grounds of the biennial. However, Antakya biennial is not simply a "regional" event. Instead we see the biennial as a global laboratory for artistic and intellectual exchange that has its starting point in the local situation of Antakya but reaches out and exchanges experiences with other locations since the specifics to Antakya mimics the global transformation.
 Harvey, David, The Right to the City, New Left Review 53, Sep-Oct 2008