Armenian Culture, Science and Education Development Foundation

Istanbul Biennial Commemorates Armenian Genocide


MasisPost reports: The 14th Istanbul Biennial, Saltwater: a Theory of Thought Forms, opened this week amid calls for all participating artists to suspend their work for 15 minutes in support of Turkey’s Kurdish minority.

Most notable is the focus on Armenia and the Armenian genocide, an atrocity not recognised by the Turkish state. At the press opening on 2 September, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, the curator of this year’s biennial, said it was “very timely” to speak about what happened 100 years ago, as well as the “traumas and ethnic cleansing” that has occurred in other parts of the world throughout history, including Australia, Syria, Poland and Germany.

In what Christov-Bakargiev described as a “diplomatic act”, the Dilijan Art Initiative, which sponsored the Golden-Lion winning Armenian pavilion at the Venice Biennale this year, is supporting 13 artists in Istanbul who are either Armenian, of Armenian descent or have made works relating to Armenian history.They include the Modernist painter Paul Guiragossian, who was born to survivors of the Armenian genocide and has 14 works on show in Istanbul Modern.
At the Galata Greek School, the Lebanese-born artist Haig Aivazian is presenting a performance of a folkloric song by the Armenian-Turkish oud master Udi Hrant Kenkulian, whose family survived the genocide and lived in Istanbul from 1918 onwards. Titled Wavy Wavy Is the Sea of Bolis, O Mother, the work combines “two complex sets of melodic, cultural and linguistic creolisations” that echo the “transition of the Ottoman Empire to the Turkish republic”, says Aivazian, who is also exhibiting in the Armenian pavilion in Venice.

Several other works that refer to Armenian history are dotted around the city—the biennial covers more than 30 venues this year.

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