Details About Colomina and Wigley's 3rd Istanbul Design Biennial—"Are We Human?"—Revealed

Details About Colomina and Wigley's 3rd Istanbul Design Biennial—"Are We Human?"—Revealed

The 3rd Istanbul Design Biennial, which will officially open on the 22nd October 2016 and last for four weeks, will ask the question: Are We Human? Encompassing a wide range of ideas related to The Design of the Species, from timeframes of 2 Seconds to 2 Days, 2 Years, 200 Years and 200,000 Years, the international show will revolve around one pressing provocation: that design itself needs to be redesigned. It will do so by exploring the intimate relationship between the concepts of "design" and "humanity."

Five primary venues—the Galata Greek Primary School, Studio-X Istanbul and Depo in Karaköy, Alt in Bomonti, and the Istanbul Archaeological Museums in Sultanahmet—will house more than 70 projects by designers, architects, artists, historians, archaeologists and scientists from thirteen countries. In order to "rethink design from the very beginning of humanity," the Biennial will be organised into four overlapping “clouds” of projects: Designing the Body, Designing the Planet, Designing Life, and Designing Time.

Details About Colomina and Wigley's 3rd Istanbul Design Biennial—Are We Human?—Revealed - More Images+ 2

Curators: Mark Wigley and Beatriz Colomina. Image © Mahmut Ceylan

According to Deniz Ova, Director of Istanbul Design Biennial, the Biennial will "embrace the city wider than ever. Awaiting us this year is a Biennial that will foster a more intense discussion around its rich content, clustered around a striking theme." She continues: "We profoundly believe that cultural events have the power to unify and heal; the reason why we are working towards the Biennial with great enthusiasm, together with our participants and our team. With our exhibitions and events we are aiming at creating a space for all our visitors to breathe and think."

Humans have always been radically reshaped by the designs they produce and the world of design keeps expanding. We live in a time when everything is designed, from our carefully crafted individual looks and online identities, to the surrounding galaxies of personal devices, new materials, interfaces, networks, systems, infrastructures, data, chemicals, organisms, and genetic codes. The average day involves the experience of thousands of layers of design that reach to outer space but also reach deep into our bodies and brains. 

Design has become the world and it is what makes the human. It is the basis of social life, from the very first artefacts to the exponential expansion of human capability. But design also engineers inequalities and new forms of neglect. More people than ever in history are forcibly displaced by war, lawlessness, poverty, and climate at the same time that the human genome and the weather are being actively redesigned. We can no longer reassure ourselves with the idea of “good design.” Design needs to be redesigned.

Marshmallow Laser Feast with Analog / Memex. Image Courtesy of "Are We Human" / 3. Istanbul Tasarim Bienali

Exhibitions of the 3rd Istanbul Design Biennial

From the curators. The array of projects presented in the Designing the Body section of the Biennial explores all the different ways in which the human body itself is an artefact that is continually reconstructed, from the unique way our hands work to the latest research on the brain. Designing the Planet presents a series of projects that ask us to rethink the human design of vast territories and ecologies. Designing Life looks at the new forms of mechanical, electronic and biological life that are being crafted. Designing Time presents a new kind of archaeology ranging from the deep time of the very first human tools and ornaments to the ways in which social media allows humans to redesign themselves and their artefacts in as little as 2 seconds.

The Academy Programme

The Biennial will host many exhibitions and projects through the Academy Programme, organised in collaboration with universities from Turkey and abroad. The Academy Programme will include products and ideas created through workshops, competitions and projects by various faculties and departments of the universities in their campuses.

Physician Thomas Klotzkowski cleans Florian Steiner, a doctor for tropical medicine, in Berlin. Image Courtesy of "Are We Human" / 3. Istanbul Tasarim Bienali

Embracing the City with “Creative Districts” 

The inhabitants of the city will meet with design not only through the exhibition venues but also with the Creative Districts in the Biennial. The project will bring together the visitors with numerous professionals from small manufacturers and big brands, design and architecture studios in their own working spaces.

Creative Districts is a project in which designers and professionals from related fields in Beyoğlu and its surroundings; Beşiktaş, Şişli, Eminönü, Kuruçeşme and Sarıyer districts will find the opportunity to present their brands in their own neighbourhoods. Design-oriented brands in the city will come to the forefront in their own neighbourhoods with the project that will be experienced as a part of everyday life. Through works that will be presented within the scope of the project, the Biennial will integrate into the whole of the city and create an environment in which the phenomenon of design will be visible. Various events will also take place on the weekends throughout the Biennial as a part of the Creative Districts programme.

Chinese public health poster depicting the body as a machine (1930). Image Courtesy of "Are We Human" / 3. Istanbul Tasarim Bienali

Design Routes

Design Routes will include visits to several design offices, stores, ateliers, manufacturing sites and architectural buildings in different parts of the city, offering a brand new vision of Istanbul. The Design Routes—exploring, for example, Nişantaşı, Karaköy or Sultanahmet area—will create the opportunity for participants to observe and get information on several disciplines and stages of design.

Results of the Open Call for Video Submissions

Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley invited industrial and graphic designers, architects, artists, film producers, associations, and non-governmental organisations from around the world to submit two minute videos that address the theme Are We Human? posed by the Biennial. An international and interdisciplinary jury consisting of curators Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley, Director of Istanbul Film Festival Kerem Ayan, Director of the Storefront for Art and Architecture Eva Franch i Gilabert, artist and film producer Amie Siegel and curator Iván López Munuera evaluated more than 200 videos from 68 cities in 36 countries and selected five videos to be highlighted in the Biennial exhibition and catalogue. The other 141 submitted videos fulfilling the requirements of the Open Call will be presented in a dedicated section within the exhibition itself and will be online on the Biennial website.

The selected videos to be highlighted in the Biennial include:

  • Alper Raif İpek (Ankara, Turkey)
  • Dimitris Venizelos (New York, USA)
  • Görkem Özdemir (Istanbul, Tukey)
  • Jonathan Hadari, Simona Katsman (Tel Aviv, Israel)
  • Merve Bedir, Alican İnal (Rotterdam, Netherlands / Istanbul, Turkey)

Neil Armstrong's first human footprint on the Moon (July 20th, 1969). Image © NASA (Courtesy "Are We Human" / 3. Istanbul Tasarim Bienali)

Istanbul Design Biennial x e-flux: Superhumanity

The Biennial will inaugurate a special collaboration with e-flux, a publishing platform and archive for artist projects and curatorial platforms. Superhumanity is the first project by e-flux Architecture, initiated by Nikolaus Hirsch and Anton Vidokle (e-flux) in collaboration with the curators.

Superhumanity will introduce contributions from different fields that respond to the Biennial’s theme by exploring and challenging our understanding of the relationship between concepts of “self” and “design." It aims to probe the radical implications of the idea that we are and always have been continuously reshaped by the artefacts we shape. These contributions will initially appear online as a series of dispatches circulated by e-flux as well as an installation in the Biennial exhibition, and subsequently as a book. The list of authors includes over fifty writers, scientists, artists, architects, designers, philosophers, historians, archaeologists and anthropologists. Contributions will be published every other day starting mid-September. 

Turkey Design Chronology: Two Centuries of Design in Turkey Under Spotlight

Parallel to the theoretical framework of the 3rd Istanbul Design Biennial, a major chronological inventory is being assembled. It is an attempt to bring together fields such as packaging, graphic design, communication and advertisement, housing, furniture, landscape, industrial buildings, and others which have not been addressed from the perspective of design yet, like lighting, toys, music, ceramics, health or non-governmental organisations, within a time frame starting from the Ottoman Tanzimat reform era (beginning around 1839) until today.

It is an effort to list thresholds, indicate a beginning point in our design history, in the social, spatial, urban or historical sense, so that a platform can be achieved to create fruitful discussions in history writing. Topics are being prepared in the coordination of Pelin Derviş, with the contribution of many people who are experts in their fields. Within this framework, another component of the project entitled Archive of the Ephemeral seeks to become a visual source on objects and spaces, through a collection of family photos and found photographs. This huge group that calls itself Curious Assembly seeks to spark debate and reach others who may partake in these dialogues by highlighting an interconnected selection. To this end, part of Studio-X Istanbul will be turned into a research laboratory during the biennial, and topics highlighted in the chronology will be the focus of a series of events and panels. The events will be organised around provocative “curiosity desks” (mini exhibitions) prepared by the Curious Assembly. Additionally, in parallel to this project, Studio-X Istanbul is establishing a research library of design in Turkey, which will serve as an open source for designers during and after the Biennial.

Fritz Kahn: Man Machine (Edited, 2009). Image Courtesy of "Are We Human" / 3. Istanbul Tasarim Bienali

Sustainability in Fashion Design workshop, with H&M 

A workshop entitled Sustainability in Fashion Design was held within the scope of the Biennial, under the sponsorship of H&M, and in collaboration with the Consulate General of Sweden and Swedish Institute. Twenty young designers and students of textile and fashion design attended the workshop held by Hülya Sevindik Özyiğit, H&M’s Global Material Team Business Development Manager, Swedish designer Johanna Törnqwist and Mehtap Elaidi, fashion designer and the President of Turkish Fashion Designers Association. Based on the possibility of fashion to be sustainable and eco-friendly, the workshop encouraged the participants to work in recycled materials only. Designs of the participants will be displayed as an installation curated by Demirden Design, at the Adahan Istanbul Hotel from 12th October through 20th November 2016.

The 3rd Istanbul Design Biennial Publications

The publications of the 3rd Istanbul Design Biennial include a book of reflections on the Biennial's theme, written by Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley and entitled Are We Human?: Notes on the Archeology of Design. It will also serve as a guide for the visitors, including details on the exhibitions and the associated events and a catalogue with texts on all the exhibited projects by the contributors themselves, presentations of the Open Call, Superhumanity and Turkey Design Chronology projects and presentations of the exhibition design, graphic design and social media experiments made in the Biennial.

Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley, Curators of the 2016 Istanbul Design Biennial, Discuss "The Design of the Species"

The exhibitions of the Biennial have been designed by Andres Jacque and his Office of Political Innovation, based in in Madrid. Graphic design has been undertaken by Pemra Ataç, Yetkin Başarır, Özge Güven, Okay Karadayılar, and Sarp Sözdinler. Evangelos Kotsioris is the assistant curator of the project, and the online dimensions have been directed by Iván López Munuera.

About this author
Cite: James Taylor-Foster. "Details About Colomina and Wigley's 3rd Istanbul Design Biennial—"Are We Human?"—Revealed" 22 Aug 2016. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

You've started following your first account!

Did you know?

You'll now receive updates based on what you follow! Personalize your stream and start following your favorite authors, offices and users.