The title of the 9th İstanbul Biennial is simply 'İstanbul'. Curated by Charles Esche and Vasif Kortun with assistant curators Esra Sarigedik and November Paynter, it refers both to the real urban location and the imaginative charge that this city represents for the world. 'İstanbul' as a metaphor, as a prediction, as a lived reality, and an inspiration has many stories to tell and the Biennial will attempt to tap directly into this rich history and possibility.
The curators have selected 53 artists and artist groups. Around half have been invited to live and work in İstanbul for between one and six months. In contradistinction, the other half of the Biennial is made up of work from elsewhere around the world. These act as comparisons and conflicts with İstanbul itself, allowing the visitors to see this city more clearly through other urban and rural narratives. Many of these artists are based in cities with a strong historic connection to İstanbul, from Cairo to Prishtinë, Almaty to Berlin.
The Biennial will not use any of the historic monuments, preferring to work in sites that have a more common reference to the everyday life of the city in the Beyoglu and Galata neighbourhoods. The sites are an apartment block, an old customs storehouse, a former tobacco depository , a gallery, a shop, a theatre and an office building. Each building provides very different kinds of spaces for the works. The walk between these venues should also be seen as a part of the biennial experience with a few public works but mostly with the fabric of this area of İstanbul to inspire our visitors and serve as a way for them to shift their observation of the city for a moment under the influence of the biennial artists.
A crucial component of the 9th Biennial is the Positionings Programme, which will highlight specific local and international constellations within and beyond the city. A core part will be presented in the Hospitality Zone of the customs storage building where İstanbul artist initiatives will show work, a famous city magazine will run its offices and discussions, an international student workshop and an important archive of contemporary art books will all be housed. A major international reflection of the Biennial will take place at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, where the 18 year history of the İstanbul Biennial will be put into dialogue with the existing museum collection.
Finally, a multitude of books and publications will emerge as part of the Biennial including a free biennial guide given to all ticket holders; a book about art, cities and citizens; a Diyarbakir artist's' guide to İstanbul and more.
The 2005 İstanbul Biennial promises a distinctive approach to the burgeoning phenomenon of international biennials, one that is rooted in the place it is shown while always looking out at what is relevant for the rest of the world.