Participants and Projects for the 2016 Istanbul Design Biennial

The Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts have revealed a full list of projects and participants of the 3rd Istanbul Design Biennial. Curated by Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley, the biennial—which is titled Are We Human? The Design of the Species: 2 seconds, 2 days, 2 years, 200 years, 200,000 years—will revolve around one pressing provocation: that design itself needs to be redesigned.

Presenting more than 70 projects from five continents by designers, architects, artists, theorists, choreographers, filmmakers, historians, archaeologists, scientists, laboratories, institutes and NGOs, the exhibitions will be spatialized by Andrés Jaque and the Office for Political Innovation and spread across five main venues – the Galata Greek Primary School, Studio-X Istanbul and Depo in Karaköy, Alt Art Space in Bomonti, and the Istanbul Archaeological Museums in Sultanahmet. The work of a dense array of international writers, video makers, and designer researchers will also be presented online.

More than 70 Projects Presented in Four “Clouds”

Aimed at rethinking design for an age in which design has gone viral, the biennial is organised in four overlapping “clouds” of projects:

  • Designing the Body explores all the different ways in which the human body itself is a highly unstable artefact that is continually reconstructed, from the unique way our hands work to the latest research on the brain. Every dimension of the human is continuously adjusted, augmented or replaced.
  • Designing the Planet asks us to rethink the human design of vast territories and ecologies. The human radiates design in all directions and encrusts the planet in layer upon layer of artifacts as a kind of geology.
  • Designing Life looks at the new forms of mechanical, electronic and biological life that are being crafted. A fusion of machines, organisms, computation, and genetics is moving from the laboratory into everyday life, the land, the air, and the oceans. 
  • Designing Time presents a unique 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 two seconds.

Invited Projects and Participants

  • The Shepherd, Bager Akbay (Turkey)
  • Mutant Space, Atif Akin (Turkey)
  • Observer Affect / Observer Effect, Zeynep Çelik Alexander (Turkey), Vanessa Heddle, Elliott Sturtevant(Canada)
  • Mixed Being, Lucia Allais (United Kingdom/Italy)
  • Archaeology of Things Larger than Earth, Pedro Alonso and Hugo Palmarola (Chile)
  • Milano Animal City, Stefano Boeri (Italy)
  • Window Behaviorology, Atelier Bow-Wow / Yoshiharu Tsukamoto Laboratory at Tokyo Institute of Technology / YKK AP Window Research Institute (Japan)
  • Space Design by Galina Balashova, Galina Balashova (Russia), Philipp Meuser (Germany)
  • Fictional Humanisms: A Critical Reportage, Marco Brizzi & Davide Rapp (Italy)
  • 1 Brain, 100 Billion Neurons, 100 Trillion connections, Brown Institute for Media Innovation, Center for Spatial Research with the Zuckerman Institute, Columbia University (USA) 
  • Texas City Landscan, Center for Land Use Interpretation (USA) 
  • Conflict Urbanism: Aleppo, Laura Kurgan (South Africa/USA) and the Center for Spatial Research (USA)
  • The Immortal, Revital Cohen (United Kingdom), Tuur Van Balen (Belgium) 
  • Going Fluid: The Cosmetic Protocols of Gangnam, Common Accounts, Igor Bragado (Spain), Miles Gertler (Canada)
  • Art Fiction François Dallegret (Canada) 
  • Human Treasure, Tacita Dean (United Kingdom) 
  • Kontrollraum / Control Room, Thomas Demand (Germany) 
  • Unspoken, Diller Scofidio + Renfro (USA) 
  • World Brain: Automatism, Stéphane Dougoutin (France), Gwenola Wagon (Canada)
  • The Unstable Object (II), Daniel Eisenberg (USA)
  • You will not be able to do it, Keller Easterling (USA)
  • The Designer Designed by the Humans, estudioHerreros (Spain)
  • Portable Indo Pacific, Fake Industries Architectural Agonism and UTS (Spain/Australia)
  • A Natural History of Human Rights, Forensic Architecture in collaboration with FIBAR: Baltasar Garzón, m7red and Irendra Radjawali (United Kingdom/Spain/Brazil/Argentina)
  • City of Abstracts and Lectures from Improvisation Technologies, William Forsythe (Germany/USA)
  • The Breaking Point, or The Paradox of Origins, Anselm Franke (Germany)
  • Welcome to the Anthropocene, Globaïa (Canada) 
  • Space Debris 1957-2016, Stuart Grey (United Kingdom)
  • 5TH HELENA, Mathew Hale (United Kingdom)
  • 51Sprints, Het Nieuwe Instituut (Netherlands) 
  • City of 7 Billion, Joyce Hsiang, Bimal Mendis (USA)
  • MUSSELxCHOIR, Natalie Jeremijenko (Australia)
  • GUINEA PIGS; A Minor History of Engineered Man, Lydia Kallipoliti, Andreas Theodoridis (Greece/USA)
  • Anatomy and Safe, Ali Kazma (Turkey) 
  • “It is obvious from the map,” Thomas Keenan (USA) and Sohrab Mohebbi (Iran), with Charles Heller(USA) and Lorenzo Pezzani (Italy)
  • Embodied Computation, Axel Kilian (Germany)
  • The Perfect Human, Jørgen Leth (Denmark)
  • The Anthropophagic Body and the City: Flavio de Carvalho, Jose Lirá (Brazil)
  • Open Future, The Living / Sculpting Evolution Group, MIT Media Lab (USA)
  • Maropeng Acts I & II, Lesley Lokko (Ghana)
  • Memex, Marshmallow Laser Feast, Analog, FBFX, Duologue (United Kingdom) 
  • Köçek Dance Floor, m-a-u-s-e-r (Germany/Turkey)
  • Glitter Disaster, McEwen Studio (USA)
  • The Institute of Isolation, Lucy McRae in collaboration with Lotje Sodderland (United Kingdom)
  • Ines-table, Enric Miralles (Spain)& Benedetta Tagliabue (Italy)
  • Manchas Mies, Domi Mora (Spain)
  • An Unfinished Encyclopedia of Scale Figures Without Architecture / Model Furniture, MOS Architects(USA) 
  • Architektur / Räume / Gesten, Antoni Muntadas (Spain)
  • Nine Islands: Matters Around Architecture, NEMESTUDIO, Neyran Turan & Mete Sonmez (Turkey)
  • Please let me go, away…, New Territories / M4 with Pierre Huyghe (Thailand/France)
  • Frederick Kiesler’s Magic Architecture: Caves, Animals, and Tools from the Prehistoric to the Atomic Era,Spyros Papapetros (Greece)
  • A Media Archaeology of Ingenious Designs, Jussi Parikka (Finland), Ayhan Ayteş (Turkey)
  • Objects of Daydreaming, PATTU, Cem Kozar, Işıl Ünal (Turkey)
  • South Africa on the Cusp of Revolution, Martha Rosler (USA)
  • Beirut Bombastic!, Rana Salam (Lebanon) 
  • White on White, Alfredo Thiermann & Ariel Bustamante (Chile)
  • Spidernauts… Dark webs…, Tomás Saraceno (Argentina)
  • The Connectome: A New Dimension of Humanity, Seung Lab, H. Sebastion Seung & Amie R. Sterling(USA)
  • The Visit, SO? (Turkey)
  • Autonomy of Images, Hito Steyerl (Germany)
  • Portable Person, Studio Works (USA) 
  • Archaeology of Violence (The Forest as Design), Paulo Tavares (Brazil) & Armin Linke (Germany)
  • The Microbial Design Studio: 30-day Simit Diet, Orkan Telhan (Turkey)
  • Museum of Oil—Deep Space and After Fire Territorial Agency (Italy/Finland/United Kingdom)
  • Voyager—Humanity in Interstellar Space, Universal Space Program, Evangelos Kotsioris (Greece) andRutger Huiberts (Netherlands)
  • The Hand—The Whole Man in Miniature, Madelon Vriesendrop (Netherlands)
  • Detox USA, Mark Wasiuta (Canada), Florencia Alvarez (Argentina) 
  • Information Fall-Out: Buckminster Fuller’s World Game, Mark Wasiuta (Canada), Adam Bandler (USA) 
  • Delusional Mandala, Lu Yang (China)
  • Virtual Interior Istanbul, Annett Zinsmeister (Germany)

6 Curatorial Interventions

Over the course of the last year (2015-2016), the curators have held graduate seminars on “What is Design?” at Princeton University and Columbia University in order to explore a wide range of topics related to the theme of the Biennial. A joint team of Princeton and Columbia students worked over the summer with the curatorial team to prepare a set of six curatorial interventions to be inserted into the main exhibition of the Biennial. These interventions—Design Has Gone Viral, The Unstable Body, Are We Normal?, Enclosed by Mirrors, Homo-Cellular, and Design in 2 Seconds—present historical and contemporary research to supplement the work of the invited contributors to the Biennial and deepen the reflection on the central question: Are We Human?

In addition to the curatorial interventions, the biennial will include two special projects: the famous “Transparent Man” from the Deutsches Hygiene Museum (which will return to Istanbul for the first time since 1938 to be exhibited in the Designing the Body section), and a set of casts of Neolithic human footprints in what is now Istanbul is being exhibited in the Designing Time section, along with some of the original footprints in the original soil.

Superhumanity (in collaboration with e-flux)

Over fifty writers, scientists, artists, architects, designers, philosophers, historians, archaeologists will be addressing “Self-Design” as part of this collaborative project. Nikolaus Hirsch and Anton Vidokle of e-flux, alongside Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley, have commissioned 2000-word contributions from different fields that respond to the theme of the Biennal.

Turkey Design Chronology

A long term research project investigating the last two centuries of Turkish design has also been instigated. Representing an attempt to bring together fields such as packaging, graphic design, communication and advertisement, housing, furniture, landscape, industrial buildings, and other fields 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 the present day. A team of of Turkish experts is being coordinated by Pelin Derviş.

Open Call for Video Submissions

In the spirit of expanding the bandwidth of the Biennial to the widest possible interdisciplinary and intergenerational conversation, Colomina and Wigley launched an Open Call for two minute videos on the question Are We Human? / Biz İnsan mıyız? based on the following eight interlinked propositions:


According to the Biennale, more than 200 videos from 68 cities in 36 countries were submitted. 146 videos that fulfilled the requirements of the Open Call will be presented in a dedicated section within the exhibition itself, and will be made available online. An “international and interdisciplinary” jury evaluated each submission and selected five which will be highlighted in the biennial exhibition and catalogue:

  • Guesthouse, Merve Bedir (Turkey), Alican İnal (The Netherlands)
  • Atrophy, Jonathan Hadari, Simona Katsman (Israel)
  • Autography, Alper Raif İpek (Turkey)
  • Once in a Lifetime Opportunity, Görkem Özdemir (Turkey)
  • Bedrooms of New York, Dimitris Venizelos (Cyprus)

No-Selfie Zone

The 3rd Istanbul Design Biennial carries the most complex design-work, the human itself, into the streets and online media, with images of people taking selfies in the mirror. The flash in these “no-selfies” interrupts the human image, masking the identity of the selfie-taker and enabling the viewer to imagine themselves or others in the image. The over exposed human becomes a mystery, a question mark. In their introduction to the exhibition catalogue, the curators suggest: “This biennial is a kind of mirror. The real work is not just what is on show but in the unexpected and inventive reactions to the surprising reflections one always sees in a mirror.” Accordingly, the images invite people to reflect on the human and post their own “no-selfie” photographs on social media with the hashtag, #AreWeHuman.

Read more about Istanbul Biennial