16th Istanbul Biennial: “The Seventh Continent”
By HG Masters
Nicolas Bourriaud, curator of the 16th Istanbul Biennial, began his press conference at the Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University on September 10 with a scene from Werner Herzog’s 1982 film Fitzcarraldo, showing a giant steamship being hauled over a hill in the Amazon jungle. As Bourriaud explained, the promethean task in Herzog’s film mirrored the Biennial’s own last-minute migration from a former shipyard on the Haliç (Golden Horn)—due to an asbestos problem—to the newly constructed Istanbul Museum of Painting and Sculpture near Istanbul’s other iconic waterway, the Bosphorus. Bourriaud added that the film, about a European colonialist whose plan to build an opera house in the Amazon is ultimately stymied by the locale, has additional resonances about the place of culture in relation to the environmental devastation of the Anthropocene.