Whether it spoke or whether it simply made noise, or even if it could
not be defined – we were after lending an ear to everything that exists
and was imagined. At times we explored different ways of listening to
objects; we pondered the innovative common denominators and differ-
ences of intellectual and artistic approaches. Paying heed to what the
world said, we looked around us with the transformative power of art.
SALTWATER: A Theory of Thought Forms is an exhibition that
places the transformative power of art at its core. Can the vitality of art
invigorate the chequered lives of each and every individual, as well as
those of groups, communities, societies and even geographies whose
histories are fraught with trauma? Hinting at this possibility, SALT-
WATER does not merely declare a painful history and then move on
and forget. Through art, it listens to the place in which it dwells – its
present and all its times. It upholds the belief that, on the centennial of
the sorrows endured in these lands, the path to light lies not in cover-
ing up sufferings, but in making them known and confronting them. It
presents the artists’ views of the world as a series of waves and knots,
correlations between reality and the surreal, consciousness and the
unconscious, the poetic and the political, form and aesthetics. Drafted
by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, the 14th Istanbul Biennial presents a
joint thought experiment with numerous fields of research such as art,
mathematics, science, neuroscience, architecture and oceanography.
Since 1987, each Istanbul Biennial has forged a unique relation
with the city, built from different angles. The common denominator
is an embrace of the city, the establishment of an intimate connec-
tion with audiences and the identification of spaces that support the
conceptual framework of the exhibition. In this edition, the Biennial
spreads across the city via the Bosphorus, which passes through its
middle. SALTWATER follows the rhythm of the Bosphorus and makes
fluid connections as it travels through the city. From Rumeli Feneri,
where the Black Sea meets the Marmara Sea, to Kadıköy; from Şişli to
the Golden Horn and Princes’ Islands, it constructs a brand new theory
of thought forms, explored in more than thirty venues on land and sea.
The number of venues and their distribution slows down the speed of
experiencing the exhibition, allowing viewers to take time for contem-
plation. In addition to group shows at Istanbul Modern, Arter, the Ital-
ian School and Galata Greek School, artists present solo exhibitions in
alternative spaces such as former and current schools, car parks, hotel
rooms, warehouses and old residences.
Perhaps the most critical move in venue selection is the Princes’
Islands, included in the Biennial’s route for the first time in its history.
The islands are not only a stop, but a key reference point of this event.
Sivriada (Oxeia Island), where almost a century ago, some 80,000
stray dogs were abandoned to die, opens up the possibility of trans-
forming yet another trauma through art. Trotsky, thinker and revo-
lutionary, who wrote his autobiography while on exile in Büyükada
(Prinkipo Island) between 1929 and 1933, inspired the artists who pro-
duced new works on the island.
Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev who drafted this biennial SALT-
WATER: A Theory of Thought Forms created a multi-layered exhib-
ition drawing on her knowledge of artistic, philosophical and political
issues, along with her talent in bringing together different spheres, as
well as the energy with which she infects those around her.
During the Biennial’s preparatory phase, most of the eighty-plus
artists invited to participate conducted extensive research on site vis-
its to Istanbul in preparation for the exhibition. Close to sixty have cre-
ated new works. On each expedition, the boat rides on the Bosphorus
became a kind of ritual. Thus, with its waves and promises the salt-
water turned into a source both eye-opening and challenging. Using
sea transportation to reach the venues and spending time on the water
plays an important role for audiences, too, allowing them to get closer
to the sources of inspiration that have drafted this 14th Biennial.
The Istanbul Biennial, whose organising team I have part of since
2003, and of which I have been the director since 2008, has become
one of the most anticipated exhibitions in the international art world
over the past decade. It offers new forms, new concepts, and opens up
different spaces for discussion. This process has been possible through
the commitment and enthusiasm of the curators and artists, as well as
the various teams with whom we have worked.
While striving to produce a ground-breaking exhibition in the inter-
national arena, the Istanbul Biennial aspires each time to reach an ever
wider audience in the city. To this end, it can be visited free of charge,
and in 2013 it was attended by around 340,000 people. With the belief
that each viewer will enjoy a unique experience of our exhibition, I invite
everyone to explore this saltwater adventure through the city.