chapter  11
15 Pages

Optimism Reconsidered

WithCurator Hou Hanru interviewed by Nilgün Bayraktar

The Istanbul Biennial has been organized since 1987 by the Istanbul Culture and Art Foundation (úKSV).1 As one of the forerunners of the increasing number of non-Western biennials (São Paulo, Havana, Tapei, Cairo, and Tirana, to name but a few) it has become an influential contemporary art event. The Tenth Istanbul Biennial took place from 8 September to 4 November 2007 under the title ‘Not Only Possible, But Also Necessary: Optimism in the Age of Global War’. Curated by Hou Hanru, the Tenth Biennial explored the tensions, contradictions, and dynamism created by alternative modernities in a ‘New World Order dominated by liberal capitalist economic forces and their related values’ (Hanru, 2007, p. 21). Abandoning the traditionally used tourist circuit of historic sites, the Tenth Biennial pervaded a wide range of central and peripheral urban zones of Istanbul and addressed the relationship between artistic production and social change. Hou Hanru’s curatorial strategies highlighted the cultural, political, and artistic currents that run through contemporary art, from non-conventional exhibition sites to site-specific public art commissions, from multi-screen installations to public talks and events taking place as part of the biennial event. Hou Hanru curated numerous other exhibitions, including the Tenth Lyon Biennial in 2009, the Chinese Pavilion at the 2007 Venice Biennial, the Second Guangzhou Triennale from 2004 to 2006, the Third Tirana Biennial in 2005, Paris’s Nuit Blanche in 2004, and the Gwangju Biennial in 2002.