Contemporary art in international Istanbul Biennale

Since its establishment in 1987 by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts, the Istanbul Biennale has become one of the most important biennale on contemporary art held internationally. It has a reputation for inviting eminent curators and framing art in interesting, contemporary themes. This year the 8th International Istanbul Biennale was curated by Dan Cameron, senior curator at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York. Under the general title «Poetic Justice,» the biennale examines the interface between political and more personal issues in art as well as the stylistic breach that each of these themes produces in art. For art to be effective, Cameron believes that issues in the public domain should be combined with a more personal and poetic language; «Poetic Justice» suggests that justice (political or social) can be achieved through poetry. Greece was one of 42 countries participating in this year’s biennale. DeAnna Maganias and Lina Theodorou, whom Cameron had included in an exhibition which he curated at the DESTE foundation for contemporary art in Athens in 1999, are the two artists he chose to represent Greece. DeAnna Maganias, who is also included in «Outlook,» the big international exhibition that will open in Athens in a couple of weeks, is a Greek-American artist settled in Greece. Her works are usually installations that resemble architectural models or replications of interiors on strange scales and are distinctive for their psychological subtext. Maganias is interested in how space and ordinary surroundings create psychological tension and in showing the unexpected sides of our familiar environment. Her works are spare, almost minimal, mysterious and even slightly ominous. For the Istanbul Biennale, Maganias has prepared an installation consisting of a swimming pool and a video. In successive intervals, the water of the swimming pool is thrown in a stirring motion as if in an earthquake. As in other of her works, Maganias creates an effect of psychological suspense and incertitude. Lina Theodorou is participating with «Wonderpark,» a video installation in which she turns around the role of the voyeur and the subjects of his gaze. In her work, Theodorou likes to reverse established roles, whether gender or societal. By following male strangers with her videocamera in an urban park, she gains control of a rather fearsome situation and as a result she overcomes her gender role as a vulnerable female. Besides the Istanbul Biennale, Theodorou is also currently participating in a number of international exhibitions, most recently in Austria and Kassel. In Greece, she usually shows her work in group exhibitions or in venues outside art galleries. The Istanbul Biennale, which is hosted across different venues in the city, will be open until mid-November.