Colomina and Wigley Announce Theme For 2016 Istanbul Design Biennial: “Are We Human?”

© Mahmut Ceylan © Mahmut Ceylan

At a media meeting this morning at the Istanbul Archaeological Museums Library, the curators of the 3rd Istanbul Design Biennial Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley announced the theme of next year’s event, titled “ARE WE HUMAN?: The Design of the Species: 2 seconds, 2 days, 2 years, 200 years, 200,000 years.” The event, which will be held from October 22nd to December 4th next year, is intended to combine elements of both media documentary and archaeological project and according to the curators “will explore the intimate relationship between the concepts of ‘design’ and ‘human.'”

Organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV), the Biennial will present current design alongside ancient artifacts to explore the design history of our species, with the time frame for the Biennial not taking in the past two years as is often the case with design biennials but “from the last 2 seconds to the last 200,000 years.” Colomina, a Professor of Architecture at Princeton University and Wigley, Professor and Dean Emeritus of Columbia University’s GSAPP, explained the theme of their design like so:

“Design always presents itself as serving the human but its real ambition is to redesign the human. The history of design is therefore a history of evolving conceptions of the human. To talk about design is to talk about the state of our species. Humans have always been radically reshaped by the designs they produce and the world of design keeps expanding. We live in a time when everything is designed, from our carefully crafted individual looks and online identities, to the surrounding galaxies of personal devices, new materials, interfaces, networks, systems, infrastructures, data, chemicals, organisms, and genetic codes. The average day involves the experience of thousands of layers of design that reach to outer space but also reach deep into our bodies and brains. We literally live inside design, like the spider lives inside the web constructed from inside its own body. But unlike the spider, we have spawned countless overlapping and interacting webs. Even the planet itself has been completely encrusted by design as a geological layer. There is no longer an outside to the world of design. Design has become the world.

“Design is what makes the human. It is the basis of social life, from the very first artefacts to the exponential expansion of human capability. But design also engineers inequalities and new forms of neglect. More people than ever in history are forcibly displaced by war, lawlessness, poverty, and climate at the same time that the human genome and the weather are being actively redesigned. We can no longer reassure ourselves with the idea of ‘good design.’ Design needs to be redesigned.”

In order to explore these themes, the in the year leading up to the event the Biennial will host a range of events, classes, workshops, and online discussions, including open calls for video responses to the following eight propositions offered by Colomina and Wigley:

  1. Design is always design of the human
  2. The human is the designing animal
  3. Our species is completely suspended in endless layers of design
  4. Design radically expands human capability
  5. Design routinely constructs radical inequalities
  6. Design is even the design of neglect
  7. “Good design” is an anesthetic
  8. Design without anesthetic asks urgent questions about our humanity

Alongside Colomina and Wigley, the Biennial’s exhibition architecture will be produced by Andrés Jaque and the Office for Political Innovation (including Roberto Gonzalez Garcia, Laura Mora, Federico Landi), while its graphic design will be produced by young Turkish designers including Pemra Ataç, Yetkin Başarır, Özge Güven, Okay Karadayılar, and Sarp Sözdinler. Evangelos Kotsioris will act as Assistant Curator, while Iván López Munuera will direct the online component of the event. The director of the Istanbul Design Biennial is Deniz Ova.

The 3rd Istanbul Design Biennial will be held from October 22nd to December 4th 2016 at Istanbul’s Galata Greek Primary School, DEPO and Studio-X. The details of the open call for contributions will be announced here on February 1st 2016. The details of the biennial’s events programme will be announced later in 2016.

For more information, visit the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV)’s website here.

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