Mardin is a city with one of the most remarkable sights in the country. Döne Otyam is among those who admire this city, its striking beauty and the energy it contains.
After the first Biennale held in Mardin in 2010, despite all the difficulties and delays, this place has become a city of art with its established museums, galleries, art and culture workshops. As a consequence of the intervention of the pandemic, the 5th edition of the Biennale is only taking place this year. The opening of the biennale, which will continue until June 20, took place on the evening of May 20, accompanied by groups from Istanbul and foreign artists. The theme of the 5th Mardin International Biennial, directed by Döne Otyam and Hakan Irmak and organized by the Mardin Cinema Association, is “The Promise of Grass”; Its curator is Adwait Singh, an Indian philosopher, writer based in New Delhi. He chose his artists mainly from his own nation and geography. Of the 39 artists from 25 countries participating in the biennial, 10 are Indian.
THE PLACES ARE MAGNIFICENT
In Mardin, where we stayed for two days, we visited all the places and saw the works of the artists, despite the wild breeze of the desert wind. I am one of those who admire and influence Mardin, how many times I come here, yet there are places I haven’t seen. This time, I must admit that I admire the new spaces where the works are exhibited as much as the works of the artists! In particular, the 19th century Develi Han in the Gül district just below the castle so impressed curator Adwait Singh that he placed the most striking works there. The moving statue of Server Demirtaş, whose work I really like, is an old woman sitting on a chair. The name of the statue is Scream. Because the old woman opens her eyes and her mouth from time to time, stretches out her hands and knees, and expresses her rebellion with a heart-rending cry, unless her expectation is fulfilled!
AFTER HIS DEATH
Another outstanding work by Develi Han are the last works of Selma Gürbüz, whom we lost this year and whose retrospective we saw at Istanbul Modern before her death. The artist, who made most of the masks exhibited with a carpenter in Mardin, added hair and eyelashes to the masks. Is this all goodbye?
Among these works that I mentioned, the work that impressed many guests and gave the first place is the work of Fatoş İrwen, which is exhibited in the International Design Foundation Gallery, consisting of women’s hair that she collected during his three years in Diyarbakır prison. The work, titled Cannonballs, is a safety net made of ropes woven from the prisoners’ hair. This work is a collective work on the use of the female body against oppression.
I don’t have the space to tell you about the work of 39 artists and all the places one by one. You have to go see. Still, I try to explain your state of mind. We met curator Adwait Singh in Istanbul at the start of the pandemic, and we listened to what kind of theme this young philosopher would be working on. The theme that Singh also spoke about in Mardin, The Promise of Grass, can’t be summed up in a single sentence, but it was tried when social media demanded it. The biennial deals with “the possibility of a new order based on global dispossession, the spread of capitalism, but at its end, local sovereignty and creative solidarities”. “The nature of the grass will make me think of the anarchy that I believe is healing, of the possibility that the wounds of the earth are covered with a green veil,” Singh says.
MUNICIPAL EVENT KITCHEN
The biennale opened on Friday afternoon; We visited the exhibits on Saturday, going from place to place. The municipality of Mardin, with an administrator appointed to replace Ahmet Türk, who was removed from office despite having been elected twice, also organized an event under the name of Turkish Cuisine on the same day. In Cumhuriyet Caddesi Square, the women displayed the dishes they cooked all day, live music made the crowd groan and dances were performed. When the throngs of local tourists who came to visit the city after the May 19 holiday joined in, there was confusion over accommodation, nutrition and getting around in the historic city. Vacationers snap photos and shop in front of historic sites; locals wanted to have fun at the fair, biennial travelers wanted to visit the exhibitions and socialize with the artists, and there was almost no interaction between these groups with different goals! Besides some of those who accidentally entered the biennial exhibitions, the desert wind also treated the artists’ works harshly: some installations flew away, some performances failed, some left footprints on them! The development of Mardin in terms of tourism is promising. It will soon become one of the most important cultural tourist destinations. However, the masses who come to cultural tourism also have demands for good service, qualified hotels and restaurants, and entertainment venues. The good staff and the investor win!
One of the highlights of this biennale is the German headquarters. The beauty of the building and its dominance over the Mesopotamian plain, which served as the headquarters of the Germans, allied with the Ottomans during the First World War, and then Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, is also fascinating. The opening of the biennial also took place here. I think the most striking work in the space is the two textile collages by Gülsün Karamustafa. The collages made by the artist with the colored fabrics he collects from the markets of the cities of the south-east show the migration from the countryside to the big cities and the development of a hybrid culture born of the conflict between metropolitan and immigrant cultures. .