Ute Meta Bauer Named One of Three Curators for 2021 Istanbul Biennial

Ute Meta Bauer, Amar Kanwar, and David Teh. Photo: Istanbul Biennial.
ACT at MIT

The Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) announced the curatorial team for the 17th Istanbul Biennial: curator Ute Meta Bauer, artist Amar Kanwar, and art historian David Teh.

The appointment of three co-curators marks a departure from the biennial’s usual practice of naming one artistic director to oversee the event, with the exception of 2009 edition jointly curated by Charles Esche and Vasif Kortun. The three curators issued an initial curatorial statement suggesting a focus on ecological and environmental concerns: “Rather than a great tree, laden with sweet, ripe fruit, this biennale seeks to learn from the birds’ flight, from the once teeming seas, from the earth’s slow chemistry of renewal and nourishment. There may be no great gathering, no orchestrated coming together at one time and place; instead it might be a great dispersal, an invisible fermentation. Its threads will be drawn together, but they will multiply and diverge, at different paces, crossing here and there but with no noisy culmination, no final knot. It may begin before it is to begin and continue well after it is over.” Further details about the 17th Istanbul Biennial will be revealed in 2021.

Ute Meta Bauer is a curator of exhibitions and presentations on contemporary art, film, video, and sound that connect artistic work with other disciplines. Since 2013, she is Founding Director of NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore and a professor in the School of Art, Design and Media at Nanyang Technological University. Prior, she has served as Dean of Fine Art at the Royal College of Art, London, UK (2012-2013), and was an associate professor at the School of Architecture and Planning at MIT, Cambridge, MA (2005-2012), where she was Founding Director of the MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology (ACT) and Director of ACT’s predecessor, the MIT Visual Arts Program. For ten years, she was Professor and Head of the Institute for Contemporary Art at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Austria (1996-2006). Bauer also served as Founding Director of OCA, Office for Contemporary Art, Norway (2002-2005).

All three have been involved previously with major biennials in various capacities. Bauer curated the 2004 Berlin Biennale, co-organized Documenta 11 in 2002, and worked on the U.S. Pavilion at the 2015 Venice Biennale; Kanwar has shown at four editions of Documenta; and Teh created a project for the 2018 edition of the Gwangju Biennale in South Korea.

Details of Bauer, Kanwar, and Teh’s curatorial vision are still vague, though the biennial appears to this time be focused on ecological and environmental concerns. Their curatorial statement reads: “Rather than a great tree, laden with sweet, ripe fruit, this biennale seeks to learn from the birds’ flight, from the once teeming seas, from the earth’s slow chemistry of renewal and nourishment. There may be no great gathering, no orchestrated coming together at one time and place; instead it might be a great dispersal, an invisible fermentation. Its threads will be drawn together, but they will multiply and diverge, at different paces, crossing here and there but with no noisy culmination, no final knot. It may begin before it is to begin and continue well after it is over.”