Saturday, 1 September 2007

Which way is East?

The International Curators Forum (ICF), the radical new tactical intervention that has been casting a new critical light on the major art events of summer 2007’s Grand Tour, is now set to complete its 2007 itinerary at the Istanbul Biennale.

The ICF is both a professional development programme for emerging curatorial talent from the UK of Black or Asian origin, and an arena for exploring and contesting the roles that race and cultural heritage play within contemporary visual culture and the international arts scene. Earlier this summer, it successfully mentored and guided the experience of over 30 young, culturally diverse curators through the Venice Biennale, Documenta 12, and the Munster Sculpture Project, as well as programming the acclaimed and explosive symposium Pan-European Encounters at the Venice Biennale. Now, the ICF will engage with a more distinctive and significantly younger event in the art calendar, one which sits, both geographically and culturally, on the borderlands between East and West – the Tenth International Istanbul Biennial.

Under the directorship of Hou Hanru, this year’s Biennial will explore some of the most progressive and provocative ideas about the role of the Biennials in pushing the frontiers of curatorial practice in the twenty-first century. The principal thematic concern of the Istanbul Biennial is space – how artists and curators connect with the situation and location of a work of art. The ICF is concerned with how space can be charged politically, as well as creatively. Its contribution in Istanbul will consequently be a forum in which leading curators and artists will engage with the main themes of the Biennial, in the context of the ICF’s own focus on the relationships between global and racial politics, and art.

Which Way is East? is an open dialogue, organised in collaboration with the Istanbul Modern, which will led by the Turkish curator and artist Esra Sarigedik (who was Assistant Curator of the Ninth International Istanbul Biennale). The discussion will feature a diverse range of important practitioners and theorists, who will be discussing the politics and practice of curatorship in the twenty-first century art world, and how the relationships between global and local spaces, and art, can be mediated by the figure of the curator.

Esra Sarigedik Öktem is a curator and writer based in Istanbul and Eindhoven. She is currently working as curator at Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven where she recently organised solo exhibitions by Avi Mograbi, Pavel Buchler and Erinc Seymen. From 2004-5 she worked as assistant curator for 9th International Istanbul Biennial curated by Charles Esche and Vasif Kortun and organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts. In 2003 Esra was assistant curator at the Rooseum Center for Contemporary Art in Malmö, Sweden and assistant curator for the 3rd Berlin Biennial curated by Ute Meta Bauer.

David A Bailey is the founder of the International Curators Forum and is currently Senior Curator at Autograph APB and is curator of the Black Moving Image Cube season; Remember Saro-Wiwa the Living Memorial and the London segment of Channel 4’s Big Art Project. He was actively involved in setting up autograph: the Association of Black Photographers in 1986 and the International Institute of Visual Arts (inIVA) in 1994.

Vasif Kortun is the director of Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center in Istanbul. He was the founding director of Proje4L Istanbul Museum of Contemporary Art (2000-2003). He was co-curator with Charles Esche of the 3rd Istanbul Biennial in 1993. Between 1994 and 1997 he was director of the Museum Center for Cultural Studies, Bard College. His writing and interviews have appeared in many books, magazines and exhibition catalogues.

Hamra Abbas is an artist practice Hamra Abbas takes a satirical and playful approach toward widely accepted traditions. By appropriating significant imagery and iconography, she transforms them into new works that may be experienced spatially and temporally. Hamra was invited to participate in the Istanbul Biennial (2007), participated in the Sydney Biennale (2006) and was awarded a collaborative residency by the V&A London, Gasworks and Green Cardamom (2006).

Sherman Mern Tat Sam is an artist, writer and curator. His paintings have recently been exhibited at The Suburban in Chicago; in addition he has shown internationally, particularly in Porto and Dublin. He has written for various art magazines and catalogues, and regularly contributes to The Brooklyn Rail and Born in Singapore, he studied fine art at Otis-Parsons in Los Angeles and read for a Master of Letters in the History of Art at the University of Oxford. He currently holds the Inspire Fellowship at the Hayward, London, where Ralph Rugoff is the new director, and is at present touring A Secret Service: Art, Compulsion and Concealment (contemporary group show), Mind Forg'd Manacles: William Blake and Slavery and Rembrandt as Printmaker.

Which Way is East is set to build on the success of the ICF’s intervention in Venice, where the symposium Pan-European Encounters offered a critical and discursive counterpoint to one of the outstanding elements of the exhibition – the African Pavilion, Check List Luanda Pop. The debate between Robert Storr, curator of 52nd Venice Biennale, and the co-curator of the African Pavilion Simon Njami, in particular laid bare the sensitivities, politics and passions that surrounded this controversial gesture in art history. By providing the space for open debate and discussion, the ICF made a historic contribution to this year’s Venice Biennale, and will continue to make vital and valuable interventions in the international art scene, from the Istanbul Biennial through to next year’s Liverpool Biennial and beyond.

ICF Director David. A. Bailey commented, “The International Curators Forum is both about developing the professional practice of young, culturally diverse British curators, and staging tactical interventions and platforms for discussion in this summer’s international arts events. However, these two processes are really intertwined and cannot be readily disentangled.”

He went on, “The curators who have been guided on the Grand Tour this summer have offered a walking, breathing collective critique of so many of the assumptions and practices of the international arts scene, a critique which has fed into, and fed on, the series of incredible talks that the ICF has programmed. We hope that we have started a journey which still has many miles to go, and that we have made an important contribution towards putting cultural diversity back into the thinking and working of the international visual arts world.”