Conceptual Framework and design of 13th Istanbul Biennial announced

Titled: 'Mom, am I barbarian?', this Biennial will address the major urban transformations happening in Istanbul today.

On January 8th, the concept and the designs of the 13th Istanbul Biennial were presented. Titled: 'Mom, am I barbarian?', this biennial will address the major urban transformations happening in Istanbul today. Curated by Fulya Erdemci, this biennial asks important questions about what is considered civilised or barbaric in the public domain. Lava reflected on the politically and socially engaged concept with a strongly articulated visual language, creating a clear visual identity of the biennial
Istanbul Biennial
The biennial aims to create a meeting point in İstanbul in the field of visual arts between artists from diverse cultures and the audience. The Istanbul Biennial enables the formation of an international cultural network between local and international art circles, artists, curators and art critics by bringing together new trends in contemporary art every two years.

Mom, am I barbarian?
Fulya Erdemci, curator of the 13th Istanbul Biennial announced that, as an exhibition in a dialogue with the city, the biennial’s focal point would be the notion of the public domain as a political forum. Titled 'Mom, am I barbarian?", this highly contested concept will serve as a matrix to generate ideas and develop practices that question contemporary forms of democracy, challenge current models of spatio-economic politics, problematise given concepts of civilization and barbarity, and most importantly, highlight the role of art in this context. Questioning what the reintroduction of the concept of “barbarian” as a reflection of “absolute other” reveals in our contemporary society, Erdemci referred to art’s potential for engendering new positions and constructing new subjectivities for the sake of creating a space for the weakest ones and the most excluded by destabilising dominant and deep-seated discourses.

Lava's design approach
In the design concept, we wanted to reflect the politically and socially engaged concept with a strongly articulated visual language. Since the biennial will be presented as an exhibition in a dialogue with the city, this open character should be reflected in the the design, allowing dialogue and change while building up towards the exhibition.

The design concept uses opposing ideas and content to create spaces of conflict and consensus. The biennial's conceptual framework uses opposing concepts such as barbarity versus citizenship, and private versus public, in relation to the public domain. Since many items are bilingual, Turkish and English texts are in conflict in the same space; invading, circumventing and colliding with each other. Formal and informal typography are used interchangeably to question the stereotype of the barbarian. The content creates fault lines in the design, much like borders of countries and neighbourhoods are drawn by conflict and consensus. Over time, the design will create new geographies of ideas and activities.

The design of the poster is published now, more material will be made available as soon as the biennial activities start. Background information and images of the ongoing design process can be followed on tumblr:

What to expect
The first events of the programme will focus on Istanbul’s current urban transformation under the title of “Making the City Public” from 8 to 10 February. The 13th Istanbul Biennial will be held from September 14 - November 10th, 2013.

About Lava


Lava is a design agency with offices in Amsterdam and Beijing. Within Lava people from a variety of backgrounds collaborate: from brand strategy to digital, motion and print design. Together we create concepts that enable brands and organisations to communicate and interact in ever more digital environments.


Lava is een Nederlands ontwerpbureau met vestigingen in Amsterdam en Beijing. Mensen met verschillende achtergronden werken binnen Lava: van merkstrategie naar digitaal, motion en print design. Samen creëren we concepten die merken en organisaties in staat stellen om te communiceren en interacteren in toenemend digitale omgevingen.