• Empathy Revisited: designs for more than one, 5th Istanbul Design Biennial
    Mariana Pestana, Sumitra Upham, and Billie Muraben
    Oct 15, 2020 to Apr 30, 2021
    Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts

Soraia Teixeira, "Public Devices for Therapy", Besıktas Peer, Istanbul, 2020 Photo: Kayhan Kaygusuz

Designers adopt sensitive, diplomatic, sometimes therapeutic functions, with the aim of connecting us with one another—but also with the world around us: with other species, with microorganisms, soil, water, and even the universe. Aspiring to carve out a space of responsibility and nourish a culture of attachment towards the more-than-human, this biennial explores designs for multiple bodies, dimensions, and perspectives. The projects on display encourage us to rethink practices of care and civility at this critical moment in time and to collectively build new systems and structures for reconnecting. The biennial offers critical tools and alternative pathways in face of urgent climate and economic crises, a general state of social deprivation, and an exhausted global industrial model. Successful designs take into consideration not just their immediate user or client, but the many constituents and complex entanglements inherent to any design process.

Mariana Pestana is an architect and curator interested in critical social practice and the role of fiction in reimagining futures for an age marked by technological progress and an ecological crisis. She cofounded the collective The Decorators, an interdisciplinary practice that makes collaborative public realm interventions and cultural programs, currently design fellows at Stanley Picker Gallery. Previously Pestana worked as a curator at the Department of Architecture, Design, and Digital at the Victoria & Albert Museum and lectured at Central Saint Martins, Chelsea College of Arts, and Royal College of Arts. Recently, she cocurated the exhibitions The Future Starts Here, at the Victoria & Albert Museum (2018) and Eco Visionaries: Art and Architecture After the Anthropocene at MAAT (2018), Eco Visionaries: Towards an Interspecies Future at Matadero (2019), and a third iteration of the latter at The Royal Academy (2019). She was the curator of the exhibitions The Real and Other Fictions for Close, Closer, Lisbon Architecture Triennale (2013), and This Time Tomorrow for the V&A at the World Economic Forum (2016). She curated Fiction Practice, the Young Curators Lab for Porto Design Biennale 2019. Pestana holds a PhD in architecture from the Bartlett School of Architecture.

Billie Muraben, assistant curator and deputy editor, is a writer, editor, and lecturer based in London. She has written for Artsy, Disegno, Elephant, Eye, Maharam Stories, Port, and Varoom among other publications, and was previously online editor of The Gourmand. Her work is informed by an interest in design by its broadest definition and challenging the spaces, places, and practices that we privilege in the context of art and design. Of British and Turkish descent, she has a particular interest in practices rooted in the Eastern Mediterranean. She writes about television as a potential site of distribution for art practice; postmodern architecture and ruin value; and dancing water fountains as monumental symbols of power. She teaches on the Experience & Environment platform of Graphic Communication Design at Central Saint Martins, and previously taught graduate courses on visual communication at the Royal College of Art (RCA) and undergraduate courses on illustration at Camberwell College of Arts. She is currently an editorial advisor on the third edition of A Line Which Forms a Volume, a publication and symposium on design research by Graphic Media Design at London College of Communication. She holds an master’s in visual communication from the RCA.

Sumitra Upham, curator of programs, is a London-based curator working at the intersection of art, design, and technology. She is currently senior curator of public programs at the Design Museum where she is responsible for public programming, residencies, and temporary projects. Previously, she was an associate curator at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; design curator at Coin Street Community Builders; and part of the exhibitions team at White Cube, London. In 2018, she sat on the curatorial committee for the London Festival of Architecture.

Future Anecdotes, exhibition designers, works collectively, with a strong interest in building narratives and spaces. The group has been investigating issues of display, exhibition-making, publication, and public action since 2010. Future Anecdotes have undertaken design collaborations for exhibitions such as The Way Beyond Art (2018–21) the permanent collection display for Van Abbemuseum, and the accompanying user spaces titled Werksalon; Trespassing Modernities (2013) at SALT and The City of Tomorrow (2019–20), a traveling exhibition on Soviet Modernism in Yerevan, Minsk, and the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. Future Anecdotes were also the authors of the Reading Room at the 2nd Istanbul Design Biennial.

Maria João Macedo is a graphic designer, working with books and visual identities since 2008. Her approach prioritizes content over signature, where conversation and exchange play a crucial role. Collaborating mainly with artists, curators, and cultural institutions, her studio is responsible for the new visual identity of Culturgest (since 2018), the publication series devoted to the Serralves Contemporary Art Museum Collection (since 2014), and several books with artists such as Von Calhau, Bruno Pacheco, Vasco Barata, Alberto Carneiro, and Nairy Baghramian. She is also a founding member and head of the editorial program of Sismógrafo, a nonprofit art space curating and presenting contemporary art exhibitions in Porto, Portugal, since 2014.

Maxwell Sterling is a sound designer, composer, and artist. He favors collaborative projects with artists such as Tai Shani, filmmaker Ivan Olita and fashion studios like SHOWstudio. His work explores how narrative can be conveyed through sound—exploring and exploiting what the ear can reveal. Working with a variety of acoustic instrumentation, through to more modern forms of synthesis, Maxwell’s work revels in the blurring of real and synthetic. He has released two LPs, Hollywood Medieval and Laced With Rumour: Loud-Speaker Of Truth and has a third coming in 2021 on label AD 93.

Istanbul Design Biennial is organized by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV). Taking place since 2012, Istanbul Design Biennial aims to bring together a diverse cross section of design ideas once every two years, exploring a wide range of fields concerning design. Seeding ideas and fostering dialogue and intersections within the creative and academic community, the biennial operates on a network of national and international collaborations with cultural agents, institutions, universities and companies. Using the city as a dynamic space for projects, actions and interventions, the biennial tackles global design problems, brings the notion of design into scrutiny, stimulates critical debate, foregrounds underexplored or overlooked aspects of society and prompts further investigation into and exchange about emerging conditions of the world. In addition to its biennial exhibition and various activities, Istanbul Design Biennial seeks to ensure a long, deep and interdisciplinary conversation that will help rethink the question of design by multiplying the number of voices and assembling an inspirational design archive. Committed to design as a tool for understanding its complex role in today’s society, the biennial as a progressive discussion platform is in permanent transformation.