1th Mardin Biennial

Connceptual Framework

“A city is a book…” – Victor Hugo

“Architecture, is made from surroundings” – Suzanne Langer

“If even for a short period of time spent living in an expanding city, for thousands of years, with one’s city, with one’s village is a city-dweller. In this sense many cannot conceive of themselves outside a city. Regardless how much we question the city, its place remains fixed. The person who questions the city, acts out of self knowledge. The questions of what a city is and what is the self is intertwined. When questioning a city, a person examines their own aphorisms.” – Nermi Uygur

Cities today are important displays. Woven with signs, describe us to ourselves.

Mardin Biennial’s title is taken from a magical saying: Abracadabra… the word used to make the magic go on its way. For the biennial there is a slight play on the word: Abbaracadabra.

Abbara, found in Mardin only, is the name for the architectural feature that allows for passage to both the home and the street. Abbara structures were conceived before modernity and are representational both as an idea and a word that leans on modernity. Therefore every abbara is a significant sociological, philosophic and architecture point. Thus the project title draws attention to how the city disregarded the separation of public and private space. Emphasizing on this dialectic enables us to better comprehend the present day. In an age when the definitions and borders of public space and private space are continually shifting, the separations between the two become less clear, abbaras are historic signals to the present day.

Abbaras are the coming together of public and private spaces and provide an important suggestion for the present. Underneath an abbara is public space, and the above section provides private space. The internal and the external of a house are in negotiation. A biennial saying “abbaracadabra”, the miracle that is Mardin is put into action. The magic is at work. Bringing the historic town of Mardin and the modern city that is Mardin together. The works that will be situated in and around the city will also act to transform it in a physical and cerebral manner. Making, casting new spells and drawing inspiration from the history of the city, in order to create a today. With this exhibition concept, taking into account all the unique factors of Mardin – its body of earth, the multiple historic and contemporary meanings of ‘city’, we aim to produce an exhibition of statements. Whilst dealing with a historic city like Mardin, creating new opportunities is a challenge. Unique to the city is the ability to demonstrate both private and public lives and different modes of living.

AbbaraCadabra, will enable participating artists through the medium of modern art to question, redefine and examine relationships between current and past cities. Having been a home, dwelling for tens of civilizations over the course of history, and bringing with it several symbols and signs to this extent – Mardin – and to further see this city in the process of modernity is a dynamic view. The city allows for the examination of creating as a means of action and reaction against history in order to cultivate a present. At the same time, the relationship between the several faiths found in the region and the life style they advocate amongst their followers, coupled with modern life, is a dichotomy. The works displayed at the exhibitions, enables Mardin to see itself both with its history and its current state – providing a new perspective with which to view the familiar symbols of both past and present. This perspective takes on: public and private, personal and societal, past and future. In the age of globalization, in an age where all cities are becoming alike, Mardin’s ability to remain and protect its uniqueness – with its unknown riches and a simple word play is being placed not only on the international world arena but also on a national scale. The biennial theme and easy to say name Mardin, will remain in the international art scene consciousness and as it happened with the Istanbul biennial, will quickly be discovered and become known and valued.


Döne Otyam / Ankara

A graduate of French language and literature from Hacettepe University Otyam also received an education in the arts from Bilkent and Hacettepe Universities respectively. The founder of Abitus and Zon galleries, Otyam has been the director of various other galleries and opened many exhibitions. Otyam has worked in television, producing art related programs for various channels as well as conducted interviews for magazines and newspapers about art.

Otyam has curated “Sudaki Suret” held at the Dolmabahçe Cultural Center at Istanbul, “Buradan Çok Uzakta” held at the Ankara Train Station and the Istanbul Haydarpaşa Train Station, “I Received Your Invitation, Thank you!” held in Mardin. Otyam continues to work as an art consultant.


Biennial Team

Curator:Döne Otyam
Advisory Board:Ferhat Özgür / Ayşegül Sönmez
Coordinator:Mehmet Hadi Baran
Visual Director:Hakan Irmak
Curator Asistans:Bahareh Mirzazad / Sera Marshall
Subtitles, Translations:Arzu Altınay
Press Relations:Ömer Özmen
Architect:Bahareh Mirzazad
Technical Director:Mahmut Keleş
Production:Nurullah Görhan
Photograph:Uğur Aydın
Projection, Sound, Light:Koray Erkinay