3rd Mardin Biennial

Connceptual Framework


Mardin is centrally located within a geography of antique civilizations, stretching from Egypt to India. Despite the cultural destruction it has undergone due to the political and economical violence of recent years, it still retains noteworthy traces of the symbolic world, the universe of icons and myths, the art and literature it has created, amassed and, in turn, benefitted for centuries. These traces still survive in the daily lives of Mardin’s inhabitants, in their living environment as much as in the ethnographical and architectural heritage of the city.

The talismans, amulets, icons, jewels, garments, books, pictures, photographs, pots and pans, glasses and dishes, rugs and carpets accumulated in houses, shops, workshops form what can be called ‘cabinets of curiosities’: private ‘museums’ where objects form mysterious relations with one another and write unspoken myths. In these ‘museums’, antiquities and ordinary objects, as well as various times that are inscribed in them, constantly bestow new significations upon each other. You may come across such dream worlds on the workbench of a knife-sharpener, or the counter of a coppersmith’s; at a pigeon-trainer’s stall; in a church or a bar as well as in the nooks and crannies of houses. The objective of the 3rd Mardin Biennial is to return the poetry and magic to these cabinets of curiosities that have long ago abandoned them. It calls on artists to explore their memory, to write their mythology.

The 3rd Mardin Biennial is curated by a collective, constituted mostly of locals. Likewise, many of the artists are also locals, among them also artisans and craftsman. Hence, this version of the Mardin Biennial suggests an alternative approach by questioning the prevailing biennial procedure where a single curator, who is unfamiliar with the context and setting, single-handedly decides who to exhibit, what to exhibit, and how to exhibit it. This Biennial vehemently opposes the reduction of the local cultural milieu to an exhibition décor and the identification of the locals with an exhibition forced on them, in other words, to the branding of Mardin by an autocratic curator who imposes a certain view upon the city, its memory and its history. Instead, the proposal is to conceive the Biennial as a Mardin carnival, therefore evoking such concepts as game, chance, spontaneity, serendipidy, intimacy and collectivity as means for political resistance.

Such a biennial will undoubtedly be more captivating for the locals who had previously been alienated from art events in their own city as well as for the visiting outsiders who will be exposed to exhibits that truely engage with their context. More importantly, it will give the artists that will participate in the Mardin Biennial a chance to experience this city and bond with its unique imaginative and poetic world.


Döne Otyam / Ankara

A graduate of French Language and Literature from Hacettepe University, Otyam also attended art courses in Bilkent and Hacettepe Universities. She founded Abitus and Zon galleries, she has also been the director of various other galleries and opened many exhibitions. Otyam has worked for various TV corporations as art director producing art related programs. She also 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. She was the curator and director of the 1st Mardin Biennial. Otyam continues to work as an art consultant. Most recently, she assumed the art consultant post of the m1886 art projects in Ankara.


Biennial Team

Döne Otyam

Ferhat Özgür

Fırat Arapoğlu

Ferhat Satıcı

Hakan Irmak

Cludia Segura Campins

Fikret Atay

Hülya Özdemir

Canan Budak

Mehmet Hadi Baran

Mehmet Sait Tunç

Mesut Alp

Cansın Seyhan

Can Bulgu

İlkay Bilgiç

Arzu Altınay

Mehmet Çimen

Koray Erkinay