Deniz Ova, the director of Istanbul Design Biennial and Mariana Pestana, the curator of the 5th Istanbul Design Biennial. Photography by: Poyraz Tütüncü.

2020 theme revealed as Empathy Revisited: designs for more than one

Organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV), the 5th Istanbul Design Biennial will take place on 26 September – 8 November 2020. Curator Mariana Pestana announced the theme, Empathy Revisited: designs for more than one at a press conference held on Tuesday, 10 December at Salon İKSV in Istanbul.

Attending the press conference were Deniz Ova, Istanbul Design Biennial Director, and Mariana Pestana, curator of the 5th Istanbul Design Biennial, in addition to press members, academics, and professionals.

Reimagining a role for design concerned with feelings, affects and relations

Starting off from the idea that design comprises the devices, platforms and interfaces through which we relate to one another, Empathy Revisited: designs for more than one wants to think of design as the element that mediates interconnections. In revisiting the origins of the notion of empathy it aims to reimagine a role for design concerned with feelings, affects and relations.

In a time marked by technological speed and environmental crisis, the 5th Istanbul Design Biennial is attentive to practices of care, rituals of connection, and things we can feel with. Curious about new-animism or indigenous perspectivism, the biennial will absorb southern and eastern influences in the way it thinks about the relations between things, between people, and both. The 2020 edition privileges local knowledges and territorial practices in face of the increasing homogeny of a globalizing world. It welcomes the work of professionals and amateurs of all ages and backgrounds.

Embracing myth and ceremony

Empathy Revisited: designs for more than one celebrates commensality and other protocols for sharing. Interested in tables, pots and dinner sets but also virtual reality headsets, digital currencies and online chat rooms, the 5th Istanbul Design Biennial will avoid cataloguing or classifying. Empathy Revisited: designs for more than one will welcome myth and ceremony. It will be about how design brings us together. Some of the fundamental questions that this edition raises are, what structures of collective feeling does design put forward, and how might we design for - and from - more than one perspective, one dimension, one body? It proposes that we address these questions by revitalising our understanding of empathy.

>> Click for the detailed information about the scope and structure of the biennial, and the curator’s text.

Joining Mariana Pestana for the 5th Istanbul Design Biennial’s curatorial team will be Billie Muraben (Assistant Curator & Deputy Editor) and Sumitra Upham (Curator of Programmes). The Istanbul-based group Future Anecdotes will undertake the exhibition design of the biennial, while Studio Maria João Macedo will do the graphic design.

>> Click for more information about the curatorial team.

The biennial will also form a Young Curators Group, composed of young curators based in Istanbul, working as part of the 5th Istanbul Design Biennial. Click for more information.

Two venues: Kitchen and Observatory

The biennial will comprise a Kitchen and an Observatory, which will manifest in two separate venues.

Much like a laboratory, the Kitchen is a place of experimentation, but one open to both professionals and amateurs. From the kitchen we can watch social, economic and urban dynamics. It is a space of hospitality. In the kitchen, the tongue is both for tasting and speaking. The kitchen table conveys the action of bodies other than the office table or the meeting table. Through food we will access the pluriverses that our post-human existence touches upon and constructs, from microbial life to agricultural rituals.

In this programme the kitchen will work both metaphorically and literally. A library of objects comprising dining sets, cutlery, seating arrangements, pots, pans and other objects necessary for the collective preparation and ingestion of food will be on display and in use. Thus the Kitchen will convey different forms of design practice: from plates, tablecloths, chairs and glasses to soups, broths and pickles. A range of guests will be hosting on rotation transforming the space, the menu and the conversations that take place in the Kitchen. This programme is inspired by the cultural significance of the Turkish word “sofra”, which means a ground cloth or table for dining, but more so evokes an act of togetherness.

An open call will be announced in January for projects and events that revolve around the Kitchen. Food practitioners, cooks, product designers, architects and dining enthusiasts, stay tuned!

The Observatory will manifest in the form of exhibition, and will be a platform to watch, record and perform practices of empathy in today’s world. It will comprise tools, devices, installations and other objects; design for more than one perspective, more than one dimension and more than one body.

VitrA’s support continues

The Istanbul Design Biennial thanks VitrA, which has made the realisation of the biennial possible since the inaugural edition in 2012.