The UK artist Monster Chetwynd will unveil a new sculptural children’s playground in Istanbul as part of the 16th biennial launching there later this month (14 September-10 November). The permanent piece is due to be installed in Maçka Sanat Park, a popular green space.
“Monster Chetwynd’s Gorgon’s Head Playground is inspired by the heads of Medusa that were discovered in the city’s sixth-century Basilica Cistern,” a project statement says. Slides modelled on snakes will form part of the new playground. The ambitious children’s project, made in collaboration with local artists, will also pay “tribute to the stray cats of Istanbul and the Gardens of Bomarzo in central Italy”, the organisers add.
During the biennial, Chetwynd will also present a series of sculptures on Büyükada island depicting hybrid creatures, melding a snake, a crocodile, a spider and a bat with humanoid forms. Last winter, the Turner Prize-nominated performance artist, who has formerly been known as “Marvin Gaye” and “Spartacus”, adorned the exterior of Tate Britain in London with two giant slugs illuminated by blue and white LED lights.
The 16th edition of the Istanbul Biennial, entitled The Seventh Continent, focuses on the formation of a huge mass of waste—3.4 million sq. km area of floating plastic in the Pacific Ocean. The biennial has endured, because “we have hired excellent curators who present timely themes linked to both global and local concerns,” says Bige Orer, the biennial director.
This year’s curator, Nicolas Bourriaud, is focusing on the Anthropocene (the impact of humanity on the planet), “reformulating our understanding of the world”, Orer says. She points to the use of different “non-commercial spaces” in the city over the years, a means of keeping the biennial fresh.
But the organisers were forced to abandon one of this year’s key venues, the shipyards at the city’s southern end, after asbestos, which can present health risks, was found in some spaces.
Familiar names such as Glenn Ligon, Mika Rottenberg, Simon Starling and Simon Fujiwara are among the 57 featured artists and artist collectives, while participating Turkish artists include Ozan Atalan.