Charles Esche

I HAVE TO DECLARE A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF PERSONAL INTEREST in my choice of the Eleventh International Istanbul Biennial as the best show of the year, given that I’ve been on the advisory board of the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts since 2005. Nevertheless, I saw the latest edition as so full of the possibility (and impossibility) of what art can do in the world that I cannot avoid highlighting it in a survey of 2009.

“What Keeps Mankind Alive?” was the titular question posed by the Zagreb-based curatorial collective What, How & for Whom (WHW). Like the oft-posed revolutionary question “What is to be done?” it serves both an interrogative and a rhetorical purpose. On one level, the question “What keeps mankind alive?” could imply that we sometimes fail to do so, a fate recalled by Territory 1995, 2009 (an extensive work by Marko Peljhan about the Srebrenica massacre), and by Hrair

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