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View of “‘Untitled’ (Death by Gun),” 2011, Antrepo 3, Istanbul. Clockwise from left: Chris Burden, Shoot, 1971; Eddie Adams, Viet Cong Prisoner Being Escorted, Saigon, 1968; Eddie Adams, Street Execution of a Viet Cong Prisoner, Saigon, 1968; Eddie Adams, General Holstering Gun After Execution, Saigon, 1968; Roy Lichtenstein, The Gun in America (Time Magazine), 1968.

the 12th Istanbul Biennial

View of “‘Untitled’ (Death by Gun),” 2011, Antrepo 3, Istanbul. Clockwise from left: Chris Burden, Shoot, 1971; Eddie Adams, Viet Cong Prisoner Being Escorted, Saigon, 1968; Eddie Adams, Street Execution of a Viet Cong Prisoner, Saigon, 1968; Eddie Adams, General Holstering Gun After Execution, Saigon, 1968; Roy Lichtenstein, The Gun in America (Time Magazine), 1968.

IF EVER THERE WAS a large-scale international exhibition where the curators were in control rather than the artists, the 2011 Istanbul Biennial was it. For those of us who tend to think that a show’s complexity should lie in the artworks assembled rather than in the framing device imposed by the curators (here, Jens Hoffmann and Adriano Pedrosa), this exhibition presented a challenge. That said, the show marked an interesting shift in the understanding of the biennial: Long treated as a site for unpredictable (and consequently not always successful) new productions, in Istanbul it became the vehicle for a tidy, perfectly planned exhibition. Here every work was carefully selected and precisely placed so as to resonate with other works. Nowhere was an individual piece given a chance to break out of the rigorous grid structure that governed the entire enterprise. If creative chaos

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