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Shahzia Sikander at the 13th Istanbul Biennial

October 25, 2013

Shahzia Sikander travels to the 13th Istanbul Biennial and speaks with four fellow artists and a two-person design collective about their projects. “There’s so much within the art world that happens by word of mouth, by engaging, by making a connection,” says Sikander.

Artists address not only the concepts that underlie their work, but also the public protests in Gezi Park and Taksim Square—also known as the Gezi Resistance—that began three months before the Biennial opened and impacted its organization.

Sikander discusses the palpability of social unrest in Istanbul and describes an “energy and anxiousness” that would occasionally erupt. Diego Bianchi, Gülsün Karamustafa, Basim Magdy, Hito Steyerl, and RAAAF (formerly Rietveld Landscape) are also featured in the film. The 13th Istanbul Biennial was on view September 14–October 20, 2013.

More information and credits


Art21 Artist to Artist Created & Produced by: Ian Forster. Director: David Howe. Editor: Morgan Riles. Cinematography: Murat Otunc. Additional Cinematography: Amanda Long. Sound: Mert Aksuna & Ian Forster. Assistant Editor: Stephanie Andreou. Music: Pinch Music. Images Courtesy: Eda Elif Tibet. Artists: Diego Bianchi, Gülsün Karamustafa, Basim Magdy, RAAAF (formerly Rietveld Landscape), Shahzia Sikander, & Hito Steyerl. Thanks: Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts, Fulya Erdemci, & SALT. An Art21 Workshop Production. © Art21, Inc. 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Shahzia Sikander

Shahzia Sikander specializes in Indian and Persian manuscript painting, a traditional, technique-driven style that Sikander imbued with a personal context and history, blending the Eastern focus on precision and methodology with a Western emphasis on creative, subjective expression. In doing so, Sikander transported manuscript painting into the realm of contemporary art. Expanding the manuscript painting to the wall, Sikander also creates murals and installations, using tissue-paper-like materials that allow for a more free-flowing style. Utilizing performance and various media and formats to investigate issues of border crossing, she seeks to subvert stereotypes of the East and, in particular, the Eastern Pakistani woman.

Gülsün Karamustafa

Gülsün Karamustafa was born in 1946 in Ankara, Turkey. She lives and works in Istanbul. Including painting, sculpture, video, and installation, Karamustafa’s work deals with gender, migration, identity, and history.

Basim Magdy

Basim Magdy was born in 1977 in Assiut, Egypt. He now lives in Basel and Cairo. His interest in the unconscious and memory is at the root of his often-surreal works on paper, film, photography, and installation.

Diego Bianchi

Diego Bianchi was born in 1969 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he continues to live and work, making large-scale sculpture and installations. His immersive sculptural installations are constructed with found objects, drawing attention to the excess and waste of consumer culture.

Hito Steyerl

Hito Steyerl was born in 1966 in Munich and now lives and works in Berlin. A filmmaker, philosopher, and cultural critic, Steyerl roots her investigative practice in the proliferation of digital images and the large-scale implications of such circumstances. Steyerl’s work takes the form of essays, lectures, installations, video, and photography.


Established in the Netherlands in 2006, the design collective RAAAF (Rietveld Architecture-Art-Affordances) consists of the brothers Ronald and Erik Rietveld and Arna Mačkić. With backgrounds in architecture, design, and philosophy, the members of RAAAF produce context-specific works that imagine potential ways of living.

Shahzia Sikander

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Shahzia Sikander discusses the goddesses featured in her work, and her methodology for interconnecting various cultures and their corresponding aesthetics in her installations.