Société Réaliste: Cultural States

Société Réaliste: Cultural States


What Keeps Mankind Alive?

Tamás Szentjóby and Société Réaliste – participants of 11. International Istanbul Biennial

ACAX | Agency for Contemporary Art Exchange is glad to announce that Tamás Szentjóby and the cooperative Société Réaliste has been invited to the 11th International Istanbul Biennial. Their work is on display between 12 September – 8 November 2009 at the Biennial.

Ana Dević, one of the curators of the Biennial was invited to Budapest for a curatorial research trip in the frame of ACAX Check in Budapest visitor program in December 2008. Following her visit she invited the artists to participate in the Biennial. The Hungarian contribution is supported by ACAX | Ludwig Museum – Museum of Contemporary Art.

11. ISTANBUL BIENNIAL – What Keeps Mankind Alive?

Curators: What, How and for Whom / WHW (Ivet Ćurlin, Ana Dević, Nataša Ilić, Sabina Sabolović)
Date: 12 September – 8 November 2009
Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Web page:


Invited artists:
Jumana Emil Abboud • Vyacheslav Akhunov • Mounira Al Solh • Nevin Aladağ • Doa Aly • Karen Andreassian • Yüksel Arslan • Zanny Begg • Lida Blinova • Anna Boghiguian • KP Brehmer • Bureau d'études • Cengiz Çekil • Danica Dakić • Lado Darakhvelidze • by Sandi Hilal, Alessandro Petti, Eyal Weizman • Natalya Dyu • Rena Effendi • Işıl Eğrikavuk • Etcétera... • Hans-Peter Feldmann • Shahab Fotouhi • İnci Furni • Igor Grubić • Nilbar Güreş • Margaret Harrison • Sharon Hayes • Vlatka Horvat • Wafa Hourani • Hamlet Hovsepian • Sanja Iveković • Donghwan Jo & Haejun Jo • Jesse Jones • Alimjan Jorobaev • Michel Journiac • KwieKulik [presented by Zofia Kulik] • Siniša Labrović • Signs of Conflict: Political Posters of Lebanon's Civil War [a project by Zeina Maasri] • David Maljković • Marwan • Avi Mograbi • Rabih Mroué • Aydan Murtezaoğlu & Bülent Şangar • Museum of American Art-Belgrade • Marina Naprushkina • Deimantas Narkevičius • Ioana Nemes • Wendelien van Oldenborgh • Mohammad Oussama • Erkan Özgen • Trevor Paglen • Nam June Paik • Marko Peljhan • Darinka Pop-Mitić • Lisi Raskin • María Ruido • Larissa Sansour • Hrair Sarkissian • Ruti Sela & Maayan Amir • Canan Şenol • Société Réaliste • Mladen Stilinović • Tamás St.Auby • Jinoos Taghizadeh • Oraib Toukan • Vangelis Vlahos • Simon Wachsmuth • Artur Żmijewski • What is to be done / Chto delat?


11th International İstanbul Biennial is curated by What, How and for Whom/WHW. The exhibition is entitled 'What Keeps Mankind Alive?', the English translation of the song 'Denn wovon lebt der Mensch?' from The Threepenny Opera, written in 1928 by Bertolt Brecht, in collaboration with Elisabeth Hauptmann and Kurt Weill. The Threepenny Opera thematises the process of redistribution of ownership within bourgeois society and sheds an unforgiving light on various elements of capitalist ideology. Brecht's assertion from this play that 'a criminal is a bourgeois and a bourgeois is a criminal' is as true as ever, and the correspondences of rapid developments of liberal economy on disintegration of hitherto existing social consensus in 1928 and in present times are striking. The concept of the Biennial proposes not to go back to Brecht as a classic that needs to be rediscovered and shown to new generations, but rather to reflect on latencies of the past in the present and investigate possibilities of art to re-examine old and open new relationships between social engagement and aesthetic gesture.

The 11th International Istanbul Biennial takes its title from the closing song of the second act of Bertold Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera: 'Denn wovon lebt der Mensch?’, translated into English as 'What Keeps Mankind Alive?'. The Threepenny Opera thematises the process of redistribution of ownership and sheds an unforgiving light onto a variety of elements of bourgeois ideology. Bringing back Brecht is an attempt to think about the role of artistic endeavour in the conditions of contemporary capitalism, to reevaluate our everyday practices, our value systems and modes of operation. The base of the Biennial’s concept is to pinpoint such phenomena of the present that were only lying in hiding in the past. Another important endeavour of the Biennial is to use given parameters of the biennial format to question the potential of a mainstream cultural institution to both impose and contest dominant social frameworks.

Société Réaliste: Cultural States
The project of Société Réaliste deals with the dissonance of Europe’s political and cultural maps. Through the critical approach of the ‘lost states’ Société Réaliste examines those conditions according to which a given geographical zone could be considered autonomous. Furthermore, whether there are such univocal conditions that provide sufficient foundation for sovereignty.

Tamás Szentjóby: Kentaur

Tamás Szentjóby finished his film entitled Kentaur - definitely of significant importance in his oeuvre - in 1975. However, the film was banned before its final version was created. Its original 16mm negative had been lost. Although the working copy, thanks to György Durst, has been found, after its digital restoration the film will be showcased for the first time to the general public at the Istanbul Biennial.

“In his film Tamás Szentjóby (…) elaborates for him the most esoteric subject with the most esoteric tools given to him: thoughts considered by the least people are reflected to the life lived by the majority: he intersects the socio-realistic documents of 8 hours’ workday/5 days-lifestyle with the artistic documents of inquiring lifestyle.”
(Tábor Ádám: Képrombolás – Kentaur. In: AL 5, summer 1983, 15. p.)

The restoration of Kentaur was supported by:
ACAX | Agency for Contemporary Art Exchange
Ludwig Museum–Museum of Contemporary Art
tranzit. hu | Erste Bank