“Invisible Istanbul: Captured Images” - AR intervention into the Istanbul Biennial

by Tamiko Thiel

This work series is located in and around the buildings of the Istanbul Biennial. Inspired by Pedrosa and Hoffmann's curatorial statement referencing the works and methodology of Felix Gonzalez-Torres, these artworks overlay simple everyday objects and forms onto real spaces to "explore the relationship between art and politics" in the new medium of Augmented Reality (AR), which by its very nature is "both formally innovative and politically outspoken."

The AR artworks are geolocated via GPS into the exhibits of the 12th Istanbul Biennial to "push the themes decidedly further" and relate them to contemporary political and social issues. To cite Pedrosa and Hoffmann, "In response to those today who devalue the exhibition as the primary format of artistic and curatorial expression," the AR artworks "advocate for renewed attention to the importance of the exhibition itself."

The difference is that with AR technology, participation is the decision of the artist, not the curator.

[Istanbul Biennial curatorial statement]

The site:

The 2011 Istanbul Biennial is sited in the Tophane area of Istanbul, where the imperial munitions factory and barracks stood in former times. The AR artworks in "Invisible Istanbul: Captured Images" reference displays of munitions and troops documented in photographs taken for the last Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II. Today, the only remaining structure from former times is the Clock Tower on the lawn of the Istanbul Modern, and this area is used for displays of art, foremost the Istanbul Modern Art Museum and Antrepot 3 and 5 (Sanat Limani), where the Istanbul Biennial is being held in 2011.

Historic photos from the Abdul Hamid II Collection, US Library of Congress archives:
Shells on display
Shells on display in Tophane
Captured cannon on display
Captured cannons on display

Clock Tower
Clock tower

[ << Invisible Istanbul main page ]


"Captured (shells)"

Virtual pencils outside Antrepot 5,
site of the Istanbul Biennial 2011

Inside the group exhibit
"Untitled (Death by Guns)"

In front of Newell Harry's
"Untitled Kape Koloured
Koon Karneval"


"Captured (cannons)"

Virtual pencils on the lawn of the
Istanbul Modern, in front of the Clock Tower

Inside the exhibit "Untitled (Death by Gun)",
next to Kris Martin's "Obussen II"


"Captured (stockade)"

In the exhibit "Untitled (Passport)" the artwork "Captured (stockade)" encircles the viewer completely.


"Captured (cannon balls)"

Captured (cannonballs) - sign
When the "nazar boncugu" glass amulet breaks, it has averted the Evil Eye.


"Captured (for Hrant)"

In Memorium. In "Untitled (Death by Gun)" and set against
Ryue Nishizawa's exhibition architecture for the 2011 Biennial


"Captured (for #RSF_RWB)"

In the exhibit "Untitled (Passport)"

Antrepot 5 floor

Istanbul Modern court


"Captured for Abdul Hamid II)"


Bio / Tamiko Thiel:

Tamiko Thiel is a media artist developing the dramatic and poetic capabilities of various forms of virtual and augmented reality as a medium for exploring social and cultural issues in site-specific artworks.

She has degrees in engineering from Stanford and MIT and a fine arts degree from the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. She exhibits internationally in venues such as the International Center for Photography in New York, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, the ZKM in Karlsruhe and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, and at festivals such as Siggraph, ISEA and Ars Electronica. Her work has been supported by grants from WIRED Magazine, the Japan Foundation, the MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies, Berlin Capital City Cultural Fund (Hauptstadtkulturfonds) and the IBM Innovation Award.

As a founding member of the augmented reality artist group Manifest.AR she participated in the pathbreaking uninvited augmented reality intervention at MoMA NY in 2010, and led the AR intervention at the Venice Biennial in 2011.