The increase in consumption, be it material or in abstract realms, presented a challenge for people to catch up with and increased at a rate that natural human desire found difficult to follow. In technological terms, for example, when we take a new device or mobile phone out of the box, it is already announcing the arrival of a newer version. With the advancement of super fast communication tools, social changes or the impact of these social changes on our planet have also been extremely difficult to adopt and translate into our daily thinking.
In other words, a brand new, consumption-based and arguably rapidly evolving civilization is being built. Compared to previous ones, the geographic influence of the elements in this new civilization is also spreading across the globe.
While the concept of civilization is reflected with such development in the world, the Commagene Biennale meets art lovers at the cradle of Commagene Kingdom in Adıyaman’s Kahta district, which with its historical and cultural mosaic is a destination waiting to be discovered become of the distinguished cities of Mesopotamian geography. The region has hosted many civilizations to date including the Commagene Kingdom, Hittites, Mitannis, Arameans, Assyrians, late Hittites, Persians, Kummurs, Alexander the Great of Macedonia and in the near past including the Seljuks and Ottomans.
Founded by Mithridates I Callinicus, who claimed to be a descendant of the king of Armenia, the kingdom of Commagene ruled between 109 BC and 109 AD. and 72 AD Mesopotamia and the great Euphrates and served as a buffer state between ancient Rome and Persia. Founded by Macedonians in a country where Persian culture reigns supreme, Commagene became a personification of the marriage of East and West seen in its culture. Although people used Greek culture, the rulers of this kingdom did not hide their admiration for Persian, Assyrian and Armenian cultures.
The Biennale presents a total of 53 artworks by artists from 23 countries in six landmarks in Kahta and on an island off Nevali Çori. The island is the main setting, however the exhibitions and artist installations are located at various historical landmarks including the magnificent Nemrut Peak, the newly renovated Kahta Castle, Karakuş Tumulus, Arsemia and the Cendere Bridge. The Biennale is the first in the region. Aside from Nemrut Peak, other historical sites and archeological developments are not well known. However, the impressive efforts of the Silkroad Development Agency (SDA), Adıyaman Governorate and Kahta District are signs that a new art wave will undoubtedly sweep the region in the near future.
Since the place was home to many civilizations, the traces of this rich cultural structure paved the way for the idea of creating an “imaginary civilization” within the framework of the Biennale, raising the questions: “Is it possible to create a new civilization in a world where even the most civilized people engage in unacceptable behavior?” and “Can we think about the existence of other dimensions in these relationships between man and man, man and nature, gastronomy, music, architecture, archeology and fashion?”
I was swept away by each installation as we were guided by curator Nihat Özdal. In a way, each unique work gathered under the theme “an imaginative civilization” connects the chaos of the past with the chaos of the present, in which we live mind travels simultaneously through several eras of art and history.
Experience the fusion of art and nature as you visit five island installations created during the construction of the Ataturk Dam on the Euphrates. As you climb a steep nearly 1-kilometer route, watch the glorious sunrise from Nemrut peak, home to the mausoleum of Antiochus I (69–34 BC), first ruler of the ancient kingdom of Commagene, and UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. Here you will be greeted by three installations as part of the exhibition. The Kahta Castle, for example, houses works by Turkish and international artists in the landmark, which is perched on a high cliff and offers a majestic view of the region. I have to mention here that all the materials used for the exhibition and the artworks are natural elements and components.
The biennial, which began August 20 and runs through October 20, aims to boost tourism in the region while breaking some chains in the relationship between locals and modern art. Undoubtedly it has made a difference in both areas so far. Both Adıyaman Governor Mahmut Çuhadar and Kahta District Governor Selami Korkutata, as well as Adıyaman Museum Director Mehmet Alkan confirmed that tourist numbers in 2022 increased drastically compared to previous years.