Winter 2015

About the Magazine

Northwestern is the quarterly alumni magazine for Northwestern University.
Contact or contribute to the magazine.


The Block Bridges the Bosphorus

The 14th Istanbul Biennial, one of the world’s top exhibitions of contemporary art, attracted a high-flying collection of artists, art lovers and museum professionals when it was held in September. Among all those visitors were an impressive number from Northwestern, proof that the University’s reputation continues to grow among art-world professionals.

That touch of purple started at the top: Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, the Edith Kreeger Wolf Distinguished Visiting Professor in the art theory and practice department, was the biennial’s curator, in charge of planning the exhibition’s overall direction. Fellow art department faculty Steve Reinke, Michael Rakowitz and Irena Knezevic had work featured at the show, where they were assisted by five graduate student interns. In addition, students in the global humanities class “Art, Politics and Public Space — Istanbul and Chicago” attended the biennial as part of their coursework.

During a two-day complementary education program called “Freshwater/Saltwater: A Seminar on Aesthetics and Waterways,” mathematics professor Ezra Getzler discussed the relevance of the major U.S. geometer William Thurston to modern art. Getzler’s lecture was one of several on fundamental aspects and patterns of creative activity in both the arts and sciences during the seminar, which was supported by the Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Studies and the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts. It included several faculty members from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and brought together physicists, artists, art historians, mathematicians and the musically inclined.

Respiro by Sarkis
Respiro, an installation by Turkish artist Sarkis

Block director Lisa Corrin, who taught at a girl’s school in the Turkish city of Izmir early in her career, says connections between Turkey and Northwestern benefit students of all backgrounds. “Turkey is one of the most important countries in the world,” she says. “It’s been a crossroads for millennia, and what happens there is consequential for Europe, the Middle East, Asia and, of course, the United States. Learning about Turkey is a way to understand how the current political map is being reshaped and rebalanced.” 

The Northwestern-Turkish connection has been strengthened by the Keyman Modern Turkish Studies Program, named in honor of Northwestern trustee Melih Keyman and his wife, Zeynep. Acting as a bridge between campus and modern Turkey, the program offers study grants, brings Turkish scholars to campus and sponsors a study abroad program in Istanbul. Zeynep, who is on the Block’s board of advisers, recently purchased and donated to the Block its first work of Turkish contemporary art, Night Shift by Vahap Avşar.— E.C.B.