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International artists explore fragmented Middle East in Istanbul

The 2017 Istanbul Biennial asks what makes a good neighbor in a world plagued by war, repression and division.
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The first image that appears on screen is that of a boy mimicking the overflight of planes. He then pretends to be armed and searching for a village, throwing hand grenades and raking a target with bursts from a machine gun. Deaf and mute, 13-year-old Mohammed escaped from Kobani, in northern Syria, shortly after Islamic State fighters seized it in January 2015.

In the short video by Erkan Ozgen, a Turkish-Kurdish artist from Diyarbakir, Mohammed uses his body to express the violence he has witnessed. When he concludes his on-screen narrative with a swift hand movement that indicates a decapitation, a half-suppressed scream arose in the darkened room where a dozen people breathlessly watched. As the audience got up to leave, one young man remarked, “Perhaps a good neighbor is simply one who doesn't kill you.”

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