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Artists in Istanbul grapple with migration, loss

The refugee crisis sparked by war and economic upheaval in the Middle East leaves its mark on the Istanbul Biennial and satellite events.

The Turkish artist Volkan Aslan’s film installation about displacement for the 15th Istanbul Biennial reminds us that borders are arbitrary. It was therefore fitting that the artist would also present the work on the Greek island of Lesbos, where thousands of refugees are stranded in what is in essence their temporary, makeshift home.

The triptych “Home Sweet Home” follows two women going about their lives in what appears to be dreamy domesticity, but their home is then revealed to be a vessel plying the Bosporus Strait in search of an elusive safe haven. The new work is being shown simultaneously in Istanbul, where the theme of this year's biennial is “A Good Neighbour,” and in Lesbos, where it occupies the upper floor of the Mytilene Municipal Art Gallery, located in what had been the Ottoman governor's mansion.

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