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“What Byzantinism Is This in Istanbul!”

Byzantium in Popular Culture

November 23, 2021 - March 13, 2022

Istanbul Research Institute’s exhibition at the Pera Museum called “What Byzantinism Is This in Istanbul!”: Byzantium in Popular Culture, curated by Emir Alışık, navigates through the eclectic presence of Byzantium in popular culture. With the contribution of its advisors Brigitte Pitarakis, Elif Demirtiken, Felice Lifshitz, Haris Theodorelis-Rigas, Jeremy J. Swist, Marco Fasolio, Roland Betancourt, Sinan Ekim, Vedran Bileta, and Yağmur Karakaya, the exhibition explores multiple and conflicting meanings of Byzantinism and questions popular culture’s interaction with the Byzantine legacy by scrutinizing a selection of motifs representing Byzantium in popular culture.

Accompanied by a comprehensive exhibition catalogue, “What Byzantinism Is This in Istanbul!” borrows its title from Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoğlu’s novel Panorama I-II (1953–1954), where his protagonist exclaims these lines, being frustrated with postwar Turkish society. Karaosmanoğlu knew precisely what he meant by Byzantinism, referring to not only the social unrest and hostility among the nation’s citizens but also the superstitions raging among society at the time, for they found the chaos they were living in otherwise inexplicable. The exhibition has stripped Karaosmanoğlu’s exclamation of its connotations and has taken it at face value, as a genuine question, all the while aiming—among other things—to show that Constantinople/Istanbul is naturally—historically and geographically—Byzantinism’s home turf.

While the academic and archaeological “rediscovery” of Byzantium in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries had in counterpart wide repercussions throughout a wide variety of artistic expressions like painting, architecture, drama, music, and literature, the fascination for Byzantium was amplified over time and blossomed into new directions—from unlikely music and literature genres and painting and film-making techniques to textile production and new narrative mediums like graphic novels.

As access to Byzantine heritage in Constantinople gradually intensified, access to material sources of inspiration for Byzantinism marked a shift from Ravenna to Constantinople. The urban framework of Byzantium’s capital city and its inhabitants are at the core of the contemporary renewed interest in it. These popular materials have broken the boundaries of historical re-enactment and historical fiction, forging the exploration of new ways to appropriate Byzantine forms, history, and materiality as a means to tell unique stories. Although Byzantine history is sometimes mobilized to kindle hostilities by the manipulation of historical facts, the Byzantine legacy is frequently utilized to reflect on complicated sociopolitical issues, too, and are both critically represented in “What Byzantinism Is This in Istanbul!”. Bringing together contemporary novels, metal music, comics and graphic novels, visual arts, video games, movies, and fashion, the exhibition reveals how Byzantinism is a far-stretching phenomenon to be encountered even in places one does not usually look.

Click here to listen to the “What Byzantinism Is This in Istanbul!” podcast!

Image Credits

Max Bedulenko , Streets of Constantinople (2020).
Courtesy of Max Bedulenko.

Jonathan Godoy,The Byzantine Stones, 2007
Fountain pen, with real textures, added digital color and effects
Courtesy of the artist 

Scott EagleThe City of Saints and Madmen, 2001
Acrylic and collage on paper mounted to panel
Courtesy of the artist 

Ozgur Masur, Byzantium’20
Signature Collection

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3D Virtual Tour

Exhibition Catalogue

“What Byzantinism Is This in Istanbul!”

“What Byzantinism Is This in Istanbul!”

“What Byzantinism Is This in Istanbul!”: Byzantium in Popular Culture navigates through the eclectic presence of Byzantium in popular culture. Curated by Emir Alışık, the exhibition explores multiple and conflicting meanings of Byzantinism, and questions popular culture’s interaction with the Byzantine legacy. It scrutinizes a selection of motifs found in visual arts, literature, metal music, comics and graphic novels, video games, movies, and fashion representing Byzantium in popular culture.

“What Byzantinism Is This in Istanbul!”: Byzantium in Popular Culture Exhibition Tour <br> Emir Alışık

“What Byzantinism Is This in Istanbul!”: Byzantium in Popular Culture Exhibition Tour
Emir Alışık

Istanbul Research Institute’s exhibition at the Pera Museum called “What Byzantinism Is This in Istanbul!”: Byzantium in Popular Culture navigates through the eclectic presence of Byzantium in popular culture.

Sailing to Byzantium

Pera Film presents Sailing to Byzantium, an online film program parallel to the exhibitions, From Istanbul to Byzantium and “What Byzantinism Is This in Istanbul!” at Pera Museum.


Pera Learning

Once Upon a Time in Byzantium

In parallel with the exhibition titled “What Byzantinism Is This in Istanbul!”: Byzantium in Popular Culture, Pera Museum Learning Programs present “Once Upon a Time in Byzantium”, a series of engaging and informative online workshops and tours suitable for various age groups.

Half-Term Holiday Workshops

Pera Learning is organizing various online workshops for children between the ages of 7 to 12 as part of its Half-Term Holiday Learning Programs. The event will be held using the Zoom Meeting application, following a guided 3D virtual tour of the exhibitions.

Doublethinking About Big Brother! <br> 11 Quotes from 1984

Doublethinking About Big Brother!
11 Quotes from 1984

Our Doublethink Double vision exhibition’s title alludes to George Orwell’s seminal work 1984 and presents a selection that includes Tracey Emin, Marcel Dzama, Anselm Kiefer, Bruce Nauman, Raymond Pettibon, and Thomas Ruff, as well as Turkish artists, tracing the steps of pluralistic thought through works of art.

Janine Antoni Look At Me!

Janine Antoni Look At Me!

The exhibition Look at Me! Portraits and Other Fictions from the ”la Caixa” Contemporary Art Collection examines portraiture, one of the oldest artistic genres, through a significant number of works of our times. Through the exhibition we will be sharing about the artists and sections in Look At Me!. This time we are sharing about Janine Antoni , exhibited under the section “The Conventions of Identitiy”!

Blurred Reminiscences  <br>Andra Ursuta

Blurred Reminiscences
Andra Ursuta

Pera Museum, in collaboration with Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV), is one of the main venues for this year’s 15th Istanbul Biennial from 16 September to 12 November 2017. Through the biennial, we will be sharing detailed information about the artists and the artworks.