Pavilion of Türkiye at the Venice Biennale – Venezia (Italia)
20 maggio – 26 novembre 2023

Curated by Sevince Bayrak and Oral Göktaş, Ghost Stories: The Carrier Bag Theory of Architecture will be presented at the Türkiye Pavilion as part of the Venice Architecture Biennale between May 20 and November 26, 2023. The Türkiye Pavilion is coordinated by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV), co-sponsored by Schüco Turkey and VitrA, and realised with the contribution of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Türkiye.

Ghost Stories: The Carrier Bag Theory of Architecture questions the accepted perceptions of and approaches to buildings to reveal more hopeful proposals for the future. Elizabeth Fisher’s Carrier Bag Theory of Evolution argues that, rather than hunting tools, the first cultural device used by humans was probably a carrier bag, which allowed them to transport the vegetables they gathered. Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1986 essay, “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction,” expanded this idea, moving away from the notion of the weapon-wielding hero. Based on this, the exhibition suggests listening to and understanding the stories of abandoned buildings, rather than focusing on more heroic, successful examples. The adaption of carrier bag theories, from evolution to architecture, brings a radical change to the images we have inherited, whether through the paintings on the walls of prehistoric caves, in stories, or in the modern cityscape. When these images start to change, this requires a shift in our way of doing things. Thus the shift from focusing on the image of a weapon to that of a carrier bag eventually transforms the whole scene from a heroic story of destruction to a collaborative, unfamiliar life story.

The research for the exhibition included an open call, launched in December 2022, aimed at compiling recent documentation of unused buildings across Türkiye. Considering these buildings as “the laboratory of the future,” the exhibition introduces novel tools and methods to transform rather than demolish existing structures, based on collective dreams and discussions.

Following the open call, an archive comprising images of hundreds of residences, building complexes and abandoned production sites, partially or completely empty skyscrapers, hotels, schools, hospitals, restaurants and recreational facilities was created thanks to the responses of contributors from all over Türkiye. One of the focal points of the exhibition—how to reinforce and reuse existing building stock—becomes even more urgent after the devastating earthquakes in Kahramanmaraş, which affected 13.5 million people, leaving thousands in need of temporary housing.

In addition to the exhibition, the curators are preparing a book that sheds light on the research process and findings of the exhibition and aims to involve architects and architecture students in the discussions it raises. Written by Sevince Bayrak and designed by Esen Karol, the book will be available in English and co-published by İKSV and ListLab.

Ghost Stories: The Carrier Bag Theory of Architecture is curated by Sevince Bayrak and Oral Göktaş. The project team consists of Aysima Akın, Kevser Reyyan Doğan, Merve Akdoğan and the research team includes Taylan Tosun, Doğu Tonkur, Hatice Bahar Çoklar, Berke Şevketoğlu, Duygu Sayğı. Exhibition design is by SO? Architecture and Ideas, the graphic design is by Esen Karol and the web developer is Özhan Binici.

The Türkiye Pavilion exhibition is coordinated by İKSV with the contribution of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Türkiye, and co-sponsored by Schüco Turkey and VitrA, with the airline partnership of Turkish Airlines. The Türkiye Pavilion has taken part in the International Architecture Exhibition since 2014, thanks to the acquisition of the permanent venue at Sale d’Armi, Arsenale on the initiation of İKSV and with the support of 21 sponsors.

Read the manifesto for The Carrier Bag Theory of Architecture here.