How can we get along with one another? What does it mean to show empathy and care for the people around us, and how should we relate to our neighbours? In a world of reinforced borders, social and political atomisation, and rising distrust and fear, what does it mean to be a good neighbour? Bridging commercial and art photography, Lukas Wassmann’s contribution to the Istanbul Biennial is an artwork that is simultaneously a billboard campaign.
The project, made in collaboration with the curators Elmgreen & Dragset and graphic designer Rupert Smyth, presents a series of text and image reflections about what it means to be a good neighbour. Wassmann’s photographs are accompanied by some of the forty questions that the curators listed in their first curatorial statement, which seek to determine the aspects, subtleties and ethics involved in neighbourliness. The billboards serve as a conceptual intervention into public space, with works placed around the city, and with the collaboration of several institutions in Istanbul and in cities around the world. The campaign operates ambiguously, with laconic humour, depicting specific scenarios in which people are forced or invited to enter into situations of proximity: an elderly man with groceries crossing paths with a man on a motorcycle, for instance, or a car driving past a figure standing in the cold. Alongside these images of everyday interactions, a series of questions investigate the expectations we place and habits we devise concerningthe people around us. How have behavioural norms changed around the world with globalisation and increased borders? Can co-existence be used as a political and personal mode of living and working? A related notion concerns the space in which these works are presented– billboards normally used for commercial purposes, appropriated as a common ground for communal concerns.