Microbial Fruits of Istanbul is a platform that narrates the complex histories of Istanbul’s community gardens (called bostans) from the microbes’ point of view. This is a garden of gardens, a cross between a soil microbiology laboratory and a fruit tree showcasing microbial cultures collected in this historic gardens for more than 1500 years.
Drawing its inspiration from the kiosks scattered around the streets of Istanbul, the MFoI platform stands in the middle of Özgürlük Park like a strange figure piquing the curiosity of passers-by, inviting them to meet these other “neighbors” in the city. MFoI is a meeting-place for humans and microbes, a nexus between History and bio-geo-histories; between the Istanbul molded by generations of its human inhabitants and the other, parallel Istanbuls that exist under our feet, in the soil, and that (as Isabelle Stengers put it) are the “product of a history of co-evolution whose first craftsmen and true authors throughout were the innumerable populations of microorganisms.”
When the kiosk opens, unfolding its roof, a chatty robotic parrot tells stories in the form of fables written for future generations. At the same time as it puts into practice this new “oral culture”, the MFoI station distributes a fermentation kit that includes a recipe and ingredients to make edible “microbial fruits”. By ingesting the microorganisms, citizens are invited to get closer to the city’s other (microbiological) heritage, and to wonder what it means to “belong” to a place (who’s the local here, anyway?).
MFoI is an infrastructure that relates apparently unconnected worlds that in fact have existed side by side for ages, in ordinary rituals such as cooking (in fermented foods such as wine, cheese, and beer), design (in materials, in pigments), or in urban development (in the sewage systems, in health and hygiene policies). By interacting with the platform and coming into contact with these microbes, which have evolved in the microclimate of the bostans, visitors to Istanbul experience in their own flesh how many of the phenomena that occur on a city-wide scale (e.g., gentrification, loss of biodiversity, climate change, and the problems affecting future generations) take place in parallel in their own intestines on a micro-biotic scale. Indeed, humans are not so different from the bostans in Istanbul: in the end, we’re all “architectures of microorganisms.”
Microbial Fruits of Istanbul is a project by Orkan Telhan + elii [architecture office] at the 5th Istanbul Design Biennial for the Mutant Institute of Environmental Narratives (IMNA), a coproduction with Matadero Madrid and the support of AECID, the Weitzmen School of Design, the Township of Kadıköy. At the Biennial, MFoI formed part of the New Civic Rituals. This project was carried out in association with the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Istanbul University and with the Kokopelli Sehirde and Nadas collectives.
Architects coordinators of the project: elii – Lucía Fernández; İKSV - Eda Hisarlıoğlu, Mert Karaçıkay
5th Istanbul Design Biennial: Mariana Pestana - Curator of the 5th Istanbul Design Biennial; Sumitra Upham - Curator of Programmes; Billie Muraben - Assistant Curator & Deputy Editor; Nur Horsanalı, Ulya Soley, and Eyül Şenses - Curatorial group in Istanbul
Microbial Fruits of Istanbul:Orkan Telhan + elii [oficina de arquitectura];(Uriel Fogué + Eva Gil + Carlos Palacios)
Collaborators: elii - Lucía Fernández, Ana López, Raquel García, Marta Vaquero, Sofía Iatrou, Stefania Rasile, Teresa Martínez.
Production assistants: İKSV - Esra Yavuz, Damla Ertem
Laboratory work: Istanbul University Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics
Local hosts: Kokopelli Sehirde, Nadas Istanbul
Carpentry: Özkan Şener, Abdullah Tutuk
Locksmith: Birim Metal Works
Biomanufacturing:Inovatif Ltd. Sti.
Graphic designer of the Biennial: Studio Maria João Macedo
Exhibition designers: Future Anecdotes
Sound Designer: Max Sterling
Fotography + video footage MFoI: Engin Gerçek
Fotography Reassembly:Eda Hisarlıoğlu
Video montage MFoI: elii –Sofía Iatrou
Video “Where Do Gardens Come From?”Concept: Orkan Telhan + elii [oficina de arquitectura] (Uriel Fogué + Eva Gil + Carlos Palacios)
Videography and soundtrack: Austin Fisher