It’s not every week that you get to travel with a bunch of great, friendly, broad-thinking artists to see some fantastic international contemporary art in an extraordinary city, but that’s what happened to me last week when I visited the Istanbul Biennial with a-n’s Artists Council.

Earlier this year I was really honoured to be selected as one of the members of Artists Council, an advisory group tasked with feeding in to a-n’s policy and strategy making and ensuring that artists are kept at the absolute heart of everything a-n does. The Artists Council is made up of a group of artists of all ages and backgrounds from across the UK  reflecting the diversity of a-n’s membership. Generally speaking they’re a pretty dynamic bunch, so it was especially exciting to spend five days in their very good company and get to know them a bit better.

We also met up with a delegation from East Street Arts in Leeds and some really useful conversations were had and links made as we bumped in to each other throughout the week in galleries, restaurants and on the Biennial boat.

Monster Chetwynd’s Hybrid Creatures installed on the island of Büyükada

Over the course of four days we were treated to a  packed programme of visits to galleries and museums to see some outstanding artworks from familiar and less familiar names including Monster Chetwynd and Charles Avery, Phoebe Cummings and Ernst Haeckel, and artists new to me such as Eva Kot’atkova, Pia Arke and Haegue Yang.

Above: detail from Simon Fujiwara’s installation, It’s A Small World

Art highlights for me and many others were Simon Fujiwara‘s fantastically memorable installation, It’s A Small World, and Mika Rottenberg‘s film, Spaghetti Blockchain,  both of which managed to draw me in with their quirky humour and superficially seductive aesthetics to hold me in thrall while the dark undertones of the work unsettled my mind.

Above: Still from Mika Rottenberg’s Spaghetti Blockchain.

The great value of the trip though really lay in the relationships which were cemented, the conversations about art, artists and arts practice, and the shared feeling that as artists we can all work together to support each other and maybe help to make the world a better place.