New Civic Rituals
Microbial Fruits of Istanbul
Orkan Telhan + elii (A project by IMNA)
Project description

Supported by Acción Cultural Española (AC/E), Weitzman School of Design and Kadıköy Municipality.

Microbial Fruits of Istanbul is a platform that tells the complex histories of Istanbul community gardens (bostans) from the perspective of microorganisms. A garden of gardens, a hybrid between a soil microbiology lab and a fruit tree, it displays microbial cultures collected from a variety of gardens in the city of Istanbul, which date back over 1,500 years.

Developing a new ‘oral-culture’, this installation will allow the audience to experience, empathise with, and learn about the heritage of gardens in relation to the ecological and socio-political realities of our time. When the microbial fruits are ready to be tasted by visitors, a robotic speaking parrot delivers their histories in the form of fables written for future generations. By using microbes that have evolved in the micro-climates of the Istanbul gardens, the project invites visitors to consume place-specific histories shaped by climate change.

Microbial Fruits of Istanbul is a project by the Mutant Institute of Environmental Narratives (IMNA), Matadero Madrid's laboratory for climate action, in partnership with Istanbul University Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Kokopelli Sehirde and Nadas collectives. The microbial cultures used in the project will be shared with the support of Kokopelli Sehirde and Nadas Istanbul.

This project is commissioned in co-production with the Mutant Institute of Environmental Narratives (IMNA) of Matadero Madrid .


Orkan Telhan (Turkey/USA) is an interdisciplinary artist, designer and researcher who investigates critical issues of social, cultural and environmental responsibility. Telhan is Associate Professor of Fine Arts – Emerging Design Practices, at University of Pennsylvania, Weitzman School of Design. He holds a PhD in Design and Computation from MIT's Department of Architecture. Telhan's individual and collaborative work has been exhibited internationally in venues including the Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul Design Biennial, Milano Design Week, Architectural Association, Matadero Madrid, the Architectural League of New York, MIT Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Walker Art Center.

elii (Spain) is an architecture office established in Madrid in 2006 by Uriel Fogué, Eva Gil and Carlos Palacios. Its professional practice extends to the field of teaching (ETSAM, UE in Madrid, and EPFL, in Lausanne) and research (‘Cyborg Garden – Mutant Institute of Environmental Narratives’, Matadero Madrid). Elii was part of the Spanish Pavilion during the 15th Venice Biennial of Architecture (awarded the 2016 Golden Lion). Two of the practice’s works have been selected for the European Union Prize For Contemporary Architecture – Mies Van Der Rohe Award (2015, 2019). It has won the COAM Prize on six occasions (2018, 2017, 2016, 2013, 2011, 2006). Elli’s members are also the authors of the book What is Home Without a Mother (13th Biennial of Spanish Architecture and Urbanism Award, 2015). The work Yojigen Poketto was selected as one of the twenty visionary domestic spaces of the last 100 years in the exhibition Home Stories 100 Years, 20 Visionary Interiors, at the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein (2020).

The Mutant Institute of Environmental Narratives or IMNA is an artistic laboratory for the environment at the Centre for Contemporary Creation Matadero Madrid. It promotes art, fiction and collective intelligence strategies as the basis for cultural innovation and social transformation to address the current climatic and health crisis. IMNA is a space for research, experimental creation and learning. It operates through an interdisciplinary network that brings together an international group of artists, designers, researchers, scientists, engineers, architects, public policy makers and many other agents. In 2018, IMNA launched the Cyborg Garden project, which works through art and interdisciplinary practices to design a garden in Matadero Madrid that tests nature-based solutions for adaptation to climate change. It is a space for trialling forms of coexistence between humans and non-humans. Microbial Fruits of Matadero was one of the seeds of the Cyborg Garden, which is now bearing fruit in Istanbul.



#microbial #bodily

Kokopelli Sehirde + Nadas Istanbul
This project opens in April 2021.
Özgürlük Park
More New Civic Rituals