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Hakan Topal

Associate Professor of New Media and Graphic Design

Hakan Topal (born in Turkey) is an artist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. He was the co-founder of an international art collective, xurban_collective (2000-12), and exhibited his collective and individual artworks and research projects extensively, in institutions such as the 8th and 9th Istanbul Biennials; Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21), Vienna; Kunst-Werke, Berlin; ZKM Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe; MoMA PS1; Platform, Istanbul; the 9th Gwangju Biennial and ICP Museum, New York. Topal represented Turkey in various international exhibitions including the Turkish Pavilion at the 49th Venice Biennial. His texts and projects have been featured in various international journals, books, and catalogs. He studied engineering (B.S.) and Gender and Women’s Studies (M.S.) at Middle East Technical University and received his Ph.D. in Sociology from the New School for Social Research. He is an Associate Professor of New Media and Art+Design at Purchase College, State University New York.

For more information:

More About Me

Research Interests

Sociology of Art and Design, Urban Sociology, Commons and Social Engagement, Community Arts, Contemporary Art Biennials and Museums, Art and Technology, New Media, Social Design, Social Justice, Aesthetic Justice, New Institutions, Political Activism and Art

Representative Courses


Fall 2022

  • Social Design (Design & New Media)
  • Design Principles (New Media)
  • Critical Topics II (MFA Program)

Spring 2022

  • Design Principles (New Media)
  • Information Esthetics (Design & New Media)


For a complete publication list, please visit:


Presentations / Conferences

Recent Presentations


  • Temporary Assembly of Living Things: A talk with Gurur Ertem & Hakan Topal. Depo Istanbul.


  • Power of Water: GoundWork Online Conference. GroundWork Gallery, Norfolk.
  • Bodies, un-protected Conference. Künstlerhaus Mousonturm, Frankfurt


  • Conversations on the Integrities of the Body: Social Wounds. Künstlerhaus Mousonturm, Frankfurt.


  • Media Arts and Art Education in the 21st Century. Mimar Sinan University, Istanbul.
  • Parsons Fine Arts Visiting Artist Lecture Series: Hakan Topal. The New School University, New York.
  • Bodies of Evidence: Ethics, Aesthetics, and Politics of Movement. ”Amor Mundi” at Bimeras. Istanbul
  • Visiting Artist at Datça Summer School. Datça, Turkey.

Exhibitions / Performances

Temporary Assembly of Living Things, May 2022


At Depo Istanbul, a non-for-profit alternative art space, I presented the solo exhibition, Temporary Assembly of Living Things which brought together three related projects that have never been exhibited in Turkey. These were Still Life (2012-16)* is a documentary-based conceptual video composed of silent video portraits of the Roboski Families. Through durational images, the work highlights the political agency of the victims’ relatives in the face of injustice and continuing state violence and harassment. Soil.Water.Ash., I & II (2014, 2022) is composed of two performative videos and an installation produced during the Yatağan power plant worker’s strike against the privatization of Yatağan, Yeniköy and Kemerköy coal power plants, and the ongoing Ikizkoy Resistance against the coal mine destroying the ancient forest. The project presents staged demonstrations and poetically explores some of the visible contradictions and invites the audience to think about the rights of both living and non-living things together. The Golden Cage (2022) is an installation based on the northern bald ibis (a.k.a “kelaynak” in Turkish), the most endangered migratory bird in the Middle East. When Palmyra fell to ISIS, the kelaynak colony, which migrates from Northeast Africa to Birecik (a small town near the Turkish-Syrian border), faced total extinction. In March 2016, the Birecik Kelaynak Reproduction Center decided not to release the birds from the confinement cages to protect them—the center has been keeping a semi-wild population since the late 1970s. The Golden Cage refers to a set of confinements amidst the never-ending catastrophes in the region; it is a poetic examination of artifacts, ruins, water bodies, and organisms spread across a highly nationalized terrain. As the embodied symbol of the state, the cage is enacted through a text translated into multiple languages to create new associations about borders, migrations, entrapments, and untranslatability.

The exhibition booklet can be downloaded here:

As part of the exhibition Temporary Assembly of Living Things, which was on view at Depo until July 8, a conversation was held with the participation of academic Dr. Gurur Ertem.

This exhibition was reviewed by art critic Evrim Altug for DuvaR newspaper (Turkish)

And an Artforum Magazine review, by Kaya Genc is  available in the September, 2022 issue.


I had a solo exhibition at Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, which is currently on view until November 12th. For this immersive exhibition, I worked on a five-channel video installation with sound, text, and artifacts. The Golden Cage explores the impact of human intervention on the life of one of the most endangered bird species across the highly nationalized terrain of the Turkish-Syrian border. The Golden Cage is a part of the Museum’s Birds rotation — a deep dive into the Museum’s Permanent Collection focusing on the fascinating sights and stories of the avian world and the art they’ve inspired throughout history.


For this iteration of the Golden Cage project, besides the installation of a two-channel video installation, and artifacts, a script was performed in Arabic, Armenian, English, German, Kurdish, and Turkish by amateur actors composed of mostly migrants during the exhibition.

You can download the exhibition booklet here: