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Hakan Topal

Associate Professor of New Media and Graphic Design

Doris and Carl Kempner Distinguished Professor 2023-2025

Hakan Topal is an artist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. In 2000, he co-founded xurban_collective (2000-12), an international art and research group, and presented his personal and collective work at leading art museums and biennials. He represented Turkey in the 49th Venice Biennial; participated in the 8th Istanbul Biennial, Greater New York at MoMA PS1, 9th Gwangju Biennial, and 8th Bucharest Biennial. His work has been commissioned by numerous international organizations and museums, including Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna; KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; ZKM Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe; Sextant Et Plus, Marseille; the National Contemporary Art Museum, Athens, and the International Center of Photography (ICP) for his contribution to Perpetual Revolution: The Image and Social Change. Topal studied engineering (BS) and Gender and Women’s Studies (MS) at Middle East Technical University, where he worked as a researcher at the Audio-Visual Research and Production Center between 1996 to 2000. He received his Ph.D. in Sociology from the New School for Social Research, New York. He is currently an Associate Professor of New Media and Art+Design at Purchase College, the State University of New York.

For more information:

More About Me

Research Interests

Contemporary Art; Sociology of Art and Design; Commons, Social Engagement and Community Arts; Cultural Institutions, Art Biennials and Museums; Art and Technology; Aesthetic Justice; Geopolitics, Ecology and Borders.

Representative Courses

Fall 2023

  • Social Design (Design & New Media)
  • Senior Seminar I (New Media)
  • Critical Topics I (MFA Program)

Past: Spring 2022

  • Design Principles (New Media)
  • Information Aesthetics (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: