The Wish Machine

Coordinated by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (ÝKSV), Turkey’s contribution to the biennale presents The Wish Machine, a project undertaken by the Istanbul-based multidisciplinary design studio, Autoban.

The wish-tree has cultural roots that extend back to Neolithic times and is deeply rooted in the ancient Anatolian faith and tradition parallel to ancient Greek, Kabala or Persian believes. It operates on a simple mechanism that involves affixing a note or a memento to a branch of a tree as an act of hope born out of hopelessness. In this act, the tree emerges as a place of last resort where one pins one’s hopes on unseen powers that can change fate to our advantage. The Wish Machine takes this multi-cultural tradition as the key insight into how design and utopia could cooperate.

The design of the installation, which appears as a pneumatic system exhaling in a mirrored space, invites visitors to interact by writing their hopes, futures, utopias and whishes down and placing the paper in the tube system to send it to a place unknown. The physical surrounding where the carriage of the papers can be transparently seen is covered by reflective surfaces, suggesting an eternity. The design empathetically allows the public to experience a communication with the unknown and having a glimpse into what has become the greatest existential social challenge for Europe.

Thomas More could have not imagined how his bequest utopia changed tremendously within time. Global warming, growing violence, war and terror are threatening the human future and causing displacement and migration. In these dark moments, utopias become more evident and important.

There’s a new reality of social movements and change in which Turkey is the epicenter by being a land bridge from the Middle East to Europe. Looking at the maps of migration, one can see the emergence of a new kind of wish-tree around Europe. Not in the form of tying small notes to a tree, but manifest in the determination to go in person to fulfill a wish. It can be seen as an extreme utopic gesture, where the “Utopia” is developed and designed on the scale of an individual, sending their hopes wishing to reach into the unknown.


In forming the The Wish Machine, Seyhan Özdemir and Sefer Çađlar, founders of Autoban, were motivated by the utopian idea of detaching from all known parameters belonging to the past and the present to dream for a better future. This positively provocative approach to suggest solutions for humanity and the act of dreaming was their biggest inspiration to reflect in their own field of design. The biggest problem they designated in today’s world was the inability to express an idea or a dream about a more positive future, without constantly having to struggle with the chaos. Systems that were previously designed to create a ‘perfect’ order in the chaos that aroused from diversity mostly failed at the end. As the search for the perfect system is an endless voyage, Utopia was an inspirational resource for the idea of ‘being triggered for searching.’ In this way, the creation of constructive thinking and always keeping the essence of hope became the duo’s main design goal.

Autoban has worked in an interdisciplinary and collective setting with different expertise, to make a real, interactive, and perfectly working mechanical system, custom designed for the biennale space. In their design approach for the London Design Biennale, the company have looked in possibilities to express familiar traditions in new representations, and to build a century-long well-known system with a surprisingly new form and function.