Elmas Deniz: Dear Köken, Can you tell us a bit about your works?
Köken Ergun: I want to respond to this question by asking another question: Why am I doing all of these works? For me, artistic production results from an existential malaise. Individuals who feel being stranded resort to creative activities as a way out. Albert Camus renders it clearly in his L’Etranger: Out of the blue, a man shoots down another. However, there must be something behind it. The man is burdened with all that being imposed by the world he lives in. There he goes off the deep and shoots one. What’s significant here is not the fact that somebody is shot, or a human being is dying; but, to feel trapped in by boredom, and to act it out. Remember Raskolnikoff in Crime and Punishment... It’s a matter of “Damn this world!’’ as well. I care to call it ‘worldly nausea’. Such sickness is what triggers the creative practice. Those creative actions I find interesting take root from such nauseas and sicknesses. Not all that jazz planning on fame and prestige, as you know, so many poseurs are there dancing to claim something.
Anger is the driving force behind my works. I am dealing mostly with topics that irritate me. In I, Soldier, there’s frustration against military service, and the fear of my father. In The Flag, you can trace my grudge at nationalism. In Wedding, there is anger against patriarchal social order. In Tanklove, my irritation with the coup d’etats. And much more… If I wouldn’t handle these works, I couldn’t sleep a bit, and maybe would hurt someone. Each time I am able to display these, I get relieved a little. Maybe, I am curbing the violence in me. There’s a term I heard from Vasıf Kortun first: Exorcism. Sort of freeing of an evil spirit. Such is a real term to illustrate an artist’s moods. To cut to the chase, I am working out my projects so as to exorcise.
Elmas Deniz: What are you up to lately?
Köken Ergun: A couple of years ago, I decided to produce my new works in the Eastern Mediterranean. Since then, I’ve been working in the region. There is a selection of videos I chose from the archives of B’tselem; a human rights organization, which operates within the territories under Israeli occupation. B’tselem has been giving away cameras to Palestinian families who live near the Jewish Settlements. They are requested to record the human rights violations befalling them through daily life committed by violent settlers or soldiers. Those recordings are used as legal proof when submitted to legal institutions. However, sometimes they come up with unexpected, surprising recordings. So, I make a selection of such unexpected and personal footage. I present them as in a lecture sometimes. On other occasions, I make installations using these within the range of an exhibition. And in such lectures with anthropologists, film theorists, and the audience, we discuss many issues from documentation to representation of different cultures; from copyrights to the features of raw recordings; by exchanging ideas. It is sort of a project outside the sphere of art in fact.
Here we have in this exhibition The Binibining (Promised Land) Project. It comprises of a book and a video. What is displayed in the exhibition is an unfinished video. To put an unfinished work before the audience is relatively a new act for my own behalf. I find it interesting. When I first started my art practice, I wouldn’t display an unfinished work; which always brought forth a kind of performance anxiety. However, I see it now as an improving and progressive process.
As to the topic of this exhibition, artist’s overtime work, I think that working comes with faith. There are similarities between belief and production of art. What people usually want to combine together are art and science. In my opinion, such is a futile effort. Positive sciences require direct consequences, want to know and prove it all. Yet, art is not concerned with proving something, and it should not. Faith embraces certain things without questioning, thus being much more an abstract phenomenon as is art. And, the state of love is similar to this. You don’t work for it; you live for it. That counts for faith as well. If art becomes an indispensable aspect of your life, then you are already working. But then, you don’t work merely for working. There, it becomes all natural for you as if searching for faith, searching for love…