You focus on social rituals. What do you think about the role that rituals play on identities and representations of social groups?
Rituals are constructive and performative phenomena. The participants actually ‘do’ something. This is more effective than writing or talking. About the identities, these rituals play an active role in the determination of social identities. Think about the wedding or festival rituals. These are in a sense the representations of the society’s identity. In the performative instances at these ceremonies, like the dancing or greeting, the participants do something and remember their cultural identities. As these ceremonies are organized regularly and constantly, the act of remembering is repeated and certain things about identity is guaranteed.
Quoting your sentence “My art is a journey from ‘self’ to the society”, what is your purpose in observing and presenting these journeys?
I didn’t start out like this. I didn’t have a purpose written on stone. For me, it’s like a naughty boy writing his name on wet cement. I begin with a feeling, an instinct. In fact it’s similar for a lot of artists. Artworks are very personal and emotional acts. To try to read such emotional and instinctive works with analytical methods would be to frame and hang that piece of cement on the wall. I say let the cement in its place, even if the writing on it would be erased. But the artist can see the significant lines when they look back to their practice. When I looked back to mine I saw this: I often documented how the social groups move together, how a social identity is represented rather than the construction of an individual identity. On the contrary, my past is filled with the individual statement or individual achievement and the stress that it brings. Surely the education system and the art industry that I’ve been subjected to have encouraged this. My first work is dated 2004 and I can say this now. It’s taken yen years for me to talk about a general pattern. I’m not sure if the results would be so interesting if I could say this at the beginning. In this context I frequently question the art education too. It’s creepy to ask an artist planning a new project “Tell me now, why are you doing this?”.
What was the most interesting ritual that you have witnessed?
The Gezi Park resistance. It didn’t last long but some daily activities were instantly ritualized. Also everyone brought the rituals of their own social identity there and ‘did it’ night and day. If solidarity is one of the most important characteristics of rituals, Gezi had the true essence of it. We all felt the effect of this solidarity. Those who were there and effected first hand, those who followed from the social media and were effected as if they were there, those who remember it and are effected by its memory… And even those who were against what happened and effected this way. It was a social movement that had such an influence on a society having so different social layers, which is not a small thing. It overset everything.
What are your plans for 2014?
The plans surely changed after Gezi. The upcoming years are important for Turkey. I think we will all have to take on responsibility. Something started, Pandora’s Box has opened. A continuation is inevitable and I will be involved in it in one way or another. About art, we plan the exhibition in SALT to be more than an exhibition; rather a platform enriched with side activities. A series of talks and conversations are planned. We will invite experts on the subjects of the works on display. Also I’ll be giving a workshop on bus terminals in Bilkent University Department of Urban Design and Landscape Architecture.
*published online 27 December 2013, See more at: http://thebonemagazine.com/en/entry/koeken-ergun#sthash.N6Um0auL.dpuf