AlbumArte | VideoArtForum 2017
Ferhat Özgür | Conquest (2016, 10’11”)
Tuesday, May 23 2017 at 7pm
Screening and debate introduced by Cristiana Perrella
Italian preview (original version with Italian subtitles)
May 24-26, from 4:00 to 9:00 pm, there will be a looped screening of Conquest
On 29 May 2916. Turkey has marked the conquest of Constantinople, which later would become Istanbul, in 1453, on its 563rd anniversary with a grandiose ceremony including the participation of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, alongside an estimated 1 million spectators, in Yenikapı Square, the ancient and central harbor neighborhood near Galata Bridge.
An incredible whole of forces controlled the event: some 9,000 police officers, five helicopters, one submarine, one frigate, three coast guard boats and 27 police dogs were on duty in order to ensure the safety of the event. The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, which was one of the organizers of the huge event alongside the Istanbul Governor’s Office, also planned thoroughly the logistical aspects to ensure strong participation in the ceremony by scheduling a total 5,005 buses to bring citizens to the square from 38 districts of the province. A total of 146 ferries also transported citizens from 26 quays in 21 of the city’s districts. For a long time the national government has arranged a media hype about the ceremony in order to create an echo in the whole country.
‘Conquest’, the latest work by Turkish artist Ferhat Özgür, captures the excitement of national pageantry as it focuses on the annual rally and on its participants. All strands of Istanbul society are there – waving their flags endlessly and participating, almost fanatical, in long-lasting and scenographic ceremonies. The video reveals how, today in Turkey, a very emptiness of the notion of “people” exist both as individual as objective and independent thought. A belligerently anti-Western popular re-enactment of the fall of Constantinople, the video aims to decipher how historical facts are interpreted by power and how a public arena where power addresses community is shaped ideologically.
The official orator’s nationalistic redundant speech is cleverly interspersed with dialogue from ordinary people including an immigrant. All speak forcefully of the past but, perhaps more importantly for such an occasion, of the anticipated vision of the future. The use of a dual screen initiates an alternative platform for images – both compatible parallels and contrasting alternatives – allowing themes such as destruction and mysticism to be explored. Alternating the subtitles between the two screens invokes a subtle cohesiveness or tentative challenge.
In the light of the recent attempted coup in Turkey on 15 July 2016, and of the vote in the Constitutional Referendum on Presidentialism (April 16, 2016), ‘Conquest’, although somewhat accidental by being realized shortly before coup, potentially depicts a panorama of the complexity of Turkey’s current social structure where secularism, Islamism and extreme nationalism collided with one another, enriched by archival footages obtained from internet.
Ferhat Özgür comes back to collaborate together with AlbumArte for the third time, after his solo exhibition as part as AlbumArte VideoArtForum (Rome, 2016) in and his participation in the first edition of Anteprima, a video screening of Italian and Turkish artists (Istanbul, 2011).
Ferhat Özgür is an artist and academic living in Istanbul. He was born in Ankara in 1965 and graduated from Gazi University Education Faculty Department of Painting and Crafts. Having taught in Hacettepe University Fine Arts Faculty for more than two decades he moved to Istanbul in 2010 where is currently working in Yeditepe University. Working with different mediums such as painting, video, photography and installation Özgür’s works deals with interactivity between individuals and all sorts of other factors surrounding them, including urbanization, migration, political and social crisis. Taking part in 6th Berlin Biennale and 10th Berlin Biennale, Özgür has had solo shows in MoMA PS1-New York and Michigan University Museum of Art. His films have been included in prestigious institutions such as Centre George Pompidou-Paris, Salzburg Modern, Zabludowicz Foundation –London, FRAC Bordeaux and Istanbul Modern. His ongoing recent international shows are: “Enigmatic Majorities”-Academyspace Cologne, “Shame:100 Reasons For Turning Red”, Deutsches Hygiene-Museum, Dresden, LOOP Barcelona-2017.