catalogue text by ilana tenenbaum, for ‘self extreme’, group show at the haifa museum of modern art, israel

A different approach to related themes is undertaken by the Turkish artist Köken Ergun. In the work I, Soldier (2006), Ergun examines the rhetoric of government institutions by means of a speech filmed at the Istanbul stadium on Turkey’s national holiday. Ergun uses excerpts from this official event, which he documented with the assistance of others. This disassociation between the artist and the documentary art, and its duplication and diffusion, are designed to undermine the power of images produced by a single camera, which is wielded by a single person. The documentary materials are then reedited in a manner that produces a different image of the filmed reality. Ergun presents the same event in two parallel frames. In one frame, an ode “To the Soldier” is read in a pathos-infused voice, while lyrical music plays in the background. The second frame features, in slow motion, the figure of an actual soldier standing beside the person reading the poem. This double frame produces an alternative reading of the ode as a homoerotic love poem. Ergun contrasts these two images with a range of insignificant details, such as the embarrassed smiles of audience members and empty plastic chairs. The pathos-infused soundtrack stands out in contrast to this visual montage, which undermines the coherence of the official performance and offers alternate interpretations of it, reordering various fragments of reality in a manner that exposes and deconstructs the mythical basis of this national ceremony.