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Ferhat Özgür

Conquest

The Pill, Istanbul

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Artist
Ferhat Özgür
Title
Conquest
Year
2016
Duration
10 min 11 s
Format & Technical

Double channel, colour, sound
6 + 2 AP

His irony subtle yet sharp, Ferhat Özgür sutures the past and the present by denouncing the intimate relationship between national historiography, propaganda and violence. The layers that form the bedrock for a visual essay, seen today after the attempted coup in Turkey in July of 2016, serve as a foundation for understanding the resurgence of nationalism in a globalised world.

First, the video gives an account of the masses that gathered for the celebrations of the Fall of Constantinople on 29 May 2016. By interspersing short portraits and interviews of participants in the crowd, he highlights both the individual and the collective dimensions that encourage the process of subjectification constructed during these public expressions of national identity. This video-record mimics the aesthetic of other anonymous videos of mobilisations that have proliferated in the cycle of struggles commenced with the so-called “Arab Spring”, a phenomenon closely tied to the democratisation of digital image production and distribution technology. Özgür’s video reveals the tensions and divisions that arise at the time when citizen participation contributes “real” content to the speculative framework which characterises the nation-state as an imaginary community.

The crowds with flags in this video-recording are constantly interrupted by a patchwork of images of various quality levels and origins, the majority re-appropriated by the artist from the flow of images on the Internet, which allows him to expose the staging of this national event. On one hand, the large number of people involved in such spectacular re-enactment clues the viewer in to the degree of importance of this type of event. On the other, re-creating the battles with a video game aesthetic originates a kind of virtuality halo that seems to denounce the fictional status of historical narratives. This appropriation and montage of images of the conquest, the videos of real military training exercises, and the screenshots that make explicit the tools with which the very same video that we are watching was edited, broadcast a clear message: frenzied throngs participate in an affair which “invents” a past historical event, and which mobilises emotions in order to pre-dispose them to a national euphoria that will have immediate consequences in the present.

The subtitles are inserted between the screens of the two-channel projection, creating a sense of continuity between the images, which is reinforced by the content of the current Prime Minister of Turkey Binali Yildirim’s speech, who homogenises the statements of the citizens interviewed. Özgür’s playing with concepts on this discursive continuum reveals the absurdity of aggravated nationalism, where peace and justice are shown to us as equivalents of violence and conquest, exposing the paradox of those who celebrate national identity in a territory foreign to them.

Marta Echaves

Stills