Casting for a Canary Opera

2011, video, 18’22”
Developed for Borusan Contemporary, Istanbul


In the work of Esra Ersen, metaphor is the conceptual and poetic starting point for creating a short-circuit in what one sees/expects and what one hears. Like in most contemporary visual communication it creates a dichotomy between image and text or rather between our immediate recognition of it. Her film portrays members of a canary lovers society, reciting like actors, speeches extrapolated from a totally different context (and indeed they are just actors as they recite someone else’s texts and opinions). The reason of this choice, which may look obscure for a foreign audience, relies in the fact that in Turkey many civic initiatives, trade unions, political parties, even the army or terrorist groups, and certainly bureaucrats, when wanting to emphasize their efforts and the importance of their actions, often do so by pointing out that they are not just a simple canary lovers society. For this reason, in this particular project, Ersen has chosen to work with the members of a canary lovers society and to literally set her film at their community space, where they have hundreds of birds on site. Here is members become just actors and it is very clear that what they are saying has nothing to do with what they are or do in that context, and indeed this very reason gives to the whole subject, and by contrast, its strength and the possibility to discover and analyze the real subject matter of her oeuvre.


Have you mistaken the "Atatürkist  Tought Association" for the Canary Fanciers Association? The "Atatürkist  Tought Association" is a political association.

Ümit Özdağ, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Deputy Candidate for İstanbul, Cihan News Agency, 17. 05. 2011


Did the Turkish Army hand stones to kurdish children to throw at them? Did the Turkish Army attacks its own soldiers, the police and the citizens for 25 years? 

Did the Turkish Army kill 40 thousand people? So,...Is the Turkish Armed Forces a terrorist organization, and the PKK just a Canary Fanciers Association?

Fikret Bila, Journalist, Milliyet Newspaper, 10. 12. 2009


The Association of Judges and Prosecutors (YARSAV) has the same status as the Canary Fanciers Association. They are both subject to the Law of Associations. 

Is it acceptable, that an association make statements at the Constitutional Court, the Council of State or the Supreme Court of Appeals?

Prof. Dr. Hasan Tunç, Gazi University, Member of the Faculty of Law


Under these circumstances, naturally, the governor vetoed our petition. This is not about political conflict between the governor’s office and the provincial council. 

The governor’s office does what it is required to do. We will also do what we are required to do. The members of the provincial council were elected by 450,000 votes. 

We are not the Canary Fanciers Association.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Zeki Köylü, Chairman of the Muğla Provincial Council Cihan News Agency, 11. 08. 2009


In this state of a airs and under these conditions, since no other state institution or organization claims responsibility for the incident; if, at the cost of o ending all the cowards and fence sitters,

I, with all my might, shout slogans or hold banners saying “ The Canary Fanciers Association, take action now!” Would I be showing disrespect to Kemal Pasha’s national militia?                                                                                               Hüseyin Mümtaz, writer, Türk Solu Gazetesi ( Turkish Left Newspaper ), No: 43, 10. 11.2003


A chamber of professionals should be able to defend the rights of its members. Otherwise, we will end up in the same position as the Canary Fanciers Association                                                     

Sabri Kurt, Chairman of the Biga Chamber of Drivers, Bigazete, 15. 02. 2011


In that region, what we call “a festival” is called “an association.” However, for us, an association is something like a Canary Fanciers Association. This is not the case there.  

There, “an association“ is also is also a marketplace. It is a gathering place, where you can find anything you can think of, from fresh corn, to the famous bread, and to merchants 

coming in from as far as Giresun to sell cheese to the Highlands.

M. Kemal Ayçiçek, Trabzon, Village of Akçaabat, Journalist Karadeniz Olay Gazetesi, 11.12.2010


We have no organic ties to any political party, but we support Atatürk’s principles and reforms, because we are not some sort of Canary Fanciers Association. 

As a nongovernmental organization it is our duty to say what we think is right when things go wrong.

Canan Altinel, President of the Deniz Yıldızı Charitable Foundation Pendik Sonsöz Gazetesi - Newspaper, 2011


There is a campaign to change the names of settlements in Eastern and South Eastern Turkey back to their previous names in Armenian and Kurdish. A trade union supports this campaign. Where does it support it? In Eastern cities, in Van, in Siirt and in Hakkari. However, what we say in a Western city such as Bolu is the same as what we say in Eastern cities, Siirt, Şırnak and Van. We can get many new members in the city of Diyarbakır if we follow this union’s manner. Institutions should also have a method and a certain perspective on life. Trade unions are not Associations of Canary Fanciers.

İsmail Koncuk, Chairman of the Turkish Education Union, 28. 02. 2011