2000, Video, 7’50”
Developed for Nikolaj Kunsthal, Copenhagen, Denmark
The video “Hello!!! Where is it?” Ersen makes for the exhibition at the Nikolj Contemporary Art Center in Copenhagen bringing together artists from Turkey is structured around images from three different cars passing over the Bosphorus Bridge. In one of the cars a couple we suspect to be married are arguing and blaming each other for ruining a weekend getaway. In another a young man is telling the person next to him about problems at his job, his career plans and concerns regarding the future. And in the third and final car jokes are being told about the massive earthquake that happened the previous year, suggesting that the subsequent trauma has long been shaken off and the toll fees of the bridge are being compared to other comparable metropolitan cities. The audience is surprised at the banality of the conversations, and has a hard time figuring out what the video is trying to say. Yet this is precisely what Ersen is doing; she is making this banality functional. It is evident that for people entrenched in the daily commotion of Istanbul passing the bridge everyday corresponds to a very banal occurrence. Apathy, symptoms of urban depression constantly surface in the video; the words “being bored” are used over and over again in the conversations.
The narrative of ordinariness that penetrates the video is momentarily interrupted by the road signs “Welcome to Europe” and “Welcome to Asia”. Only then do we remember the grand representational narratives ascribed to geographies. We see the exoticizing adjectives affixed to Turkey, Istanbul, the Bosphorus and the Bosphorus bridge, passing form one continent to the other, the state of being a bridge between the east and the west, the clichés built upon being the radle of civilizations and empires pasted on to people’s lives. Plus we know that such an orientalism is not only appropriated by outsiders, and that those who claim to govern Istanbul and attempt to turn the city into a marketable brand often resort to these labels in recent years. In this respect, Ersen’s video exposes the construction of representational categories that reduce the opulent world of human life and geographic cultures to simple slogans through a strategic method of banalization; and reveals the futility of the exotic gaze that creeps into the substance of the exhibition she is invited to, as well as the articles in the catalogue.