A Possible History I: When Thinking Some Play with the Mustache, Others Cross Arms
Video installation, 31’09”, German
Developed for Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO), Berlin, Germany
In this story, Esra goes to Sofia on a quest to search for traces of the Ottoman travelers and literary figures who travelled to the Balkans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the style of a PowerPoint presentation, the film mixes diverse visual material, including Ersen’s drawings, texts and collected photographs. We are confronted with the uncertainties and oddities in the way the Ottoman past has been treated in Bulgaria over the last century. While during the communist regime Bulgarian historiography entirely ignored this part of history, after the changes in 1989 there is a renewed scientific and cultural interest, which is explicable in the context of strong geo-political considerations related to concepts of a supranational Europe or to categories such as the Global South. Yet these are also times of rising nationalisms that seek to build narratives to manipulate the readings of the past. Ersen’s filmic narratives resonate with such attempts to make sense of the past; at the same time, they defy any objective reading precisely because they are so openly subjective. Thus, it seems their main aim is to mediate between politically manipulated, researched-based and personally experienced subjective history-making. (Viktoria Draganova)
With serene subversion, Esra Ersen’s work is based on an empirical and analytical study of social situations through culture, myths, ritual, and economy. She applies a methodology of micro-events borrowed from documentary filmmaking and anthropological investigation. She consistently explores the relationship between the individual and society, highlighting how identities are formed and changed, how the other’s perception and fixed clichés influence our self-perception. Whether working in photography, performance, video, or on installation pieces, she often reacts to or uses the specific location of her activity to formalize her investigations.
Esra Ersen lives and works in Berlin. Her works have been widely shown internationally, in various solo- and group exhibitions. She has participated in: 14th Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul (2015); 27th São Paulo Biennial (2006); the 4th Liverpool Biennial (2006); 8th Istanbul Biennial (2003); The 4th Kwangju Biennial (2002); Manifesta 4, The Europan Biennial of Contemporary Art, Frankfurt (2002); 4th Istanbul Biennial (1995). abcdef