Opening: Thursday, November 7, 7:00 - 9:00 pm
TALK: with Chus Martinez and Köken Ergun. Thursday, November 7, 6:00 pm
Exhibition runs: November 7 - December 14, 2013 Wednesday - Saturday, 12:00 - 6:00 pm Westbeth Building Basement, 55 Bethune St. at Washington St.
Protocinema presents Ashura (2012), a three-channel video installation by Köken Ergun. Ashura is the name of a holy day central to Shi'a Muslim belief. With this video installation, which documents a day of Ashura celebrations in an underdeveloped neighbourhood on the outskirts of Istanbul, Turkey, Ergun continues his investigation into rituals and ceremonies in various sub-cultures, as well as the customs that define and bind communities.
The day of Ashura commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussein - the grandson of prophet Muhammed, and a central figure in the Shi'a religion - at the Battle of Karbala (680 AD), in modern-day Iraq, against the Umayyad Caliph. In the battle Hussein and all his supporters were killed and the women and children in his party were taken prisoner. The importance of the event in Shi'a Muslim belief is comparable to the importance of Easter in the Christian faith, and on this day every year the martyrdom of Hussein is mourned by an annual commemoration, also known as Ashura (Aşura in Turkish).
To make Ashura Köken Ergun worked in close collaboration for over three years with the people of Zeynebiye neighborhood in Istanbul, Turkey. During this time he documented the community's preparations for the day of Ashura ceremonies, practices which include group chants, a mass walk, a theatrical re-enactment of the historic battle, and an isolated weeping ritual at the end of the day.
In the context of his native Turkey, Ergun's work presents a rare look into this small Shiite community, as the vast majority of Turkey's population of 74 million are Sunni Muslims; about 72 percent. There are approximately one million Shiites in Turkey, a much smaller percentage of the population.
Founder and director of Protocinema Mari Spirito says, "We are showing Ashura in New York because historically this is a city of immigrants, and to this day New York is made up of communities from around the world holding on to their cultural practices and their own rituals. In this context Ashura emphasizes the similarities in communal social and religious ceremonies in a way that is both informative and empathetic. Ashura has the potential to open up dialogue about tolerance, and question how each of us function in our societies, at what levels, and to what end."
Commenting on the place of ritual and community in his practice, Ergun says: "My work is only finally about rituals. It is first about people. It is about large groups of people and about how they do things, socially. My work is a journey away from the self to the group."
Presented here in its original form as a three-channel video installation, Ashura has also been presented as a single-channel short film, earning Ergun a Special Mention at the 2013 Berlinale, the International Berlin Film Festival.
Born in Istanbul, in 1976, Köken Ergun studied acting at the İstanbul University and completed his postgraduate diploma degree in Ancient Greek Literature at King's College London, followed by an MA degree on Art History at Bilgi University, Istanbul. After working with American theater director Robert Wilson, Ergun became involved more with contemporary art, specifically video and performance. He has exhibited internationally at institutions including Platform (Istanbul), Palais de Tokyo (Paris), Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam, KIASMA Museum of Contemporary Arts (Helsinki), Digital ArtLab (Tel Aviv), Casino Luxembourg, Heidelberger Kunstverein, SALT (Ankara) and Kunsthalle Winterthur. Ergun's video works are included in public collections such as the Centre Pompidou (Paris) and Greek National Museum of Contemporary Art (Athens). He is the recipient of the "Tiger Award for Short Film" at the 2007 Rotterdam Film Festival and the "Special Mention Prize" at the 2013 Berlinale. Having a focus on rituals in his works, Ergun also collaborates with ethnologists, extending his practice to academia. He is currently writing his PhD thesis at the Interart Graduate College of the Freie Universität on the subject of "Rituals of Isolation: Emotional Bonding in Wedding Ceremonies of the Turkish/Kurdish Community in Berlin".
Chus Martínez, chief curator of El Museo del Barrio, New York, previously head of Documenta 13's department for artistic direction, curated Cyprus's pavilion at the 2005 Venice Biennale and curatorial advisor on the 2010 Bienal de São Paulo. She was chief curator at the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona from 2008 to 10, director of the Frankfurter Kunstverein from 2005 to 08 and the artistic director of Bilbao's Sala Rekald contemporary art space from 2002 to 2005.
Founded in 2011, Protocinema is a Nomadic, 501(c)(3) Not-for-profit Art Organization based in Istanbul and New York, with a Hands-on Education Program.
Special thanks to Sascha Bauer, Haro Cumbusyan, Kate Fowle, Tansa Mermerci Ekşioğlu, Ari Meşulam, November Paynter, Renaud Proch, Merve Elveren, Özge Ersoy, Hannah Cloepfil, Ateş Ucul; Moon and Stars Project of The American Turkish Society. Ashura Ensemble photo credit: Emin Kurtoğlu; Vasif Kortun; Horoz Lojistik.