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  • The Inspiration of Home
  • Köken Ergun and November Paynter (bio)

Born in 1976, in Istanbul, Köken Ergun studied with actress Yıldız Kenter and playwright Güngör Dilmen at the Istanbul University Acting Department, followed by a postgraduate diploma in Ancient Greek Theatre at London's King's College. He holds a Masters degree from the Istanbul Bilgi University Visual Communication Design Department, with his dissertation entitled Stress on the Contemporary Body in New Media Arts. An earlier postgraduate diploma dissertation was written on The Representation of Iphigenia in Euripides, Racine, and Goethe. Ergun is currently a PhD candidate at the Theatre Dramaturgy Department of Istanbul University.

Between 1998 and 2001 Ergun worked as assistant director to Robert Wilson on productions such as The Days Before: Death Destruction & Detroit III. In 2001, he presented his first solo work, a large-scale installation performance, in Istanbul's Rumeli Fortress. This initial step into art performance led Ergun to move into the field of art video and performance and he began exhibiting in Europe and the United States at institutions including KIASMA Museum of Contemporary Arts (Helsinki), Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center (Istanbul), Exit Art (NYC), Art in General (NYC), Badischer Kunstverein (Karlsruhe), Sparwasser HQ (Berlin), and Sculpturens Hus (Stockholm). His video works have been screened in film festivals in Europe such as the Oberhausen Film Festival, the Odense Film Festival, and at The Montpellier Film Festival. In 2004 Ergun was an artist-in-residence in New York at Location One, and he is currently an artist-in-residence at Künstlerhauser Worpswede, Germany and the Foreign Artist Exchange of the Austrian Government, in Vienna. This interview was completed in August 2006.

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Köken, please tell us a little about your interest in theatre and performance and how you moved away from these fields to begin working in the field of contemporary art?

I think I have always been "dramatic" in a sense. When I was a child I always dreamt of "the other," almost always being better, stronger than "the self," but not because I was unhappy with my current state or upbringing. I think I just liked [End Page 101] fictionalizing and dreaming for the sake of creating a different world around me. So I would dramatize other states, other people, like I was creating my own mythology. My roots go back to the lands of the ancient Greeks of Asia Minor so I was already very familiar with the myths and legends of the Aegean from an early age. One of the reasons I wanted to study theatre was because of this connection with Greek mythology and theatre.

Maybe I also sensed an existential suffocation at that early age towards the greater world (not necessarily to my immediate surroundings) and escaped from that general reality by being dramatic. Istanbul is a very gray city, it can be very depressing in the winter, very misty and dirty, even more so during my childhood. Not everybody is lucky enough to have a fantastic view of the city or the Bosphorus, and sometimes all you see is a gray city skyline, a poor skyline. I remember Istanbul being perpetually gray, and even as a child I understood about the political struggles and the hard times that consumed it. I knew that there was a better world out there, one that was not so full of struggle and political contestation. So I pictured our surrounding reality from the position of different characters all the time. I could easily relate to those who didn't live in Istanbul, those that came from other places, non-places. I still like these non-places and enjoy the ability to locate myself somewhere else that is not necessarily anywhere in particular.

Through this relationship with a drama of sorts, I ended up being accepted to an acting school, having attended an audition merely to test my abilities. I entered prematurely which perhaps manifested its problems later on and thus I soon realized that theatre was not for me. Or rather this form of representation was not for me. I didn't find it sincere. I disliked all those Chekhovs and Shakespeares. They didn...


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