Over the last three decades, narrative and storytelling have played a substantial role in the development of both cinematic and contemporary video-art practices. Along with an increasing interest in documentary forms, as testified by the dominance of video and screens at international exhibitions and biennials, moving image served this major tendency towards narration as allowing for a deeper understanding of a multifaceted modernity. By producing critical images of specific places, as noted by art critic and curator Mark Nash, documentary therefore became the elected tool to ponder on the complex dimension of an increasingly globalized yet multicultural universe, as moreover opposing the slowness of narration to the fast-paced dimension of the Information Age.
Inscribed within this general shift towards narration, Ferhat Özgür’s latest video works further exemplify a shared will to renegotiate the very notion of documentary. As combining factual realities, fictitious fantasies and autobiographical memories, Özgür’s video experimentations thus set up a platform of which storytelling is the core. In his short films, visual descriptions of always transforming urban landscapes along with individuals’ private and intimate narratives, therefore allow for an elaborated recognition of Turkey’s heterogeneous cultural dimension. By giving fixed form to both images and language, the apparatus thus becomes a vehicle that the artist confidently orchestrates in order to engage with the oral tradition of storytelling and subsequently preserve memory. Ultimately, this essay will look at the figure of Özgür as resurrecting that of the Storyteller, the auteur not only reproducing but also shaping and affecting phenomena through the camera, in an “indexical relation to reality”.
Resurrecting storytelling in the work of Ferhat Özgür
Even though trained as a painter, Ferhat Özgür rapidly became interested in investigating the possibility of the video as a means to analyze and dissect reality. As the television was introduced in Turkey in the late 1960s, he was fascinated by the way moving image offered a possible solution to represent “social realities, outer life and [tell] stories” as “juxtaposing many different images and sounds”. By transferring the experience of television as constructing images into his artistic production, since the early 2000s video came to be a fundamental means to “record reality [and subsequently convert it] into an experimental art format [enriching one’s] visual perception towards the world”. Deployed as an investigative tool, the use of the apparatus in Özgür’s short films, then reaches beyond its technical nature of medium and support for the images being recorded. Apart from playing a central role in providing a platform for a critical depiction of Turkey, it furthermore allows the artist for a subjective interpretation of the “visible face of reality”: through editing and post-production, the documentary camera is then...