The Flag, 2006

Bétacam numérique PAL, couleur, son

The Flag, along with I, soldier (2006) is the second video in a series that Köken Ergün directed, relating to national ceremonies organised under the control of the Turkish government. In both cases, the artist records the very strict, perfectly orchestrated nationalistic rituals of these official celebrations with the precision of an anthropologist.

Köken Ergün shot the first part, I, soldier during the National Day for Youth and Sport, celebrated every year on the 19th of May, commemorating the start of the War of Independence. At the end of WWI, the allies had occupied the territories of the Ottoman Empire. As for The Flag, the artist shot it on the 23rd of April, National Independence Day and the day for childhood, instituted to commemorate the founding of the National Assembly on the same day in 1920. In a football stadium, under the patronage of the mayor and the governor of Istanbul, in the presence of high-ranking military personnel, school children presented a whole series of demonstrations: choreographed sports routines, parades, poetry citations, pledges and songs to the glory of the country and the Turkish people. On one side, the split-screen video shows portraits of politicians and soldiers who follow the spectacle from the top of the terraces and on the other, what is happening in the field. On one side there are the speechmakers, who aim to maintain indivuals under a strictly controlled regime; on the other, we see young individuals who are already under the influence of the nationalistic education system.

Without dramatising the situation, Ergün elucidates the operation of a system that reproduces itself and that, while it appears pompous and excessive to an external eye, manages to bedazzle and win over all young generations.

Yekhan Pinarligil