Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"Interview with Ozge Ersoy, published in "Suspended Spaces" black jack editions, paris, forthcoming (december 2010)"

Unexpected Scenes From a Human Rights Video Archive

Köken Ergun interviewed by Özge Ersoy

Köken Ergun is a Turkish artist currently based in Berlin. He takes public ceremonies as the impetus for his artistic production, addressing the aesthetics and politics of contemporary rituals. His recent project consists of a video selection from the archives of B’Tselem, The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, based in Jerusalem. Since 2007, B’Tselem has given cameras to Palestinian families in high-conflict zones, and trained them to shoot daily cases of human rights violations committed by Israeli soldiers and settlers. In turn, B’Tselem collects the footage and uses it for advocacy campaigns in Israeli and international media, and also as evidence in court cases. As a result of his research in the B’Tselem archives, Ergun selected videos that don’t document violent conflicts or attacks, but rather capture personal and unexpected moments. Ergun presents this project in the form of public talks and posts their transcripts on

ÖE. The concept of ritual and cultural performance are recurring themes in your video works. In I, Soldier (2005) and The Flag (2006), you document public ceremonies that celebrate annual national rituals in Turkey, while Wedding (2006-8) captures nuptials of Turkish immigrants in Germany. In these works, you shoot the footage and then edit it according to certain aesthetic concerns. In other words, you choreograph images for the final work. Your recent B’Tselem project also inquires into the social and the collective, yet this time you are not the one holding the camera. All of the videos in this project are taken by Palestinians living in the West Bank. You don’t edit this footage; you simply collect it. Could you talk about this transition?

KE. As I spend more time in Palestine and Israel, I start to perceive the local cultures, conflicts, and peoples in different ways. It’s very difficult for me to describe experiences to those who haven’t been in this region, or have been here only for short visits. The West Bank is in a perpetual state of exception and related experiences are not easy to represent. One can assume that this is mainly because of the occupation, yet I sometimes think that things would have remained complicated even if the occupation ended. There is a certain energy—partly divine, partly human—that makes everything appear differently from other parts of the world I’ve been to so far. For this project, I borrow footage that is shot by people who live in the most complicated and high-conflict areas of the West Bank. They are surrounded not only by settlers and soldiers, but also by that divine, unearthly energy. They understand and appreciate this state of living better than I do. Also, they can capture it much better than I possibly would. So I wanted to find a way to represent the situation from their point of view. I find it more honest. That is why I chose to be a collector, not a producer of images. This decision was rather intuitive.

ÖE. Could you talk about how you worked on your previous videos? Has your experience with the B’Tselem footage changed your way of dealing with this medium?

KE. Prior to this project, I had a different way of working. For a long time, I followed certain social groups who practiced a ritual I was somehow informed about and interested in. After spending a generous amount of time to be with them and to get to know their culture better, I shot the ritual with my camera, almost like an embedded journalist. Then I took a break from both the ritual and the footage. I almost never looked back at what I recorded right after the shooting. I guess I was fond of remembering my experiences of these rituals, recalling my own memories, and playing them over and over in my head. I was also afraid that what my camera captured would be less ‘good’ than what my memory recorded. I was always in between these two. Somehow, in the early stages of my video work, I had already started to be skeptical about what the camera could possibly show.

I waited a long time before going back to my footage. Also, I worked on it when I was in a different geography. I selected parts that I find closest to my own recollections. Then the elaborate editing process started. I edited I, Soldier in two months, The Flag in three months, and Wedding in one year. I still spend a lot of time on the editing table, trying to put together pieces that weren’t shot in an organized way. Unlike filmmakers, I have never had plans about what and how to shoot. Instead, I haven chosen to actively participate in rituals. To use Durkheim’s terms, I’m pulled into their ‘effervescence effect.’ When this happens, you don’t feel very much in control of your own movements, let alone decisions to shoot this or that. Your camera shoots what your eyes look at, and where the collective body of the community takes you, because you cannot move on your own. If you do so, you don’t participate in the ritual; you are a detached observer. I think most documentary films are made by such detached observers. This is something I’ve always wanted to avoid.

ÖE. Could you say more about detached observers?

KE. For example, one day a German film crew came to one of the weddings I was shooting. They were one director, two cameramen, and a boom operator. They had massive cameras with very bright headlights, which had an aggressive directional light that pointed in the direction the cameraman was looking; it was cutting through the dim wedding hall. At some point, this very uptight team found itself in the middle of the visitors who were dancing feverishly. I could see that none of the crewmembers felt comfortable about being touched by these people. They were alien to their movements and emotions. More importantly, it seemed that they didn’t want to be attached to them at all. Perhaps it was fear. Meanwhile, I was dancing in a halay circle (a folkloric dance), one hand holding my small camera and the other holding the girl dancing next to me. When I passed next to the crew, I gave them a big smile. You should have seen their faces when they realized I was doing the same thing as them, but in a very different way.

ÖE. Since you participate in the ritual and go with the flow, you don’t follow a narrative order while shooting. Yet you seem to add that quality through editing.

KE. Yes, that is the biggest challenge for me. Living the moment with them and then trying to represent this to others. They are two different conditions. I value and enjoy the lived experience much more than the representation of it. But in the end, I feel obliged to make a film out of it. That is to say, I’m trying to represent something in a way that I don’t want it to be represented. Isn’t this a conflict, a dichotomy? Yes, certainly. I think I’m still limiting myself with the boundaries of how an autonomous artwork should be. What I’m going through, I call it 'forced narrative flow'.

Let’s take the example of Wedding. It took me one year to link the moments I was looking for, and in the end the piece had its intro, crescendo, and final. It was—as you said—choreographed. However I always had a doubt: I felt I had too much control over the image. There was too much make-up, so to speak. When I was working in the B’Tselem archives, I realized how autonomous and powerful raw and unedited material could actually be. Previously, I was almost addicted to editing. I believed the representation could be complete only through editing. With the B’Tselem footage, I stepped out of my comfort zone. I chose not to shoot and not to edit. What was left? To collect and distribute.

ÖE. What has changed after this work? Let’s think about your ongoing project Binibining Promised Land. It explores the annual beauty pageants organized by Filipino guestworkers in Tel Aviv, and perhaps more importantly, you’re holding your own camera once again. Can you tell us about your interest in this subject and also the way you’re using your camera in this project?

KE. This project started after I was exposed to the B’Tselem footage. This time I had a team and we used two cameras: one on tripod, capturing stage actions the whole time, and I had my own camera mobile. In my previous works, although I used handheld cameras I paid special attention not to shake it and to operate it smoothly. For Binibining, I wanted both cameras to move freely. I even told the cameraman with tripod to turn his camera immediately and even roughly to wherever something interesting would happen. The beauty pageant and the crazy nightclub where the contest took place were very chaotic! And so was the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station where the club was located. We acted with that energy. This type of aesthetics—or shall we say non-aesthetics—of the camera movements is also influenced by what I saw in the B’Tselem archives. Similar to the B’Tselem footage, what is important in this project is not how the image looks, but rather what we are looking at. In other words, the style or the look of the work is less important than the fact that such an interesting and diverse event is taking place in such an unexpected location.

Binibining is almost an ethnographic project for me. After the beauty pageant I became very close friends with many women from the Filipino community in Tel Aviv. I started hanging out with them, going to church on Saturday evenings, and then to their makeshift flats to eat. We also went to the nightclubs at the bus station and danced until morning. I conducted video interviews with them at their favorite locations in the city. In all of these, I focused on their ‘raw’ life. Also, when I edited the footage, I put less of my own commentary in the work. It is my longest video work up to date: 38 minutes of a beauty pageant. It’s simply a condensed version of what happened that night in the Bahay Kubu nightclub. However, sometimes I think even this work is too choreographed. I wonder how I could possibly show the raw, unedited footage of each camera on two different screens. The duration of each film would be around 6 hours.

ÖE. It’s striking to me that human interactions, the collective, and the social are central to all the works we have discussed so far, except the B’Tselem project. In these videos there seems to be a focus on the personal as well. Videos depict sunsets, empty rooftops, or television screens, which imply the personal to me. How do you see the interplay between the collective and the personal in this work?

KE. Filmmakers or journalists who go to the B'Tselem office often seek specific images. They type up keywords, such as ‘market,’ ‘Hebron,’ ‘2009,’ ‘soldiers,’ and walk out with images that are tagged as such. In my opinion, this is very professional, impersonal, and care-free. This way of looking at these videos seems to be completely detached from the real life and worries of the region. It’s almost like shopping. In contrast, I'm interested in every single videotape, as each of them has a unique personal value. Most of the tapes are watched only once by the B’Tselem officer who uploads videos on the server. B'Tselem adamantly stores all of footage it receives in its vast archive, but the use of the archive is still restricted to certain 'controversial' and striking imagery about the human rights violations. If the videos don't have this evidentiary value, hardly anybody from outside watches and digs into them. I therefore imagined these videos as secret vaults that had valuable information. I felt the need to make them more visible. That’s why I didn’t want to use any keywords and wanted to watch everything in the archive.

The more videos I watched, the more I got into people’s daily life defined by the occupation. It’s crucial to say that the daily life in these videos is not very private, for the lack of a better word. It’s rather socially experienced. In my experience in Palestine, I haven’t found a clear, strong distinction between the personal and the collective. I think that the collective is dominant throughout the Middle East. The space of the individual is less, compared to Europe for instance. Here individual expressions matter less than collective expressions, whereas in Israel you can see the opposite. For instance, I would argue that the mandatory military service in Israel is implemented not only to teach how to fight, but also to teach how to be a collective entity. The state wants individuals to be part of their collective. In contrast, in Palestine, there are tendencies to be more individual, because the collective is the norm.

Similarly, in the B’Tselem videos, we don’t see Palestinians’ private lives directly, such as what’s happening in the house. Here I want to emphasize that B’Tselem bypasses the detached observer as it gives cameras to people who live in this complicated environment, not to professionals coming from outside. Yet, personal stories are still very rare. It’s not only because these people are told to shoot human rights violations. There are tapes that have nothing to do with the primary goal of this camera distribution project, but they still don’t capture personal stories. In this context, I selected different videos. For instance, a camera focuses on a sunset for a long time, another captures Fashion TV for 60 minutes, on a tripod.

I also want to mention the inevitable interplay between inside and outside. What is seen even in the most personal video can’t be divorced from what’s happening outside. The cameras are inside, but their subject—settlers and soldiers—are outside. They can close the streets as they wish and open them as they wish. One day you can go out, the other day you cannot and if you go out there is always a risk of being attacked by settlers. This is why I sometimes refer to this project as Beyt, which means ‘home’ both in Hebrew and Arabic. People inside their homes are trying to capture and understand those who are outside. In this sense, it’s almost an ethnographic survey on a mass scale. In the end, this project does deal with the social but in an indirect way.

ÖE. It’s tempting to think about B’Tselem camera distribution project in the context of the expansion of video activism organizations. They have proliferated since the early 1990s, as video cameras have become smaller, more available and affordable. These organizations—such as Witness and Appalshop in the US, Chiapas Media Project in Mexico, CEFREC in Bolivia, The Drishti Media Collective in India, and INSIST in Indonesia, among many others—all share the legacy of social documentaries of the 1930s, cinema verité works of the 1960s, and also alternative media movements of the 1970s and 1980s. They aim to collect, translate, and display injustice, and somehow reveal ‘the truth.’ B’Tselem camera distribution project has a similar goal as well, yet in your selection, the image seems to be free from the demands of a documentary tradition. It doesn’t perform an evidentiary role.

KE. That’s true. Unlike the videos I selected, cameras that capture human rights violations often turn into weapons. In Palestine, they turn into evidence-making devices, which in turn help Palestinians to demand justice. Such tapes are very valuable and must be kept safe from soldiers and settlers who can be legally accused. It’s like being in war. The person who records a grave violation carries a lot of responsibility. This is not a mechanical responsibility like in journalism, but an emotional one. These tapes can have personal and also social impacts; they can have an influence on the larger community.

However, for my project I’ve been interested in videos that are more on the personal side, which aren’t very valuable as evidence. Yet I find them more valuable in understanding the psychology of the daily life in the West Bank. This is why I abstracted this type of videos from the vast archive. This footage invites the viewer to decipher an almost secret language. I was tempted to watch these videos over and over again, knowing that an immediate meaning was impossible. Yet I also knew that it’d remain at an abstract level I wouldn’t be able to understand completely. In my view, this is how these images gain certain autonomy.

ÖE. To follow up on that, I’d say that your video selection doesn’t reinforce generic categories of victim, perpetrator, and bystander, all of which are predominant in the visual culture about Palestine. It’s fair to say that B’Tselem, as a human rights organization, follows or assumes a causal chain: information turns into knowledge, knowledge into acknowledgment, and finally acknowledgment into action. However the videos you selected are somehow unexpected. They don’t propose a claim of truth and this is why they aren’t very ‘valuable’ for journalists or human rights workers who seek 'proofs' in the B'Tselem archive, as you said. Does your selection make a subtle criticism of how Palestinians are represented in the mainstream media and mostly in the visual arts?

KE. Yes, in a way it’s a reaction that I have. For instance, for my project titled TANKLOVE (2008), I hired a military tank to drive down the main street of a Danish town. The video portrays the town dwellers’ reactions, first baffled then laughing and cheering for it. Here, I wanted to ask what would happen if the welfare nations of Western European and Scandinavian nations would wake up into a military rule one day. The unexpected can become true. However the image of a tank is often associated with so-called undemocratic and weak countries, such as Turkey, which is a static image reinforced by the media. There’s a similar issue for Palestine. Media keeps circulating images of elderly, head-scarved women crying over coffins, surrounded by bearded young men chanting in an angry way. This is used to represent all of Palestine. I think some people are happy to keep this non-changing image and portray Palestinians as victims all the time. We should also question why most Western governments would prefer to have Palestinians as ‘victims.’ I have strong reactions towards this. Yet one could ask: aren’t Palestinians victims of a terrible occupation? Yes, they are. But this is different from being labeled as victim as a static category. In the B’Tselem footage, Palestinians try to prove they’re victims of abuse so that they can seek justice and change the situation they are in right now. Yet, what interests me is the mundane, almost futile images that can tell other stories.

ÖE. I’m also curious as to what you think about the ownership of these videos. For you, who owns these videos and how do you feel about making a selection from the archive of a human rights organization and present it in an art context? Are they to be left anonymous, and what does that mean to you?

KE. Ownership belongs to people who shoot the videos. During my research in the archives, I visited Hebron, one of the high-conflict cities where the footage I selected happened to come from. There, I met Mich’ael Zupraner who is a video artist and also the founder of HEB2, a documentary project in the form of a community television channel based in Hebron. With Mich’ael’s help, we asked the people, who shot the footage I borrowed from the B’Tselem archive in Jerusalem, for their permission to show these outside of the B’Tselem context. In Suspended Spaces exhibition, selected footage was installed on monitors. Here we credited all the owners at the end of each clip. This is a complicated issue. My priority is to expose the footage to as many people as possible rather than turning it into merely an art project. This is also the reason why I try not to name the project and simply present it as my selections from a video archive.

Monday, July 19, 2010


click on the link below for the full audio recording of the presentation i made with my personal selections from the btselem video archive, at the interart graduate college of the freie university, berlin:

Monday, June 28, 2010



this presentation was made in the frame of the 'suspended spaces' exhibition at the maison de la culture d'amiens, in the winter of 2010. for this presentation, köken ergun has invited michael zupraner to talk about the community tv channel project he has set up in the west bank city of hebron.

in the first part of the talk, ergun presents his selection from the btselem archives, and talks about how this relates to his own practice. later zupraner elaborates the situation in hebron and introduces his HEB2 project.



Hi, this is a piece I have done two years ago.

starts showing excerpts from WEDDING and The Flag, while talking over them

I usually work with different cameras and I invite my friends, but sometimes friends I don’t know very well, to come and shoot with me a ritual or some anniversary or a ceremony which is only happening once a year. And prior to shooting I tell them a little bit of what I want to see and what they can shoot, but usually I really don’t know what to expect at the end. So I collect the tapes after the shooting, but I don’t watch them for three or four months, I keep a distance with the subject, and then finally I start editing. That would be the first time I look at the material. So my work, prior to this research that I made with B’Tselem, has been more kind of based on editing techniques and qualities to put images from different times and different locations together. But there is one thing in common with what we will see later on, is that they’re a bit voyeuristic. So I work in the idea of rituals, community buildings through rituals. I am a guest in them, but not a detached guest. There is always a connection that I have established somehow. I might be from the same culture, in the case of this it is indeed the same culture, it is a Turkish wedding in Berlin what you see here, but they are Turkish people living in Germany. So I come from the outside, a little bit but not totally from the outside and I shoot the ceremonies in a voyeuristic point of view with hand held cameras.

So later I was introduced to the work of B’Tselem, which is a human rights organization based in Jerusalem. At first they were like every human rights organization; primarily making textual work. But an ex-documentary filmmaker, Oren Jakobovitch, opened a video department for it. And this video department, with the participation of Mich’ael who you will listen a bit later on, has distributed cameras to Palestinian locals living near settlements in the West Bank. And they are asked to videotape human rights violations happening in their own doorstep. And this footage is going to be used as evidence, as legal evidence, when they go to the court. B’Tselem gets the tapes. And we will see some of the families here that are constantly being abused by the settlers around their neighborhood, and they shoot it, so they give it to B’Tselem, B’Tselem goes to the court and they say « look, this is the family, this is the proof of what happens to them ». So we are talking about a human rights organization, which is using not texts but visuals as their evidences.

So I there went once to see what they were doing and I still can’t find this image, but I was really moved by an image of a… a random image that they were looking in the camera, while they are uploading the tapes. It was the image of a settler constantly beating a tree trunk, for like twenty minutes. And I was really interested in it, and I looked at them and they said: « we have this material a lot » and I said: « well I think this is what I am interested in ». Because I was more interested in what people do when they take their cameras. Do they always shoot human rights violations? Because this is happening everyday. But what else do these tapes have? So I had the urge to look deep into the archive. Six month later, I went back and I watched through three hundred tapes out of two thousand or something in total, and it was a very obsessive work, and I was interested in what B’Tselem is not interested in. I was interested in personal and unexpected material from this archive. And most of the archive is of course voyeuristic. The archive is shot usually, well always, from Palestinians inside their houses, because in most cases they are afraid to go out when this confrontation happens. And it’s hand held. And then, at that moment, I realized what it means not to edit the footage, what it means not to aestheticize something. So I started to make a selection of these unexpected, personal and abstract moments of this archive.


shows footage of “settlers passing under the window, in dark”

Here this footage comes from the city of Al-Khalil in Arabic, Hebron in international language and in Hebrew.

Now let’s go to our map and see where we are geographically because for some reasons all the footage, most of the footage that I was interested in, happens to be coming from Hebron. And that’s how I met Mich’ael.

Shows a map of the region, with close-up on the division of Hebron

This is Israel and here is the West Bank, which is under Palestinian authority, but it’s actually not the case because all of the area is occupied by Israel and there are settlements in many, various locations in the West Bank. And here this spot is Hebron. And Hebron is divided into two parts because of the tomb of Abraham, which is sacred to three religions. This area has been under both Israeli and Palestinian control and it is the only city in the West Bank, which has a settlement in the heart of the city. After the second Intifada, there were much more violence in between groups, so the Israeli army cordoned off the section surrounding the Abraham mosque, which also happens to be the actual financial center of the city. So imagine, the main shopping street of your town Amiens cordoned off, and you live there on this street which is right going out from the Maison de la Culture, and you are suddenly not allowed to walk on the street. So all the shops had to be closed after the second Intifada. So it turned into a ghost town and the inhabitants, most of them, left after the second Intifada, because of these restrictions, because you cannot walk on the street… So what they do, they reach their houses from roof to roof and they are given special roads to go from behind. And to protect their houses from the stones of the settlers, they installed iron fences on their windows. Here what you’ve seen was one of the houses on that street.

Mich’ael, later on, because he comes from Hebron, will tell you more about it; you will have a better understanding of the environment.

Watching through numerous tapes in the archive, which came from Hebron I wanted to see the town with my own eyes, and I wanted to meet who is actually providing this footage, who is doing all the works, and they have put me in touch with Mich’ael. Mich’ael runs a project there, which is now developing separately from B’Tselem and he will talk about it with you a bit later on.

Shows the footage of “the mirror kids”

Now, the houses are very very close to each other so the Palestinian children were shooting, the Jewish children on the other side are confronted with this image, which was getting my attention.


Now, if you stay there, if you are from there you know that there is occupation. And B’Tselem is telling people: « show the occupation and this will be useful for you in return ». But when the locals use the cameras they also record some things on the sixty minutes of the tape, some things that are actually not directly related to occupation but include occupation inside, sublimely in a way. So these are the things that I was interested in, also from a very very personal aesthetic point of view. You know these are the images I like basically, but it also tells me something about what documentation is and how we can approach and represent. A difficult solution in a very very remote culture where we can actually not excess very well. The “Suspended Spaces” project is also something like that. The artists here have been asked to go to Cyprus and to make new works there, but these artists happen to be mostly from Europe. So then a question comes to mind: how can you represent a culture while you are not so familiar with it? Second question: how can you represent such a conflict area without having been living in it? So I think the best way to understand it is actually to see what they see and to do what they do, in other words, to live with them for a while. Cultural anthropologists like Victor Turner called this the anthropology of experience. Based on the erlebnis theory. Erlebnis in German corresponds to lived experience in English. This kind of observation is way much better from just (the artist/filmmaker) going there and making a documentary, and getting back to his/her own country/culture shortly afterwards. Therefore, it is maybe a better way of representation, if we just borrow images or stories shot or told by people of that culture, and just carry that image outside of its context for a while, and to show it to the viewers on the other side. This, for me is more accurate and most of all more “in earnest”. So for example if you would ask me to describe the occupation in the West Bank, I would show you just this image shot by two Palestinian kids in the garden of their house in Hebron:

Shows the footage of “soldiers passing through the backyard”

It’s basically the back garden of the childrens’ house and they’re practicing with the video camera, when suddenly two young soldiers come in and just pass through, then they exit from the other door. That’s it…

Shows the footage of “robot on the street”

Or when they are watching a robot from their roof. This is a robot used to dismantle suicide bombers. It looks like a practice that the army is doing there, on yet another street where Palestinians are not allowed to walk.

Or the very unexpected things like the video camera directing its gaze to the TV screen and we see a music video from the beginning to the very end. There are many of these examples and I will show you my favourite one now:

Shows the footage of “video clip in which man strangles woman”

Now I’m starting to think about how to present this big archive. The initial drive is to show to other people around the world what is in this archive, because this kind of material are not in the interest of B’Tselem, which is very normal, this is understandable. And first it was dealing with documentary, dealing with the aesthetics of documentation and dealing with artistic representation in general. Then it became also interesting for me to pose the question of what if we don’t do anything and just borrow images of somebody and show it, so you are like somebody who carries the water from here to there.

So I want to show to as many people as possible this footage. But I don’t want to be the only one doing this. Every time I want to invite somebody for example visual anthropologists, academics, filmmakers, documentary filmmakers… For example a colleague and friend of mine Hito Steyerl who is theorist and documentary filmmaker. Her interest is specifically in documentality, how reality can be reconstructed in and by using documentaries, also had recently co-edited a book with Maria Lind, titled The Green Room: Reconsidering the Document and Contemporary Art. For example she was immediately driven into this video. I would like to have a conversation with her in the future. I mean the video archive would be open to other people and we would also like to make publications about this.

Shows the footage “fashion tv”

The usual duration of images in the archive is usually short, one or two minutes or three minutes, because they shoot something and they take their finger out and then it’s a clip of three minutes. But finally the videos that we see from the TV screen are the longest ones. And here he is prepared; he is putting the remote to the volume.

So it’s capturing the moment but in a different way, where I intuitively and very personally find interest in. My selection here is indeed very personal.

Shows the footage of “the eagle”

It’s a very short clip, it’s just showing an eagle. The eagle happens to be the symbol of the Palestinian authority, and also in many cultures, power.

And here is the longest tape in the archive out of the three hundred tapes I have watched. It’s documentation from the window of the Sharbati family, which is on the street that I mentioned you, that they are not allowed to go in, in Purim ceremony. The Purim ritual is very important to the Jewish culture. People get dressed up, and very contrary to the Muslim community, they drink alcohol and that’s a very important aspect of this ritual for the Muslim onlookers. So in a street where they were not allowed to go in, there is a Purim parade. And they are also curious, the curiosity of watching what’s going down on their street. And this is sixty minutes long but I will not show you the sixty minutes we will just see fifteen or ten minutes of it. of course this like other footage of this kind has never been used by B’Tselem.

Shows the “purim parade”

Mich’ael, would you like to tell us a little bit about what Purim is?

Mich’ael: Purim is one of the Jewish holydays. It has its origins in the Jewish bible. It’s related to a story about the Jewish community in Persia, and it’s basically a celebration of the survival of the community, but in some point it’s under a risk of being exterminated and the tables turned on its internal enemies, and its enemies were killed instead. So there is a massacre of the Jewish community and because the king was in favor of the Jewish over the persecutors the tables turned and the enemies of the Jewish were killed instead. Specifically in Jewish modern, especially Israeli tradition every year we have a celebration, it’s kind of similar to Halloween where you dress up in costumes and you make a big parade celebrating the survival of the Jewish people. Specifically religious people drink on this holyday, Jewish usually don’t drink very much, but on this holyday its considered part of the tradition and specifically in Hebron because the Jewish want to have a break because, I’ll talk to you about the situation in Hebron after Köken, but because the Jewish want to have a break the entire area is closed off to Palestinians, and the surroundings as well, and Palestinians spend their time watching the parade which is very colorful, with costumes and lights and so forth. They spend it watching it through the windows.

Köken: So, it looks like a big crowd but it’s actually not a very big crowd. At the beginning there is security, and then the group of settlers, and at the end again security, well the Israeli Army.

Now a very famous anthropologist, an ethnologist, Victor Turner, says in one of his latest books… He taught anthropology around the world for many years, and you know anthropology is still an essentially a textual science. But in reality, it deals with the people, because it’s anthro-pology; about the human. And he says that he believes no longer in the education of anthropology using monograms, which means books, and he says we must perform ethnographies instead of writing about them. And I say that we must watch ethnographies instead of talking about them. Simply because performing them might be unapplicable at times. So the best way to understand what is really happening in a conflict zone or any zone is to watch it with their eyes, which is something an artist will not be able to do. It can be but not as much as this. So I think visual anthropology is also looking into this field, what we are actually showing you here. And for example I will finish up with some of my other favorite clips from this archive.

Shows the footage of “fireworks”

This is again curious because I thought it was the Ramadan’s day but Mich’ael just told me it was the independence day of Israel celebrated by the settlers over the other side of the hill. Again the camera is used by the Palestinians living in Hebron.

Shows the footage of “snow in hebron”

And this is snow in Hebron. By the way all the families are aware of the fact that we are showing this footage. Because one of the other discussions into this project is: B’Tselem, the human rights organization, actually has the copyright of these images, so the people who shoot this footage for capturing “their” moments, are not so much aware of where the footage is going usually. To give an example, something I have witnessed when I was working in the archive in Jerusalem. Representatives of world media comes to B’Tselem and ask for example “Can I have an image of war, can I have an image of tunnels in Gaza, can I have an image of something?” And I’ve also seen filmmakers coming and saying: can I have an image of the market in Hebron? And B’Tselem gives it to them for free with very good will. But sometimes in the loop, the owner of the footage’s mention is of course missed. So this is why I wanted to go to Hebron and, with Mich’ael, we have been in touch with the people who shot the footage that you’ll see outside and also here.

For example this is a sunset.

Shows footage of “sunset”

I didn’t know the story when I saw this but later on Mich’ael told me the story, so maybe you can tell us please Mich’ael. This is taking place in South Hebron hills, which is the most poor area in the West Bank, people live in almost caves.

Mich’ael: It’s a very remote area. The young person filming this was infatuated with one of the B’Tselem female workers, and had a crush on that woman, and so was very inspired to make these tapes for her and tried to, I guess, collect visuals that he thought would be beautiful and impressive. And so sunsets and sunrises are very common in these tapes.

(Question in the audience that we can’t hear)

Köken: They are constantly under danger, they are constantly under occupation and the occupation takes shapes everyday, different shapes, so it’s unpredictable completely of course, and I didn’t talk about it because I think it’s the obvious part. What I am interested in is usually the ambiguous unobvious part. It’s the curiosity combined with the frustration of course. Capturing the moment is both a little bit possessed in a way, like they have to because they want to document these provocations, but also I’m pretty sure that there is an esthetic element behind it that is common to many people, but we think it’s usually in the hands of the possessed artist. So for me it is also in my personal journey when I am asking: why am I doing this, why am I aestheticizing other people’s rituals and putting them in a work? So I’m also curious what will happen to my practice after working with this kind of footage. The other work I’m showing is the Philippine beauty contest, as I realized is much less aestheticized than the works I had made before for example.

Question: What did you tell the owners of the footage, that you will do with their footage?

Köken: We gave them a brief description of what it will be. We say that we want to show it to other people in a cinema or in a museum, but it’s very difficult to explain for example the word installation. I mean Mich’ael can tell you more because he actually talked with the people.

Mich’ael: I just say something specific about that point. Hebron is the biggest city in the West Bank, it’s about 200 000 people, the district of Hebron is the biggest district in the West Bank, it’s about half a million people. There isn’t a single movie theater in the district of Hebron. So you can talk about presenting something in a cinema, but people have no experience of cinema to begin with. Just to make that point. But in general yes, people are aware that the material is shown, and I got to talk about it when I talk about what I’m going to show, but these people are aware this is a way for them to communicate. Just as this sunset.

Question: Where have you showed this project since now?

Köken: We’ve just started this project, this is the fourth presentation. The first presentation happened in Jerusalem to a Jewish and Israeli Arab audience. Then it was in Ramallah, and we told them that we showed it but I don’t think we got many reactions. And then the last one was in a more close artist circle in Istanbul, in an artist institution. So when Mich’ael goes back of course he will have the chance to talk with them. But it’s very new.

Question: in your opinion who is the real owner of these footage?

Köken: As I said, the images are copyrighted by B’Tselem, but we believe that the owners are the people who shoot them.

Question: Would you also interested in what the settlers, the other side might be shooting?

Köken: Definitely, definitely. The first question I asked to B’Tselem : why don’t we have the view of the settlers ? But Mich’ael has some.

Mich’ael : Yes, maybe I’ll show it. I guess I can talk about that when I’ll talk about the situation in Hebron : how the cameras have also affected the settlers.

Köken : If there is no other questions, we would like to pass the microphone to Mich’ael and his project HEBRON2.

end of part one - in part 2 michael zupraner will speak