Biennale of Sydney

Erkan Özgen

Erkan Özgen, 'Wonderland', 2016. Installation view for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020), Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Presented at the 22nd Biennale of Sydney with assistance from NIRIN 500 patrons. Courtesy the artist. Photograph: Zan Wimberley.
Erkan Özgen, 'Purple Muslin', 2018. Installation view for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020), Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Presented at the 22nd Biennale of Sydney with assistance from NIRIN 500 patrons. Produced by the Han Nefkens Foundation. Courtesy the artist. Photograph: Alex Robinson.
Erkan Özgen, 'Aesthetics of Weapons', 2018. Installation view for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020), Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Presented at the 22nd Biennale of Sydney with assistance from NIRIN 500 patrons. Produced by the Han Nefkens Foundation. Courtesy the artist. Photograph: Ken Leanfore, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.
Left to Right: Erkan Özgen, 'Wonderland', 2016; and 'Aesthetics of Weapons', 2018. Installation view for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020), Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Presented at the 22nd Biennale of Sydney with assistance from NIRIN 500 patrons. Produced by the Han Nefkens Foundation. Courtesy the artist. Photograph: Alex Robinson.

Erkan Özgen

Born 1971 in Derik, Turkey
Lives and works in Diyarbakir, Turkey


"I want to share experiences of the violence of war with everyone. I want people to know what war is. It’s not propaganda. It is not TV. It is not social media. It is reality. One part of the world is suffering huge tragedies and the other part doesn’t see or say anything. War is the immigrant. War is death. I want people to open their eyes!"

Erkan Özgen’s installation exposes first-hand the complex questions of how ‘we’ consume and learn about the intimacy of people and communities experiencing war, violence and trauma. In Wonderland, thirteen-year-old Mohammed, who is deaf and mute, uses his body to tell of his family’s escape from wartorn Syria. Purple Muslin takes us on a journey with a group of Yazidi women seeking refuge from ISIS in Northern Iraq. These women speak frankly of the confusion and deep loss experienced by their families, caught in a war that most did not know was occurring until it was upon them. In Aesthetics of Weapons, a man expresses the desire and tenderness he reserves for his gun. Özgen draws focus to individuals and objects, rather than showing images of violence and war. In the midst of a turbulent and global migration crisis that is redefining our political and social ecosystem, Özgen’s works give voice to a series of stories that are forgotten in the constant flow of information, or sometimes intentionally overshadowed. They are fragments that awaken feelings and fundamental questions.

In his work Erkan Özgen deals with the complex questions of war, violence and trauma. He invites the viewer to reflect beyond the boundaries of the political, within the private and human dimension. Witnessing becomes a way of understanding and a way of re-setting memory.

Presented at the 22nd Biennale of Sydney with assistance from NIRIN 500 patrons
Courtesy the artist

Exhibited Artwork

Erkan Özgen, Wonderland, 2016, single-channel digital video, colour, sound, 3:54 mins. Presented at the 22nd Biennale of Sydney with assistance from NIRIN 500 patrons. Courtesy the artist

Photograph: Alex Robinson

Location: Museum of Contemporary Art Australia

Erkan Özgen, Aesthetics of Weapons, 2018, single-channel digital video, colour, sound, 4:50 mins. Presented at the 22nd Biennale of Sydney with assistance from NIRIN 500 patrons. Produced by the Han Nefkens Foundation. Courtesy the artist

Photograph: Alex Robinson

Location: Museum of Contemporary Art Australia

Erkan Özgen, Purple Muslin, 2018, single-channel digital video, colour, sound, audio in Kurdish with English subtitles, 16:24 mins. Presented at the 22nd Biennale of Sydney with assistance from NIRIN 500 patrons. Produced by the Han Nefkens Foundation. Courtesy the artist

Photograph: Alex Robinson

Location: Museum of Contemporary Art Australia