Özgür Kar

Born 1992 in Ankara, Turkey
Lives and works in Amsterdam, Netherlands

White Bay Power Station

Death’s Horn, and the Birds, 2024
Single-channel video with sound, 30-minutes loop
Horns by Arnljótur Sigurðsson
Animation Assistance by Nicolai Schmelling
Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with generous assistance from Mondriaan Fund, SAHA Association, and Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Australia
Courtesy the artist

Between the court jesters, noblemen, priests, and farmers who populate medieval art, dances a procession of the dead. This chorus line of skeletons, long-limbed and anonymous, is known as Danse Macabre, or Dance of the Dead; an allegory for what was a newly emerging understanding of universal morality in the Late Middle Ages.

Languorously delivering a song of desire and despair, Özgür Kar’s skeletons ruminate on the seemingly imminent demise of this life and world with the same unnerving nonchalance as the prancing spectres that have haunted the paintings, frescoes, manuscripts and nightmares of human beings since time immemorial.

Yet Kar’s skeletons are as emotionally vulnerable as they are withdrawn, doing away with both the camp-ness of cartoon and the grotesqueness of death, their lilting songs and frank soliloquies lean towards existentialism teetering, not yet falling in. Presented in the Boiler House of White Bay Power Station, where coal was once converted to heat, the work asks if what was meant to keep us warm might soon leave us cold beneath the same ground that it was hewn from.

Working with video, sound, performance, and installation, Özgür Kar’s practice is an exploration of contemporary existentialism, focusing on the interconnections between digital media and the human body. His installations are monochromatic, featuring minimally animated characters trapped within television screens who languorously deliver tales of desire and despair.
He takes inspiration from Ottoman and Persian folklore, experimental theatre, early animation and 1990s MTV cartoons. Kar devises his works as theatrical scenes with each character playing its part within a non-linear script. He often works with voice actors and instrumentalists to create deceptively simple, looping soundscapes that become increasingly fraught (and profound) with repeated viewing.