In 2019 filmmaker Köken Ergun started working on a film project about China’s global expansion by way of its Belt and Road Initiative. The filming would take place in Ethiopia, Greece, Germany, Turkey and China. Unable to enter China on a Turkish passport (in relation to the country’s sheltering of Uygur dissidents), then stopped by the Covid pandemic and finally the civil war in Ethiopia, he decided to make a change in his art practice. ‘What can a documentary filmmaker do when he is unable to shoot films?’ He found the answer in turning to fiction, painting, cartography and collaboration. For the 2021 Jakarta Biennial, he collaborated with Javanese mural artists to produce a map showing the international connections of the Maritime Silk Road. He also collaborated with an Indonesian artist to make an animation film which focuses on the complicated nickel trade between Indonesia and China. For the Kathmandu Triennale, he collaborated with a traditional thangka painter to make maps of the new railway project under the Himalayas which will connect Nepal and Tibet. Finally, he opened his own research database to a YouTuber, asking him to create a YouTube commentary on China related projects in the Himalayas.
Köken Ergun was born in Istanbul in 1976 and studied acting at İstanbul University, Classical Greek literature at King’s College, London and History of Art at İstanbul Bilgi University. After collaborating with the American theatre director Robert Wilson, he became involved in contemporary art, video and performance. His work has been exhibited in Istanbul, Paris, Amsterdam, Helsinki, Tel Aviv, Luxembourg, Heidelberg, Winterthur and Athens. He is currently writing his PhD thesis at Freie University Berlin on the wedding rituals of the Turkish-German community in the city.