Artist Ahmet Öğüt speaks with Steven Cairns, ICA Associate Curator of Artists’ Film and Moving Image, about his upcoming live film and sound performance Küçüknefes: 4 Possible Readings of an Uncut Movie, which takes place as part of Artists' Film Club and Journal at the ICA on 6 August.
Steven Cairns: When and how did you begin working with director Kaan Mujdeci?
Ahmet Öğüt: At the end of 2012, Kaan Müjdeci got in touch with me to talk about a possible collaboration for his forthcoming movie Sivas (2014), shot in the Anatolian village of Küçüknefes in Yozgat, central Turkey. We began our conversation and idea exchange and I went to visit the village before they began shooting the film. I suggested certain ideas and scenes to be included in the movie – Müjdeci eventually used a few of them. In exchange I could use scenes from the film, as well as raw footage unused in the final cut.
We always wanted to show my edited version before the premiere of the movie; and as we wished, Kaan Müjdeci’s Sivas will have its world premiere in the main competition at the 71st Venice International Film Festival in August, a few weeks after the ICA event. Our idea was to give enough freedom to use each other’s ideas and materials. Therefore my version of the film suggests an independent reading of the movie itself. The final piece I am presenting depicts four psychological readings of Müjdeci’s movie, conceived using raw footage. States of violence, innocence, enthusiasm and silence are portrayed through the life of a young village boy named Aslan and a kangal shepherd dog called Sivas.
SC: Where did the idea come from for this event?
AO: Not only was I interested in the possibility of different narratives and alternate readings of the movie, I also wanted to find ways of going beyond the limitation of the cinematic format itself – this is why I wanted to add a live score.
The combination of live sound and film is the most challenging component of the event. I am collaborating with the London based musicians Bora Akıncıtürk, Deniz Belendir, Serhan Arcağ on the sound performance. They have developed four special soundtracks to be played live – it will be an exciting experiment for all of us and we hope to trigger different feelings among the audience with each of the four sections.
SC: What are the deeper socio-political themes of the piece?
AO: The main character is an 11 year old village boy called Aslan, who is in love with his classmate Ayşe, but he has to beat Osman, another classmate, to get her attention. Starting out as an innocent love story, Aslan eventually finds himself in a complex set of power relationships. These power relationships are established with violence and intimidation from very early age in rural areas, but they are also apparent between generations. Osman’s father is the most powerful man in the village and owner of the best fighting dogs.
Aslan gets a chance to break this chain of fate when he finds a wounded fighter dog. There are many other details of cultural and socio-political realities to be found in the movie. I was more interested in deconstructing the themes of the film into four emotive states instead of a singular message, in order to understand these patterns of behaviour. To do this I predominantly used scenes featuring the kids, dogs and landscape, and I could say that the deeper socio-political context is hidden in the iconographic analysis of the characters and the landscape.