Mini story — 23 Nov 2018
Deniz Eroglu is a Turkish-Danish artist whose time-based media and sculptural work is informed by his dual cultural identity and perspective as a second-generation immigrant. Drawing from personal history and the experiences of his family members, Eroglu considers how the pressure for migrants to assimilate can produce feelings of alienation and shame. Though he was born and raised in Denmark, Eroglu struggled to situate himself within a culture that oftentimes insisted on his difference from ethnic Danes.
His videos feature diverse subjects, including bedridden patients, melancholy hermits, and McMansion squatters, many of whom exist on the margins of society. His work also often explores his relationship with his father Mustafa, a leftist and former actor who immigrated to Denmark at twenty-one to escape political violence in Turkey.
Eroglu’s 2015 two-channel video installation Singing Baba & Singing Kebab features a home recording of Mustafa singing to him in Turkish, installed directly opposite a clip in which the artist, animated as a piece of kebab, performs a Danish song. Facing each other, the videos appear in dialogue, and Eroglu considers the work a declaration of love for his father, who found a job in a kebab shop after fleeing Turkey. Kebab is a recurring motif in the artist’s work, as it represents a cultural cliché that transforms Turkish identity into a product to be consumed by Western Europeans. In the installation, Eroglu unpacks the various associations and assumptions that accompany the figure of the kebab shop employee in the West, and wonders how his father ended up in this line of work. By taking his father as a subject, Eroglu reflects upon the opportunities available to first versus second generation immigrants, and the societal conditions that cause these groups to be treated differently.
Eroglu expands upon many of these same themes in his 2016 video installation Baba Diptych, in which he places a home video he recorded in 1996 alongside a shot-for-shot reenactment he filmed two decades later in the same location. The earlier video depicts his father busily preparing food for customers in a kebab shop in the artist’s hometown of Skive, Denmark. That video, made when Eroglu was a young teenager, retroactively marks one of his earliest artistic works and captures a typical moment in his adolescence. In the second clip, Eroglu returns to the restaurant as an adult and, replicating his original camerawork, records himself in place of his father, who no longer works in the kebab shop. Installed side-by-side, the two videos—which were filmed with the same camera—produce an uncanny effect as the artist imitates his father’s gestures and their identities seemingly begin to merge. Even Eroglu admits to becoming confused by the likeness between them, and sees the work as collapsing time and personal history by generating what he calls an endlessly looping “identity vortex.”
Eroglu’s exploration of his family offers a window into the cultural position of migrants and their children, who are often made to feel that they occupy a position at once in- and outside of the dominant cultures of the countries in which they reside. Through these two works, he highlights what is lost and what changes when we move across borders, and points out how shifts in cultural identity become palpable with each new generation.
About the artist
Deniz Eroglu (b. 1981, Denmark) studied at the Funen Art Academy in Odense, Denmark, and at the Städelschule in Frankfurt. He is currently in residence at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris and previously participated in a residency at Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. His work has been exhibited at Kunsthallen Brandts, Odense; Il Colorificio, Milan; Overgaden Institute of Contemporary Art, Copenhagen; Corridor Project Space, Amsterdam; Kunsthalle Darmstadt; Nordic Contemporary, Paris; Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main; and was featured in the 2012 Marrakech Biennial.