Tate Modern

Erkan Özgen

Natalie Bell Building Level 2 West


Erkan Özgen’s video asks us to confront the human consequences of the conflict in Syria and reflect on the power of communicating without words.

Wonderland 2016 is a short video focusing on Muhammed, a thirteen-year-old boy who fled the Syrian town of Kobanî with his family when Islamic State forces attacked it in 2015. They crossed
the Turkish border and took shelter in Derik in south-eastern Turkey, Özgen’s hometown. There the artist met and befriended Muhammed. Unlike any of the other refugees Özgen encountered, Muhammed was keen to communicate what he had witnessed. Since he is deaf and unable to speak, Muhammed used his body to convey a firsthand account of these traumatic events.

Özgen felt it was very important to share these experiences as widely as possible, so asked Muhammed and his parents for permission to make this video. The artist explains his motivation for making the work: ‘This little boy… lived through an atrocity that many of us couldn’t even bear to imagine. While one part of the world faced the devastation and destruction brought by war, the indifference shown by the other part deeply affected me... It occurred to me that perhaps only Muhammed could truly communicate this unseen and unheard brutality... The power of his body language made any other language form insufficient and insignificant.’ Özgen hopes Muhammed’s message will ‘motivate people to create a strong voice against wars’.

Curated by Clara Kim and Vassilis Oikonomopoulos


Tate Modern
London SE1 9TG
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