The Mecca Clock Tower and Leaves Fall in All Seasons

Köken Ergun’s response to choose a film “that represents our time” is two films that look on the same subject from completely different perspectives. The focus for the evening will be the radical changes in Mecca, Islam’s holiest city. Ergun proposes a discussion to follow the screening of these two films.

The first is a documentary produced by the German architectural company SL Rasch on their large scale construction project in Mecca, Islam’s holiest city. 35 times larger than Big Ben and adorned in over 98 million glass mosaic tiles with 24-carat gold leaf, the Mecca Clock tower is the world’s largest. It sits on top of the controversial Abraj Al-Bait building, a government owned complex of seven skyscrapers built after the demolition of a 18th century Ottoman citadel. Built by the Bin Ladin Group, this luxury complex shadows the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest site, which for centuries used to be the tallest structure in the city. The building is one of many that have been built on top of historical Islamic sites in Mecca. Up to 95% of Mecca's millennium-old buildings have been destroyed only recently, to be replaced with luxury hotels, apartments and shopping malls. There is even plans for bulldozing the site of prophet Muhammed’s birthplace to build a new presidential palace. While The Mecca Clock Tower documentary focuses on the engineering and architectural efforts behind the development, fabrication and installation of the clock tower it offers a glimpse on rapid and irrecoverable change in Mecca from the perspective of the developer.

The second film of the evening offers a totally different perspective. Saudi Arabian artist Ahmed Mater’s Leaves Fall in All Seasons (2013) is a compilation of mobile phone footage from foreign workers employed at the clock tower and other constructions in Mecca. The film looks at the booming development in Mecca from the point of view of the construction workers, who are largely migrant laborers from elsewhere in the Middle East as well as from South Asia. Their cellphone videos capture the city from the perspective of an outsider granted a momentary peek in, focusing not on the loss of local neighborhoods but on the spectacle of demolition, the crowning of new towers and the quotidian moments of the workday.

Köken Ergun(born 1976, Istanbul) is a Turkish artist working in film and installation. His films often deal with communities that are not known to a greater public and the importance of ritual in such groups. Ergun usually spends long time with his subjects before starting to shoot and engages in a long research period for his projects. He also collaborates with ethnographers, historians and sociologists for publications and lecture series as extensions to his artistic practice.

Having studied acting at the Istanbul University, Ergun completed his postgraduate diploma degree in Ancient Greek Literature at King's College London, followed by an MA degree on Art History at the Bilgi University. After working with American theatre director Robert Wilson, Ergun became involved with video and film. His multi-channel video installations have been exhibited internationally at institutions including Palais de Tokyo, SALT, Garage MCA, Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam, Protocinema, KIASMA, Digital ArtLab Tel Aviv, Casino Luxembourg, Para-Site and Kunsthalle Winterthur. His films received several awards at film festivals including the TigerAward for Short Film at the 2007 Rotterdam Film Festival and the Special Mention Prize at the 2013 Berlinale. Ergun’s works are included in public collections such as the Centre Pompidou, Stadtmuseum Berlin and Kadist Foundation.