Director and curator of ARTER Emre Baykal, along with esteemed artist Ali Kazma, has been chosen to represent Turkey in the 55th International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennale. Of the 88 participants, Turkey is a relatively new but respectable participant, having participated since 1991 and later establishing its own national pavilion from 2003. In the exhibition Resistance, Ali Kazma uses his well-practiced technique of screening several short videos simultaneously, as he works to encourage the spectator to reassess the relationship between the notion of the body and its physical and spatial surroundings. The themes used in Kazma’s works can be seen to highlight past and current socio-economic and political issues in Turkey, more specifically Istanbul, which is currently undergoing a huge urban transformation. As the authorities attempt to make the city more pedestrian-friendly, many see the refurbishment as a removal of public political platforms in favour of privatised consumerist arenas, widening the gap between public and art, and causing a rift between the already apparent sectors of public and private.
Living and working in Istanbul as a video artist since 1998 and becoming internationally established from 2007, Ali Kazma creates sets of short films that are usually between ten and twelve minutes long. In his multi-video formats, Kazma creates archives of the human condition through his fascination with man and the nature of life and death. In presenting the audience with conflicting notions of human nature, as well as our spatial relationship with our body and our physical surroundings, we are shown the complexities within these topics.
Since 2000, Kazma has worked exclusively with video, making use of the way in which the digital revolution has made these kinds of professional cameras available for public consumption. Not being interested in long ‘feature’ films, or fiction, Ali Kazma prefers to work with the physical world, focusing on symbolic activities that exist between humans and reality. Through this, Kazma’s art explores the contradictions that tie in with the complexity of man as he is mentally altered with every experience.
In his previous project titled Obstructions, which he began working on in 2005, he highlighted that the objects existing around us are neither simple nor meaningless, but are important and often abstruse, complex things that we ourselves have created. Through this, he explored the idea that we as a society (especially in the West) focus on enhancing life through abstract objects and shaping the physical body through cultural, political and physical means. Kazma has confessed that this is what drives him to film: the complexities of the human condition and the need to experience new things. This highlights a natural cycle within his works, as he explains how he is altered from each filming experience, revealing an organic creative process. Kazma seeks to continually ask questions in order to reveal new concepts about the human condition. His Interest in creation is also seen in Obstructions, in which he looked at many professions that create, produce or transform objects and things. Although his interest is often situated within negative images of the disintegration of human life, the inevitability of death and man’s obsession with attempting to prolong his existence, the catalyst for these explorations is a positive curiosity within Kazma, and this can be seen in the nature of his short videos.
Watch an interview with Ali Kazma from ARTE:
In Resistance, Ali Kazma presents a series of short films, displaying the varying ways in which man alters and contorts the physical body such as tattooing, bodybuilding, tanning and so on, in an attempt to control it or even be released from it.