ARTIST ALI KAZMA BRINGS ‘TIMEMAKER’ TO ARTER
Turkish contemporary artist Ali Kazma, who was the sole artist from Turkey in the 2013 Venice Biennale, is currently presenting a comprehensive sampling of his video work from the past decade in a solo exhibition in İstanbul that went on display in late January at ARTER Space for Art, in Beyoğlu.
The exhibition's title, “Timemaker,” will most probably call to mind lines from German author Michael Ende's famous children's book “Momo,” in which Master Hora guides Momo in her quest to retrieve the stores of time from the Men in Grey.
Just like the riddle in that novel taught us, the past, the present and the future may never coexist in real life -- but how about in art? Kazma's exhibition offers art lovers a chance to witness that very coexistence.
The 43-year-old, İstanbul-born Kazma presents 22 of his works from the past decade in “Timemaker.” Most of the works in this show are being presented in Turkey for the first time, according to a recent press release announcing the exhibition.
'Obstructions,' 'Resistance' and 'Today'
Upon entering the art space, visitors are first greeted by “Clock Master,” a 15-minute, single-channel video from 2006 that is part of Kazma's long-running “Obstructions,” a series that is still in progress and is currently made up of 18 videos. In it, a clockmaker disassembles and fixes a broken French clock from the 18th century.
Next to that is “Crystal,” an 11-minute, single-channel video that is one of the newest pieces in “Obstructions.” Made this year, the video shows a 500-year-old glass workshop where every single item is handmade.
Right across from these two is Kazma's “Automobile Factory,” which, in striking contrast, tells of “the future” with an 11-minute take on an automobile production line where no human labor is involved.
Upstairs is “Cryonics,” from his “Resistance” series, also displayed at the Venice Biennale. Although the artist doesn't believe that cryonics, as a practice, will ever achieve what it aims, it's still a part of the reality -- a concept brought on by the certain fact of death.
But there is also a history behind the video. And aptly titled, this video is called “Past.” Historic artifacts from centuries ago are brought to the present-day thanks to a group of archaeologists in “Past,” part of a number of stand-alone works Kazma created outside the “Obstructions” and “Resistance” series, such as “Today,” “Absence,” “Written” and “Clerk.” In “Absence,” the past just stands still in a place that once used to be a NATO base.
What's important though is still the present day. For everything is either rooted in or related to the present day.
“Today,” shown on a tiny screen at ARTER, was actually created in 2005 for the second edition of a group exhibition series called İstanbul Pedestrian Exhibitions. “Today” is made up of 49 pieces of videos, all of which tell of a single day throughout the duration of the 2005 show during which Kazma filmed the surroundings of the venue on a daily basis and edited that footage into a video piece to project onto a nearby shop window every evening.
The common concept that bonds all these seemingly unrelated videos together is, as Kazma puts it, change and transformation.
His points of departure are “How should a human being live, how should she/he exist, or what does it mean to exist?” and “Is it enough to merely be alive to exist?”
In “Timemaker,” Kazma strives to dig deep into the essence of these questions rather than offering his definitions or unveiling “secrets.” And each video in the show is like a stand-alone novel -- some of them flow so seamlessly and yet some are like books that surprise the audience with the unexpected actions of their protagonists.
Kazma calls this aspect of the show “creating a little bit more freedom for the viewer.”
“Some of the [images and concepts in my] works are so beautiful that I think I wouldn't be using them if I were to [produce those videos] now. Now I'm doing my best to avoid such perfect images, I'm trying to keep away from dictating stuff [to the audience.] Ten years ago I used to [produce work that was] more analytical, more complete -- work that said, ‘Well, that's the way it is.' Now my works are more open-ended, more full of contradictions,” he added.
Tips on how to visit the show
“Timemaker” includes 22 videos and their overall running time is around 220 minutes in total. So, how should you tour this exhibition?
Kazma offers an answer: “Of course, everybody has a different [way of viewing art exhibitions] but if I were to visit this show, I'd say I'd first start with a quick overview to grasp the whole. Then I'd watch the ones that strike me the most, the ones that call on me. ... And then maybe a week later or so I'd come back and this time start with another video that I skipped the first time. It's great that admission to ARTER is free, because I believe it's not doing justice to art when one tries to view an exhibition as such, one which offers a lot of works at the same time, in a single visit.”
Yes, admission is free and the exhibition is on until April 5. So, go see it, take your time, stay a bit and watch every video, and contemplate the countless circumstances regarding human existence in this world.
Moreover, to quote Kazma one more time, “Once you start reflecting on the world, the world in return starts thinking about you.” And who knows, perhaps this way you might even take back the time snatched from you by the Men in Grey.