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A conversation with Ali Kazma

episode 16
Dec 17 2020

Ali Kazma, Turkish video artist, talks about the significance of human labor and our inherent potential for transformation in his new exhibition, “Women at Work.”

About our guest

Ali Kazma is a Turkish video artist who lives and works in Istanbul. For more than two decades,  Ali has been filming people at work, the body, and the body at work by capturing the gestures and the processes of work. He has created over 60 short films that document and question the significance of human activity and labor and the influences of the economy, production, and social organisations. His short films have been featured in multiple monographic exhibitions, including "Souterrain" at the Jeu de Paume in 2017-2018. He also received the prize Nam June Paik in 2010 and created the Turkish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale exhibition in 2013.

Galeri Nev

Gallery Analix Forever

“Ali Kazma, Remember” © 2020, Umur Publishing

“Top Fuel”
HD video with sound
16 min
Co-produced by Les Moulins de Paillard

“ A lot of the activities we as humans do are to keep the order around us from dissolving”

from the serie Resistance
Single channel video
7.5 mins
Courtesy of the artist

“Jean Factory”
from the serie Obstructions
Single channel video
12 min
Courtesy of the artist

“Art work doesn’t grow if you don’t put yourself fully into it”

“Casa di Moda”
from the series Obstruction
Single channel video
10 min
Courtesy of the artist

from the series Resistance
Single channel video
5 mins
Courtesy of the artist
Produced by Vehbi Koç Foundation

Today I’m pleased to introduce Ali Kazma, a Turkish video artist who explores the meaning and significance behind human activity and labor. He just had a beautiful new solo exhibition, “Women at Work,” at the Galerie Analix Forever in Geneva.

Kazma has been creating short videos that explore the process and skill behind various professions since 1998, as part of an effort to survey and document the neighborhood he lives in. As part of an early exhibition, titled “Today,” he explored the process of shooting video on location in the morning, such as at a clock maker’s studio or in a butcher’s shop, and releasing the edited video in the evening, projecting the video through the gallery window for people on the street to watch.

“As I was doing it and through my survey of my district I understood that a lot of the activities we as humans do are to keep the order around us from dissolving,” he says. “The world left on its own is all about going from order to disorder. A lot of the things we do are about upkeeping, maintenance, or adding some kind of order—new forms into the world we inhabit.”

Evolution into a thematic focus on women

Although Kazma didn’t initially focus on women as the protagonists in his videos, he says that the #MeToo movement and conversations around gender issues have subtly influenced his films.

“When I was making a video of a person working on something—for me it was not an issue if it was a woman or a man working. I just picked someone who I thought did their work really well and who I found interesting,” he says. “But within the light of all these new discussions, when I looked back I found that I did a lot of works where women are at the center.”

This thematic similarity was the impetus behind “Women at Work.” One video in particular, featuring a woman who is a dragster champion, made him ponder the sense of comradeship between women and how they inspire one another.

“It got me thinking about all these other women I have worked with in the past, and question if they also pushed the boundaries for other women, for other people. And I felt it would be nice to see them all together in one space,” he says.

Going beyond appearances and simple meanings

He also pushes the boundaries of what we understand power to be and the art of holding it or giving it away, in a video titled “Kinbaku,” featuring the craft of Japanese bondage. This video became a source of controversy in 2019, when images were featured on Instagram and sparked thousands of comments from people who hadn’t even seen the video.

This time, it was shown as a special screening with a discussion afterward. Although many dismiss the subject of the video—a woman who is being tied up by a man—as sexist, Kazma says understanding requires deeper thought and appreciation.

“If we have to talk about power,” he says, “it is the giving of the power, giving up of the power that keeps you powerful in this case. And it is the person who gets tied who pays the guy or the woman who ties him or her. So, it is not so simple.”

Finally, transformation is also a central theme to Kazma’s work and in the exhibition.

“Things to me in life are not very straightforward and clear. The moment you start to think deeply about anything that you think is simple, you understand it’s not simple,” he says.

In three of the featured works, he explores the relationship between our bodies as creators and our bodies as art.

“Maybe it’s a very personal starting point, this transformation,” he says. “I believe in transformation. I don’t believe in standing still and in letting things shape you. I believe in movement. I believe in change. And I believe this is what keeps me engaged to life.”

next story ︎︎︎

Camille Morineau
co-founder and director of AWARE
Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibition


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