Ali Kazma works with lens-based media. All aver the world, he investigates situations, places and structures relating to man’s ability to transform the world. His works raise fundamental questions about human activity in economic, industrial, scientific, medical, social, and artistic spheres. Each video outlines a different facet of his on-going study of the ways in which our contemporary world changes, constituting an immense archive on the human condition.
By Efi Michalarou
Photo: Jeu de Paume Archive
“Souterrain”, Ali Kazma’s solo exhibition sets out to reveal the evolution of his work over the past ten years by including 20 video works including two works made specifically for this exhibition and an artist’s book. The works shown in the first room serve as an introduction to the whole exhibition by highlighting the indispensable value of manual production processes that are overlooked in everyday consumer society. The subject of “Clock Master” (2006) is the work of Recep Gürgen, a Turkish artisan in Istanbul, who “revives” a 19th-century clock, dismantling, cleaning and reassembling the whole mechanism by memory. The knowledge and the artistry shown in the clock master’s gestures can also be seen in “Calligraphy” (2013), where the skilful application of the reed pen brings tradition to the fore. “Clerk” (2011) shows the intense rhythm of a man stamping official documents in a notary’s office, underscoring both the official and administrative aspects of this work. This second room features a variety of works that explore the idea of space: surface, depth and specific places. “Tattoo” (2012) and “Taxidermist” (2010) show the gestures and specific tools used by the artisans. Despite the topical issue of the body and the control we now have over it through science, it is the physical, aesthetic and temporal relevance of these techniques that Ali Kazma highlights here. Other works in this room refer to space in a more territorial sense. “Safe” (2015) was shot in the Svalbard Islands, close to the North Pole. A rectangular concrete construction protrudes out of the immaculate, windy, snow-covered mountain. Moving from this environment to the inner spaces of the building, the frozen inner walls, shelves and metallic labelled boxes are all elements that give a small insight into the building’s purpose: the preservation of hundreds of thousands of species of seeds. “North” (2017) shows an abandoned coalmine on Spitsbergen Island not far from the site where “Safe” was shot. It represents the region’s relatively recent complex history, marked by Soviet culture between 1936 and 1991. In the third room , Ali Kazma explores ways in which space, memory and time interact. “Absence” (2011) was shot in a NATO base in the Netherlands that was abandoned in the early ‘90s, at end of the Cold War. This two-channel video shows how vegetation has taken over he underground military base, now a park and a war museum, which recalls recent world history. “Electric” (2016) is a video triptych, is composed of close-up shots of high-voltage cables being reeled in slow circular motions. This meditative work is, in fact, an abstract composition in which the reflection of the light on the texture of the different types of cable emphasises the movement and the patterns that the material creates. In the fourth room, the viewer’s emotions may, however, be triggered by the factual information in the work. Works such as “Brain Surgeon” (2006), “Kinbaku” (2013) and “Anatomy” (2013) invite the visitor to consider the representation of the human body from a historical and cultural perspective, introducing relativity and distance in relation to the subject matter. The fight against disease and suffering is present in the work “Brain Surgeon” (2006), a film about precision and progress in the medical field showing an operation on a patient with Parkinson’s disease. Several videos in this room show situations where traces of historic and political activity are evident. For example, “Mine” (2017), shot in the Atacama, Desert, Chile, presents the ruins of a nitrate mine that ceased to function in the late 1930s and, in the 1970s, became a concentration camp for workers, lawyers, artists and writers under the Pinochet regime. “Prison” (2013), shot in Sakarya, Turkey, is an intriguingly silent work. The absence of human activity is counteracted by the strong presence of images and traces of life. The official portrait of Atatürk, the first president of the Turkish republic is one of the clues as to the geographical situation of the prison. Shot in a factory for the manufacture of glass tableware, “Tea Time” (2017) is a three-channel video work that conveys the intense atmosphere of an industrial production line is on presentation in the fifth room.
Info: Curator: Pia Viewing, Jeu de Paume, 1place de la Concorde, Paris, Duration: 17/10/17-21/1/18, Duration: Tue 11:00-21:00, Wed-Sun 11:00-19:00, www.jeudepaume.org