Video artist Ali Kazma explores ‘Obstructions’

When you look in through the window of a clock repair shop, you see an old man sitting behind a desk, surrounded with repair tools of varying size and function scattered on his workbench. The old man works in a certain order of his own as he tries to fix the clock in his palm. When you push open the door of the shop slightly, you sense a faint smell of metal in the air. When you head to a hospital in the heart of the city, you see doctors and surgeons clad in green scrubs, treating a patient lying on the operating table. There you can trace the smell of blood. But is there really a difference between the old man who repairs watches and a brain surgeon operating on a patient? Keep that question in mind.

Turkish video artist Ali Kazma tries to explore just that -- a human being’s relationship with his/her environment and with his/her peers -- in “Obstructions,” his most recent video series, currently on view at the Yapı Kredi Kâzım Taşkent Art Gallery in İstanbul’s Beyoğlu district.

The collection, comprising six videos and handwritten notes on a wall, tries to find answers to such questions as “What is it like to be a human being in the present-day world?” and “How should a human being live his life?”

Voice, image, time… Kazma is after these three concepts in his works. He intends to merge all these in a single pot, and even disassemble and reassemble them again. And while doing that, his playgrounds are factories, workshops, operating rooms and even slaughterhouses.

Kazma filmed all the videos on display in “Obstructions” himself in lengthy and demanding shooting sessions. But he says the most difficult part was the editing.

Returning to the question we asked in the beginning of this article, comparing a brain surgeon and a clock repairman in the same video was sort of a process of deconstruction and reconstruction -- or to put it more briefly: transformation.

Analyzing two separate scenes where the common theme is “suffering” might be helpful in leading the viewers to the answers they’re seeking. This is what Kazma himself is after -- bringing two seemingly separate acts together and reading the world through this combination.

Kazma usually displays works depicting brain surgery and clock repairmen together, but in the Kâzım Taşkent exhibition, the brain surgeon is accompanied by scenes from a furniture factory.

Kazma explains the link between the two concepts as follows: “Whether it is a clock or [a part of] a human body that is broken [or sick], mankind’s capacity for fixing these, the tools mankind uses to fix them and the approach employed in both situations are similar. Thus I used [images of] a clock being repaired and a human brain being operated on together. To see the difference between them, these two should be viewed side by side. There is not a huge difference between the approaches of mechanics and physicians, but the way people react to brain surgery is much more emotional. However, both are the same job.”

Ignoring the reality called death

The six videos in the series, “Brain Surgeon,” “Today,” “Furniture Factory,” “Jean Factory,” “Dance Company” and “Reverse Shambles” are all part of a wider project Kazma has been working on for the past four years. He assembles various combinations of these videos in accordance with the venue where the series is being put on display.

Kazma says the reason why he chose to name this latest series “Obstructions” is the fact that “mankind is expending a massive effort to hold on to the world that is on its way to falling apart despite the fact that this is impossible because of the reality called death.”

All pieces in Kazma’s project are interrelated; all 12 videos in the larger project are actually based on the thought that things that are seemingly diverse can actually coexist and that the world is a very complicated place. His videos are “about mankind constantly recreating the earth he lives on via the opportunities brought about by being a human, whose future is in the balance … but the last stop on this route is the huge reality called death. However, it is as though social [life] is built on knowingly ignoring this fact.”

Kazma says he is not trying to send messages to the viewers of his works. “I am trying to explore [these concepts] for myself. I believe if I can grasp [the meaning] then the viewers should be able to do so, too. But I don’t have concerns such as ‘The viewer has to get such and such from my work.’ You cannot produce art if you consider the viewer. Focusing on what you want to explore and grasp is more honest,” he says.

Musa İğrek, İstanbul

01/01/2010

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