Ali Kazma

      Ali Kazma

      Something new, something old:

      Ali Kazma and the written word

      By Nancy Atakan



      Since November 2010, when the Second Exhibition group show opened at ARTER including Ali Kazma’s seven-channel video installation, “O.K.” (2010), it has been possible to view in several venues around Istanbul a variety of his video work. “Taxidermist” (2009), “Cuisine” (2010) and “Painter” (2011), three of the thirteen individual video works presently included in the continually expanding “Obstructions” series that recently won the Nam June Paik Award (together with Rosa Barba), were shown in a solo exhibition at Gallery Nev. Before this show closed, another group show, Tactics of Invisibility, opened at ARTER again, presenting one of Kazma’s newest videos, “Written” (2011).  Has his work taken a new direction?  On May 14th at the off-space artist initiative, 5533, with Nazli Gurlek acting as moderator, Kazma reviewed all of his projects to date and presented his current work in progress, “Book Project” that uses the medium of photography rather than video to capture images about both the past and present world of books. The Swiss publishing house, Editions Take 5, commissioned this work that will become a limited edition artist book about books. Yes, something seems to be astir in Kazma’s work, but what is it?


      Kazma says that all his films are “about the different possibilities for a human being to exist in the world.” In his opinion, these possibilities shape the environment while the environment shapes the individual and changes the world as well as the person. Selecting people who push their limits to use all their capabilities such as a professional dancer, a kosher butcher, a brain surgeon, a skilled ceramist, a clock maker, a painter, a chef, a taxidermist, he also pushes the limits of art and of his own capabilities. For the  “Obstructions” series, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible, he has done all the filming and editing himself without additional crew, lighting, or assistants.  Each video piece is a different story and a finished complete entity in itself, but when shown as projections in multiples of two or three or more, a dynamism and complexity occurs that is a reflection of the lived world with its infinite possibilities. No doubt, such an ambitious project can continue throughout his lifetime so why are we looking for something new?


      In “O.K.”, Ali Kazma returned to a notary public, one of the professions he previously captured in “Today” (2005), a video project that recorded thirty-seven everyday events taking place in old Istanbul.  In contrast to the technique of shooting on location used for the “Obstructions” series, he moved the clerk from his natural environment to a professional studio for filming. Utilizing special lighting, concentrating on sound and rhythm, Kazma focused his camera on the hand of the clerk who repeatedly stamps documents. An almost unperceivable change in speed accentuates the rhythm, as the repeated hand gesture becomes a symbol for the official stamp of approval given to individuals by the state. Presenting similar, but slightly different views of the same hand movement on multiple screens, Kazma shows the mechanical thoughtless act of institutionalized authority as it administers justice…or not.


      Ali Kazma does in depth research for all of his projects. “Written” (2011), again shot in the studio, concentrates on his fascination with texts. Kazma is an avid reader and his reading has always informed, grounded, inspired, and opened up possibilities for new work. In this six-channel video installation based on quotations taken from his notes, Kazma utilizes possibilities inherent in the medium of digital filming and editing.  Words on paper burn, but the process reverses and the quotation reappears. Nothing completely disappears. Language remains. Words endure. Ashes turn into flames. Every screen shows a different state of generation/re-generation that creates a feeling of flux and dynamism.  No matter how long the spectator remains in the space to contemplate on the natural phenomena of physical and intellectual construction, destruction and reconstruction, everything cannot be seen. An intuitive yet precise rhythm of light and dark and shifting perspectives pulsates from the screens to create a fluid visual feast. In “Vegetal and Mineral Memory”, Umberto Eco wrote that a linguistic system is the whole of the possibilities displayed by a given natural language, but with a finite set of grammatical rules a writer can produce an infinite number of sentences.  On six small screens in a darkened room, Kazma visually presents the intertwining of the finite with the infinite and the definite with the indefinite.


      In the ‘Book Project”, Ali Kazma returns to photography, a technique he studied at the New School in New York. His research for this project began by generating an extensive list of words related to books, book publishing and printing. Kazma then gained access, throughout Europe, to archives storing rare books, obscure bookbind and both modern and archaic printing shops, old paper mills, ancient texts, incunabula Kazma has taken more than 4000 photographs from which a selection will become a limited edition artist book designed and published by Edition Take 5.  He insists that while being a uniquely designed work of art, the finished product, a book about books, must fit into a bookshelf.


      “O.K.” “Written” and the “Book Project” all allow Kazma to incorporate text into his visual explorations.  Yes indeed, a new yet historical dimension has appeared, reappeared in Ali Kazma’s projects.


      Nancy Atakan

      For Flash Art issue 279

      May 30, 2011