SemaBekirovic_interview_00

Semâ Bekirovic is a photographer based in the Netherlands. She holds a degree from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam from 2002 and has exhibited internationally including Amsterdam, New York, Los Angeles, Milaan, and Berlin. She is represented by Galerie Diana Stigter in Amsterdam. Bekirovic’s work was published in numerous magazines and journals, including Lay Flat 02: Meta (Lavalette, 2010).


Grid, 2006
Video, 19 min.
© Semâ Bekirovic

Rachel Stern: How would you compare your artistic process to the scientific method? That is to say, do you find that your projects are a means to investigate and test some hypothesis?

Semâ Bekirovic: In a way, yes. I always start with something resembling a hypothesis, an idea of where the work might go. The difference is that I actually hope for the work to develop in ways I hadn’t expected beforehand.

RS: In your work I see a strong relationship between natural and imposed order. Your video Grid seems to me an inverted version of a Étienne-Jules Marey or Eadweard Muybridge photograph. Instead of using the grid to measure the animal and its movement, it is the movement of the animal that redefines the grid. Do you feel that in this piece you are creating a collaborative system for measuring natural movements?

SB: I like the parallel you draw between Muybridge and Marey’s work and my own. Their goals were mainly scientific and aimed at the understanding and visualizing of movement. My work is a lot more subjective and less goal-oriented. The grid in question suggests a controllable reality but actually measures nothing. In that sense it is primarily a symbolic grid showing the unwillingness of the world to stay within our parameters.


Snowflake, 2012
Photographic experiment
© Semâ Bekirovic

RS: In some of your works, like Snowflake, the medium is directly related to the message. With your video pieces, is the format a means to document a performative relationship or is it an intended endpoint? Without the confines of presentation what would be the optimal viewing of your work?

SB: It all depends on the work itself. I usually start with a concept and let the work “decide” how it will develop presentation-wise. Sometimes the concept and the chosen medium are closely connected. An example would be the video Event Horizon wherein a black hole, carried by a person, slowly approaches the viewer until the screen is completely black. I usually show this work in a dark room so that when the screen has turned black the viewer will feel engulfed by the darkness. In other works I apply photography or video as a means of documenting an occurrence. Still, I do believe that it’s inevitable that the idea and the medium will influence one another. In this sense I would say that the end result is never just the residue of an occurrence.


Event Horizon, 2010
HD video, 4 min.
© Semâ Bekirovic

RS: Overall, would you say you depict order or chaos?

SB: To me, order and chaos are one and the same. It’s all a matter of perspective (my viewpoint, or the animal’s, or that of what—or whomever—I choose to work with).


Birds of Prey, 2005
Video, 2 min.
© Semâ Bekirovic

RS: Do you consider animals to be more of a subject or a collaborative force?

SB: I definitely consider the animals I work with to be collaborators, though collaborators of the unwitting kind. I am wary of anthropomorphism, which I think is almost inevitable when one chooses animals as a subject. Anthropomorphic interpretations are often based on a way of thinking wherein the animal is reduced to the simplicity of human characteristics. To me, the symbolic appropriation of the animal, and the human need to see ourselves reflected in much of everything around us, is not that interesting. I am much more interested in a democratic view of all creatures including humans.

When working with animals I try to see what constitutes and motivates their behavior. While recent neurological research has fueled a lot of doubt regarding the existence of free will in people, animals seem to be capable of “typically human” features like empathy and culture. Yet we still find it nearly impossible to view the world from any other viewpoint than our species-centric one; when we think of animals, we automatically revert to an “us-them” understanding.


Untitled (Bees), 2011
Ikea bought objects transformed by bees
© Semâ Bekirovic

RS: What about structures? In works like Untitled (Bees), A Letter, and Sequence, you demonstrate the decay and consumption of manufactured or cultural structures. Can you discuss your ideas about construction, demolition, and consumption? How do these concepts function in your work?

SB: People often seem to live in an illusion regarding the controllability of the world. I think natural processes are constantly at play in our cultural constructs. With this thought in the back of my head I often try to make works that embrace their own temporality.

RS: If you could document any natural phenomenon (visible or not) what would it be?

SB: The Big Bang.


Picture of a fire burning, 2009
Photograph
© Semâ Bekirovic

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