About the Commission: Resistance

Turkish Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale
May 23, 2013 5:21AM

During the almost one year-long filming process of “Resistance”, Ali Kazma entered a great variety of spaces to record the processes that both construct and control the body, and explored the human being’s struggle to break the social, cultural, physical and genetic codes of the human body in order to render it perfect, as well as the processes that transform the body into the conveyor of new symbols and meanings.

Complimenting each other within the composition of a single installation, the videos brought together under the general title “Resistance” will explore the construction of the material body in three different layers. As Amelia Jones states in her article titled “Decorporealization”, if we were to imagine the body as a discardable shell, but at the same time as the physical enactment and guarantor of the self (1) then Ali Kazma’s camera not only looks at this resistant shell and the interventions applied to it, but it also manages to descend into what lies beneath this surface, within the shell, into the invisible, or in other words, into the fabric that both holds it together and causes it to dissolve, into the field of flesh in its ultimate material state. A third layer then emerges as the institutional/spatial shells that surround and shape the body, discipline it, constantly inspect it and subject it to protection and surveillance.

In “Resistance”, Ali Kazma explores the discourses, techniques and management tactics developed for the body today and focuses on the interventions and strategies that both release the body from its own restrictions and restrict it in order to control it. He attempts to understand the changes the body undergoes not only via the subjects before his camera, but also via the spaces that stage the reconstruction of the subject. The metaphorical perception which since Ancient Greece sees the body as the coffin, cage, or cell that confines the mind or the spirit takes “Resistance” into spaces where bodies are controlled, disciplined and restricted –yet almost no body is seen within the architectural confines recorded by Ali Kazma.

In his radio lecture titled “Utopian Body” Foucault describes this cage, coffin or cell –the body– that constantly draws us towards materiality, and therefore towards death and mortality, first as the obstacle to utopia, and then as the absolute place of utopia’s birth:

“This place that Proust slowly, anxiously comes to occupy anew every time he awakens: from that place, as soon as my eyes are open, I can no longer escape. Not that I am nailed down by it, since after all I cannot only move, shift, but I can also move it, shift it, change its place. The only thing is this: I cannot move without it. I cannot leave it there where it is, so that I, myself, may go elsewhere. I can go to the other end of the world; I can hide in the morning under the covers, make myself as small as possible. I can even let myself melt under the sun at the beach –it will always be there. Where I am. It is here, irreparably: it is never elsewhere. My body, it’s the opposite of a utopia: that which is never under different skies. It is the absolute place, the little fragment of space where I am, literally, embodied (faire corps). My body, pitiless place.” (2)

This body that we will never be able to escape from, imprisons us within its own materiality, within the infinite possibilities of a finite place on the one hand, while on the other it is also the space where all utopias are constructed:

“For me to be a utopia, it is enough that I be a body: All those utopias by which I evaded my body –well they had, quite simply, their model and their first application, they had their place of origin, in my body itself. I really was wrong, before, to say that utopias are turned against the body and destined to erase it. They were born from the body itself, and perhaps afterwards they turned against it.” (3)

Instead of adopting a reductionist modernist approach that challenges the mystery of the body and tries to understand it almost as an anatomical object, “Resistance” attempts to read the complex meanings and the enigma produced by the body as a physical and conceptual space from within a broad network of relations. In this multi-channel video installation to be premiered at the Venice Biennale, Ali Kazma researches the networks that shape the body within social, cultural, economic, political, scientific and mental layers. The relationship between “being a body” and “having a body” (4); and the tension that emerges within the infinite possibilities and borders of the body as a field of information, control and performance are explored under a range of diverse definitions and perceptions such as “material body”, “social body”, “body under surveillance”, “disciplined body”, “body at work”, “speaking body”, “the lived body” and “the sexual body”.

Ali Kazma is carrying out the filming of this comprehensive project in various parts of the world, in different settings and with different subjects: A film set in Paris, a prison in Sakarya, a school and a hospital operating room in Istanbul, a university where robot production and experimental research is carried out in Berlin, a medical research laboratory in Lausanne, a tattoo studio in London, and a theatre hall where rehearsals of Hamlet are held in New York, just to name a few.

“Resistance” provides important clues regarding the direction Ali Kazma’s artistic production is likely to evolve as it promises to expand in time in order to include within its scope the infinite knowledge that counts the body as its source, both as a real and restricted image, and as a field of infinite possibilities.

Ali Kazma, Resistance, 2013, video stills

Translated into English by Nazım Dikbaş

(1) Amelia Jones, “Decorporealization” in Sensorium: Embodied Experience, Technology, and Contemporary Art, ed. Caroline A. Jones (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006), 133–136.

(2) Michel Foucault, “Utopian Body” in Sensorium: Embodied Experience, Technology, and Contemporary Art, ed. Caroline A. Jones (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006), 229.

(3) Michel Foucault, “Utopian Body” in Sensorium: Embodied Experience, Technology, and Contemporary Art, ed. Caroline A. Jones (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006), 231.

(4) Alexandra Howson, The Body in Society: An Introduction (Oxford: Polity Press, 2013), 6.

Turkish Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale