Born in 1971 in Istanbul, Ali Kazma graduated from the New School, New York, in 1998. In 2000, he returned to Istanbul, where he continues to live and work today. His art explores themes relating to the world of work, man’s control of his environment and his ability to transform his world. His videos raise fundamental questions relating to the meaning of human activity, the economy, production, and social organization. Curious, observant and keen to portray certain realities of the globalized worlds of commerce and industry, Ali Kazma has a profound awareness of his responsibility as an artist, who through the prolific production of images, is undeniably adding to the growing mass of existing visual accounts. His work emphasizes the necessity of resisting the standardization of values and leveling of differences.
"Personally, I work in my body, on the body, the body in the world. This is the subject of my study. I have learned that in order for me to learn about the world, the world has to learn about me" (Ali Kazma, interview with Paul Ardenne and Barbara Polla, In It, New York, C24 Gallery, 2012, p. 114.)
Between 2006 and 2015, Ali Kazma has primarily developed video art, structured around two series, entitled Obstructions and Resistance. Of variable duration (between 5 and 17 minutes), his videos explore the world of industrial, artisanal and artistic production, constituting an immense archive of the contemporary world of work. Each video piece is a study of the gestures and techniques of the workers, of their relationship to the machines and tools, the rhythm of work and the cadence of automatic production lines. From global seed vaults to cryonics, from taxidermy to the art of tattooing, from a brain surgery procedure to an entirely automated car manufacturing plant, Ali Kazma questions the effects of scientific research and progress on human activity, as well as the control man exercises over his environment and his constant desire to adapt his surroundings. The notion of perfection, technical or artistic expertise, or indeed the resistance of the human body are just some of the themes explored in his work.
Often presented in the form of installations, Kazma’s videos strike the spectator by their intensity and rhythm: repetition, precision, the noise of the machines and the sounds generated by the tools, the concentration of their protagonists. Equally impressive is the skill with which the artist succeeds in eclipsing his own presence: the subject of the film seems completely unaware of the camera.
Ali Kazma often refers to the importance of the body in his practice—not only the body of the subject he films, but also his own body, which is affected by the spaces he which he works: "I have to use my body […]. I cannot work only with my brain and knowledge, I also need to commit physically, tire myself out, exhaust myself, and struggle against boredom and obstruction…" (A. Kazma, op. cit., p. 115.)
In recent years, Ali Kazma has developed an interest in places for their quality as witnesses of the human presence, whether these are inhabited or not, via the scale of the spaces, the traces of bodies and objects. "There is a kind of transition between the Obstructions Series on the one hand and Absence and Past, on the other: the incessant human activity represented in Obstructions slows down to next to nothing in the more recent work." (A. Kazma, op. cit., p. 111.)
In the two-channel video works Past (2012) and Absence (2011), Kazma portrays abandoned places as possessing a symbolic significance in his practice, in that these are the memory of man’s passage. The record of an archaeological exploration in Bibracte, France, Past evokes the direct relationship that develops by means of the excavations with the millenary history of the site.
Absence, on the other hand, reveals a derelict military bunker in the Netherlands that was originally destined to be used in the case of nuclear warfare.
Paul Ardenne, who has been following Ali Kazma’s work for a number of years refers to what he calls the essence of the artist’s work: "The sense of energy that Ali Kazma personifies so strongly in his being, is, paradoxically essential to Absence. Everything here, on the contrary gives the appearance of eternal rest, of the end of time, of which the bunker with its frozen contents, is of course a prime example. The energy immobilised in this derelict bunker hints to us that something has been stopped in its tracks—the energy of the ‘outside’ as Ali Kazma likes to say—is now immobile and covered by layers of dust. However, Absence demonstrates that such an energy cannot die, and can on the other hand, remain in a state of complete latency." (P. Ardenne, op. cit., p. 114.)
Ali Kazma’s works have been exhibited at the Istanbul Biennale (2001, 2007, 2011), the Istanbul Modern (2004), the Whitechapel Gallery in London (2009), as well as the Biennales of Lyon (2007) and São Paulo (2012). He represented Turkey for the Venice Biennale 55th International Art Exhibition in 2013.