Šejla Kamerić

Writings

The visitor steps into darkness and immediately falls into an eerie soundscape. Haunting images of a cold city viewed as if from a high hilltop at the city’s edge shimmer on a large screen; on an opposite wall, on another large screen, is the unmoving image of a young man lying awake in bed, mobile phone on the pillow next to his head. Then a young woman and mobile phone appear in identical repose. Two small screens mounted on the gallery floor to one side of both big screens play echos of the same film.

The city is Sarajevo; the young man rises before dawn every morning to deliver newspapers from apartment door to apartment door, travelling by bicycle and foot through the city’s dark, frosty, pre-dawn atmosphere, through snow-covered streets and up the stairs of tall apartment buildings. What, then, of the young woman? She is the young man’s double; she mimics his daily routine, possibly his life. Both characters and their actions are taken from real life and are known to the artist who created this work, Šejla Kamerić: the young woman is an aspiring actress and she emulates the young man’s activities. The view of the city from on high is a sniper’s view of Sarajevo, and the imagery and soundtrack are all the more disturbing when the visitor bears in mind the city’s recent history.

Kamerić’s exhibition was not exactly what I expected to encounter when stepping off Pohlstaße, out of the very bright, very warm Berlin sunshine – unusual May weather I was told the previous night by a Berlin-based photographer and forthcoming SomethingDark contributor. The exhibition consists of the video installation Shift and the photo installation June is June everywhere (self-portrait), and it is Shift that greets, almost confronts, those who enter Galerie Tanja Wagner.

While “confront” the visitor Shift does, it does so subtly, hypnotically; it transports the viewer away from their day-to-day existence and creates an altered state of consciousness that somehow leaves him or her enriched if, perhaps, somewhat unsettled. The recipient, of course, has to be in a receptive state of mind, and needs to allow the time necessary for the medium and the message of this art to work its magic. Time and receptiveness represent an investment on the part of viewers, and in the case of Shift they will be rewarded.

The second part of the exhibition, June is June everywhere, is presented in an adjoining room to the main gallery space. This room is covered with hand-printed black-and-white photographs of the outside wall of the artist’s bedroom in Sarajevo: the wall, “exactly where Kamerić’s head rests while she is sleeping”, is pitted and scarred by bullets. The sniper’s view of Sarajevo in Shift is brought into focus.

With Shift, Kamerić looks further than physical survival to ask why people do what they do, why do they push their limits every day – why do we voluntarily do that which “causes discomfort, pain, stress, or even humiliat[es]”. She suggests the answers to these questions lie beyond simple, self-centred quests for material success. In doing so,

…Kamerić opens a discourse questioning the concept of efficiency and profit supposedly inevitable for a functional society. This concept has become highly disputable especially in recent years. The question is rather: couldn’t it also be…righteousness and/or…selflessness that drives people to advocate for society’s equilibrium?

By posing these questions and suggesting answers that fly in the face of neoliberalism, the era-defining ethos of the last thirty-odd years, Kamerić is continuing in the vein that saw her included in Galerie Tanja Wagner’s groundbreaking 2012 exhibition, Discussing Metamodernism. This exhibition was curated in collaboration with two Dutch academics, philosopher Robin van den Akker and cultural theorist Timotheus Vermeulen, who have developed the concept of “metamodernism” as the defining aesthetic and sensibility of our time. Metamodernism, they argue, has displaced neoliberalism’s cultural companion, postmodernism, with the characteristics that defined both modernism and postmodernism; these characteristics exist in and are expressed through a pendulum-like relationship: an “oscillat[ion] between a modern enthusiasm and a postmodern irony”. This oscillation between the expression of a “utopic syntaxis” and a “dystopic parataxis” does not result in a happy synthesis, but, rather, is what constitutes the metamodern expression of “a spacetime that is both–neither ordered and disordered”.

According to Van den Akker and Vermeulen, Kamerić “privati[ses] public histories” and “attempts to retrieve an irrevocably irretrievable past”. Shift and June is June everywhere can certainly be interpreted in these ways, and, indeed, in the cultural-theoretical context of metamodernism.

Šejla Kamerić is an award-wining Bosnian artist who lives and works in Sarajevo and Berlin. Shift is her latest film; it is presented as a four-channel video installation at Galerie Tanja Wagner, and it will premiere at the 19th Sarajevo Film Festival in August in its single-channel form. See the Galerie Tanja Wagner website and Šejla Kamerić’s own website to view selected still images from Shift and June is June everywhere. The exhibition is open to the public 11:00–18:00 Wednesday to Saturday to 15 June 2013, Pohlstaße 64, 10785 Berlin.

by Daryl Champion

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